Western Pa. runners among Pittsburgh Marathon's elite
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She started training, like most first-time marathon runners, with modest goals. She raised expectations when it became clear that her background as a collegiate athlete would make her more than an average runner.
But Lauren Woodring never envisioned this.
A year after coming within seconds of finishing in the top 10 of the women's division, Woodring returns to the Pittsburgh Marathon with the designation as an elite runner. The Bethel Park resident will be among the local runners to watch Sunday when an estimated 30,000 people take part in the marathon and half marathon.
Woodring, 25, will compete in just her third career marathon, though her brief resume shows why she is an up-and-comer.
Woodring finished 11th in the women's division last year and followed that debut by winning the Columbus Marathon.
Given the success in her first two 26.2-mile races, it is hard to believe that when Woodring started training for the Pittsburgh Marathon in 2012, she hoped to run it in the four-hour range.
She came in at 2:56:27 and should at least crack the top 10 after missing it by two seconds last year.
“I have a race plan, and I'm hoping for a good day,” said Woodring, who works in finance for PNC. “All I can control is my effort.”
Jed Christiansen, like Woodring, declines to make predictions about how he will finish in the marathon.
That is not all the Thiel College assistant track and field coach has in common with Woodring.
Christiansen also is something of a novice to marathon running, though one who has flashed immense promised in his five career races. Christiansen finished first among Americans in the Pittsburgh half marathon last year, fifth overall, and qualified for the 2012 Olympic Trials after finishing 14th in the 2011 Chicago Marathon.
“I'm training to get more marathons under my belt and figure out how to do this better,” said Christiansen, a graduate of Greenville High School in Mercer County.
Christiansen took a more conventional route to marathon running than Woodring, who played soccer at Grove City College.
Christiansen was a four-time All-American in cross-country at Calvin College, a Division III school in Michigan, and he trains the distance runners at Thiel.
Despite their different backgrounds, Christiansen and Woodring are the kind of runners the Pittsburgh Marathon wants in its field, race director Patrice Matamoros said. Each were invited to take part in the marathon.
“We want to be the running ambassador in the Western Pa. region, so it's important for us to help develop those athletes in terms of giving them an opportunity to compete against other national or international elite runners,” Matamoros said. “We do go after those runners and do have a relationship with our runners that are Western Pa. athletes.”
Woodring will have plenty of support considering her local roots and the fact that several of her relatives are flying in to cheer her on.
“I'm humbled to be a part of it,” Woodring said, “and happy to do it in the city where I live.”
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