Squirrel Hill runner Jennifer Bigham among favorites in Great Race | TribLIVE.com
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Squirrel Hill runner Jennifer Bigham among favorites in Great Race

Karen Kadilak
Jen Bigham crosses the finish line in first place at the 2017 Great Race in Pittsburgh.

After a huge achievement earlier this year, Squirrel Hill runner Jennifer Bigham will be among favorites in the Great Race’s women’s 10K on Sunday.

Bigham, 38, won the Eugene Marathon in Oregon in April and qualified for next year’s U.S. Olympic Team Trials in a personal best 2 hours, 41 minutes, 37 seconds.

“Jen had a big breakthrough,” said Jason Ordway, Bigham’s brother, coach and the director of track and field/cross country at Dayton. “I’m hoping she can run with that same confidence in a shorter race.”

Ordway said Bigham’s training has been going well.

“Her strength has really started to show from the last marathon-training cycle,” he said. “We’re hoping she can improve on her finishing from last year.

“A top-five finish would be great.”

Bigham, a former Ohio State runner, said she is thankful to be healthy.

After winning in 2016 and ‘17, Bigham placed sixth last season after injuring her foot during the race.

“It’s very exciting to be a past champion looking to do my best again,” she said. “I’m back feeling healthier and strong.”

Bigham feels a connection to the race, in which she posted a personal-best 34:24 in 2016.

“Within days of moving to Pittsburgh in August of 2013, people started telling me, ‘You have to run the Great Race after you have your baby,’” said Bigham, the mother of three children. “I was eight months pregnant with my second child at the time and I wouldn’t be running the race that year, but my husband was registered.

“Two days before the 2013 event, I was on a run and saw the Great Race starting-line banner was set up. I stopped running and pulled out my phone to take a photo (and) as I stepped under the banner, my water broke and I gave birth to my son less than two hours later.”

Bigham said she loves the history of the race, the course and the community coming out to cheer.

“The whole city knows and loves the event,” she said.

A Great Race spokeswoman said there will be nearly 8,000 competitors in Sunday’s 10K.

Bigham, the Winchester Thurston cross country and track coach, wants them all to enjoy themselves.

“Running should be fun,” she said. “I hope everyone out there can feel the excitement of the day instead of any pressure or negative emotions.”

Karen Kadilak is a Tribune-Review contributing writer.

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