Strong Masters Field Expected at 32nd Freihofer's Run for Women
ALBANY, N.Y. - If you listen in on the private conversations of competitive distance runners, you'll often hear them say that knowing the course can make the difference between a lackluster performance and a coveted place on the podium.
For entrants in this year's Masters (40 and older) division of the annual Freihofer's Run for Women, that line of thought certainly holds true. Almost all of the elite Masters runners registered to date have previously raced in Albany, N.Y., setting up a nail-biting encounter for the event's 32nd edition slated for Saturday, June 5th at 10:00am.
Among this year's seasoned veterans are several past champions, including Paula Wiltse (1st in 2008), Lucy Smith (1st in 2007), Carmen Troncoso (1st in 2006), Anzhelika Averkova (2nd in 2009) and Patty Murray (3rd in 2007). In addition, 1992 Olympian (Barcelona) Lisa Harvey of Canada - a 10K specialist who recently turned 40 - is eager to "get her feet wet" on the Masters circuit at her first Freihofer's.
"The Masters field is one of the deepest we've had here in a while," said John Tope, elite athlete recruiter for the run. "Over the last 10 years, Masters running has become a lot more competitive. Athletes see they don't have to stop competing once they turn 40 and they can make a good living, or supplement their income, by running all over the country."
One runner to keep an eye on this year is Averkova. The Ukrainian, 41, won last month's Cooper's River Bridge Run 10K Masters race in 33:38, and also posted a 15K result of 52:22 in March.
On the American side, Carmen Troncoso, 51, will be competing in her 20th Freihofer's, which is no small accomplishment. She has won the Masters division five times over the past decade, the last year being in 2006.
Event Director George Regan has fond memories of when Troncoso began competing at Freihofer's.
"When Carmen first raced here in 1991, I was just a cub race director and we didn't have a place for an unexpected extended stay," Regan recalled. "So, she stayed at my mother's home in North Greenbush and met the whole family. Even today, we consider her a part of our extended family."
"I'm fortunate to have had this long relationship with George, the Freihofer's Run for Women, and everybody who works the race," added Troncoso, who resides in Austin, TX. "I also feel blessed to be able to still run and race after all this time."
Another icon, 1984 gold medalist Joan Benoit Samuelson, will also make the trip to upstate New York. She not only plans to race in the Masters division, but also will compete in the mother / daughter competition with her daughter, Abby. Samuelson, 52, continues to be fiercely competitive, as she demonstrated in the April 11th Cherry Blossom 10 mile. Her time of 1:00:52 not only established an U.S. 50-54 age group record for that distance, but also smashed the old record of 1:02:01.
As far as the competition, Regan expects a close race. "This is the strongest Masters field I've seen in 10 years," he maintained. "Looking at how many past Masters champions we have racing and how many others consistently have finished in the top five, put all together, you have one of the deepest Masters fields Freihofer's has seen in a long while."
The only 5K road race in America to hold the IAAF's "silver" label designation, the Freihofer's Run for Women offers $27,000 in prize money. A 30-minute Freihofer's Run for Women TV special will air Saturday, June 5th at 10:30pm on Fox affiliate, WXXA-23.
This year's race will once again include the USA 10K Open and Junior Race Walk Championships featuring many of the nation's top race walkers.