Pasca Myers’ husband, Denny, gave her some simple advice before Saturday’s 38th annual Grandma’s Marathon.
Run your own race.
Myers did just that, running a steady pace from start to finish in surging to victory in the women’s race. Myers, a Kenyan native living in Fort Dodge, Iowa, covered the 26.2 miles in a personal-record 2 hours, 33 minutes, 45 seconds, nearly a minute ahead of Brianne Nelson of Golden, Colo. Defending champion and course record-holder Sarah Kiptoo was third in 2:34:55.
“I couldn’t worry about what the other runners were doing,” Myers said. “I knew if I stuck to my pace and ran my time, I’d be fine. All you can do is run your best. I ran my own race.”
Myers is the running opposite of her countrywoman Kiptoo, a fast starter who blazed the trail in 2013. That year Kiptoo took advantage of cool temperatures and a tailwind to clock a blistering 1:11:31 at the halfway point. She felt good enough to keep it going for a course record 2:26:32, a victory that netted $36,000 in prize money. Myers netted $11,250 for her performance.
Myers knew exactly what Kiptoo could do. Myers ran a PR of 2:34:24 at Grandma’s last year, good for fifth, but after the start, she never caught sight of Kiptoo again.
“I knew what to expect after last year, so when the runners took off, I let them go,” Myers said. “My goal was my time, not my place, and I ran my best. I knew I’d eventually catch up to most of them. I passed a lot of ladies. I just kept pushing.”
Friday’s strong wind out of the northeast subsided and temperatures rose slightly. Runners felt more of a side wind off Lake Superior on Saturday, a wind they said occasionally even felt like a slight headwind. It was misty and overcast, with temperatures around 50 degrees.
“I don’t like a lot of wind. It’s always windy in Fort Dodge, but you have to work through that,” Myers said, admitting she even talked out loud later in the race. “I said, ‘Oh my God, my legs are so sore.’ But we were almost done. Just a little bit longer. I had to keep my mental focus.”
Ethiopia’s Almaz Negede was the early race leader, followed by last year’s runner-up, Doreen Kitaka of Kenya.
At 10 kilometers, Kiptoo was running third and Myers was a distant seventh, 2½ minutes back.
At 20 miles, Negede still led but Myers was only 30 seconds behind while Kiptoo had dropped back. Negede faded to finish 12th, while Nelson used a late push to pass Kiptoo for second.
Kiptoo said in interviews earlier this week she wasn’t capable of breaking the record this year. She knew through her training it wasn’t possible, her times just weren’t there, and she was fighting soreness in her lower back.
Kiptoo said a lot of things have to go right to break the record.
“Last year I felt very good. I came out very fast and maintained it,” Kiptoo said. “This year, Pasca just kept it going. You could tell. She was very strong. I want to come back next year and break the record again, but I have to train very hard.”
Pasca Myers is the former Pasca Cheruiyot. She started her running career in the U.S. at Rend Lake Community College in Ina, Ill., where Denny Myers coached her. She later ran at Florida State, competing mostly from 3,000 to 10,000 meters.
The two lost track of each other. Pasca is going into nursing and eventually wound up in Minnesota, working home care. Denny, meanwhile, is now the track coach at Iowa Central Community College in Fort Dodge.
“We talked, and I was like, ‘Man, why didn’t you let me know you were in Minnesota? You’re two hours away from me,’ ” Denny Myers said. “One thing led to another and now here we are.”
While marathoning is still new to Pasca Myers, with her first marathon being the 2013 Grandma’s, she appears to be a natural.
Myers wore a fancy new Garmin watch on Saturday, with GPS tracking that helps runners keep their pace. She forgot to bring her charger, however, and the watch went dead at mile 14.
“Pasca set it for what we wanted her to run, and it worked well for 14,” Denny Myers said, laughing. “But fortunately, she took it from there.”