Marathon runner gives Olympics one last shot

S.H. Bagley

Molly Taber could be on her way to the Beijing Olympics, if she qualifies for the trials in a 26.2 mile race at the end of April.

Taber, a competitive marathon runner, has to come in third out of a pack of 150 runners in the April 20 qualifying marathon in Boston.

Having the qualifying race in Boston gives her a hometown advantage, Taber said. “It feels right, it feels good.”

Taber has been running since she graduated Bates College in Maine in 1995. She joined the Merrimack Valley Striders in North Andover, Mass., under coach Fernando Braz, and since then has been devoted to marathon running.

She’s also no stranger to Olympic tryouts. She tried out for the American team in 2002, and came in running the 26.2-mile course under the qualifying time of 2 hours and 42 minutes. In 2006, she qualified for this year’s Olympic trials with a time of 2:44. She came in third overall and was the fastest American at the tryouts.

Taber will run the qualifying race from the middle of the crowd. She’s positioned somewhere between 50th and 60th in the race lineup, she said.

“I’m ranked pretty low,” she said. She’ll have to run through the dozens of people in front of her in the pack to make it to the front, where she will need to be if she hopes to go on to China this summer.

Taber took a leave of absence from her job and went to a training facility in Flagstaff, Ariz., which is at the same altitude with the Olympic stadium in China. Being at that  altitude will allow Taber to know how it feels to run at the track’s elevation so her performance is not affected by a change in air density.

“I’ve never been able to train so hard,” she said.

Taber is not stressing out about the Olympic trial, just taking it in stride. “I don’t want to look at this race as the end-all-be-all,” she said. “It’s another race, a great race.”

If she doesn’t make it this year, she said it might be her last time trying out for the Olympics, but she would always keep running.

“I’m 35,” she said, “I want to be able to give it my all. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. This is an opportunity I have to take.”

The next chance she’ll have to try out for the Olympic team, she’ll be 39. She might not be able to qualify for the Olympics again, but she’s not done with marathons.

“If I have a really great race, and if I’m still inspired by it, I think that would inspire me to run another race.”