WILLIAMSTOWN, MA – Three is not generally considered to be a large number, but sometimes three can be a lot. In this case three is a lot, especially when even one would be impressive.
Three Eph women who ran cross-country and competed in track and field for at least one season under current men's and women's head cross-country coach Pete Farwell will compete in the U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials.
The three former Eph runners are Rachel Hyland '09, Lauren Johnson '01, and Lauren Philbrook '09.
"I don't now if that is any sort of record for a Division III school, but it is pretty neat that these three have continued running after Williams and have improved so much," said Farwell.
None of the three competing Ephs is focusing solely on distance running, as they are all engaged in full-time jobs. Hyland since 2009 has been teaching Spanish and coaching cross-country and track, currently at Phillips Academy in Andover.
Johnson, who came to Williams from Oregon is now back in Portland, Oregon where she serves as the Director of Community Impact at Social Venture Partners (SVP) where she provides strategic direction and oversight of their work to strengthen and scale the impact of local non-profit organizations.
Philbrook, having completed her Ph.D. in Human Development at Penn State University is now a postdoctoral fellow in the Human Development and Family Studies program at Auburn University.
The 2016 U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials will be held Feb. 13 in Los Angeles. The course will start and end near The Staples Center, and will feature four-6-mile loops, cross the University of Southern California campus, and pass the L.A. Coliseum, site of the 1984 Olympic Games
Of the three competing Ephs in 2016 only Philbrook has competed previously in the U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials. She ran in the 2012 Trials in Houston and finished 39th with a time of 2:39.47.
As of early December 195 women had qualified to compete in the 2016 Trials race in L.A.
As seniors in the fall of 2008, Hyland and Philbrook served as Eph cross-country captains for a team that finished third at the NCAA Championship. Hyland earned All-America honors in cross country in 2006 and then elected to participate in the Junior Year Abroad Program and studied in Buenos Aeries, Argentina.
Philbrook earned All-America honors in cross-country in 2008 and then followed that up by earning Indoor and Outdoor Track & Field All-America recognition in 2009.
Running the 5k indoors at the 2009 NCAA Indoor Championship Philbrook was timed in 17:18.68, which slotted her in eighth place and garnered her All-America laurels. At the 2009 NCAA Outdoor Championship Philbrook won the 10K going away in a time of 35:24.78.
Lauren Johnson as a sophomore won the 1999 New England Outdoor DIII 3K race in 10:16.89 and was an NCAA qualifier in the 1500 in 2001. She also was a four-year member of the seven-member Eph cross-country teams that competed in the 1998-2001 NCAA Championships. The 1998 Ephs claimed third place and the 2000 phs finished second.
Hyland and Philbrook are coached by the former Boston Athletic Association coach, Terry Shea, while Johnson runs for Nike's Bowerman Track Club Elite. "Terry has been coaching me since I joined the BAA in 2011 and I wouldn't have made it here without his support and guidance," Hyland stated.
|Lauren Johnson '01|
Johnson notes, "I think it's fascinating that all three of us are married to other Ephs. As I said, I do believe the Williams culture inculcates the value of pursuing challenges and excellence in multiple areas in life, and I couldn't do it without the outstanding support of my husband. As a fellow Eph, and former competitive athlete, he's a critical part of the "team" that supports me in competing at a high level."
Hyland also appreciates the value of marrying an Eph runner, "Lauren and I both married fellow Williams cross country and track runners...so, I think it makes it easier for us to continue running and keep up a healthy lifestyle."
Rachel Hyland married Sean Hyland (X-C/Track & Field), Lauren Johnson married Noel Johnson (Nordic Skiing) and Lauren Philbrook's husband Stephen Van Wert competed in cross-country and track & field.
Another constant and valued connection for this Eph trio is current Eph head coach of men's and women's cross country Pete Farwell '73. In November Farwell guided the 2015 Eph women's team to the NCAA title and was named the National DIII Women's Coach of the Year. Farwell's men's team finished second to give the Ephs their best ever combined finish at the NCAA Championship.
"Pete made sure to instill a love of running and the outdoors in everyone on the team," said Hyland. "He took the cross country team out to hilly trails on Sunday mornings for our long runs, and I think that was always my favorite run of the week. Years later I still love long runs and spending time outside. Pete also never pushed us to run too many miles. I averaged around 50 miles per week in college, which meant I stayed injury-free and had a lot of room for development after graduating."
"Pete has also done a great job keeping in touch with alumni and hosting the cross country alumni bowl every October," added Hyland. "Staying connected to a community of runners from Williams inspired me to keep running and competing after college. Pete also emails me after all my marathons with a note of encouragement, or even a haiku poem. Mitchell Baker, who also coached Lauren [Philbrook] and me at Williams, has become a good friend of ours and has also provided a lot of support in this journey."
Hyland ran her first marathon in 2010 and finished in 3:15, making her 2014 Philly finish all the more satisfying as she took 31 minutes off her first time, finishing in 2:44. "After two years of injury I came back to run the Philly Marathon just behind Lauren Philbrook (2:42), which was a highlight because I proved to myself that I could still run strong after taking time off and cross-training," Hyland noted.
Hyland shared the congratulatory haiku she received from Farwell:
"way to go Rachel
what an accomplishment,
strong finish, high place - exciting!"
"The absolute highlight of my running career was qualifying for the Trials in 2:41 in Chicago this past October," Hyland stated. "I grew up in Chicago and it is the place where my passion for running began years ago. It was such an amazing feeling to qualify on that course, in a city that I love, surrounded by friends and family. Since many elite women did not run fall marathons because of the upcoming Trials, I was able to finish as the 5th American woman and the 17th woman overall."
Hyland does not engage in much cross training until she needs a break from her running or to heal from injuries. "I actually don't do much cross-training now that I am 100 % healthy," Hyland offered. "Back in 2013 and part of 2014 I did some cross-training (mostly in the pool with some yoga and elliptical), and I also took a lot of days off to let myself heal and take a break from running. "
|Rachel Hyland '09|
Once the school year begins Hyland has to be creative to get in her mileage. "Usually I do some running with the girls cross country team and then add on some miles after practice," she said. "Some Wednesday mornings I was up at 5 a.m. to drive to Salem and train with Meagan Nedlo, who was training for a fall marathon. Weekends were tough since we had a cross-country meet every Saturday, but usually those were in the afternoon so I could get in my longer runs in the morning or on Sunday. Other days I'd get the afternoon off to fit in a longer run. This winter will be a bit more manageable because I am taking the term off coaching, and will resume coaching track in March."
Asked if she ever dreamed while she was competing at Williams of running a marathon, Johnson exclaimed, "Definitely not! I was an 800 and 1500-meter runner in high school, and raced the 1500 and 3000 meters at Williams. Pete Farwell tried to convince me to run the 5k at Williams, but it sounded horribly long to me. Pete was right that it would have been a great distance for me, but he was wise not to push me – to succeed as a competitive athlete your heart has to be in it. I think he recognized I wasn't ready for it given my lack of enthusiasm and he was patient enough to let me discover my passion for racing long distances at my own pace."
Johnson fondly recalls Farwell's three tenets for distance runners: "Discipline, tenacity, and a joy for running. He taught us to set a challenging goal, lay out a plan, do the hard work, and have fun at it along the way. We were serious about working towards our goals, but he kept it interesting and enjoyable by sending us on exploratory runs through the beautiful rolling hills of Hopkins Forest and Mt. Greylock, or the bucolic dirt country roads of Vermont. Pete truly loved running and this was contagious."
Johnson continues, "I'm a low mileage marathon runner so I do a good bit of cross training, primarily road biking in the summer and cross-country skiing in the winter. I don't do nearly as much strength training, agility, proprioception, and drills as I should because of my time limitations in a demanding job, but I squeeze in the bare minimum since I know it's a key strategy for staying healthy through a long and hard season of training."
Johnson endeavors to get in her training before going to work each morning so that she can do cross-training or low mileage runs or ride a bike after work. "Something I've learned as I've aged (I'm 36) is that I have to listen to my body – when I'm not fully recovered or something is "off" I need to wait to do my next major effort or begin a hard training cycle," she said.
Always one to set a high standard in her training Johnson does that knowing that she may have to scale back on occasion. Little wonder that her bio on the SVP website notes that Johnson's favorite book as a child was The Little Engine That Could, which she had her parents read to her each night for almost a year.
Lauren Johnson qualified for the U.S. Olympic Marathon in the first marathon she trained for and raced in in Eugene, Oregon in July of 2014. Johnson had been having success in 10k races and half marathons and decided to give the marathon a shot. "I was hungry for a new challenge after a lot of 10k and half marathon races, and I figured if I was going to put in the mileage for a full marathon, I might as well aim high! The Hopkins Gate quote: "Climb high, Climb Far, Your Goal the Sky, Your Aim the Star" has always resonated with me, and perhaps subconsciously core to the goals I set."
"I had no idea if running sub 2:43 (the Trials standard) was realistic, but figured I might as well try," Johnson said. "I didn't put a lot of pressure on the standard though. It was really important to me to get to the starting line healthy and to enjoy the journey, such that if I didn't meet my goal, I would have had fun along the way. And I really did – my strengths as a runner include long and tempo runs, both are key in marathon training, so it was a blast for me. It made me realize that I'd really needed a new running challenge as well, so the timing was perfect."
Perfect doesn't even begin to account for Johnson's first effort at the 26.2-mile distance. She finished third among women, first in the 35-39 age group, and 19th overall in a field of 1,361 runners with a time of 2:41:25.
|Lauren Philbrook '09|
Now that she is a doctoral fellow at Auburn University Lauren Philbrook's schedule has become more regular, offering her the opportunity to run in the morning and the evening. However, there is one slight complication. In November into December Philbrook discovered she was being slowed by plantar fasciitis and that changed her training. "I did some pool "running" and workouts!," Philbrook commented. "Many fond memories of pool practice with the cross-country team." Now that I am in a routine, I am really loving the nice, quiet early morning runs."
Philbrook adds, "I've made a great runner-buddy-friend here at Auburn, Taylor Ward, who is running in the Trials as well, so I am really excited to do some more training with her when I'm more able. I try to fit in what I can. It works well for me to have my job be my first priority with running being a hobby that brings me so much joy!
"If not injured the maximum I would probably do on a weekday would be about 14-16 miles with a workout, and then on the weekend a long run of 18-24," Philbrook noted. "Recovery runs I would usually split into two runs, before and after work to do 8-12 miles."
Philbrook's best marathon since the 2012 Trials race in Houston was Boston in 2015, where she finished 16th among women and was timed in 2:41.17. Philbrook grew up in Hopkinton, Mass., which is home to the start for the Boston Marathon.
She originally qualified for the U.S. Olympic Trials in Los Angeles with her time in the 2014 Philadelphia Marathon when she finished in 2:42.05. "The cut-off time for qualifying is 2:43:00 so really I just barely squeaked in," Philbrook stated.
"The two main things that I learned from Pete Farwell were patience and balance," Philbrook stated. "Being a patient pacer was really important to him and he always liked for us to run evenly or negative-split races and if we could do this as a team and finish strong together that was even better. I have definitely taken his words to heart as I've started running longer races since college."
"Pete also really encouraged us to have balance in our running and daily lives in terms of not getting caught up in high mileage, staying healthy, being a caring teammate and friend, and enjoying running while also focusing on our academics and other extracurricular interests," Philbrook said. "I think much of the outlook that I have on my life now was shaped by Pete. I will always be grateful to him!"
When the three Ephs gather in L.A. for the Olympic Trials in February they will all be shooting to run under 2:40. "I would like to run faster than I did in Chicago, but would be thrilled with sub 2:40. I will most likely be working with whoever is aiming to run around that time, which includes two BAA teammates who just ran 2:40 at the CIM marathon," said Hyland. "I'm also happy to work with fellow Ephs if they aren't going too fast for me!!"
"Originally my hope was I could run under 2:40 with Rachel to try to run a PR, but I'm not sure how realistic that is now with this small setback unfortunately," stated Philbrook. "No matter what I know it will be tremendously encouraging to have fellow Ephs at the start and finish, and if I can run parts of the race with them that will be a big extra boost!"
"After racing my first marathon in 2:41:25, I was very excited as well as optimistic about trying to run sub-2:40 in my next marathon, which was planned to be Grandma's Marathon in June 2015," said Johnson. However, during a training run in Texas in late 2014 Johnson was hit by a car, resulting in serious injuries and multiple breaks in a foot. She had to take significant time off from running, which meant she hasn't been able to race a marathon since.
"While I'm healthy and now running a good bit I'm still doing a lot of physical therapy and probably will through the Trials," noted Johnson. "I'm taking things week-by-week, training as smart as I can and enjoying the opportunity to build for the Trials. My goal is to train as well as I can given where I am in my recovery, get to the starting line healthy, and race my heart out! My aspiration would be to run sub 2:40. I'll have to see how my marathon workouts go over the next two months to determine whether that's a realistic goal come February."
Three Ephs starting together in the U.S Olympic Marathon Trials, working together, and finishing together in L.A. would make Pete Farwell even more proud of his charges competing and still following his racing advice.