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Chance for Olympics motivates marathoner

Wednesday, May 03, 2000

By Lori Shontz, Post-Gazette Sports Writer

Rod DeHaven is a computer programmer. He likes to run. Many of his workouts come from a book by marathon training expert Jack Daniels that he picked up a few months ago. Other times, he simply squeezes in a few miles when he can, as evidenced by this log item from Sept. 20, 1999: Ran from home to pick up a car at Capital Tire that was being serviced.

Sometimes he has trouble motivating himself to run.

Sept. 21: Did not run, my 33rd birthday. ... Sept. 22: Did not run, day after 33rd birthday. ... Sept. 27: Did not run -- Mondays are never easy, especially when I am trying to get back into it. ... Sept. 28: Did not run -- No good excuse today.

Despite those difficulties, DeHaven, 33, of Madison, Wis., is one of the favorites in Sunday's Olympic men's marathon trials. His qualifying time, a personal best 2 hours, 13 minutes, 2 seconds, is the third best in the field. It's also faster than the Olympic A standard, but he posted that time in the 1998 Chicago Marathon, before the first Olympic qualifying date.

Sometimes even DeHaven can't believe where he stands in the scheme of American marathoning.

"I don't know -- 2:13 is not that significant," he said. "It should be a bigger deal, to be third in the Olympic trials, but most journalists will be quick to point out that if you go back to 1980 or 1984, I would be seeded like 15th. Which, working full time, I would think that would be the case.

"I just happen to be at a point in time where the overall depth in this country is at an all-time low, and I'm able to stay in the sport and stay motivated by the fact that I have a legitimate shot to make the Olympic team."

Which isn't always easy.

DeHaven posts his workouts online at www.athletesvillage.com, and his log provides a fascinating glimpse into the struggles of a national-class runner with a full-time job:

Jan. 4: Did not run. So far the part-time schedule is really working out great (not ) ... I am on call this week. I went to bed at 3:00 am after struggling with system problem for 4 hours. Additionally, my little intestinal problem left me feeling sluggish. When I got off work, I took a 3-hour nap and still felt awful afterwards. Thus no running

Jan. 26: 11 miles. Interval session in the McClain Center with Tim. ... I felt uncomfortable the entire workout. I was also aggravated by doing the workout in the dark. Just as we were about to start the workout, a women's track assistant coach turned off the lights and locked the room with switches. When we pleaded for her turn them back on, she said that she could not because it would be "too expensive". Of course, as we were getting dressed to leave, the men's soccer coach arrived and promptly turned on the lights.

DeHaven never expected to stay in the sport so long that he would still be facing problems like these as a husband and father of two. "I thought probably by the time I got in my late 20s, I would be seeing diminishing returns," he said. "But again, like I mentioned before, I got lucky -- well, not lucky, but the talent pool weeded out, and I've gotten almost like instant gratification at times."

In 1997, for example, he decided on a whim to compete in the U.S. half marathon championship. He finished second.

Even his 2:13 performance at Chicago came when DeHaven wasn't really expecting it. At the time, he was training well and he had won the U.S. half-marathon championship. "I said, 'Well, I'm running well right now, why wait and self-destruct? Run a marathon while the iron's hot.' So I did."

In training for that marathon, DeHaven did most of his mileage before leaving for work, leaving the house at 5:30 a.m. to get in 10 or 12 miles. He would do another 5-mile run on his lunch break.

In preparation for the trials, DeHaven dropped back to a part-time schedule at work, and he said it has been a relief not to work so hard just to find time for a run. He increased his mileage up to more than 100 for a week.

The last time DeHaven ran a marathon, he was the best American in the field.

On a hot, humid evening at the 1999 world championships in Seville, Spain, DeHaven started slowly but finished stronger to finish 24th in 2:19:06.

Aug. 28: Coming in the stadium was a memorable moment. Abel Anton was still in the midst of victory lap. I think I saw him prancing around like Mick Jagger, but I was probably imagining that. It was incredibly loud -- I can't think of a better venue for the end of a race. ... I was happy to be finished. I was not ecstatic about my place. But I was happy that I executed my plan, and I had some consolation of being the first American finisher.



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