By Chris Lotsbom, @ChrisLotsbom
(c) 2014 Race Results Weekly, all rights reserved, used with permission
(12-Oct) -- When Diane Nukuri toes the line in Hawaii on December 14 for the 42nd Honolulu Marathon, she'll be racing her fourth marathon of the year. Moreover, Nukuri will be competing in her third marathon in just 105 days.
"It's a little scary!" said the 29 year-old with a giggle, speaking from her home in Flagstaff, Ariz. "I'm looking forward to it though."
A two-time Olympian for Burundi, Nukuri is a veteran at the marathon distance, having completed nine since 2010. Knowing that three marathons in 105 days is taxing on the body and mind, she has taken a relaxed approach to next month's race, her first in Hawaii, while training at high altitude in Arizona since August.
Last April, Nukuri was racing on personal-best pace at the Virgin Money London Marathon before a volunteer accidentally stepped in front of her on the course and caused her to fall hard to the pavement. Her body aching, she shuffled home in 12th place in 2:33:01.
Choosing to do a fall marathon, Nukuri set her sights on the TCS Amsterdam Marathon on October 19. But before she'd race in the Netherlands, she was scheduled to take part in the high altitude Mexico City Marathon on August 31. Looking at the race as an up-tempo long run, Nukuri wanted to run hard through 35 kilometers then determine whether to go on or stop. When she reached the 35-K checkpoint, her legs felt good and she was up towards the front of the field. 'Why not continue on?' she asked herself.
Ultimately moving into second place, Nukuri timed a respectable 2:41:33 at the finish in wet conditions.
"The next day I was moving fine. Usually I can barely move the day after marathons, so it was more like a training [run]," she recounted. "Not a bad day for a long run! It was perfect, one of those things that you don't usually get. When you have an opportunity to get in a race and do it as part of a long run or long tempo, it's always good."
Forty-nine days later, on a chilly day in Amsterdam, Nukuri finished third in a personal best and national record of 2:29:35.
"I was very fit going in, and I went there mostly for the time," she said. "I didn't have a perfect race but I was happy with the result in the end."
As soon as she crossed the finish in Amsterdam, Nukuri turned her attention towards preparing for the Honolulu Marathon. Taking ten days completely off from running then jogging easily for another week, Nukuri made sure her legs were fully recovered before running hard again. Trips to get massage, physical therapy, and chiropractor aided in her ability to heal and stay healthy.
Retaining some fitness after Amsterdam, Nukuri is making sure not to over-train before traveling to Honolulu. Her only tune-up race will be the 4.748-mile long Manchester Road Race in Connecticut on Thanksgiving.
"I'm not going to do anything that's like a 22-mile long run," she said, adding that she already has enough miles in her legs from earlier in the year to prepare her for 26.2. "I think that the fact that I'm also at high altitude, it's just easy running and I'll be back in shape quicker. The main goal is to be recovered and go in feeling fresh for Honolulu and have fun there."
By not worrying so much about mileage nor if her finishing time will be a personal best in Honolulu, Nukuri has found a more relaxed mentality in training. She still expects to be up towards the front, racing close to past champions Ehitu Kiros (ETH), Valentina Galimova (RUS), and Woynishet Girma (ETH). Also entered are Lisa Stublic Nemec, a Croatian Olympian, and Joyce Chepkirui, the Kenyan who won the Commonwealth Games 10,000m title earlier this year. Chepkirui is currently the fifth-ranked road runner in the world by the independent Association of Road Racing Statisticians (ARRS).
"Being in Flagstaff, it's so beautiful," said Nukuri, who recently shaved her head after her coach Layne Anderson playfully suggested she do it. "I can just run whenever I feel that I need to run. I'm not trying to build up my mileage again. I'm just trying to feel fresh. It's so pretty here so there's a lot of motivation to run and there's a lot of people to run with and it makes the whole thing easier. To be honest, I'm really not that tired considering how long I've been going."
To those who may say she's racing too many marathons in too short of a time frame, Nukuri interjects by assuring her fitness has shown that she's capable of the task at hand.
"I'm just taking advantage of the fact that I'm fit and healthy. If that means that I'm going to do a little more than I usually do, that's OK. I'm not trying to think about that -- just relax, have fun, go to Hawaii and race. I'm really excited," she said.
It will be Nukuri's first trip to Hawaii, and a restful vacation with no running awaits her at the finish.
"I'm looking forward to running, of course, and after running taking a couple days there to hang out and not do anything," she said in an eager tone. "Can't get better than that!"
PHOTO: Diane Nukuri celebrates after her second place finish at the 2013 NYC Half where she ran a national record 1:09:12 (Photo by Jane Monti for Race Results Weekly)