Bawcom ready to get back in the game at USA Half-Marathon Championships, by David Monti, RRW, used with permission

PHOTO: Janet Bawcom prior to the 2014 USA Half-Marathon Championships 
in Houston 
(photo by David Monti for Race Results Weekly)

David Monti did this piece on Janet Bawcom, on the eve of her race at the Aramco Houston Half Marathon on Sunday, January 18, 2015. 
By David Monti
(c) 2015 Race Results Weekly, all rights reserved

HOUSTON (17-Jan) -- American Olympian Janet Bawcom opened her 2014 season with three podium finishes, (including two victories), a national road running title, and a USA 10 mile record for an all women's race.  In those three races she collected $21,000 in prize money and bonuses, and she seemed poised to have one of her best-ever years.

But for nearly six months after that, the 36 year-old Kenyan native, who now lives and trains in Flagstaff, Ariz., didn't run a single race.  From April 7th until September 27th, she was off the grid, at home with her husband, Jay, resting, recovering and even painting her house.

"You know, I got to do a lot of stuff," she told told Race Results weekly in an interview here yesterday.  "In July, June I got to forget about running and I was just going to gym and doing what normal people do.  You know, I really enjoyed that.  It just really gave me a mental break."

Bawcom --who represented the United States in the 2012 London Olympics where she finished 12th in the 10,000m-- was in great shape last spring before an injury forced her off the road.  That injury was seemingly routine (shin pain), but she couldn't get rid of it.  Then things got worse for her when she tried to heal the injury AND stay fit at the same time.  It wasn't working.

"In April I was fit and had all of these goals," Bawcom lamented.  The Nike-sponsored athlete continued:  "I was trying to do all of my therapy and stay fit, just stay fit at the same level.  But, I think I got mentally tired of just doing all that, and then trying to come back to start training.  I just needed that break."

But Bawcom's struggles didn't end quickly.  She tore a rhomboid muscle (upper back) and had kidney stones.  The symptoms of the kidney stones came on in August and didn't fully subside until October.  She passed the stones the old fashioned way, she said.

"It was at night and I thought, 'I'm having, I don't know what I'm having!'" Bawcom recounted when she first felt the pain of the stones.  "Jay was working that night and I thought, 'should I call him to go to the E.R.?'"

Bawcom first got back on the racing scene at a 12-K road race in Bogota, Colombia, last September where she finished ninth, well behind the leaders.  But she soon began to show some of her old form, placing seventh at the Tufts Health Plan 10-K for Women in Boston on Columbus Day, running a very solid 32:12.  She ran two Rock 'n' Roll half-marathons in November (one in Savannah and the other in San Antonio), running 73-minutes in both events.  She began to feel like herself again.

"It's been a while since I've run a good half," she observed.  "I ran the two Rock 'n' Roll races in November, just to get me to finish the half (distance)."

Here in Houston on Sunday, Bawcom will be trying to finish well at the USA Half-Marathon Championships hosted by the Aramco Houston Half-Marathon.  With a 1:09:55 personal best, Bawcom is the fastest woman in the field.  She didn't want to offer any specific predictions about the race, but she planned to be in the thick of it at the front, she said.

"I feel really good compared to, from August to November," she said.  "I feel great.  I feel like I am my old self.  I'm doing workouts and completing them, and hitting times.  You know, for those three months sometimes I'd go do a workout, and I'd do two reps and then I'm toast.  I couldn't figure out what was going on.  Stuff like that takes a toll on your body."

In Flagstaff, Bawcom doesn't belong to a formal training group, and said that most of her friends were recreational runners.  Like most Americans, she has tried to strike a good work-life balance.  She loves to run, but doesn't want to talk about it 24/7.

"Running is something on the side for me," she revealed.  "You know, I have a life there.  Friends that we do stuff together and not even talk about running.  I love that about Flagstaff."

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