PHOTO: Steph Bruce of HOKA Northern Arizona Elite in advance of the 2018 Virgin Money London Marathon (photo by Jane Monti for Race Results Weekly)
David Monti is writing columns from Virgin London Marathon media center on the 2018 Virgin Money London Marathon. Here is his column on American favorite Stephanie Bruce, who looks ready to run a big PB.
Q&A WITH STEPH BRUCE AND BEN ROSARIO AHEAD OF VIRGIN MONEY LONDON MARATHON
By David Monti, @d9monti
(c) 2018 Race Results Weekly, all rights reserved, used with permission
LONDON (20-Apr) — There are three Americans among the 15 elite women entered in Sunday’s Virgin Money London Marathon: Stephanie Bruce (HOKA Northern Arizona Elite), Becky Wade (Asics) and Liz Costello (New Balance). Bruce, 34, has the fastest career time of the three, 2:29:35, set at the Chevron Houston Marathon back in 2011. She prepared for this race at high altitude in Flagstaff, Arizona, under coach Ben Rosario. The two of them spoke to RaceResults Weekly here today and offered their thoughts on the race.
Race Results Weekly: You finished tenth at last November’s TCS New York City Marathon. Are you feeling confident coming into the race here?
Steph Bruce: I’m feeling good. I’m feeling really confident. It doesn’t hurt that we just had an American win Boston. I just feel like American women distance running right now is so elevated, so it definitely gives me a lot of inspiration and motivation to, like, keep that ball rolling. It doesn’t necessarily mean me winning London on Sunday (laughs), but definitely kind of elevates where my thoughts and goals are.
RRW: How much did you change your training for this race compared to your New York preparations?
SB: We didn’t do too much (differently). But, I think the key is we always look at your marathon build-up isn’t just the seven or eight weeks that you just did, it’s the last six months, it’s the last 12 months, the last 18 months. So, coming off having my two children (Riley, who will be 4 in June and Hudson, who is 2Â½) it’s finally like having a cumulative effect, having all the blocks. I’m stronger because of my New York training block, and I carry that into this block, and I just handle paces better and felt stronger running the same times that I did before New York.
RRW: Did you vary the terrain for your runs compared to your fall training?
SB: We trained for a lot of hills for New York. We wanted to make sure we felt strong. We did a little more change of paces. For London, we were pretty much more dialed-in, and we did a lot of flat, steady running. We even went down to what we consider to be kind of sea level, 3300 feet (1006m), to do one of my steady-states so we could get the rhythm of the pace more.”
Ben Rosario: She was correct to say that the training was definitely a step up from New York, but a logical step up. It wasn’t as if we pushed the envelope in some crazy way. We just made the logical decision to up her mileage a little bit. Like she said, the paces were very similar, but she handled them much better. That’s always a good sign, maybe the best sign for a coach, to see an athlete not only hitting the split but hitting them very comfortably, very smoothly at the right effort. All of her training indicates a very good performance on Sunday.
RRW: Were you able to pair up Kellyn Taylor (who ran Boston) with Steph for training?
BR: Kellyn, because she was doing Boston, we just did a lot of Boston-specific training, a lot of downhills and a number of uphills as well. For Steph, we did a lot of London-specific training, a lot of flat-surface workouts. So, they don’t really mesh very well.
RRW: Your personal best of 2:29:35 from Houston is seven years old now. I’m sure you would like to see that knocked down on Sunday.
SB: For sure, yeah. I even thought before New York I was in PB shape, but the way that race went out a little more tactical, I wasn’t necessarily worried about that. While time is still a goal, I’m not married to a time. At the end of the day, I want to compete. I want to make sure over that last 10-K I’m really competing and trying to beat women and place very high at a Major.
RRW: There will be men pacing the women’s race at London this year. I understand there will be a 74-minute group. Is that where you plan to tuck in?
SB: We just found out. There are three male pacers, which is extraordinary to just have a couple of guys in there. I was lucky enough to have my husband, Ben, pace me through a lot of the segment. I can’t tell you how easy it felt to sit behind him, and then turn off my brain for the first three quarters. And then, when he would leave, the racing instincts came over. I feel like if I take that same approach, and can just tuck in and not think, and be very comfortable on Sunday that will set me up well.
RRW: Sunday’s race will be one of the hottest London Marathons on record, with start-time temperatures about 63F/17C and warming up to 66F/19C by the finish. Are you worried about the heat?
SB: We’re being aware of it for sure, but we also talked about if you’re comfortable, in control, not making any surges or quick movements, you can just stay relaxed and allows your body temperature to stay relaxed. I do look at my past, and I have raced well in hot and humid conditions. I was third at the Honolulu Marathon in 2012, and I raced World Cross last year in Uganda (where) I was 22nd. And funny enough, I had a really hot and humid race is Gasparilla this year (February in Tampa, Florida) where I raced Sara Hall. We ran 72-flat (for a half-marathon) and I felt pretty confident that I was in 70:00 or 71:00 shape. I think I manage it well.
RRW: You’re married with two young children. How does having a family impact your training and motivation as an athlete? How is it different from before you had children?
SB: I think they give a balance. It kind of teaches me that when I’m away from them I make the most of my time and be really efficient. Also, I need to make the time worth it. So, if I’m going to come to a race I have no excuses to not run well. In my opinion, it gives me a different element of toughness, something to push through knowing that I chose this life, and I chose to be a little selfish and be away them. So, they give me that extra fire and motivation to really make sure I’m laying it all out there.
RRW: Where did you watch the Boston Marathon? What were the emotions you felt as you watched your teammates Kellyn Taylor and Scott Smith
compete? What about Des Linden’s victory?
SB: We watched in our living room. We just got up that morning with the kids. We had a couple of our teammates come over. It was a mix of emotions, right? I had two teammates, Scott and Kellyn, running. We found out Kellyn dropped out it was devastating because she never got to show all of her fitness, but the hypothermia took her. Then we found out Scott Smith was sixth, which was incredible. He was just so tough. If you look at one of my pictures from, like, Instagram, when Desi was running the last two miles, Coach Ben the week before was like, ‘make sure you relax when you’re watching Boston because you do have a race coming up.’ But I was, like, balling. I was, like, hollering, running around. I have been competing against Desi for some time, and I hate using the words someone deserves it, but, like, she earned that win. It was really exciting for her to finally have that moment. It really fired me up. It really shows what American distance running, the camaraderie. It’s like, yeah, we we want to beat each other once we’re out there, but If someone’s going to win, it’s an American. It feels like a win for all of us.