First-timer Lecot prevails by churning out evenly paced miles

Monday, October 13, 2008

By Mike MacAdam Gazette Reporter

ALBANY — The French word “hazard” can get lost in translation a little bit. It’s pronounced “ah-zahr” and doesn’t mean “lucky” so much as it describes a pleasant but unexpected bonus. This was the little French language lesson given by Francois Lecot beyond the finish line of the Mohawk Hudson River Marathon on Sunday, right after he aced “Marathoning 101.” In his career debut at the 26.2-mile distance, the 37-year-old from St-Bruno, Quebec, a suburb of Montreal, ran metronomic mile splits to wear down first Shaun Evans of Middle Grove, then Steve Hicks of Syr­acuse to win in 2:36:42. Lecot’s only intention was to run each mile in the 6:00-6:05 range, and having accomplished that, he found himself in receipt of a 31-second victory over Hicks, who Lecot passed with less than two miles left. “I just wanted to run an even pace and enjoy the experience,” said Lecot, who teaches kinesiology at Universite du Montreal. “It just happened to be that I came in first, and I’m just happy about it. That’s it, it wasn’t planned.”
     The women’s winner, Mariah Titlow, 31, of Jamaica Plain, Mass., accomplished her goal of running a personal record and nearly experienced “hazard” herself, but missed cracking the 3:00 mark by 21 seconds. Lecot is a a seasoned runner at distances like 5k and 10k, but had never raced longer than a half marathon. “I decided this summer that I wanted to do one marathon once in my life,” he said. “All my friends were not necessarily begging, but always asking me when would be my first one. I actually didn’t say a word to anybody and just showed up. Only my wife and a good friend of mine knew.” Lecot was among a large contingent of Canadians who typically race the MHR Marathon. His wife, Nathalie Goyer, a veteran of 30 marathons, won the Wineglass in Corning last weekend in 2:50:31. “She was in my thoughts. I don’t want to jinx it, but we’re a winning couple in New York state,” Lecot said with a laugh. Lecot let the leaders go and do their thing in the early miles, while he managed his pace with discipline. As inexperienced as he was at the distance, he had no intention of contending for the victory. There was no dramatic kick, he simply maintained his measured miles and wore everybody down. “At one point, I couldn’t see them,” he said. “They were really far away. I heard I was fourth at one spot, and I think I passed the second guy around 23 miles, and I passed the first guy at around 241/2. I was just staying on pace the whole way — pace, pace, pace, not wanting to accelerate.” Hicks, 25, finished in 2:37:13, and Evans, who jumped into the MHR Marathon as a fallback race when he missed Wineglass with an inner ear infection, ran 2:39:53. Bob Irwin of Guilderland was also under 2:40 in 2:39:59.
     There was spirited competition in the 50-and-over division, as two runners, Kevin Dollard, 53, of Hopewell Junction and Schen­ectady’s John Parisella, who turned 50 on New Year’s Day, each broke 2:59. Dollard passed Parisella, a school psychol­ogist in the Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake school district, right at the 26-mile mark. “It’s alright. At the beginning of the race, the last thing I said to myself was the age group doesn’t matter, do 2:50-something and that’s what I set out to do,” Parisella said. “If I didn’t go too fast in the early stage of the race, get too excited and go beyond the pace I set, I’d be alright. I wanted to do 6:50s, and see what I have after 20. The last couple of miles were very rough. I tend to have chronic calf problems and I was getting cramps, and it’s hard. So it was great. I knew where I was with the time, I was with a couple guys who knew what the pace was, and it was just a matter of grinding it out, ‘Give me another mile like that, that felt good, I can do another one like that.’?” Sub-3:00 is an accomplishment for any 50-year-old. Parisella had been been shooting for it since he ran 2:55:08 two years ago. Since then, he’s trained with Team Utopia runners like Brian Northan and 49-year-old Nancy Taormina, who was 10th (1:32:01) in the U.S. Marine Corps Half Marathon, held in conjunction with the MHR Mar­athon. “I put a lot into this the last couple of years,” Parisella said. “There’s not many guys that do it [sub-3:00 at 50] in this area, and I was lucky to have pals who ran with me the last two years and worked hard with me. Believe me, a lot of stuff gets put aside.”
     Titlow, whose previous PR had been a 3:09 at Boston, had the good fortune of finding herself stride-for-stride with 44-year-old Anne Gullickson of Kingston in the early stages of the marathon. The two had never met before, but after the race they clinked water bottles like old friends with champagne glasses as Titlow said, “I couldn’t have done it without you, Anne.” Gullickson won this race in 2003 in 2:58:47, and she and Titlow figured out early on that they’d be running the same pace on Sunday, so they stuck together until about 22 miles, when Gullickson urged Titlow to take it from there. She finished in 3:00:20, and Gullickson was second in 3:02:33, followed by one other sub-3:10 runner, Julia Gold of Malta (3:07:55). “She and I just kind of worked together, got some great teamwork in, really pushed each other through some of the hard miles, and right at the end she said, ‘Go for it, you’ve got it.’?” Titlow said. “We just met on the course, and she recognized that we ran about the same pace, so she said, you know, let’s stick together. It’s a testament to Anne, really. She’s amazing.” Titlow, who is in charge of environmental programs at a biotech company, has run six mar­athons, including three Bostons. Three weeks from now, she’ll run New York, where she doesn’t expect to run nearly as fast as she did on the relatively fast MHR course, which starts in Central Park and mostly follows the Mohawk Hudson River bikepath before finishing in the Corning Preserve. The runners enjoyed spectacular conditions. “My target was to beat my PR. I had no idea I could drop nine minutes off,” Titlow said. “It’s an incredible race. I think part of it, too, is the course is absolutely beautiful, and it’s perfect weather for a race. “At no point did I feel like I was toast until the very end, the last two-tenths of a mile were tough. I really wanted to break three, and when you see that clock and it’s 2:59, it’s tough.”
     Steve Ryan of Dunmore, Pa., won the Half Marathon in 1:09:06, followed by Chuck Terry of Albany in 1:10:26 and Andy Allstadt of Albany in 1:12:10. The women’s winner was Diane Matthews of Albany in 1:21:41, 11 seconds ahead of Murphee Hayes of Marathon.