My thanks to several readers who alerted me to two women from Wisconsin that I overlooked in the original post of this story.
Sarah Bashinski Flament, 36, is a Wausau native who now lives and trains in Poland, Oh., and Rachel Evjen Booth, 31, graduated from Eau Claire North High School in 1999, are running in the Olympic Marathon Trials on Saturday.
Dot McMahan takes a light-hearted approach to her humble status as a dark horse in the 2012 Olympic Marathon Trials.
“Time for this dark horse to giddy up,” the University of Wisconsin – Milwaukee alum posted on her facebook page earlier this week.
Neither McMahan nor her fellow Wisconsin native, Serena Ramsey Burla, will take the line as favorites in the race in Houston on Saturday morning. They will, though, take an appreciation of their achievements and their opportunity.
Both are mothers of toddlers. Both will need to have break-out performances to go under 2:30 and put themselves in the mix with favorites Desiree Davila, Kara Goucher and Shalane Flanagan.
Davila goes into the trials with the best qualifying time of the group, a 2:22:38. Experts predict it will take a 2:24 to win on the flat, three-loop course in Houston, and a 2:28 to punch a ticket to the 2012 Olympics in London.
“If I have that day, I have a shot,” said Burla, who ran for her father at Waukesha West High School. “That’s the marathon.
“I’m as ready as I’m going to be and hopefully it will all come together that day.”
Beyond an appreciation for the opportunity, Burla has a thankfulness just to be able to run.
The 29-year-old suffered severe pain in her right hamstring before and during the 2010 Houston Half Marathon. Assuming it was a running related injury, she was stunned to hear the actual diagnosis: a tumor, synovial sarcoma, life-threatening.
Doctors at the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York removed the tumor, and Burla exceeded expectations by not only running again, but posting a 2:37:06 and 19th place finish in the ING New York Marathon in November 2010.
She continued to train as part of the RIAHDA team, coached by Isaya Okwiya, and logs her miles in Falls Church, Va.
“I’m still so grateful to be able to put one foot in front of the other, and to be racing,” she said.
“This time reminds me of being in so much pain in Houston 2010,” said Burla, 29. “It’s kind of almost like an anniversary, and approaching the anniversary of being cancer-free, too.
“It’s a time to reflect for me and be really grateful, and how lucky I am that we caught it. When I run, I always want to be appreciative.”
As a runner and cancer survivor, Burla earned a slot on the cover of the July issue of Runner’s World Magazine.
McMahan, who grew up in Hilbert, doesn’t have the same public profile.
She does have a faster qualifying time, and a surprising eighth-place finish in the 2008 Olympic trials in Boston.
McMahan, 35, ran a 2:35:02 that day and lowered her marathon PR to 2:31:48 in the 2011 Grandma’s Marathon in June. She was third in Duluth, and will have her sights set on that same spot on Saturday.
“In 2008, for me, that was a breakout race,” McMahan said. “And I don’t think I had the confidence to do anything that day.
“It was a shock to place eighth and it was a shock to run 2:35. I won’t be shocked this time.”
McMahan is part of the Hansons Distance Project, one of the most successful teams in the country. Her teammate, Davila, goes into the trials as the number one seed, after a scintillating second-place run in the 2011 BAA Boston Marathon.
Training with that dedicated group of fast women has been a challenge and a blessing.
It helped her return to her previous form, and exceed it, after the birth of Elizabeth, now 2 ½.
“I don’t take things for granted like I used to,” McMahan said. “I spent a lot of time running in pain after I had my daughter.
“Now, I’m just so thankful to be running pain free and to have the opportunity to go after some goals. It keeps me focused.”
Burla, too, has the perspective that motherhood brings to a competitive runner.
“Even in the bulk period, where every marathon runner reaches that point, ‘can I get out the door,’ at the end of the day I still love it,” she said.
“I don’t want to be wasting my time because I could have spent it with Boyd. If I have a bad workout or a great workout, I’m still mom to Boyd and that’s all he cares about.”
More than being an Olympian, being a mother motivated Burla during her bout with cancer, and the experience shapes her outlook every moment.
“It has made me more well-rounded and I see the things that are truly important in life,” she said. “A lot of people’s stories turn out different. I never want to forget that feeling of how lucky I am, and how everyone is fighting their own battle.”
Wendi Ray, from Ellison Bay, and Sarah Bashinshi Flament, a Wausau native, and Rachel Evjen Booth, a 1999 graduate from Eau Claire North High School, will join McMahan and Burla on the start line in Houston.
It will be Ray’s second run in the Olympic marathon trials. She ran well in Boston in the 2008 trials but faded to a 2:46, after a fast start.
Ray enters the race with a PR of 2:38:58.
Bashinski Flament, 36, took an 11-year break after her collegiate career at North Dakota State University but returned and has steadily cut into her marathon times. She trains in Poland, Ohio,with Infinite Running and ran a 2:43:37 in the 2011 BAA Boston Marathon and will be seeded 93rd in Houston.
Booth, who now lives in New Orleans, La., is seeded one spot ahead of Flament. She qualified in the USA Women's Marathon Championships.
In the men’s race, Tyler Sigl, from Seymour, and Matthew Hooley, from Madison, will be in the pack chasing the favorites, Ryan Hall, Meb Keflezighi and Dathan Ritzenheim. Both will need to shave five or more minutes from their marathon bests to get into the top three and qualify for London.