Dalton and Young Achieve Milestones at California Marathon

December 3, 2018

By Matias Saari, Alaska Sports Blog Contributor

Sunday was a banner day for Jeff Young and Anna Dalton, who achieved huge personal-best times at the California International Marathon.

But their best days may yet be coming: Dalton will race the 2020 U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials in Atlanta and Young will be gunning for an American record in his age group next September in Berlin.

“I was telling myself at the start this was going to be my day,” Dalton said by phone Sunday night from Sacramento, Calif., after finishing in 2 hours, 44 minutes and 18 seconds, slightly faster than the Trials qualifying time of 2:45:00. “I’m just relieved. Now I have a marathon PR (personal record) that’s reflective of the work I’ve put into this the last few years.”

Young, 60, ran 2:41:35 to shatter CIM’s 60-64 age-group record by more than three minutes. “I was really motivated because I wanted that course record,” the Anchorage construction worker said.

Young actually ran 69 seconds faster than the official American record for 60-64-years old. However, his time will not be recognized by USA Track & Field for two reasons: the CIM exceeds the allowable net descent and its “start-finish separation” exceeds the allowable distance, USATF representative Andy Carr explained in an email.

Young was not disappointed by the ruling because he was unaware of the American record going in. But running so fast has boosted his confidence and fueled his fire.

“In Berlin, I’m gonna get (the American record) and it will count,” said Young, who next year will also target the American half marathon 60-64 record of 1:16:54.

Young on Sunday ran the second half more than two minutes faster than his first half, a massive “negative split” during which he passed 123 runners, many of them women gunning for their Olympic Trials qualifiers.

“My overall feeling was I just need to go faster. I felt so comfortable,” said Young, who finished with a pace of 6 minutes, 11 seconds per mile in ideal temperatures and little wind.

Just before halfway, he spotted Dalton and Anchorage’s Chad Trammell.

“I could see Anna’s form and Chad’s head bobble … so I threw down a 6-minute mile to catch up to them,” said Young. He ran only briefly with the duo before resuming his scorching pace.

The end result was an improvement of 3:07 from Young’s previous best at the 2015 New York City Marathon.

Young’s focuses on quality over quantity in training. He averages fewer than 50 miles per week, a relatively low number for an elite runner.

“I can’t do those (big) miles,” Young said. “A lot of times I’m whooped when I get off work. So I just make sure I do quality runs.”

Dalton, who thought she and Young might run together on Sunday, is impressed.

“What person turns 60 and drops three minutes off their marathon PR? It’s just ridiculous,” Dalton said.

Meanwhile, Dalton’s improvement was even greater: she lopped more than seven minutes from her PR at the 2015 Boston Marathon.

Sunday’s result was especially gratifying because she hasn’t completed a marathon in three years due to problems such as concussions and anemia. This September she withdrew her entry from the Berlin Marathon, took a short break, reset her training and regained her energy with the help of iron infusions.

After an encouraging workout on November 8, Dalton believed again that she could break 2:45 so decided to run CIM. However, she worried that the compromised training and lack of long runs left her with little margin for error.

Trammell, her “de facto coach” and training partner, stayed with Dalton virtually the entire way, helping her maintain a metronomic pace despite legs that grew increasingly achy after mile 16. She qualified for the Trials by 42 seconds.

“My legs were just giving out on me. … I didn’t really believe I was going to do it until I saw the finish line,” said Dalton, who vomited shortly after finishing.

Dalton also ran CIM in 2015 in an attempt to qualify for the 2016 Trials. But she slowed dramatically in the second half and finished in a disappointing 3:05.

With a 340-foot elevation drop, CIM bills itself as “The Fastest Course in the West.” The moniker helped attract droves of Olympic Trials hopefuls on Sunday and an astounding 100 women and 53 men achieved the qualifier. Dalton, who divides her time between Bozeman, Mont., and Anchorage, placed 83rd among women in a time that otherwise would have won the vast majority of U.S. marathons.

While several Alaskan men have qualified for recent Trials (including Jesse Cherry in 2012 and 2016 and Aaron Fletcher for 2020), Dalton is the first Alaskan woman to qualify since Chris Clark of Anchorage in 2000.

Clark, who ran 2:31 at the 2000 Summer Olympics, and Suzanne Ray, with a 2:40:54 in 1991, are the only Alaskan women known to have run faster than Dalton did on Sunday.

“This race has been many years in the making for me, and I’m incredibly appreciative of every single person in the community who has helped make it happen,” Dalton wrote on Facebook.