It’s those unexpected, breakout moments in life that keep us motivated and pushing hard towards goals that sometimes seem impossibly out of reach. My run at Eastern States this past Sunday represented such a moment for me.
-Eastern States 20 Miler champion Larisa Dannis, from her blog recap on the race
Before this week, I was completely unfamiliar with Larisa Dannis. Larisa tagged the Level in an instagram photo, and then I saw that she won the Eastern States 20 Miler (ran a 2:04:42 and placed 9th overall). Getting an interview with her was a no-brainer, but I had no idea what I was getting myself into. This young lady wasn’t part of a college team, and she ultimately got her start in a most unorthodox way. Larisa started out hiking up 4,000 footers in New Hampshire (peak bagging, as the mountain folk say), and soon portion of those hikes turned into a jog. Pretty soon she was running ultra trail races, and then more recently, road marathons. Now she has her sites set on the Boston Marathon, and beyond that, the 2016 Olympic Trials. Truly an interesting story, and with our interview we tried to find out a little more about this hiker-turned-runner.
You seem to be relatively new to the roads. Was there any hesitation or extra nerves in the early portion of the race?
Interestingly, I wasn’t too nervous going into the race. Eastern States was intended as a steady state training run for me in preparation for Boston. With the rough conditions that were predicted I figured I’d be running at a much slower pace regardless of the effort that I put in. Therefore, I went into the race simply with the intention of pacing by heart rate, as I always do. I never check my pace or splits during any race – from marathons to 100 milers. I run purely by feel, and am content with whatever finish that brings me.
What were you expecting to run and did you adjust the goal for the horrible weather?
Since almost all of my training takes place on hilly and/or mountainous routes, I honestly wasn’t too sure what to expect for a time goal on a flatter course. Based upon some of my tempo paces and fast finish runs over the past month, I was hoping to perhaps crack 2:10 on an ideal day. Of course, the weather changed everything. I think it actually worked out in my favor, because I decided to embrace the conditions for what they were and simply have fun.
I’m a bit of an odd one when it comes to inclement weather and conditions, as I really seem to thrive when the going gets rough. The last two 50 milers I ran – Land Between the Lakes 50 and Lookout Mountain 50 – were muddy, wet, and super tough underfoot. Yet even when things aren’t ideal, I always try to stay positive and tackle challenges as they arise. It’s amazing how much of a difference a good attitude makes, especially when racing longer distances.
You ended up with a fairly large margin of victory. Was there an early break from the other women near you? Or did you have it the whole way?
There was a bit of a delay at the 20 mile start, and standing around in the cold had me pretty chilled. I took off hard for the first mile or so in an effort to warm up. After that, I found myself running alone for the majority of the race. It was actually quite nice, as I could focus 100% on my own run and staying relaxed, steady, and strong. Approaching the finish line and seeing 2:04 on the clock was a very emotional moment for me. I recounted my race on my training blog in greater detail.
Being relatively new still to the marathon distance, are you feeling ready for Boston? If conditions are right, do you think a trials qualifier is a strong possibility so soon?
Manchester City Marathon was my first road marathon back in November 2012. I signed up for it after running a decent trail 50k two weeks prior, as I figured it would be fun to give roads a try after running trail ultras for a few years. I went into the marathon having no idea what to expect. I was actually a little frightened of injury as I really had no road base at that point! As it turned out, that single road marathon forever altered my running career, which I recounted in detail for Far North. After Manchester, I set a goal of breaking 3 hours at the marathon, which I ultimately accomplished at Hartford last October in 2:54:59.
I’m more excited than ever for Boston after Eastern States. My body feels fantastic right now. I don’t yet have the speed to qualify for the trials and think it will take another year or so of training to get there – if I even have the raw ability to do so! That said, I would be thrilled with a PR at Boston if the stars align. Regardless, you can expect to see me there running by heart rate and with a big smile on my face.
For more on Larisa, check out these links:
A transformational year: An interview with Larisa Dannis