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Three Local Women Qualify for 2020 Olympic Marathon Trials

It is a chilly, dark Tuesday morning in February, and Chelsea Benson is about to meet up with Ellie Pell and Bailey Drewes for a speed workout. All three have qualified for the 2020 Olympic marathon trials that will take place in Atlanta at the end of the month, and each of them have been running and competing seriously for at least three years.

Pell and Benson are teammates on the Red Newt Racing team in Ithaca, and Drewes is a Tracksmith-sponsored athlete. Pell ran casually in high school but began consistently training in 2014 after running a half marathon in the area that she “randomly won.” She enjoys road races and ultra trail races.  Pell has been successful in both, notably, winning the 2019 Watergap 50k trail race — a 31 mile course — in 3 hours and 45 minutes and setting the women’s course record.

“I wasn’t good,” Pell said about running in high school. “But I was like, ‘I think I’m going to keep doing this,’ and I really trained for and really got into it after that half.”

Ellie takes third place with a time of 2:41:52 at the Hartford Marathon in October. Photo courtesy of Ellie Pell
Ellie takes third place with a time of 2:41:52 at the Hartford Marathon in October. (Photo courtesy of Ellie Pell)

Pell qualified for the trials after taking third overall female at the 2019 Hartford Marathon in Connecticut, with a time of 2:41:52 in October.

Benson has been running since high school and doing marathons since 2017. She ran the 2019 Medtronic Twin Cities Marathon with Drewes, which resulted in not only a new personal record for them both, but also qualifying times of 2:40:09 and 2:40:24, respectively, in October.

The women’s qualifying time to make the trials is 2 hours and 37 minutes to meet the “A” standard, and 2 hours and 45 minutes to meet the “B” standard. Currently, there are 511 women listed as eligible for the trials on the USA Track and Field website. USATF is the governing body that regulates professional running, including that of the Olympic trials.

Benson and Drewes are both coached by California-based former collegiate and professional runner Jon Clemens, while Pell self-coaches or trains with them. Drewes has been working with Clemens since running at The College of Saint Benedict.

Running at a high level means an increased risk for injury, something all three women have struggled with in the past. Like with any goal, individuals face various challenges that come with training for something like a marathon.

“I don’t work with a coach, but I sort of take Chelsea and Bailey’s plans and combine or modify them because I know what works best for my body,” Pell said.

High-volume training is taxing on the body, so athletes must spend time doing preventative mobility and strength work to avoid injuries. Drewes said that this training cycle hasn’t differed much from her previous marathon training cycles but that she has prioritized preventative training.

Pell runs down The Commons on a chilly day. She does several easy runs each week to maintain her aerobic base. Photo by Zoë Freer-Hessler
Pell runs down The Commons on a chilly day. She does several easy runs each week to maintain her aerobic base. (Photo by Zoë Freer-Hessler/Ithaca Week)

“The primary change is that I’ve added twice weekly lifting workouts,” Drewes said. “The lifting … has been key for me in injury prevention. This is also the first cycle in two years that I’ve been completely injury free, and I totally attribute that to the lifting. I also think it’s helped improve my speed during track workouts.”

After PR-ing at the Twin Cities marathon, Benson dealt with an achilles injury that meant focusing on rehabilitation and preventative exercises so she could be healthy for the trials.

“I come home, help with dinner and getting my kids to bed, which leaves a little time for strength training, core and stretching or foam rolling a few nights a week,” Benson said.

Pell also focuses on preventative work to reduce her risk of injury, similar to Drewes’ regimen of strength and mobility work.

“To stay uninjured I do ancillary work,” Pell said. “I do a lot of foam rolling and mobility work and I get in the gym … just moving my body in those ways and making sure I’m doing the ankle mobility and the hip mobility work has been helpful for me.”

The course is challenging with 1,389 feet of elevation. It winds through neighborhoods in downtown Atlanta and finishes with 2.2 miles that take runners by the 1996 Atlanta Rings and Torch sculpture.

“I’m trying to approach the trials with a fun mindset,” Drewes said. “Only three women qualify and I will be nowhere near those ladies, but my two goals are to run a sub-2:40 [marathon] and make it into the top 150.”

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      adminFeb 24, 2020 at 2:18 pm

      Thanks!

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