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NAZ Elite camp verde

Northern Arizona Elite head coach Ben Rosario works with members of the professional running team in Camp Verde during a 2018 training session.

NAZ Elite's Stephanie Bruce and Alice Wright feed off each while training for the upcoming Chicago Marathon.

The only misfortune is that they can't always share the exact same workout at the same time.

“We had to do two separate paces," NAZ Elite head coach Ben Rosario said Wednesday of the recent workout session with the two.

A mixed bag of NAZ Elite marathoners are getting ready for their fall races, giving Rosario an experience that he's been embracing. He doesn't always get to have such a large chunk of his team preparing for marathons all at once.

“It’s been a fun challenge, but a challenge none the less," he said.

As of now, five runners on the team's 13-person roster are in the thick of training for a 26.2-mile race. Some of them have conquered the distance before in their professional running careers, while others will take on the task for the first time ever this autumn.

So Bruce's workout Wednesday was different than Wright's, despite the fact that both are prepping for mid-October's Chicago Marathon. The big difference was pace, as Bruce, who has raced a marathon before, tackled her repeats 10 seconds faster than her young teammate who's getting ready for her first marathon.

"Each segment and each athlete is different," Rosario said when it comes to training for a marathon, "so there is no template you can use. You have to decide what are the athlete’s goals, what are the athlete's needs, what are this athlete’s strengths and weaknesses.”

And 10 seconds can be a big gap even though it seems short.

"That doesn’t sound like a lot of a difference, but it’s a fine line because you have to be careful not to go overboard when you are training as hard as we are," Rosario said.

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The training, meanwhile, takes precedence over racing for the time being. NAZ Elite does not have many races planned for the month of September after coming off an August that featured just one completed race.

Bruce and Wright will be joined by Scott Smith for the Chicago Marathon, with Rory Linkletter making his debut at the distance in Toronto on Oct. 20. Meanwhile, Kellyn Taylor is slated for November's New York City Marathon.

“When you have a marathon on the schedule, there are certain things you absolutely have to do to prepare to race it properly, and it doesn't really give you a lot of time to schedule in other races during a training phase," Rosario said.

That's the case especially for the younger runners who have not professionally raced a marathon before such as Wright and Linkletter.

“Once we get into that time frame, the workouts are so specific and so long and exhausting, and sending someone off to the other side of the country to do a race -- all that travel and emotional energy that that acquires -- it’s difficult," Rosario said, adding he wants his young runners to "save their firepower for the big day."

Yet sometimes for the veteran runners, racing provides an opportunity to take a break from the training -- or at least use the race as part of the marathon buildup. Taylor, for instance, could fit in a race before her marathon.

Taylor finished her last marathon in the Big Apple in eighth place with a time of 2:29:56 in 2017. That same year, Bruce finished New York in 10th. Bruce went on to run the event again in 2018, taking 11th while improving her finish time.

Bruce is not expected to race before competing in Chicago, as her track season ended in July and there are marathon workouts she needs to make sure she gets in.

From all the chaos comes some clarity, however. The athletes who are not running a marathon in the fall have been paying close attention to their teammates.

“They are really developing a healthy respect for what it requires," Rosario said.

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Mike Hartman can be reached at 556-2255 or at mhartman@azdailysun.com. Follow him on Twitter @AZDS_Hartman.

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