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NAZ ELITE THIS WEEK

NAZ Elite This Week: Team reflecting during week off before NYC Marathon

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NAZ Elite's Rory Linkletter recently took a few steps closer to being "calloused," a term his head coach likes to use when referring to being prepared for a marathon.

The rookie's legs took a pounding on Sunday in Toronto, where he ran a 2:16:42.0 for 16th place in his debut at 26.2 miles. Moreover, it was the recent BYU grad's first road race of any kind.

At the halfway mark of the marathon, Linkletter clocked in at 1:06:13. The second half really tested him.

“At 23, even though his segment was good, it was only one segment, and it just wasn’t enough," NAZ Elite head coach Ben Rosario said Tuesday. "Now compare that to someone like Scott Fauble who debuted at 25, two years into being a professional. All the workouts Rory did during this segment, all the big ones, Scott had already done those two or three times before his marathon.”

Linkletter's debut came just a week after his NAZ Elite teammates, Stephanie Bruce and Scott Smith, set PRs at the Chicago Marathon. Those two veterans had been in their share of marathons.

Before the team sends out another stout pairing of seasoned runners to take on the New York Marathon, it will use this weekend as a bye to reflect and regroup.

There's been a lot of energy around the team lately, and around marathoners in general, as the Olympic 2020 year approaches and the Olympic Trials are in the not too distant future in late February. Rosario's never had so many athletes in marathon training at once, a result of having a larger roster containing more athletes wanting to conquer the distance.

For Rosario, however, there's not that much more of a difference now than back around 2016.

“It’s this build toward the Olympic year," Rosario said. "For better or worse, our sport is so dependent on the Olympics.”

And Rosario, the athletes and the sport are reaping the benefits from the marathon's rise in the Olympic cycle.

Kenya's Brigid Kosgei set a new world record in Chicago with a final time of 2:14.04, putting an exclamation mark on the amazing outings women marathoners have been producing as of late. That came days after Kenyan Eliud Kipchoge cracked the sub-2 hour marathon under such controlled conditions as to keep his feat out of the record books.

NAZ Elite's no stranger to the surge of success. Aliphine Tuliamuk hit a PR at the Rotterdam Marathon in April while Fauble got a PR in Boston that same month. Kellyn Taylor took fourth in Prague in May, finishing just a couple minutes off her PR of 2:24:28 set in 2018.

Tuliamuk and Taylor will be in New York on Nov. 3, looking to make sure the fall keeps going like the spring season.

Linkletter has no reason to be overly disappointed in his debut. In fact, according to Rosario, Linkletter's BYU coach Ed Eyestone debuted at 2 hours and 16 minutes in the marathon, as well as former BYU great Jared Ward.

“So he’s in good company," Rosario said.

Linkletter said on his Twitter account not long after his marathon that he "can’t wait to get another shot at it!"

“I think he had a really mature analysis of the race," Rosario said. "It wasn’t like he got done and acted like it was all rainbows and butterflies. He knew he didn’t accomplish what he wanted to, so there was a level of disappointment, but there was also a level of understand that he knew he was just getting started. For a lot of people, that’s how it looks like.”

It's a big step for the young runner, one that's becoming a big part of any runner's career. Although marathon training can take runners away from racing, there's been signs that the marathon leads to a better all-around runner.

Since putting more focus on the marathon, Bruce and Taylor have been still producing stellar times at shorter distances. Bruce put together a PR performance in the 5000m in 2019 and one at 10,000m in 2017. She also PRed in the half marathon in 2019 while winning a national championship at the distance in May. Taylor also set a PR at 5000m in 2019.

“It’s not a mutually exclusive thing. And Steph and Kellyn are such good examples of that. They have moved on to the marathon and yet they are still stetting personal bests at 5,000 meters, 10,000 meters, and they are running as well as ever at the shorter distances," Rosario said. "I think there is a lot to be said that marathon training can make you stronger and in terms faster than you’ve ever been at shorter distances.”

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

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