Dave Hill, a race director for the Kaiser Permanente Napa Valley Marathon, opened his e-mail late last week to find a message from Magdalena Lewy Boulet.
Yes, the same Magdalena Lewy Boulet who is ranked No. 1 in the U.S. for the women’s marathon and was a participant in the 2008 Summer Olympic Games in Beijing, China.
The e-mail, addressed to Napa marathon race organizers, went like this:
“My name is Magdalena Boulet and I am your local 2008 Olympic marathoner. I am currently preparing for the World Cross Country Championships in March, the London Marathon in April, and most of all to make the 2012 U.S. Olympic marathon team. I would like to ask your permission to run your race next weekend as a workout. I have a 20-mile marathon pace workout (a race simulation) and I would love to do it as part of your race. Would you let me and my training partner accomplish our workout on your course in a race situation? Please let me know if we can get race numbers to start with the field of athletes and be officially on the course. I would greatly appreciate your help and I look forward to hearing back from you.”
Boulet is pleased to be in the 33rd annual race, a distance of 26.2 miles starting at 7 a.m. on Sunday on the Silverado Trail in Calistoga. Boulet joins a sold-out field of 2,400 runners, many of whom bring personal goals as far as specific finishing times that they want to attain on the point-to-point course.
Boulet won’t make it to the new finish line area in the parking lot of Vintage High School on Trower Avenue. In keeping with her pre-race plans, Boulet is only running the first 20 miles of the Napa Valley Marathon as part of her training. But based on the 5:35 per mile pace that she has in mind, Boulet will hit the 20-mile mark in no time.
“David Hill was very supportive. I’m very appreciative that he’s allowing me to do that,” Boulet said Monday. “It’s an amazing course. I’m a huge wine fan, so I love Napa and Sonoma and Healdsburg and I come up there quite a bit. It’s just such a treat for me to enjoy what the course has to offer. I’m looking for a really solid run, that’s going to provide me a good pace that I will be feeling comfortable with two months later when I run in London.”
In April, the Boston Athletic Association will host the 115th running of the Boston Marathon. In acknowledgment of this historic race, the Napa Valley Marathon celebrates Boston’s anniversary with a special group of VIPs: Guy Morse (Senior Director of External Affairs for the BAA), Bill Rodgers (four-time winner of Boston), Joan Benoit Samuelson (two-time Boston champion), and Dick Beardsley (America’s all-time fifth fastest marathoner).
Boulet is world-class all the way. She ran a solid race and was the second alternate with a fifth-place finish at the 2004 U.S. Olympic Trials in St. Louis.
She won in Pittsburgh in 2002 and was second at the California International Marathon in 2001. She was fifth in the 2002 USA Track & Field 10,000 meters (32:53.84) and ran a personal best 32:33 at the Stanford Invitational in 2008. Boulet took second at the U.S. Olympic Trials in Boston and earned a spot on the 2008 Olympic Team.
Boulet is a native of Poland and became a U.S. citizen on Sept. 11, 2001. She got a degree in integrative biology from UC Berkeley and a masters degree in exercise physiology with the emphasis of sports nutrition from Cal State East Bay. She makes her home in Oakland with her husband Richie, one of the country’s best milers in the 1990s. They have a son, Owen, born in 2005.
“My training has been going really, really well,” said Boulet, 37, a full-time runner, who is entered in the World Cross Country Championships in Punta Umbria, Spain (March 20) and the London Marathon (April 17). “I’m feeling very strong and I’m really looking forward to my upcoming races.”
The marathon distance suits Boulet the best. She has already qualified for the 2012 U.S. Trials, to be held in January in Houston, and has a personal record time of 2 hours, 26 minutes, 22 seconds, making her the fifth-fastest U.S. woman ever at the marathon distance. Her half-marathon PR is 1:11:46.
“I think that’s where my potential is and I’ve just learned to enjoy the lifestyle as a marathoner,” said Boulet. “It’s very rewarding. You work toward a goal for many, many months. When it does work out really well for you, then it’s very, very satisfying.
“It takes a lot of dedication and consistency to do well, but if you’re willing to dedicate that amount of time and work hard, then there’s a huge payoff.”
Other notable marathon performances came at the 2001 Cleveland Marathon, third place; first place at the 2002 San Francisco Marathon; second place at the 2003 Pittsburgh Marathon (2:31:38); second place at the 2010 Rotterdam Marathon (2:26:22); 2009 U.S. Half Marathon champion; first place at the 2009 USA Half Marathon Championships (1:11:47); 2010 U.S. 20K champion; and first place at the 2010 USA 20K Championships (1:07:41).
Boulet was injured and was forced to pull out at about the halfway mark of the Olympic marathon race in 2008, but she still called getting there the experience of a lifetime.
“It’s been 10, 15 years of me working toward that goal to make the Olympic team and represent the U.S.,” said Boulet.
She hurt her knee riding on a bus in the Olympic village.
“I lost range of motion and I basically ran injured for as long as I could.”
Getting to the Olympic Games again is key for Boulet. Just three runners from the U.S. go to the 2012 Summer Olympic Games in London.
“That’s the goal. Houston will have a great field. It’s lifetime work. It’s one of the goals that all the runners that are going to be in Houston are shooting for. You want to experience that. For me, if it works out, then it’s going to be a second Olympics team.
“It’s a prestigious race. It’s such an accomplishment for a runner to reach that level and get an opportunity to run in the Olympics. It’s very important, it’s what we work toward.”
Boulet will be at the start line in the Napa Valley Sunday. She’d like to return here another year and complete the entire race.
“It’s good energy, it’s a beautiful course,” she said.