Sunday, January 31, 2016

Mary Christian dropped a marathon in 2015 and moved up to third in the grand prix

Published by the DAILY RECORD of Morris County, New Jersey
On Sunday, January 31, 2016


Mary Christian of Flanders normally runs two marathons a year.  On that schedule she placed fourth overall in the New Balance Grand Prix in 2009, at age 46, and sixth in 2008.  Six years later she moved up to third overall in the 2015 version.

What changed?  She dropped the spring marathon and the marathon training and according to her she ran a ton of races.  By July 9th, she was in the lead with all nine races done.

In the fall she had the option of running in more races in the hopes of improving on her times and her points in the grand prix series.  A win at the Shades of Death half marathon in October allowed her to drop the 669 that she had for the Miles for Music 20K for that sweet 700.   

Roberta Groner, of Randolph pushed her out of first place in November and Misa Tamura of Ridgewood pushed her to third, not a bad spot for a 52 year old woman.

Christian is planning to run Boston this spring so her training and racing schedule may have to adapt.  She will again run the Miles for Music 20K as she feels it is a good conditioning race but it does not have the large field that is needed for high points in the grand prix.

The irony of the points system played out for Christian when she ran in the Super Hero Half Marathon in Morristown in May.  Super Hero has a large field; 1,457 finishers in 2015.

“It was a terrible race for me,” said Christian, who finished 17th out of 872 women.  “It was hot and humid.  I don’t do well in that weather.  I was ten minutes slower than I had been in my previous half marathon but I still got 496 points.”

Later in the season she clicked off 1:33:55 at the Liberty Half Marathon in September.  Her winning Shades of Death time was 1:34:03.  Her hot Hero was 1:41:03.  Go figure.

Her win at Shades wasn’t the only one.  Again, luck was on her side.   She ran in a small 5K in Hopatcong on a hilly course that put her minute and a half slower than her usual 5K time of right around 20 minutes.  But she won it and hit the 500 point jackpot.

Christian admits she plays the game as other savvy runners do in the grand prix.  She looked at the winning time at the 2014 Patriot’s 8K in Mendham in June.  Could be she could win it and grab those 500 points.  Alas, it was not to be.

“Everything was looking good before the race,” said Christian, “Then as I go to the starting line I see Jeanne Pare.  There goes my 500 points.’”

Pare, of Mendham won the grand prix in 2006.  She has eased up on racing more recently, but is a formidable racer.  Still 490 points for second place didn’t hurt.

Christian said that she has adopted the training method outlined in the book Run Less, Run Faster developed by Furman University.  She no longer runs every day and cross-trains on her off days.  On that schedule she said that she is only running around forty miles a week.

Christian’s weekends are busy, not just with running her own races, but watching her daughters Sara and Mariah race for their college teams, and her youngest Alexandra run for Mount Olive high school. 

In 2013 Alexandra, then a sophomore, and Mariah and Sara, seniors, were three of the five scoring members of the Mount Olive team that won the Group Three cross country championship.  The victory was the first for Mount Olive in more than twenty years.

“It was really great – kind of a dream come true for me to see them all together doing that,” said Christian. 

Mariah now runs for Marist College, Sara for Bucknell and Alexandra, now a senior, has a full scholarship in cross country and track at Holy Cross.  Although he doesn’t race, Christian’s husband John also runs, making this Flanders family a full team.


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