Thursday, September 23, 2021

Volte Was The Light At The End Of The Tunnel

The website Grammarist tells us that “a light at the end of the tunnel is an idiom that dates back at least to the 1880s.”

They go on to explain that the phrase was found in old newspapers and other publications during that time as a metaphor for hope.

Am pretty sure that journalists 140 years ago couldn’t have realized just how much hope was needed by some runners when they exited the tunnel at the Tunnel Light Marathon knowing that they still had a little over 23 miles to go.

Fake news, for sure.

For the fifth consecutive year that the race has been run (not counting 2020, of course, when the race was cancelled by the pandemic), Volte has had runners make the journey to North Bend, Washington.

Early in the race, Auggie Campbell (grey shirt), Jason Bodie (blue shirt) and Jane Campbell (to the right) hang with Volte's personal 3:40 pacer Scott Sebelsky.
(All photos courtesy of Bill Dwyer)

Laura Godfrey and Sandra Tezino were the first ones drawn to the Light in 2016 and while not everybody has been able to rub the BQ or PR out of the Tunnel Light bottle, nearly everyone has felt accomplished from having survived training in the Texas heat and humidity.

While the tally of running’s most recognizable alphabet letters is important, the positivity and camaraderie shared by this year’s group - particularly - easily formed a smile across founder Bill Dwyer’s face.

At times during the trip, Dwyer shared that he thought the heavens might open in chords of Kum-ba-ya, but God’s angels must have had choir practice elsewhere.

You couldn’t have asked for a better result to lead us than Robert King’s 2:54:10, good for second in his age group.

Here’s a guy that was split off like a broken wishbone from his brother by the Boston Athletic Association when the time needed under the qualifying standard went right between their finishing times at The Woodlands Marathon.

Robert and Roger King's sub three-hour marathon performances were so dizzying a runner's wife from Pittsburgh couldn't figure out until close to the end that it was two of them that kept passing her husband.

While even better than Optima Tax Relief’s Fresh Start Initiative, the B.A.A.’s reach out to runners who barely missed the qualifying standard, which also got to Trudy Regnier for her 2019 Tunnel Light showing, will have Robert joining Roger in Beantown in a couple of weeks.

He took eight minutes and 15 seconds off his debut marathon at The Woodlands in March – and has a 15:50 cushion under the standard for 2022.

Roger wasn’t too far behind.

Both broke Volte’s all-time marathon best at Tunnel Light set by Derek Bailey in 2017 with his 3:04:40.

He was third in his age group and broke three hours for the first time ever in 2:58:53.

Darren Hadden also slipped under the former Volte standard with a showing of 3:03:02 – not too far off his 2:59:04 at the 2011 Marine Corps Marathon.  

He, however, is nearly 17 minutes under his age group’s Boston Marathon qualifying standard and it sounded like listening to him Tuesday night at track that his wife was entering him at the first available opportunity.

One of five runners to qualify for Boston for the first time, Chris Branch – like most of the crew that traveled to Washington state – had an excellent training cycle – and it showed.

Chris Branch was either so focused or knew that he was going to rob the PR bank here at the half way point.

Chris cashed in a time of 3:10:28, slicing a little more than 15 minutes from 3:26:02 performance at the 2019 St. George Marathon in Utah.

Must be something about four-letter last names and debut marathons.

Chris Reed replicated that combination from Roger and Robert King and their efforts at The Woodlands Marathon in March to post a debut, Boston qualifying time of 3:15:08.

Gee Chris, you're supposed to be grimacing more on your debut marathon! 

He’s four minutes and 52 seconds under the Boston qualifying standard – and may have to make another go of it to get under far enough to gain entry.

The folks back home were yelling, “Run Granny Run!”

After Erika Sampson’s 3:27:44 performance, good for third in her age group, she easily could be running’s next Grandmama, reprising Larry Johnson’s role in the 1990’s sitcom, “Family Matters”.

All business for Erika until she got her Boston ticket at the finish line!

It was the former Houston Cougars’ second marathon ever – a mere one hour, 54 minutes and 10 seconds faster than the first, her first Boston Qualifier and she might have broken Boston’s qualifying standard curve with a time that is more than 22 minutes under her standard for 2022.

That fierce, determined flyer down the trail that everyone saw was Stephanie Reed.

Well, OK, Stephanie took a second to break from that fierce, determined role on her way to a sub 3:30 marathon!

She and Erika became only the third and fourth Volte female runners to break 3:30 as she shaved nearly 12 minutes off her 2020 Houston Marathon time with a showing of 3:29:28 – her first Boston Marathon qualifying time.

Jason Bodie was the second of our three debut marathoners to cross the finish line, doing so in 3:35:49.

After swearing off the marathon of her PR earlier this year, The Woodlands, where she ran a nice time of 3:53:01, Judith Albarran came into Tunnel Light still like a runner scorned.

Judith came to Washington for bear - or war with those "night goggle"-like sunglasses - and came away with a Boston qualifier - almost an hour off her first effort at Tunnel Light.

Burned by all the cancellations in 2020, she carried the fire in her belly all throughout the summer and registered a new PR at Tunnel Light for the third time here.

Four years ago, she was happy to finish Tunnel Light in 4:33:53 – a PR by 33 minutes and 39 seconds.

A year later, she lodged her first sub-4-hour marathon with a time of 3:59:11, bettering her time earlier in January at Houston where she PR’d with a 4:19:31.

So that streak of three straight PR’s begat a pair of tantalizing “just over four hour” times in 2019.

Invariably, the heartbreak of being so close twice after set the way now for another three straight PR’s starting with her 2020 Houston performance of 3:58:06, followed by The Woodlands and then her sparkling time of 3:39:20.

Even though it is just 40 seconds under Boston’s qualifying standard for 2022, Judith can now proudly call herself now a “Boston Qualifier”.

The second-best PR improvement belonged to Paolo Biagi who - with Tammy Grado, Yaya Herrera and Gabby Westbrook - is on the cusp of his debut Ironman at Ironman Texas in a little over two weeks.

Paolo is a guy here that looks like he's ready to kick Ironman Texas' ass.

Paolo ran the 2018 The Woodlands Marathon in 4:35:04 – a respectable 10-minute plus per mile pace.

But even amid Ironman training, and treating Tunnel Light like a long training run, he shaved 44 minutes and 34 seconds off that time for a sub-4-hour time of 3:50:29.

Even though in 2018’s Tunnel Light Marathon, she recorded her 21st sub-4-hour marathon in 34 finishes to that point, Michelle McGill will tell you that they’re never easy.

Michelle McGill:  Steady as she goes.  And with a Marine in close quarters.

However, she has Tunnel Light down to a schedule.

In 2017, she finished in 3:55:29.  Three years ago in 3:51:37 and this year, like clockwork, a time of 3:52:41.

Our third and final debut marathoner was Auggie Campbell, who posted a nice sub-10-minute per mile pace time of 4:14:21.

His wife, Jane, didn’t have her best day, but was able to finish ahead of Auggie – just so she could be the first to greet him at the finish line.

Tammy Grado ran here in 2017 and 2018.

Both times, she BQ’d.

The name on the bib says it all for Tammy Grado.

But 2021 was more about three other letters – and taking it as a very easy long training run in her preparation for her debut Ironman in less than three weeks.

Still as elegant crossing the finish line as in years past, Tammy stopped the clock in 4:17:34.

Three years ago, Layton Gill had the race of his life – to date – at Tunnel Light as he broke four hours for the first time in 3:59:14.

You couldn't see the internal smile that Layton had after LSU had defeated McNeese State the night before!

Times change, though, and not just what’s on the finish line clock.

Gill has continued to develop his coaching acumen to add to Volte’s dearth of knowledge led by Dwyer and longtime former Woodlands Fit director Rich Cooper.

With a family that includes wildly busy kids, sometimes things must give.

And in 2021, as Volte’s good friend Rick Cook is always apt to say, “It wasn’t the time you wanted, but you finished.”  

We’re certain Gill can attest to that sentiment as he finished in 4:26:03.

His worth to Volte is far more important than what’s on the clock at some finish line in Washington state.

66 times a Volte athlete has now crossed a Tunnel Light Marathon finish line.

And Sunshine is on the horizon for 2022 already.

Mike Csikos has already committed for next year.  Will he be the 67th finisher or will somebody go and beat Mike – politely, of course – to the finish.

Time, and training, will tell.

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