Globetrotting Comes Naturally
By Rich McManus
On the Front Page...
It's no wonder that Elizabeth "Liz" Scanlon, a laboratory animal technologist for NCI in Bldg. 14D, performs so well in footraces sponsored by the military: she grew up as one of seven children of a career military man, and has lived astride bases all over the country, primarily out in the wide open Plains states. Winner in 2:57:27 of the women's portion of the Marine Corps Marathon on Oct. 27, she also placed third among women in the Army Ten-Miler just six days prior to the Marine race, finishing in 1:00:19. And on Sept. 29, she won the female division of the D.C. Road Runners' National Capital 20-Miler in 2:11:56; it was her second consecutive year as champion of that race.
Scanlon, 31, who now resides in Alexandria, Va., has been nomadic for so long that she claims not to have a place of origin: "I don't say I'm from anywhere." But she has long inhabited success as a runner. She began at age 12, when her family lived in Great Falls, Mont., a beautiful town that boasts a surprising number of runners, she said. "Running came easy to me," she remembers. "I used to win the little road races around there."
Unlike such NCAA sports as football and basketball, track encompasses all seasons: cross-country in the fall, indoor track in the winter and outdoor track in the spring. Overtraining is a fact of life, whether inspired by demanding coaches or personal goals. Scanlon has suffered two stress fractures, one of her pelvis during college, and the other of her foot, only a year ago. She also has "tendinitis everywhere I don't even remember most (of her injuries)."
But her thirst for running is almost palpable. These days, she runs 80-90 miles a week, averaging 6 afternoon solo outings per week, usually along the George Washington Memorial Parkway. "I run 10 miles at least, and then 15 miles for maintenance runs, and on the weekends 17 or 20 miles if I'm training for a marathon."
Her most recent performances were remarkable for two reasons: first, competitive runners almost never enter 10-mile races less than a week before a marathon; Scanlon says she didn't know it was a faux pas. Second, she is only just getting over her most recent fractured foot, an injury that sidelines even the most committed athletes.
"You can't run for 2-3 months," she lamented. "So you freak out. I did a little cross-training, because I was bored out of my mind. For 2 months I had a cast on my foot. I would sort of bike a little bit. But (being injured) sucks."
Last January, she healed enough to start running. By April she began building miles in preparation for her fourth Marine Corps Marathon, a race in which she had placed seventh 2 years ago. "My main goal was to finish in under 3 hours," she said. "I had hoped to get closer to 2:50, but it wasn't a good day."
She didn't expect to win the race. "I thought that if I ran the time I wanted, I'd be in the top five," she said. "But it was a windy, humid day, and a lot of runners had it tough."
Scanlon required a trip to the hospital on the evening of her victory, to rehydrate via intravenous lines following an unusual post-race upset stomach. But she dismisses the treatment as a trifle, barely worth mention.
Now in her fifth year at NIH, where she is actually a contractor employed by Charles River Laboratories, Scanlon works in NCI's nonhuman primate facility, performing lab tests on monkeys, rabbits, dogs, mice and rats. A former resident of Rhode Island and North Dakota, in addition to Nebraska, Oklahoma and Montana, she is in the D.C. area, again, because of family. She intends to build on her recent road-running success. "Anything over 10 miles, I like," she says.
She acknowledges the ravages of age, noting that recovery from the Marine Corps race has been "the toughest so far." Her best marathon was her first, right after college, when as an athlete sponsored by Brooks running shoes, she ran a 2:46 in Altus, Okla. Unaffiliated now with either sponsors or teammates, she is content "just to do my thing." Scanlon plans another marathon, perhaps next spring, but has no specific race in mind.
"This is a nice area," she observes. "There's good competition here, it's easier and there's a lot less pressure (than in college, or when traveling solo to races under Brooks' sponsorship). I enjoy it more that way."
Admittedly "not real athletic" in sports other than running, an avocation that "takes up most of my time," Scanlon expects to be road racing again soon. "I can't imagine not running."
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