Sunday, May 15, 2011
Sometimes the Rabbit Does Win
A great story emerged in the Pittsburgh Marathon today as American Jeffrey Eggleston won the men's main event. It was the first time an American man has won the Pittsburgh Marathon since 2000.
What makes the story remarkable is that he was actually hired by race organizers to set a specific pace for the elite American runners who were attempting to qualify for the Olympics. This role is called the "rabbit" and the idea is that he sets the pace over the majority of the course, at which point those he is pacing for get to surge past him and run for the qualifying time. From what I read, rabbits often just drop out of the race once the push for the finish comes and their job is done. Apparently, in today's race, none of the major American competitors were able to keep his pace, so he made a push over the last two miles to win the race.
Eggleston even blogged on Friday about his job, where he said, "I am removed from the competitive context of the race. My objective is to set a steady 5:18/mile pace for the American men."
I think this is a really cool story and I may even try to keep tabs on him in the future to see if he himself ends up on the next summer Olympics team for the U.S.
Today's marathon featured around 18,000 participants between the full, half and relays, with a course that runs through Downtown, the Strip District, North Side, South Side, Oakland, Shadyside, Homewood, and Bloomfield then back to the city for a finish line near the stadiums. There were also 60+ bands playing throughout the course and a good many spectators as well. In true Pittsburgh fashion, the marathon is pretty much a 26-mile long party. The only thing missing is the Zambelli fireworks.
Update: A Trib article from yesterday has a short feature on Eggleston that gives a little bit more information into his background and his potential future running on the U.S. Olympic team.