Clara Peterson Times Two
Split her career in half; the new Peterson is better than the old.
by The Trailer
SAN ANSELMO, Calif. – There are two Clara Petersons.
The first, the former Clara Horowitz, attended Duke and was a five-time All American in the 5,000m and 10,000m. She Romeo-and-Julieted a boy from a rival team (UNC), married said rival, and moved back home to California. She had two kids and lives somewhere within running distance of the Marin Headlands.
The other Clara Peterson emerged at the 2012 Olympic team trials marathon fully-formed. That Peterson sneaked into the race with a 1:14:33 half marathon from the previous August, made her debut on the biggest stage for domestic marathoners, and finished an impossible 16th in 2:35:50 just eight months after giving birth to her second child.
It’s the second Peterson who races the California International Marathon on Sunday, December 2, in Sacramento. And that’s the Peterson Peterson is most excited about.
2011 marked the start of what Peterson refers to as her second career. The first, after she graduated in 2006, was injury-plagued and inconsistent. She stepped away in 2008 to have her son and then her daughter, and now, she says, “Who I am as a runner compared to who I was . . . I’m just a completely different person.”
“My body feels so much better marathon training. I’m cut out for it, and if I stick to it I can just get better and better from here,” she says.
That’s not to say that the old Peterson is completely gone—that’s the story of her spring and summer. Thinking that a fast marathon debut would equal fast results on the track, she came up seconds short to both her 5,000m and 10,000m collegiate bests.
“I thought for sure I’d get two PRs,” she says. “But throughout the entire spring and early summer I never felt good running. That marathon really knocked the wind out of my sails.”
Even though it was her first full track season since college, she says it will probably be her last.
“I’m not as excited about running on the track after how it went this past spring. At all,” Peterson says. “Road races are just more fun. I’m just happier on the roads, and I run faster on them.”
On the track in 2012 Peterson ran 16:02.08 for 5,000m and 33:07.93 for 10,000m. On the roads she ran 16:00 for 5K and 33:33 for 10K, and won the 2012 San Jose Rock ‘n’ Roll Half Marathon in a PR 1:12:52. The times don’t lie, she says; she’s as good or better on the roads, and she enjoys them a lot more.
“I think I could PR [on the track], but not by much,” she says. “It’s just more exciting to know I’ve got a future in the longer distances.”
On Sunday Peterson’s biggest American threat is Alisha Williams, who was 14th at the marathon trials, two spots and 41 seconds ahead of her. The pair ran side by side for 24 miles.
“I know that her in the race will be a great thing for the both of us because we can work together,” Peterson says. “But she’s not going to keep me from achieving my goal.”
Peterson is coached by 2008 Olympic marathoner Magdalena Lewy-Boulet, who herself was second at CIM in 2001. She’s whispering in Peterson’s ear that she’s ready, and that she’s faster than she thinks.
The old Peterson might not have believed her. But the old Peterson’s not here. The new Peterson is stronger and more motivated. That Peterson says, “All the girls in the field are beatable.”