Harper assistant cross country coach Eric Wallor competed in his first Chicago Marathon in 2008 with very limited training. This year, Wallor ran in his fifth Chicago Marathon and ninth overall, placing 71st out of 38,873 finishers in a time of 2:28:44.
In that first marathon in 2008, Wallor ran a 2:42 time but had bigger aspirations for his running career.
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"I really wanted to devote all of my training to bringing that time down," he said.
A former Harper All-American and standout runner at the University of Illinois, Wallor trained with the current cross country team during the months and weeks leading up to the race and went on long runs of 15-20 miles on the weekend. He also bounced ideas off Harper head cross country coach Jim Macnider, who is an experienced marathon himself and ran a PR (personal record) of 2:19:44.
Leading up to the race, Wallor wasn't dealing with any injuries and described it as ''the best I've ever felt". He set his race goal as 2:24 (5:30 mile pace), which would have been a PR from his previous best time of 2:26:48.
On race day this past Sunday, Wallor was spot-on through the first half, running consistent 5:30 pace and also settled in with a pack of runners who had the same aspirations.
However, he started dealing with some stomach issues but was really hoping it would go away. By mile 14, the pain was too much, and he needed to make a rest stop. The stop cost him about a minute but more importantly lost the pack he was running with.
While Wallor wasn't totally satisfied with the end result of 2:28:44, he isn't giving up his dream of qualifying for the USA Olympic Marathon Trials in 2016. The standard to qualify now is 2:18, but Wallor is optimistic he can get there.
"I feel like I'm in better shape than when I was running competitively in college," he said. "I was in really good shape then, but I'm above that level. I was hoping to do better, but it just didn't work out. Going into 2014, I feel really good about dropping some more time."
Wallor offered some parting advice to those who may want to try running longer races.
"Find a plan, be consistent and stay with what you've done. Even the slightest thing can affect you. Do what you've been doing in the long runs up to that point."