- Shelter Island summers compare favorably to vacation spots almost anywhere, boasting choice options for fishermen, shoppers and sunbathers. Janelle Kraus knows that better than anyone. The former Islander has taken in her share of sunbeams and lazy days back home. Not this year, though. As much as Kraus would love to relax, that's the last thing she can do.
If she has her way, the most memorable summer of her life will be spent half a world away in Beijing, China, site of the 2008 Olympic Games. The path weaves through Boston, the site of the Women's Olympic Marathon Trials on April 20.
"It's really exciting," Kraus said. "I'll have a lot of family and friends up there for the event. It's nice that they've all been a part of supporting me."
Of 171 qualifiers, all of whom have traversed a 26.2-mile course in two hours, 47 minutes or less, Kraus ranks 34th with a time of 2:41.24. Of that group, a maximum of three will go to Beijing. Kraus achieved her time at the USA Women's Marathon Championship last April. Coincidentally, the course was in Boston. Kraus will not span the same terrain next month, instead running a series of loops in downtown Boston rather than the point-to-point race from Hopkinton to Kenmore Square.
Kraus, 30, said the familiarity with the route will help. She taught history at Mount Saint Charles Academy in Woonsocket, RI, until accepting full-time cross country and track coaching positions at Stony Brook University
last fall. Although the move occupies her for all three seasons, it nonetheless has allowed her more freedom to train. The campus has a 2.7-mile course on its boundaries, and Kraus also tackles the landscape along the shore to its north. Her regimen will taper down as the trials draw near. For now, she runs about 85 miles per week, which is the equivalent of running from Sag Harbor to Queens.
Janelle Kraus, formerly of Shelter Island, has run upward of 90 miles per
week to prepare for the biggest race of her running career.
"It's gone really well so far," Kraus said. "I feel like I'm in better shape than I have been for previous marathon attempts. I've gotten a good chunk of work in."
Serving as coach
has also forced her to practice what she preaches.
"As I'm telling athletes to be smart about what they're doing, I have to obey the same rules," Kraus said. "I have to be careful of what I eat, when to push it and when to hold back. It's motivating as well. You try to motivate your athletes, and you have to listen to your own words. It reminds you of the thoughts you should be having."
Kraus is regarded as the most decorated cross country and track and field runner in Wake Forest history. She garnered All-America honors four times and was an eight-time Atlantic
Coast Conference champion. This will be her third attempt at the trials and fourth-ever marathon. In her senior year in Winston-Salem, she came just a second-and-a-half shy of qualifying in the 5K. At the 2004 Canadian National Championships, she missed by 50 seconds in the 10,000 meter race, competing on what she called a "rainy, humid day."
In Boston, Kraus figures that the top three in the race will finish around the 2:30 mark, with 2004 Olympic bronze medalist Deena Kastor coming in as the heavy favorite. Kraus' best time is 2:40.08, logged at the 2004 Twin Cities Marathon in Minnesota. As much as she'd treasure the opportunity to become the second Shelter Islander to represent the United States - SI's Amanda Clark, with Sarah Mergenthaler, has qualified for the women's two-person sailing event - Kraus understands the odds. She must shave several seconds off each mile to be in contention.
"I'm not going to count on it," Kraus said. "I wouldn't say that I'm a favorite. I'm really hoping to be in the top 10 if I can. That said, I'm going to try to run my own race."
While yachts lazily bob amid the Sound and children splash around at Wades Beach, Kraus' idyllic summer involves 26.2 never-before-seen miles at seven minutes per. The competition will be fierce, the pressure high, yet the reward will be the greatest that sports has to offer.
"I feel like I'm in a good position to run a personal best," she said. "As far as where that puts me in relation to other athletes in the race, that's hard to tell. You have to run your own race. You can't really control what anybody else does there."
The new track stadium in Bejing awaits, but first Kraus has the Olympic Trials, held on the flat terrain of downtown Boston, her fourth marathon ever.