Valeria Straneo will finally realize a long-held dream and make her ING New York City Marathon debut on Sunday (3), something the Italian has been waiting to do for more than 12 months after Hurricane Sandy cause the cancellation of the 2012 edition of the IAAF Gold Label Road Race.
However, it has not been a fallow period for the 37-year-old mother of two.
In the meantime, she was the surprise silver medallist at this summer’s IAAF World Championships and she will now stand on the start line of the famous race in the Big Apple as one of the favourites.
"Last year, we had a hellish journey of four days to get there (to new York) and then the race was cancelled. This year it has been a lot easier and I’m going there without any anxiety,” reflected Straneo earlier this week.
“Running for me is always a pleasure and I’m looking forward to the race. I'm just a little worried about the time difference but I have until Sunday to recover.”
She will want to do better on this trip to New York than she did on her last visit, when she could only finish a modest 19th in the NYC half Marathon back in March.
“However, I wouldn’t read too much into that,”· she warned. “It was a very cold day and I was still recovering from a very intensive training period. Sunday will be a different story and, at least, now I know the streets of New York and I know that this Marathon can be very demanding, especially in the last few kilometres.”
She openly admitted that she will be disappointed with anything less than a podium place in New York after her outstanding performnace in Moscow three months ago.
"I want to enjoy it (the Marathon), but is pointless hiding the fact that I want to get on the podium. It will not be easy also because the people on starting list (with the likes of Kenya’s Edna Kiplagat and Priscah Jeptoo, as well as the Ethiopian pair of Firehiwot Dado and Deba Buzenesh) will make it like another World Championships.
“However, to finish in the top three would be the icing on the cake of a great 2013. New York is not a Marathon made to think too much about the watch. I’ll run my own race, listening to the feelings of my body, minute-by-minute, without thinking about too many tactics, following only my rhythm.
“If it’s a slow start, then I will get in front, as I did in Moscow. The one difference between this race and Moscow is that you know who your main rivals are going to be.
“It's true that on paper the Africans appear stronger, but I know I can do well and that I’m coming to this race as well-prepared as I can be, thanks to my coach Beatrice Brossa and my husband Manlio, who will be with me in New York. The problem I had in mid-September, (when she had a slight left Achilles twinge) is now water under the bridge."
Her last test before the trip to New York came at the at the Rock’n’Roll Vodafone Half Marathon of Portugal earlier this month, which she passed with flying colours with a victory in 1:09:21,first ever winner from outside of African to take the honours in the women’s race.
If Straneo does win on Sunday, she will be following in the footsteps of her compatriot Franca Fiacconi, the winner in 1998 and twice a runner up, the only previous women from Italy to win the New York Marathon.
“Would you believe that in college, I glued a picture of Fiacconi to a page of my diary. The determination she transmitted in that image was impressive.
“Even when I was not a professional athlete, I had in mind that, sooner or later, I would run in New York too.
“Today, I still can’t believe that it’s true that I’m a top runner with a major championships medal around my neck. Many things have changed over the past two years but it still makes me smile when my children ask me, ‘Mom, are you famous?’"
“Basically, my life is still that of a mother of two young children. I wake up at 7:15am, I get my children ready (Leonardo, age seven, and six-year-old Arianna, and I accompany them to school, then pick them up at 4.00pm. Around that, I do two workouts, shopping, housework and even get some lunch," she joked modestly.
However, if she wins in New York on Sunday, she might be a fine candidate for the Italian equivalent of Mother of the Year.
Phil Minshull and FIDAL for the IAAF