Last year Trevor Barron broke the U.S. record for race walking 20 kilometers and was the lone American to compete in that event at the London Olympics. On Sunday he gave running a try.
On a cool morning with near perfect running conditions that produced record times, the Colorado College sophomore finished fourth in the Colfax Marathon with a time of 2 hours, 48 minutes, 1 second. Then he went down to his hands and knees at the finish line, overcome with fatigue.
“The last six miles were harder than anything I’ve ever done,” said Barron, 20.
Kenyan Abraham Rutto ran the marathon as a tune-up for next month’s Grandma’s Marathon in Duluth, Minn., and won with a course record (2:24:34). Another visiting Kenyan, Daniel Kipkoech, ran the half marathon as a tune-up for Atlanta’s Peachtree Road Race on July 4, also setting a course record (1:05:54). Nicole Chyr ran the marathon in hopes of breaking the women’s course record she set two years ago and she succeeded, finishing in 2:57:18.
Barron ran to try something new, but also to raise awareness about epilepsy. He was diagnosed at age 8 when he was a competitive swimmer.
“I was able to swim until age 12,” Barron said. “But then after seizures broke through my medication — I had several in the pool — I was forced to quit. It was just too dangerous.”
His older sister liked track, and he wanted to be like her, so he tried that.
“I joined the club, she went to the Junior Olympics in her first year of track in high jump and hurdles, and I got left home,” Barron said. “I tried literally everything to make it to Junior Olympics and ended up race walking.”
Since undergoing brain surgery when he was 13, Barron has been seizure free. Sunday he wore a shirt advertising the Epilepsy Foundation of Colorado to help spread his message. Almost 3 million people in the U.S. have some form of epilepsy, more than 50,000 in Colorado.
“I never thought of epilepsy as something that should hold me back from competing well or doing well in school or achieving the things I was motivated to do,” said Barron, a computer science major at CC.
The best junior race walker in U.S. history, Barron was the second-youngest athlete in the 20K event at the London Games (he finished 26th), but he isn’t sure if he’s going to continue in competitive race walking.
“After a while it stops being enjoyable,” Barron said. “The rigor that comes with training for the Olympics is so great that I’m not sure if I want to do it again.”
At the Olympics he averaged six minutes, 39 seconds per mile for 20K (12.43 miles), which would have been good for 50th in Sunday’s half-marathon (13.1 miles ).
Liberated from the stringent rules that regulate race walking, Barron made the mistake most first-time marathoners do: He ran too hard — under 6-minute pate — at the start.
“I pushed it a little too fast for the first 15 miles, and I really paid for it in the last eight miles,” Barron said. “I crashed pretty bad.”
Still, he was running around 7:30 pace at the end. Did he enjoy it?
“I guess so,” Barron said wearily.
He made his point, though.
“I’d like people to realize that the only limits they have are the ones they place on themselves,” Barron said. “They can do amazing things, even with epilepsy, and it shouldn’t hold them back.”
Colfax Marathon race director Creigh Kelley answered the complaints of some runners who questioned the length of the half marathon. He denied that the half-marathon course was inaccurate.
“I reviewed the course map (certification),” Kelley said. “We drove the park as the event was run. The only deviation (it did not change the distance) was at the MLK statue where they went the opposite way around a roundabout.”
“The potential difference in time would be less than two to four seconds. This is a non issue and is clearly meant to harm an otherwise important civic and community event.”