Going the distance to her roots


It isn't by coincidence that Lee DiPietro will be running in Saturday's Baltimore Marathon. DiPietro, after all, was a runner and marathoner before she was a triathlete.

"I started out doing marathons when I was 26," said the 44-year-old from Ruxton. "The first race I ever did was the New York Marathon. The longest run I had done was maybe 11 miles. I evolved into triathlons from running."

A decade of competing in triathlons on the professional level, however, changed her perspective, and, by the age of 40, she found her priorities had changed, as well.

"I was juggling being Mom and I also have a coaching business," said DiPietro, who is married with two sons. "I discovered running again when I was 40. I was running against women from my age who perhaps were moms."

On top of that, her son reminded her how difficult the logistics of triathlon training can be.

"My youngest son said to me, 'Mom, do we have to take this bike everywhere we go?' " DiPietro said. "So now it's so much easier. You can run anywhere."

That is, if you're healthy.

A year ago, she had wanted to run in the inaugural edition of the Baltimore Marathon, but a stress fracture forced her to withdraw a week before the race.

"I never ever, ever had a stress fracture. but I experienced some heel pain in July," she says. "I did a 5K in downtown Baltimore and was in a tremendous amount of pain. I bit the bullet and went to see the doctor, who said I had a stress fracture in my heel. It crushed me to pull out a week before the race."

But she vowed to run in this year's race.

"This has been a yearlong mission to get to the starting line and be in good shape. I raced last week in Georgetown and had my best time in a 10K in over a year and that gave me a lot of confidence," said DiPietro, who won the masters division of that race in 36 minutes, 17 seconds.

She also has used the lessons she has learned from triathlon training to help with her marathon preparation.

"I'm still cross training," said DiPietro, who has completed seven Ironman triathlons and has a personal record of 9 hours, 47 minutes in the event that includes a 2.4-mile swim, a 112-mile bike ride and a 26-mile, 385-yard run. "I think what I've learned from triathlons and running is that cross training is very important.

"Cross training really helps you from overdoing it on the roads. Stretching and maintenance of your body are really important, particularly in endurance sports like marathon."

So which is tougher, the triathlon or marathon?

"Marathon," said DiPietro, who has completed 20 and has a personal record of 2:47, recorded in the 2000 Boston. "You have to muster up a lot of mental strength to do the Ironman, but in the marathon, when you hit the wall and mile 20, that last 10K can be a pretty tough 10K.

"The way I feel after an Ironman and after a marathon, I'm hurting a lot more after a marathon. That's probably because I'm running a marathon a lot faster than I would a marathon at the end of an Ironman. I don't know why it doesn't hurt as much. The Ironman takes a lot out of you."

In any case, the benefits she derives from both events are not things she wants to surrender.

"Fitness is a lifestyle I've chosen," DiPietro said. "I think to myself the night before a race: 'I don't want to do this.' But then in the morning, I get to the race and toe the line and you think, 'This is great.' It all sort of comes together. It's a great feeling."

Marathon facts

What: Baltimore Running Festival.

When: Saturday. Marathon and marathon team relay at 8 a.m.; 5K at 8:30 a.m.; Kids Fun Run at 9:20 a.m.

Where: Start and finish at staging area between Camden Yards and Ravens Stadium.

Entrants: About 2,800 for marathon; 7,000 anticipated for all four events.

Information: All races remain open. Call 410-605-9381, 800-487-0670 or visit thebaltimoremarathon.com on the Internet.

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