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Taking a course in success

Glusac leaving ailments behind in her race to top

By Susan Bickelhaupt, Globe Staff, 4/19/2003

The first marathon Milena Glusac raced was in New York City two years ago. It was less than two months after the World Trade Center had collapsed, the dust was still swirling around lower Manhattan, and Glusac could see the smoke rising from the Ground Zero area as the runners made their way over the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge at the beginning of the race.

"It was an amazing thing," she recalled yesterday. "Knowing that I'm here, able to do this . . . it was a very bittersweet feeling."

Glusac hadn't suffered in the Sept. 11 tragedy, but she had been through her own trials, albeit on a much smaller scale, that made her grateful to be running.

Glusac, 27, was a standout on the track and cross-country teams in high school in Fallbrook, Calif. She continued running at the University of Oregon, where she earned a master's degree in philosophy, but had a checkered running career. Over the course of about seven years, Glusac suffered from allergies and stress fractures, and struggled with the Epstein-Barr virus, or chronic fatigue syndrome.

"I did run in college, and was an All-American for a couple years, but it was sporadic," she said.

By 2000, she was back on track, and was an Olympic qualifier in the 5,000 meters. She competed in the World Half-Marathon Championships in Veracruz, Mexico, where she finished 10th, the highest American finish.

The next year, she won three national titles, in the 20k, 25k, and half-marathon.

Then came her marathon debut in New York in November 2001. The longer distance suited Glusac, who finished 13th overall -- second American -- in 2 hours 34 minutes 46 seconds. She closed the year by winning the Avon Running 10K US Championships. Runner's World ranked her second in the country in road racing and she was named the USA Running Circuit Champion.

Last year, Glusac solidified her elite status.

She was a member of the silver-medal winning World Cross-Country Championships team, and improved her time in the 10,000 meters to 32:15:09 with a second-place finish at the US Championships in Palo Alto, Calif. Then it was back to New York to give a marathon another try.

Glusac improved her position and time as she finished ninth overall (second American), and ran a personal best of 2:31:13. Track & Field News ranked her third in the US in the marathon distance after she had run two.

She acknowledges she'll be one of the elite runners in Monday's Marathon, although she deferred to countrywomen Jill Gaitenby and Marla Runyan when she said, "We have a great contingent of Americans."

Todd Klein, who manages adidas athletes, including Glusac, said he's known her for about five years.

"Milena was great in high school and good in college," said Klein, of Portland, Ore.

"I think in college she didn't blossom quite as well as she is now. She's improved every year, and is an extremely hard worker and disciplined athlete. The marathon is well-suited to her; and if you look at her past two results, she's on track."

Klein added that Glusac's mental toughness has helped her with all the ailments she's had to endure.

"All the adversities she's had to overcome are a tribute to her fortitude," he said. "I think Monday could be an opportunity for her to take that next step."

Glusac, who said she's gotten through the Epstein Barr virus, said she still feels its effects at times.

"Now, I feel good," she said. "You know, every day you have your ups and downs, but it gets better slowly."

Asked if she has any concerns about Monday's race -- just the third marathon of her career -- Glusac just smiled and shrugged.

"It will be what it is," she said.

This story ran on page E9 of the Boston Globe on 4/19/2003.
Copyright 2003 Globe Newspaper Company.

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