Duluth, MN (Northland's NewsCenter) --- Jennifer Houck graduated first from Cromwell High School then from the College of the St. Scholastica, meaning the streets of the Northland were filled with plenty of friendly faces Saturday as she competed in the 35th annual Grandma's Marathon.
"It's overwhelming," Houck said. "The last four miles, I just heard my name continuously. I was getting tired, but every time I heard my name, I tried to pick it up. That last mile, my legs just wanted to buckle, but everyone was screaming my name."
Those fans were there for Houck and the other runners despite some not-so-perfect weather conditions on race day.
Houck, though, and her running coach, Chad Salmela, said it was nearly perfect for the Northland native.
"The weather definitely was ideal for me," Houck said. "I hate hot weather. I don't think I'm a very good hot weather runner, so this was perfect for me."
"In the back of my mind, I knew it wasn't the fastest course, but once I saw the tailwind I believed she would run faster than she did at Boston," Salmela said. "She was more fit than Boston.
As is the case more often than not, coach was right. Houck improved on her time in the 2011 Boston Marathon by nearly 1:30, finishing in a personal best time of 2:33:00.
"She's run five marathons since we started working seriously, and she's PR'ed all five times," Salmela said. "We hope to keep that trend going into the trials. It's a very tactical race. You don't know what people can run. There are a lot of people who can run sub-2:30:00 and even below 2:25:00.
If she keeps improving, both runner and coach agree, the next stop for Houck after January's Olympic Trials could be the 2012 Summer Olympic Games in London.
Posted by Zach Schneider