Break Up The Americans!


Annie Bersagel en route to winning the Dusseldorf Marathon. Photo by Victah Sailer, PhotoRun

While it didn’t garner the publicity of Meb Keflezighi’s historic win in Boston on Patriots’ Day, a week later another American was ascending the victory podium in an international marathon.
Annie Bersagel, whose recent athletic career has been almost as peripatetic as Meb’s early life, won the Metro Group Marathon Duesseldorf in 2:28:59, a 1:54 PR and putting her in the select group of American women who have run under 2:30 for the distance.
While Bersagel isn’t quite the household name that Meb has become, she shouldn’t be totally unfamiliar to U.S. running fans. Last October she won the Medtronic Twin Cities Marathon in 2:30:53, a 13-minute PR. And she’s had an on-and-off record of success on the domestic running circuit, winning the U.S. Half Marathon title in 2006.
Dusseldorf raised her running profile another notch and put her in the mix as a dark horse contender for the 2016 Olympic Trials marathon, but don’t expect to see her become a regular face on the roads and tracks in the U.S. While she’s still an American citizen, she lives in Oslo, Norway where she’s a lawyer specializing in peace and conflict resolution. She’s married to Øyvind Heiberg Sundby, a competitive mountain runner, and trains under coach Knut Kvalheim at the IK Tjalve running club.
After graduating from Wake Forest, where she was a three-time All American in cross country, Bersagel joined the Team USA Minnesota group in the Twin Cities for a year, then emigrated to Oslo to study on a Fulbright Scholarship (she’s obviously smart as well as fast). Romance and her running career both blossomed in spite (or perhaps because of) the long, cold Norwegian winters, with a few setbacks due to some nagging injuries.
Finally completely healthy, the last six months seem to signal a breakthrough for her. She followed her TCM win with a 1:10:10 13th place at the IAAF World Half Marathon Championships on March 29 in Coppenhagen, the top American finisher.
While no one will be comparing U.S. marathoners to the Kenyans or Ethiopians quite yet, the accomplishments of Bersagel and Keflezighi in the waning days of April show that on a given day, Americans can run with, and beat, the best.


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