Marathoners a big part of Freihofer’s Run for Women field

From left, Aroline Hanson of Sunderland, Vermont, Karen Bertasso-Hughes of Selkirk, and Kelly Allen of Washington, D.C. are accomplished marathoners competing in Saturday's Freihofer's Run for Women.

From left, Aroline Hanson of Sunderland, Vermont, Karen Bertasso-Hughes of Selkirk, and Kelly Allen of Washington, D.C. are accomplished marathoners competing in Saturday's Freihofer's Run for Women.

ALBANY — The Freihofer’s Run for Women 5k carries with it rich history and prestige on the professional road race circuit.

Almost $13,000 in prize money for the open division alone makes it a worthy pursuit, as well.

But since it has been re-scheduled in early fall this year, the 43rd Freihofer’s Run will also serve as a useful preparation tool for some runners pointing toward marathons this season.

More than 1,500 recreational and elite runners from 26 states have registered for the race, which will begin on Washington Avenue adjacent to City Hall at 9 a.m. on Saturday, including a few hundred who have signed up for a virtual option.

The elite field includes two runners who competed in the 2020 U.S. Olympic Trials in Atlanta, Karen Bertasso-Hughes of Selkirk and Kerry Allen of Washington, D.C. They’re both in the midst of training for fall marathons and see the relatively short Freihofer’s Run as an opportunity to work on speed and leg turnover.

“It’s two weeks out, so typically this is the time when you’d start bringing your mileage down a little bit and incorporate more speedwork,” said Bertasso-Hughes, who will be running the Chicago Marathon on Oct. 10. “So this will be a speed effort from me, and let’s see what happens. Hopefully my legs feel a little bit better than they did the past month, when I was running a bit more and really grinding it out for some long runs.”

“I’m building towards the [Nov. 24] Philadelphia Marathon,” Allen said. “The way I usually train for a marathon is I focus on some faster stuff early in the cycle. If this was a month from now, I don’t think I’d be out here, because my legs would be a little heavy for a 5k. But hopefully it all works out and I’l be fresh enough to run well.”

Another accomplished marathoner in the field is Aroline Hanson of Sunderland, Vermont.

She’s preparing for the Boston Marathon, which usually is held in April but has been moved to Oct. 11 this year.

“Leg turnover, just get my legs moving fast,” Hanson said, of her approach to the Freihofer’s Run. “With marathon training, you do a lot of slower miles, so it’s good to get out there and get the speed going.

“I’m running the Boston Marathon in a couple weeks, so it’s a really nice tune-up just to get one last fast effort. This year, having it in the fall is really amazing, because the training for a fall marathon usually goes a lot more smoothly.”

The Freihofer’s Run is not without its share of specialists in the shorter distances, of course, and Aisling Cuffe of Concord, Massachusetts, has been assigned bib No. 1, as she boasts a 15:11 personal record for 5k.

She’s a two-time New York state champion in cross country for Cornwall and won the 2010 Foot Locker national championship before going on to star for Stanford University while coached by former Section II standout Liz Maloy from Holy Names.

In 2014, Cuffe finished second in the 5,000 meters at both the indoor and outdoor NCAA national championship meets.

The Freihofer’s Run course goes uphill at the start, covers the rolling hills in Washington Park at the turnaround and finishes downhill back toward City Hall.

“I think it’s nice that I’ve done this race so many times in a sense that typically in a 5k, your gut is to go out hard, because it’s so short,” Bertasso-Hughes said. “But this course is not really forgiving if you go out too hard the first mile, because it’s uphill. I think that will be a little bit of an advantage. We’ll see.”

“I’m feeling at home,” said Allen, referring to the presence of other marathoners in the field. “Honestly, it makes me feel a little more comfortable going into tomorrow. For me and perhaps for some of the other women, 5k just feels so fast. Usually running marathons and half marathons, you’re kind of used to starting slow, but I know that won’t be an option tomorrow. Maybe we’ll all be in the same boat a little bit.”

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