By Chris Lotsbom
NEW YORK (15-Mar) -- For American Olympian Janet Bawcom, 2012 was the year of a lifetime. The 34-year-old won the USA Running Circuit title, set personal bests at seven distances, and sported the USA vest en route to setting a personal best in the Olympic 10,000m.
"For some people they dream of winning six national championships and going to the Olympics in their whole career, and I did that in about 18 months," said the humble Bawcom. "It was just awesome, it's been a blessing for me for sure."
After a period of five months off from competing, Bawcom has shifted her focus to the 2013 campaign. On Sunday, the naturalized American citizen will race for the second time in as many weeks, running the NYC Half through Manhattan. Last week, she opened up her season with a national title at the Gate River Run 15-K National Championships in Florida.
"I think it's started out great," said Bawcom, accompanied by her husband Jay. "I ran [and won] the 15-K last weekend, and after nearly six months of not racing it was a good start for sure."
For Bawcom, the last five months had been lacking what she loves most about the sport: racing. After the 2012 ING New York City Marathon was cancelled due to Superstorm Sandy, Bawcom discussed her options with coach Jack Daniels and husband Jay before deciding it was time to hang up the racing flats for a little bit.
"I had been racing for almost two years straight, and at that point our plan was to run New York and take some time off."
Choosing not to pursue an alternative fall marathon, Bawcom took a break from running before resuming training in Flagstaff, Ariz. Her name wouldn't appear in any results until last weekend's 15-K championships.
Bawcom is one of running's rare stars who competes more often than not --sometimes as much as twice in one weekend.
"For me, just racing is what I love the most," she said, her eyes glowing with building excitement. "If I wasn't racing, why would I be training? I'm older, and you know what, I've got to race as much as I can right now while I can."
So what has been Bawcom's key over the past two years, racing and finishing so frequently on the podium?
"I think a real big factor for 2012 was her training for the Marathon Trials," said Jay, who frequently accompanies Janet on training runs by biking alongside. "She had never trained seriously for the marathon, and began working with Jack Daniels.
"I think that marathon base made a big difference, especially when she came back down to the shorter stuff," he continued, adding that moving to altitude also may have helped.
Both Bawcoms hope her 2013 year matches --or better yet exceeds-- 2012. In the coming months she plans to race both on the track and on the roads.
"I just have to take one race at a time, one day at a time," she said. "I just have to do the best I can for every single race I enter and evaluate from there to keep going forward.
At Sunday's NYC Half, Bawcom hopes to better her fifth place position of a year ago, when she set her current personal best of 1:09:55.
"I really am excited to be in New York," she said. "I've trained for all those months and I think it will all come together this weekend."
PHOTO: Jay and Janet Bawcom in advance of the 2013 NYC Half (photo by Chris Lotsbom for Race Results Weekly)