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Graham-Gray has half-empty, half-full day

April 21, 2008|By ANDREW MASON

BOSTON - Just making it to the starting line of the U.S. Olympic Women's Marathon Trials was a major victory for Susan Graham-Gray.

Some day, the 39-year-old from Greencastle, Pa., will probably appreciate that more than she does now.

Graham-Gray placed 115th out of 124 official finishers Sunday, covering the 26.2-mile course in 2 hours, 58 minutes, 8 seconds.

"Not a good day," she said. "It was very disappointing. I think I'm capable of so much better than that."

The top three finishers earned berths to the Olympic Games in Beijing this August. Deena Kastor, 35, who won Olympic bronze in 2004, won Sunday's race in 2:29:35. Magdalena Lewy Boulet, 34, was the runner-up in 2:30:19, and Blake Russell, 32, took third in 2:32:40. All three live in California.

Of the 161 women who entered Sunday's race, Graham-Gray was ranked 109th with a qualifying time of 2:45:32 from last spring.

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She said her goal Sunday was to run at least that fast.

"I tried my best, but it just didn't happen," she said. "It was tough to finish. People were just walking off the course. That would have been the easy thing to do."

But she's not one to take the easy route.

Graham-Gray, who has 20/500 vision, became the first legally blind athlete to ever compete in the U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials.

She usually receives special assistance at races with other runners and bicyclists serving as guides. No such help was allowed Sunday.

"I dropped some water cups," she said. "But I'm not going to make any excuses."

Her coach, Mike Spinnler of Hagerstown, said he couldn't be more proud of her.

"The cake was already baked and the icing was already thick on top. This was just more icing," he said. "We had higher goals going in, but it was just a dream come true to be there. It is something that will always be on her resume."

Graham-Gray said she has no regrets.

"You just do the best you can," she said. "Overall, the whole experience was great."

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