Age Group Ace
By Mike Tymn
As featured in the November 2005 issue of Running Times Magazine
“I try not to get too analytical about my running,” says Lee DiPietro, the top American masters woman in this year’s Boston Marathon. “I don’t get caught up in heart rates, sleep patterns, calories, all those other things. I don’t get bogged down with who’s doing what. I just do what I love to do, and that’s train and compete.”
Nor does DiPietro concern herself with the fact that Boston doesn’t have five-year age groups. At 47, DiPietro finished the 2005 Boston Marathon in 2:53:34, an effort that would have easily won the 45–49 division had there been one. As it was, three significantly younger foreign women finished ahead of her in the broad 40–49 category. Two weeks after Boston, DiPietro won the 45–49 division in the Broad Street 10M by more than four minutes with a 1:01:06. She followed that with an 18:00 5K in the Freihofer’s 5K.
“I feel I’m running better than I ever have,” DiPietro says. “Maybe it’s because I started late and my focus is stronger now. Certainly, my willpower is.”
Hardly a newcomer to the sport, DiPietro has been at it since 1985. “I was working in New York City and became a frustrated commuter,” she says of her introduction to running. “I started to run just to get exercise in between tennis games.” After accompanying her sister over the last 10 miles of the 1985 Boston Marathon, DiPietro “was hooked.” She entered the New York City Marathon that fall. “I suffered through a 4:30 finish, but I was so incredibly elated when I finished that I had to find more.”
She changed her focus from running to triathlons in 1987, and didn’t return to running until recently, no longer feeling comfortable riding bikes on busy roads. As a triathlete, DiPietro excelled, as evidenced by a sixth-place finish in the 1997 Hawaii Ironman, which she calls her most memorable competitive experience. “I had a tough year of training and usually my family came with me,” she says, mentioning that her husband, also named Lee, is a former triathlete and that she has two sons, 21 and 18. “They couldn’t come that year and I was determined to make them proud. It was such a windy, hot year. Two of the women ahead of me collapsed at the finish line. I never believed I would have been able to finish in the top 10 in Hawaii.”
Her next most memorable race was the 1999 Chicago Marathon, in which she qualified for the 2000 Olympic marathon trials with a 2:47:11. She improved her PR with a 2:47:00 at Boston the following year.
In preparing for Boston this year, DiPietro got up to 120 miles a week while continuing to cross-train by biking and swimming. “I think the cross-training has made me stronger and helps me flush the running muscles,” she offers. “I get a weekly massage, which truly is my life saver.”
As for the future, DiPietro would like to get back under 2:50 in the marathon. “And, maybe under 17 minutes for 5K,” she adds, “but that might be more difficult.”