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The Daily Utah Chronicle

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The Daily Utah Chronicle

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U marathoner blogs her Beijing experience

By Isabella Bravo, Staff Writer

You might not be able to keep up with Olympic marathon runner and U student Zuzana Tomas in a race, but friends, family and fellow Utes have been able to follow her experiences in Beijing by reading her blog.

Tomas, a doctoral student in linguistics, competed August 17 as a marathon runner on the Slovak women’s track and field team. She finished 67th with a time of 2:49:39.

Although Tomas added about nine minutes to her time, she said she overcame a great deal just to finish the race–a task twelve of her competitors were not able to accomplish.

Soon after the race, she gave a complete retelling in her blog–a mode of communication that Tomas said enriched her experiences in Beijing.

About 38 kilometers into the race, her hamstring cramped.

“I thought it tore. It was excruciating pain,” she wrote. “I thought my Olympics were over for sure, but at that time I almost did not care-I was just freaking out because I had no idea what was happening with my body.”

Although medics massaged the cramp, her leg continued hurting. “The crowds cheered and I remember telling myself, ‘OK, the worst is over, you have three kilometers to go, you can do this, you can finish, you don’t have to fail.'”

The cramp returned just outside of the stadium. “I looked to the stadium. It was right there. I was next to it, I saw the Olympic flame, only I did not know if I was going to make it inside of it,” Tomas wrote. After three minutes of massage, she bolted for the finish.

Despite the injury and her slower time, Tomas considers the race a success.

“My body gave up on me, but, upset as I am right now, I think I will, with time, look back at this experience as perfect, too,” she wrote in her blog. “I never had to overcome myself like this before. The time may not reflect my fitness and ability, but it is an official Olympic time.”

Karen Marsh, a U graduate student in linguistics and friend of Tomas, said she has been following Tomas’s progress in Beijing and reads her blog daily.

“I’m an athlete too,” she said. “For me it’s been exciting to share the experience.”

“Blogging has given me a way to reflect on my experience as I am experiencing it,” Tomas said. “It really is wonderful to be able to share this experience with people I care about and who care about me. Reading their comments or posting something they may find interesting gives me something to look forward to each day. I just try to include in my blog a little bit of everything so that everyone can find something interesting to read. I am sure a lot of people don’t care about my analysis of a particular workout, but that is important to me and I know my running friends probably enjoy following that aspect of my experience.”

Tomas, who has been running since she was 13, was nominated for the Slovak team after finishing fourth place in the 2008 Houston Marathon.

She didn’t qualify for the team, but the Slovak committee decided to give her a shot anyway.

When Tomas arrived in the Village, Tomas took notes in her blog about some of unfamiliar things she frequently saw in Beijing.

“About every few hundred yards, if you look hard enough, you see people with brooms,” she wrote. “The sidewalks seem completely clean so it just seems a little needless to continue sweeping them and most people who do this seem at quite a different place as they are doing it. I wonder if these are some of the factory workers who were asked to do this once their factories were closed…I wish I could talk to them, but instead, I have to do with an awkward smile and a butchered ‘nihao.'”

Tomas understands that Beijing’s culture is different beyond the security gates of the Olympic Village, and wrote that the venue “feels kind of like being at a huge conference of something such as Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages. People with badges everywhere-only a lot more security.”

Tomas writes frequently about the many perks that come with competing in the Olympics and said that if she were ten years younger, being at the Olympics would be like Christmas, since she received clothes, suitcases, bags, cosmetics, shoes, hats, vitamins, drinks and other freebies.

But leading up to the marathon, her mind stayed focused on the race.

“The focus right now is on getting as much rest as possible,” she said before the race. “With marathons, the hardest training happens up to three weeks before the race. At this time, it’s just fine-tuning.”

Wayne McCormack, a U law professor and member of the 2002 Olympic Organizing Committee, said that for Olympic organizers, most of the stress comes in preparing for the event. “For the managers, the pressure is mostly finished when the games start,” he said. “The high pressure comes in the year leading up to it.”

When Tomas is not focused on running, she’s a student and teaches English as a second language.

“I am well aware that I will not be winning a medal,” she said before the race. “I will be competing against over a hundred of best women from around the world, most of whom are professional runners who do not have other jobs, let alone work on their doctoral degrees.”

To learn more about Tomas’ experience, view her blog at

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