Not content to have run perhaps the best marathon of his career, John Izewski saw the finish line clock at the United States Olympic Men’s Marathon Trials on Saturday and was already doing the math.
Just three little seconds per mile faster on the course in Orlando, Florida and he might have been heading to Paris for the 2024 Summer Olympic Games as the third member of the American squad later this year.
Now that’s what you call an elite competitor.
The Central Bucks East High School graduate – who was later followed across the finish line by another CBE grad (Veronica Eder, 2:35, 34th overall in the women’s event) — wound up placing eighth overall in a speedy time of 2:11.09 but that still wasn’t quick enough to dispel thoughts of what might have been.
Unofficial third-place finisher Leonard Korir ran 2:09.57 and if that time holds up through May, he will be headed to France.
So, Izewski will have plenty of time to think about “what if,” even if it really isn’t fair to question himself.
“It’s a good feeling,” Izewski said of his overall performance in a telephone conversation late Saturday afternoon. “But the number I’ll be obsessing over for the next four years is ’72.’ Because that’s the number of seconds I was off finishing third.
“Less than three seconds a mile. When I saw that number I thought, ‘Man, I was so close.’ Just five places out. It might be a lot but runners are that way. I already told my coach I left about a minute out there. I should have gone at (mile) 20 but I didn’t go until 24 basically.”
Talk about powerhouse finishes. At 30K (roughly 19 miles), Izewski was situated in 17th place. That means he passed at least nine runners over the final seven miles.
In the 2020 Trials (actually held in 2021 because of the pandemic), he was about 60th at the halfway (13.1-mile) point and finished 17th. So it’s safe to say he’s pretty good at late comebacks.
“The marathon is a race against yourself,” Izewski explained. “If you have a plan and you know you can execute your plan. . .if you go out there and do it, chances are you’re going to finish where you want to finish.
“You can’t control what everyone else does but usually if you execute your plan, you will do fine.”
It’s that “the race isn’t over until it’s over” which drives runners like Izewski.
“The race isn’t over until you cross that line at 26.2 miles,” he said. “At 25 miles, you might be passing people that are coming back to you. Keeping your head up, keeping engaged and going ‘there’s someone I can catch.’ So keep racing until you cross that line.”
Izewski’s preparation for the race was practically flawless. Before the event he spent a month in Florida acclimating to the heat. Prior to that, he had planned to use last September’s Berlin Marathon as a springboard but decided to pull out at the seven-mile mark when a hip issue arose.
Good thing he did. The last thing he needed was a nagging type of issue going into Orlando. The thought even crossed his mind that it might be career-threatening. So prudence paid off.
Josh’s parents (Ron and Christine), along with his brother (Alex) and sister-in-law (Erica) were in Orlando to cheer for their favorite runner. That sort of support is always helpful.
“I think they were happy and I think they were proud,” Izewski said. “They’re going to try convince me not to dwell on the fact I was just 72 seconds off.”
Izewski’s next major race could be the Broad Street Run 10-Miler in early May. He’s finished in the top five in the past. Now he might have his eye set on the top prize.
“Being from the area, it’s one of those races where I’d like to come in and win,” he said. “Hopefully maybe this will be the year.”
United States mile record-holder Alan Webb was one of the illuminaries to congratulate the Doylestown runner in Orlando. Another was Keith Brantly, the University of Florida product, who was an Olympian in 1996.
“He’s been a huge inspiration,” Izewski said. “A mentor to talk to before the race. He gets my head right before races.”
Eder set a personal best (gun time) for her career and reported no problem with the weather conditions, which were humid and climbing into the 70s by the time the women runners reached the 20-mile mark just after 12 noon.
She wanted to finish in the top 50, so 34th exceeded expectations.
“I’m really happy with it,” she said. “I definitely wanted to give it my all. I did adjust for the heat slightly. I kind of went out conservatively. Compared to the rest of the field, I felt like I played it pretty safe.
“I stopped looking at my watch about halfway through and just focused on the next person in front of me and just trying to reel them in. I was definitely picking people off at the end. I really wanted to finish in the top 50 so I felt like I needed to run the first half conservatively.”