Sandrock: Romanian runners making Boulder home

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    Along with the Japanese women and Africans who train in town, these runners are among the best runners – bar none – who live and train in Boulder.,1713,BDC_2484_5071020,00.html

    October 17, 2006
    When Constantina Tomescu-Dita runs through the streets of her hometown in her native Romania, she gets lot of cheers, praise and yells of encouragement from her countrymen. Tomescu-Dita deserves it, as she was recently named Athlete of the Year in Romania for 2005, beating out athletes from every other sport.

    Although even in runner-friendly Boulder many people don't know it, the 36-year-old has been one of the best marathoners and road racers in the world over the past several years.

    Tomescu-Dita took the bronze medal in last year's world championship marathon in Helsinki, and has won medals in the past three IAAF World Race Championships: gold in the half marathon championships in Edmonton last year, the bronze in New Delhi in 2004, and the silver just two weeks ago in Hungary. In that race, Tomescu-Dita broke the 20K world record, but was beaten to the tape by Lornah Kiplagat of the Netherlands, who also has made Boulder her training base for the summer and fall of 2005.

    Tomescu-Dita and her fellow world-class Romanians have done more than make Boulder a training base. She, along with Olympic silver medalist and World Championships gold medalist Lidia Simon and 2006 Boulder Backroads winner Nuta Olaru have bought homes and have decided to live and raise families in Boulder. In addition, Luminta Talpos trains here part of the year.

    “We like Boulder and the training environment here,” Tomescu-Dita said earlier this year while celebrating her husband's birthday at a local restaurant. “We really like the people.”

    Tomescu-Dita and her friends are following in the fast footsteps of many other world-class runners who came to town for a training stint and ended up staying, starting with Frank Shorter after his 1972 Olympic gold medal win, through Lorraine Moller, Steve Jones, Mark Plaatjes and Arturo Barrios.

    Like them, Tomescu-Dita and her husband Valy have decided Boulder is not just a good place to altitude train, but is also a nice spot to raise a family. Her son Rafael is now enrolled in an Erie elementary school, and the first of the Romanians who came to Boulder a decade ago, former New York City marathon winner Anuta Catuna, gave birth to her daughter, Alys, in Boulder Community Hospital.

    “If it wasn't working or they did not like Boulder after coming here year after year, they would not have moved here,” says Brendan Reilly, head of Boulder Wave and manager for many top runners.

    Sunday, Tomescu-Dita will try and build on her running legacy when she goes for the win in the LaSalle Bank Chicago Marathon, one of the biggest and best-paying marathons and part of the five-race World Marathon Majors circuit. Tomescu-Dita has had great success in Chicago, winning in 2004 and placing second two other times. Olaru, who finished second in Chicago in 2004, and Simon are also racing in Chicago on Sunday.

    Reilly says one reason for the success of Tomescu-Dita, Simon, Talpos, Catuna and Olaru is that “They are mentally tough as nails. They will spit blood to gain one more place at the end of a race. To be honest, other runners sometimes mail it in midrace if they are not with the leaders; these women, right up to finish, keep pushing straight through. I don't think many people have a sense (of) how good … they are.”

    That is changing, as the Tomescu-Dita and her friends continue winning races around the world and ingraining themselves in the local running community. They often can be seen at local races, such as the Pearl Street Mile. At this year's race, while Talpos was warming up before going on for the win, both the Simon and Tomescu-Dita families sat at an outdoor table drinking beer and cheering on the runners.

    “This is like a European city race,” Valy Tomescu-Dita says. “Yes, we like it here.”

    E-mail: [email protected]

    Joshua Lawton

    Constantina Tomescu-Dita, of Romania, wins the Open Women's division of the Pearl Street Mile in 2001, breaking the record with a time of 4:46.

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