Cary runner hits Olympic pace in City of Oaks Marathon

Michelle Langan of Cary searched the South the past couple years to find a marathon course suited to her newfound quest to earn an Olympic trials qualifying mark.

Well, it turns out the Raleigh City of Oaks Marathon in her backyard was a good fit despite her reservations about taking on the 26.2-mile course’s demanding hills.

Langan beat the Olympic trials qualifying standard of 2:43 with a winning time of 2:39:20 that also was good for a course record on Sunday at the eighth annual Raleigh City of Oaks Marathon and Rex Health Care Half-Marathon.

“I’m so happy,” said Langan, who moved to Cary seven years ago. “My college career didn’t pan out for me, but I took up running again about five years ago. It was just a bucket list to run a marathon by the time I was 25, but it was fun. I kept running and decided I wanted to get an Olympic trials qualifying mark.”

Langan, 31, had her eye on another marathon until she learned the course wasn’t sanctioned by USA Track and Field for Olympic trials qualifying. That led her to last-minute entry on Friday in the City of Oaks.

“I knew about the race, but I was afraid of the hills,” Langan said. “Hills and marathon shouldn’t be in the same sentence.”

Langan describes herself as a strong hill runner, but that doesn’t mean she prefers a hilly course to a relatively flat one.

Her performance is another milestone for the City of Oaks effort to gain a national reputation. That’s especially satisfying to meet directors Jim and Carolyn Micheels.

“When we started this race, my husband Jim worked hard to get the course sanctioned,” Carolyn said. “That was very important to him.”

The 2016 Olympics may seem a long way off, but for marathoners that compete once a year the Olympic trials marathon date in February 2016 is only 15 months away.

The women’s runner-up was Raleigh’s Carolyn Stewart (3:03:53) and third-place finisher Pittsboro’s Jennie Digiovanna (3:12:12).

The men’s race was won by Chicago’s Arturs Bareikis, who is one of those rare marathoners who sometimes runs two or three a month. Bareikis, 28, won in 2:29:32.

“I found out if I put myself in a lot of races, I can learn from it,” he said.

He broke away from runner-up Tibor Vegh (2:31:42) of Raleigh and third-place finisher Chad Ware (2:32:45) of Raeford at the 22-mile mark.