Chelsea Benson and Bailey Drewes

Chelsea Benson and Bailey Drewes in the 2019 Medtronic Twin Cities Marathon and TC 10 Mile. 

A year ago, we ran a column about a group of local runners that were working on balancing careers and family lives and training demands to travel to Atlanta for the 2020 U.S. Olympic Team Trials on Feb. 29. Here we are, a week and a half away, and marathoners Chelsea Benson, Ellie Pell and Bailey Drewes are looking forward to joining a few hundred other elite runners, chasing their dreams of running at the Olympics in Tokyo later this year. 

It would be more than fair to say that Chelsea Benson has a “real life” in addition to her training. The 37-year-old is the Public Programs Coordinator at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, and the mother of 5-year-old twins. She qualified for the Trials over a year ago – at the California International Marathon – hitting the tape 3 minutes ahead of the qualifying time of 2 hours, 45 minutes. Last October, Chelsea and one of her training partners, Bailey Drewes, ran the Twin Cities Marathon in Minnesota, and Chelsea shaved another minute and a half off her time. Bailey qualified for the Trials at the race as well, and it was upon their return to Ithaca that Chelsea experienced “a pretty rocky start” to staying on track for the Trials. “I had an Achilles injury and the pain worked its way up to my knee,” she said. “I did a couple of weeks of cross-training—spending a lot of time in the pool and on the elliptical—and it feels like I’m in a good place now.” She added, “I definitely would not have said that in December.” 

Benson knows that the cross-training will be crucial going forward, and she stated, “Given I’m 37, looking forward I’ll need to focus on strength training and fundamentals, and recognize that I need more recovery time.”

Ellie Pell ran a 2:41:48 at the Hartford Marathon last year, and she expressed her gratitude to her fellow runners (including her local training partners) for the continued inspiration. “I know a lot of the women through social media,” Ellie offered, “and it will be great to actually see them and say hi. We are each other’s biggest cheerleaders.” When asked about her training leading up to the big event, Pell (who manages CTB Fresh at Island Health & Fitness) added, “This time of year, my training is a mixture of inside and outside work. I have been lucky this training cycle, I have stayed healthy. Whether it’s outside, or on a treadmill, I just love to run.” 

Bailey Drewes ran a 2:40:09 at the Twin Cities Marathon, and in her “other life,” she is a Clinical Research Project Coordinator in the Division of Nutritional Sciences at Cornell. As for her recent training regimen, she said, “I have also been lucky this cycle. I added strength training, and that has helped me stay healthy.” Of the other local qualifiers, Bailey offered, “We do a lot of our workouts together, and yes, we do have to get creative with the weather being what it is around here.” She recalled some of her indoor workouts in Barton Hall—conveying that eighty laps can test a person’s patience—but she is clearly happy to lace ‘em up and run when she can. 

Of the upcoming trip, Drewes said, “I have some family members coming, so we’re turning it into a mini-reunion!” 

Bailey is also looking forward to running with so many accomplished marathoners. She said, “In every marathon I have done, I have always enjoyed running at the front of the pack with the elite runners. It’s usually a small group, but this race will have five-hundred elite women runners! That will be very empowering.” 

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Ithaca College’s Parley Hannan is, compared to the aforementioned women, a rookie runner, but she is an “up and comer” by every measure. At the David Hemery Valentine Invitational at Boston University’s Track and Tennis Center over the weekend, Hannan destroyed the Division 3 national indoor 5,000-meter record, turning in a 16 minutes, 5.36 second performance. That time shattered the previous DIII record by more than 16 seconds.

Despite her relative inexperience, Hannan is drawing a lot of attention, and for good reason. Competing in her first full season of track, she was the NCAA Division 3 cross country champion in November, winning the 6-kilometer title in 20:53.8.

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