(c) 2014 Race Results Weekly, all rights reserved. Used with permission.
Atlanta, July 2, 2014 -- For 28-year-old Christo Landry, Friday's Atlanta Journal Constitution Peachtree Road Race presents a rare opportunity. The College of William & Mary alum is going for his third national road racing title in a row, hoping to add a USA 10-K Championship to the USA 10-Mile and 25-K crowns earned earlier this year.
"It would be amazing to make it three in a row, however I'm a little unsure of how it's going to go," Landry told Race Results Weekly, speaking here in beautiful Piedmont Park. Owning a 10K personal best of 28:52--set here in 2011--Landry finds himself among a strong field vying to become the race's first American champion since Ed Eyestone in 1991.*
Over the last four months, Landry has climbed the ranks among American professionals, thriving on the USA Running Circuit (USARC). With a supreme desire to earn the title of national champion, Landry has overcome setbacks in his quest to be one of the top road racers in the nation.
After a disappointing 16th place finish at the USA Cross Country Championships in February, Landry became very ill with a severe ear infection. As a result of the ear infection, a number of cells in Landry's ear were damaged, altering his balance and coordination. For two days Landry couldn't stand. He'd try running a week later, yet couldn't quite keep on a straight line.
Weary and unsure of his fitness, Landry entered the USA 15K Championships at the Gate River Run in Florida hoping for the best. Finishing fourth in 43:59, Landry was pleasantly shocked. It was the beginning of what would be a fantastic year.
"Coming into the 15K off of taking a week off three weeks prior, I was really surprised at how I did," said Landry, shaking his head in disbelief. "That did give me a lot of confidence going into the five weeks in April and May where I had four different races and did pretty well in three of them."
Indeed, April and May were phenomenal months for the native of Falls Church, Va. Racing close to his childhood home at the Credit Union Cherry Blossom 10-Mile (USA 10-Mile Championships) in Washington, D.C. on April 6, Landry was full of adrenaline. Rising to the occasion, he'd win his first national crown with a time of 46:41.
Describing the moment as a monkey off his back, Landry had reached a new level of confidence in his running.
"To make that breakthrough, to get that first national championship, that was something special to me. Something very special, and the best part was I grew up ten miles from there," he said.
Building upon his first title on the roads, Landry raced the Fifth Third River Bank Run 25-K (USA 25K Championships) in Michigan on May 10, again claiming top American honors. Crossing the line in 1:14:18, Landry tied the national 25K record (which was held by Mo Trafeh, recently in the news for being found in possession of the performance enhancing drug EPO).
"I knew I was in good shape and luckily the race did start running very quickly after about two miles," he said, voice growing as he relived that race. "When I came across the line I knew I was close, but didn't realize how close until they told me later."
Nearly two months after his 25K win, Landry finds himself just beginning marathon training, gearing up for October's Bank of America Chicago Marathon. Since he is early in the buildup phase, Landry enters Saturday's USA 10K Championships here cautiously optimistic.
"Hopefully I can use a little freshness to my advantage. But we'll see. It's a very strong field," he said. "I think it's going to be quite a large pack of at least five or six people going into that last mile, making that last turn on I think 10th street going into the final kick down that hill. Anything can happen then."
Landry will be up against veterans Abdi Abdirahman (a three-time USA 10K winner), Ryan Hall, Aaron Braun, Shadrack Biwott, and Josphat Boit, among others.
While some may see his recent breakthrough on the national level as surprising, Landry believes it is a result of consistent training under coach Alex Gibby.
"It's year upon year of building upon the successful positive cycles," he said. "Now I'm getting to that level where those improvements are pushing me to national championships. While that's a big breakthrough place-wise for me, the time has always been decreasing from year to year."
Claiming the $15,000 top prize here would complete a hat trick and give Landry an even greater lead in the USA Running Circuit standings. He is currently first with 37 points, ten up on Chris Derrick.
"There's definitely added motivation for it. It's a U.S. championship," he said. "When you go to, say, Peachtree, you've won the Peachtree road race and you won a national championship. That's something, the excitement of that doesn't diminish even if you've done it before."
When asked what it'd be like to win his third national title, joining the likes of Eyestone, Frank Shorter, and Craig Virgin as American champions of the AJC Peachtree Road Race in the process, Landry couldn't contain his excitement.
"To quote NBA Jam, I'd say 'He's on Fire!'" he said with a laugh, referencing the classic basketball video game. "It would just be fantastic, especially since I'd be able to do it when I'm peaking for races and also when I'm just building into a season. Of course, if I did it it would open the door to four in a row. You never know! You don't want it to stop when things are going well."
When asked about the recent discovery that Mo Trafeh--with whom Landry shares the American 25K record--was found in possession of the performance enhancing drug EPO, Landry was frustrated and displeased.
"I'm disappointed that he felt the need to use, to cross a very black and white line. It's hard for me to believe that this is his first time using. If it is true that he has been using it in the past, then he's cost, he's cheated a lot of people out of opportunity and hard earned winnings," said Landry. "He's taken national championships away from people it seems like outright earned them, and cheated from them. He's taken tens of thousands of dollars away from many runners. If he was on drugs beforehand he is basically a thief."
"I would like to see the [American 25K] record taken away if they can prove he was using illegal drugs at that point," he added.
*This year's race only has American elite athletes.
Photo: Christo Landry in Piedmont Park in Atlanta before the 2014 AJC Peachtree Road Race. Photo by Chris Lotsbom for Race Results Weekly.