In the women’s 10K Friday at the 2012 London Olympic Games, the 33-year-old Roman set a personal-best time of 31 minutes, 12.68 seconds, shaving more than 20 seconds off her previous fastest time. She finished in 12th place out of 22 competitors.
“It was awesome,” said the jubilant runner, moments after finishing the race. “I felt great. I was a little worried because I wasn’t nervous at all and I thought, ‘you have to be a little nervous’ — you know, to get that adrenaline going, but I went out well. I just ran at the right pace that I talked about with my coach and it worked out well.”
She said the plan was to run between 31 minutes flat and 31:20.
“I fell in the middle so it was really good. I wasn’t panicking at all because I knew when they (the leaders) hit the hammer I can’t put myself in that hole so I have to hold back a little bit. I wished I had somebody to work with me from about 5 to 8-K. I just ran the whole time by myself with people sitting behind me. But I wanted to hit the pace so I couldn’t risk just sitting with them. But it worked out well. I came here to run a PR (personal record). I ran a PR. I wish I had a 31 flat or just under, but I need more speed so I’ll just go do some more training.”
The race was won by Ethiopian superstar and defending Olympic champion Tirunesh Dibaba in 30:20.75. Kenyan Sally Jelkosgei Kipyego was a distant second, more than six seconds behind. The bronze went to fellow Kenyan Vivian Jepkemoi Cheruiyot.
Cherobon-Bawcom was the second-fastest among Americans, behind Amy Hastings (31:10.69 in 11th) and ahead of Lisa Uhl (31:12.8 in 13th).
An accomplished road racer, the Kenyan-born nurse noted how this was just her third track race in the last seven years, noting that it “gave her a little excitement” and it energizes her to get back into track.
She’s also motivated now that she’s had a taste of what the Olympic Games feel like.
“It is amazing,” she said. “It’s awesome. You come out of the tunnel and you see all the thousands of people and you don’t even know what to think. It’s just so exciting. You just feel the energy — like you are the one everybody’s cheering for, even though it’s the person in front.”
As for Dibaba, Cherobon-Bawcom is in awe of what a special runner she is.
“I knew that performance was coming. I saw her in the 5K and close in like 4:20 (for the last mile). Every single lady in the whole world wishes they could run one mile in that pace. So there was no question that no one was going to challenge her.”
One of the high points of her Olympic experience, she added, is the support she has received from the people of Rome.
“It has been fantastic. I get all sorts of emails and calls — a lot from the teams at Shorter and Berry. They are just so excited and I thank them so much. Even when I’m at home I get a lot of them to help me, even with my workouts.”
Now that her competition is over, she said she is “going to watch every single track race” for the next two days and then head to Kenya.