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Thirteen, and on the run

Erin Giesa of Clearwater, a seventh-grade student at Safety Harbor Middle School, finished last month's Gasparilla Distance Classic 5-kilometer road race in second place among some 2,300 women in a time of 19 minutes, 11 seconds. At age 13, she was the youngest top-10 finisher of the 3.1-mile course. She takes a look at her young career in this interview with Times correspondent Dave Theall:

Question: When you run a race like Gasparilla, what's more important to you _ where you finish or your time?

Answer: My time. The clock is a constant and I can always measure my progress against the clock. Where I finish and who I beat is less important.

Q. How did you get started?

A. I was doing triathlons (swimming, cycling and running) in Texas when I was 8 years old. Since running seemed to be my weakest event, I started training harder in that area.

Q. What does it take to be successful at running?

A. Patience. Start slowly and don't quit. When I started my only goal was to finish.

Q. What don't you like about training?

A. The pain, occasionally. But I realize there's a payoff in lowering my (competitive) times.

Q. Do you have a role model?

A. Yes. Suzy Hamilton (1992 Olympic runner at 1,500 meters).

Q. Have you tried other sports?

A. Yes. I'm still doing triathlons (bronze medalist at national age-group championships last fall) and I've played soccer and done ballet.

Q. What are your goals?

A. To go to the national high school cross country (Footlocker) championships, compete in college and some day go to the Olympics.

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