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Julian passes a pair of tests

One day after being the top American finisher in the Pittsburgh Marathon, Pete Julian receives a clean bill of health

On Sunday, Pete Julian competed in one of the nation's largest races.

It wasn't until a day later, however, that he enjoyed a sense of victory.

Upon making his cross-country return trip from the Pittsburgh Marathon, the Ashland native, who is one of the Untied States' top distance runners, underwent a CAT scan to determine whether cancerous tumors had returned to his stomach.

They hadn't.

"This one was pretty critical," Julian said of his regular checkup Monday at Stanford University Hospital in California.

Julian first had cancer surgery in 1999, then in 2001 underwent a second procedure that necessitated the removal of his stomach lining and a nerve that controls a valve in the lower part of his stomach.

The last time, his tumors resurfaced within two years. This was roughly his 18-month checkup.

"That was a pretty important date to get through," he said.

The date itself had a lot of bearing on Julian's performance in Pittsburgh, where he acquitted himself quite well in a field that was 2,976 strong and dominated by elite Kenyans.

Julian, who now lives in Atherton, Calif., was the top American finisher and placed sixth overall in a time of 2 hours, 19 minutes, 8 seconds. Reuben Chesang of Kenya won in 2:14:53.

Although he wasn't thrilled with his time, which was accomplished only after battling the pack attack of the Kenyans, Julian did meet his single most important goal: He qualified for the U.S. Olympic Trials, which will be in February 2004 in Birmingham, Ala.

His time bettered the qualifying standard of 2:20 flat. The time frame to meet the mark began Jan. 1.

Julian's impending checkup added to the stress of competing in only his second marathon - he ran 2:15.56 and was the No. — American in the Chicago Marathon last fall - but it also was the reason he finished the race.

Ordinarily, given how much he had to work against the Kenyans and because two of them went out over a hilly section at 4:50 mile clips late in the race, he would have packed it in to train and run another day.

But Julian didn't have that luxury.

"I knew I at least had to get the Olympic Trial qualifying time," he said. "I didn't know what that checkup on Monday would bring. I didn't know if I'd be able to run a marathon again for a while."

The race was made far more difficult on Julian because a pacer whom he had brought with him from California couldn't keep up. The rabbit was supposed to take the field around the first half of the race in 1:07, but he was tapped out at about nine miles.

As soon as his pacer went down, Julian was swallowed up by a group of about 10 Kenyans.

"With the pacemaker, I was hoping to get away from that," said Julian. "I wanted to get a sizable lead where there were just two or three of us. Instead, I found myself with an entire army of elite distance runners. They tend to work together."

With about 10 miles to go, two of them broke away at a blistering pace.

"They didn't even finish," said Julian. "That shows you how it works. They pulled the entire field with them. It really makes for a nasty, tough race a lot earlier than you want. You kind of have to gauge whether you want to match the move or not."

Julian borrowed from his training time in order to finish hard. It might be a couple of weeks before gets back to work, possibly in a pool, then another week or two before he's into full road training.

Had it not been so taxing, he might be back at it in a week.

Julian went into the race feeling fit enough to run in the 2:13 or 2:14 range even though he continues to adjust to life after surgery.

He can't eat very much at a time, which is exceedingly difficult for someone who runs 130 miles a week.

"Most of the food I eat goes right to the intestine," he said. "I can't store food."

He's still trying to figure out how to get the most nutrients in the least amount of food. A couple of times a week, he said, he overdoes it and ends up curled in a ball, nauseous and feverish.

"When you come in from a 22- or 23-mile training run, the first thing you want to do is start shoveling cookies down your hole," said Julian. "Unfortunately, I can't do that anymore. I have to take my time. Patience is a virtue I'm working on."

Julian's next big race will likely be the U.S. Marathon Championships in September in Minneapolis.

"I feel like my best years are ahead of me," he said.

Reach sports editor Tim Trower at 776-4479, or e-mail ttrower@mailtribune.com