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Elite runner preps for Chicago Marathon, races with high schoolers

Three-time U.S. Olympian 2012 Chicago Marathelite runner Dathan Ritzenhe (center with black shirt) ran with more than 100 Chicago-arehigh school

Three-time U.S. Olympian and 2012 Chicago Marathon elite runner Dathan Ritzenhein (center with black shirt) ran with more than 100 Chicago-area high school cross country runners at North avenue and the lake on Aug 14, 2011. | Al Podgorski~Chicago Sun-Times

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Updated: September 16, 2012 6:16AM

Ten days after running in the Olympics 10,000-meter finals, Dathan Ritzenhein was running three miles along Lake Michigan, surrounded by dozens of local high school cross-country runners.

Ritzenhein, 29, who trains at the elite Nike Oregon Project in Beaverton, Ore., was introduced Tuesday as one of the professional speedsters running in the 2012 Bank of America Chicago Marathon.

During a question-and-answer session in Lincoln Park before the group run, he urged the cross-country runners to ditch the soft drinks, cross-train and run year-round.

“Running is a lifestyle that you can do forever,” he said. “Your future in baseball might be club softball after high school.”

His personal record time of 12:56 for a 5K, the American record in 2009-2010, caught the group’s attention. His low-key Midwestern personality — he grew up in Michigan — held the young runners’ interest as he talked about how he hopes to set a personal best in the 2012 Chicago marathon.

“Coming off track season I’ve got a lot of speed right now,” he said. “I think if I put the hammer down in training. . . . I think I can run a fast PR” — personal record.

His marathon record is 2:09:55 at the 2012 U.S. Olympic trials. He finished fourth; the top three competed in the Olympic marathon.

Ritzenhein runs an average of 120 miles a week — about 17 or 18 miles a day. Before Tuesday’s event with the cross-country athletes, he had already logged an 11-mile training run. He also planned to run later in the afternoon.

“I definitely like his mind-set,” said Josh Smith, 17, a Rolling Meadows High School senior who ran three miles in about 26 minutes with Ritzenhein. “He’s one of the runners I look up to. He’s done a lot in the Olympics and just seems like a really good guy.”

The Chicago Sun-Times is a media sponsor of the 2012 Bank of America Chicago Marathon.

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