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Lisa Stublic Hoping To Overdeliver At New York City Marathon

The Croatian has modest goals for Sunday's race, but don't be surprised by extraordinary results.

The Croatian has modest goals for Sunday’s race, but don’t be surprised by extraordinary results. 

The classic formula for business success is “underpromise, overdeliver.” For Lisa Stublic, that seems to work pretty well for running, too.

That’s certainly the case when it comes to New York Road Runners’ events. Earlier this year, Stublic, who grew up in Connecticut and competed for Manhattan’s Columbia University, was entered in the NYC Half. Looking at the entry list of elite women, she set a modest goal for herself.

“I was thinking if I could get in the top 10, that would be a good race.”

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In what turned out to be a VERY good race, Stublic found herself jockeying with Diane Nukuri Johnson and eventual winner Caroline Rotich for the lead in the final mile of the race, before ultimately finishing third in 1:09:18, a PR by over a minute, just nine ticks out of first. “That was really a breakthrough for me,” she said. “It was the first time I thought of myself as an elite runner.”

That confidence carried over when she ran the Zurich Marathon the following month, where she won in 2:25:44, slicing almost five minutes off her previous best.

These times would place Stublic in the top dozen or so female marathoners in the U.S., but because of a decision she made five years ago, she’s the top runner in Croatia, where she emigrated in 2008 to find a job as an English teacher.

That move, which was supposed to be a temporary experiment, seems to have worked out on a number of levels. Besides representing Croatia in the 2011 World Championships and last year’s Olympic Games (her father has Croatian citizenship), she also found her fiancé, Dario Nemec, a distance runner whom she met at a training camp.

Although Stublic is firmly Croatian these days, she still has strong ties to the tri-state area, and usually comes back to America at least once a year. On Sunday, her family will travel down from Connecticut to cheer for her, and many of friends from Columbia who still live in the area will add their voices as well.

“When I was at Columbia we’d volunteer at the marathon,” she says. “But I never thought I’d be running it, and certainly not as an invited elite runner.”

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Once again, Stublic is entering her biggest 26.2-miler with relatively modest expectations, with a top-10 finish her primary goal. “I don’t think I can run with the leaders, but if I run a solid race I might be able to catch some people over the second half of the course.” The streets of the city are roads she’s familiar with from her training runs with the Lions. “I’d guess this is about as much of a home course as I could find,” she said.

Given that advantage, and her track record of over-delivering on pre-race predictions, don’t be surprised if Stublic becomes a familiar name in her birth country too.