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Hastings’ Journey to the Olympics Stops in Arizona

The 31-year-old American will face a tough field in Sunday's Rock ‘n’ Roll Arizona Half Marathon.

The 31-year-old American will face a tough field in Sunday’s Rock ‘n’ Roll Arizona Half Marathon.

For most elite runners, the thought of showing up to a starting line of a big race to compete brings butterflies to the stomach. But this isn’t the case for Amy Hastings-Cragg. The 31-year-old U.S. Olympian heads to Sunday’s P.F. Chang’s Rock ‘n’ Roll Arizona Half Marathon in Phoenix ready to have some fun.

“This has been a heavy training time for me,” says the Arizona State graduate who is currently training this month and next in Arizona. “And I wanted to get in a solid tempo workout this weekend. When my coach [Ray Treacy] and I heard about this weekend’s race, we thought it would be perfect for us since it’s the most fun you can have in a workout.

“I love to be in a Rock ‘n’ Roll race, it’s always a great crowd. It’s so much fun, you just don’t get nervous for it; you just go and run as fast as you can.”

Hastings is upbeat about things at the moment—and for good reason, after a solid 2014 season. She managed to win her first road title of her career last year, which was held in conjunction with the 10K Peachtree Road Race in Atlanta, as well as earn first-American honors at the Chicago Marathon with a fifth-place showing. Her Chicago time of 2:27:03 matched her career-best marathon time. She also celebrated a personal milestone last fall when she married fellow Olympian Alistair Cragg.

In Phoenix this Sunday, Hastings wants to go out at marathon pace, which equates to a blistering 5:30-5:35 per mile. She could certainly run even faster, but admits she wants to do more holding back than pushing.

“Because of where I’m at in my training, I have to make sure I don’t go to the well in this race,” she says. “I need to come off of it feeling good. This is a tough balance to find. At the end of a race it’s hard not to dig deep. So the pressure is off. I want to run pace as opposed to being very competitive.”

For Hastings, the P.F. Chang’s Rock ‘n’ Roll Arizona race is a stepping stone to much bigger things. Back in 2012, she finished fourth at the U.S. Olympic Trials Marathon and just missed a spot on the London squad. Many runners would have given up after a setback like that, but not Hastings. Determined to wear the U.S. singlet, she went on to win the 10,000-meter race at the U.S. Track and Field Olympic Trials and booked her ticket to London that way. She ultimately placed 11th in the world in that event.

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Hastings has that same determination as she prepares for the Rio de Janeiro Olympics in 2016, but wants to compete in the marathon and has been training for that grueling event.

In April, she will be one of the top Americans to toe the line in Hopkinton, Mass. at the Boston Marathon. Hastings lives and trains most of the year in Providence, R.I., and looks at Boston as a hometown course. In fact, she’s been running on the actual course to gear up for it.

“Boston is my last marathon before the trials; it’s my main goal right now,” she says. “I’m focused 100 percent on that.”

This weekend, Hastings says she’s thrilled to feel the crowd’s vibe. She’s a big classic rock fan and just wants to hear anything “upbeat” out there. She’s been to Phoenix as a spectator and witnessed Ethiopia’s Haile Gebrselassie break the world record there back in 2006.

“Rock ‘n’ Roll Arizona is always a race I’ve wanted to run,” she admits. “This year it worked out for me.”

Hastings owns a 1:11:19 half marathon PR and faces some stiff competition Sunday. Dorota Gruca, a former Polish runner who is now a U.S citizen, also has a 1:11 personal best (1:11:56). Also in the mix will be last year’s Hartford Half Marathon champion Megan Hogan and the 2013 Canadian cross-country champion Natasha Wodak.

Events for the Rock ‘n’ Roll Arizona weekend kick off on Friday with the Health & Fitness Expo presented by Fox10 & My45 at the Phoenix Convention Center. The fun continues on Saturday with a 5K and wraps up Sunday with the 10K, half marathon and full marathon. The Wallflowers and OKGO headline the event’s finish-line concert.