Brooklyn Boro

Run Jane, run! From Pearl Street to Rio

Brooklyn Friends Phys. Ed. Teacher Qualifies for Olympic Marathon

February 25, 2016 By John Torenli, Sports Editor Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Brooklyn Friends phys. ed. teacher Jane Vongvorachoti never gave up on her Olympic dreams, and now she is poised to become the first-ever women’s marathoner from Thailand to compete at the 2016 Rio Games. Photo courtesy of Jane Vongvorachoti
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Jane Vongvorachoti is finally ready for the run of her life.

The Brooklyn Friends School physical education instructor will represent Thailand in the women’s marathon at the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro this August, completing a personal journey to compete against the world’s best female long-distance runners on the international sporting scene’s ultimate stage.

Vongvorachoti, who will turn 32 in advance of the 31st summer Olympiad, tried but ultimately fell short of becoming the first-ever Thai women’s marathoner to reach the Olympics for the 2012 London games.

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“I tried in 2012, but I had only just started running,” Vongvorachoti told the Brooklyn Eagle earlier this month, just two days before returning to Thailand to rev up her training for the grueling 26-mile course. “It was very hard to do that. I got hurt on the way a little bit.”

That disappointment came after a seven-year stint on the Thailand women’s national soccer squad, which also failed to qualify for the Olympics during her tenure on the team.

“I tried to [qualify] with soccer, but your whole entire team has to perform,” Vongvorachoti noted. “[In the marathon], you can’t blame anyone else.”

Perhaps a touch disheartened but never discouraged, the former St. John’s University soccer standout and 2014 New York Road Runners’ Runner of the Year went right back to work in the hopes of qualifying in 2016.

“I would wake up really early, take the subway to work and drop my bags off at school,” Vongvorachoti revealed of her local workout regimen.

“Then I would run the Brooklyn Bridge, come back and shower before beginning my day,” added the New York City resident, who has spent the better part of the last six years establishing 11 Thailand national records in distance running.

“You can’t run all year round here, but I ran my best time training in New York. It makes you tougher.”

Tough enough to join fellow Thai marathoner Natthaya Thanaronnawat at the 2016 Games after both came in under the qualifying mark of two hours and 45 minutes at the Houston Marathon on Jan. 17.

“It’s been really amazing and I thought it was something I could do,” Vongvorachoti said. “I trained really hard, training here most of the time, and was able to get it.”

Once she made history by punching her ticket to Brazil, Vongvorachoti took a one-year hiatus from her teaching duties at the diminutive Pearl Street private school.

But she still sees her students often enough to get a feel for how important her dash through the streets of Rio will be to them on Aug. 14.

“They are excited,” she said. “I went to visit last week and I couldn’t go down the hall without someone stopping me. It’s really exciting. I like being an inspiration these days.”

Vongvorachoti coached both the indoor and outdoor cross-country track teams at Friends, and worked with young runners from BFS in her afterschool duties along with teaching her regular classes.

“She has been an asset to the school and of course the BFS Running Program,” gushed longtime BFS Director of Athletics David Gardella.

“We are all so proud of her. Our BFS student-athletes and community look forward to updates on her progress and accomplishments during her training and preparation for this once in a life time opportunity.”

Vongvorachoti hopes her dedication to achieving her Olympic dream can propel others to chase their own pursuits with the same vigor and determination.

“It’s important to be a role model,” she said. “As far as teaching others, I don’t even see it as a job.”

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In other local track-and-field news, five very special young runners from our borough medaled in the first-ever NYRR Young Runners 800-Meter Finals during last weekend’s Millrose Games at the Armory in Washington Heights.

On the boys’ side, Kymoy Phillip of Brooklyn’s P.S. 9 took home the gold with a time of 2:33:67, while Dubar Smalls of P.S. 21 and Henry Kurzawa of P.S. 107 grabbed silver and bronze, respectively.

Bella Stanhouse ran to gold in the girls’ 800-meter race, coming in 2:37:08, and classmate Rosie Coats took the silver.


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