Tyler Pence : A Race


Tyler Pence crossing the finish line | Photo Credit: Pence Talks Marathon Win, Looking At The Positives [INTERVIEW] · NewsKudo

Earning all-conference honors in any sport means something. In his senior year of cross country at Springfield High School, Tyler Pence would suffer a season-ending injury. Hopping a fence at a party and landing on a flower pot, Pence lacerated tendons and muscles within his right shin. It seemed unlikely that Pence would ever be able to run again.

Pence decided to go out for track his senior season at SHS despite several stress fractures and two surgeries. He quickly caught the attention of Southern Indiana University, where he won several Division II all-American awards and national championships.

Pence graduated in 2016 from Southern Indiana but was unsure about his future. Soon before taking a teaching job in Indiana, Pence got a call from UIS. UIS had just added track and field/cross country programs. They asked Pence to be assistant coach. He took over the head coaching position in 2019.

Pence never quit running. Building up strength in his legs by using a treadmill and continuing to compete in races, Pence was able to qualify for the U.S. Olympic team trials in 2020.

In his first major race since Olympic trials, Pence set a personal record in the Quad Cities marathon along the Mississippi River. Pence finished with a win, but not a conventional one. Two Kenyan runners Elijah Mwangangi Saolo and Luke Kibet were lengths ahead of Pence. However, a volunteer misdirected Saolo and Kibet off course and they faced disqualifications.

Pence took home the prize money of $3,000, the first American to win the race since 2001. Pence was criticized for not alerting the runners that they were headed off-track. Elijah Mwangangi Saolo entered the race in hopes to win the prize money. Saolo said that he hoped to help keep himself and his family here in the U.S.. In response to backlash, the race granted $2,000 in prize money to each of the Kenyan runners.

This is not to say that Pence did not run an incredible race. Pence set the third fastest time ever recorded in the Quad Cities Marathon with a time 02:15:06.