U.S. distance runners training at Northern Arizona University’s Center for High Altitude Training are demonstrating that altitude training pays off.

Abdi Abdirahman was the first American to break the tape in Sunday’s Chicago Marathon, finishing fourth overall with a time of 2:08:56. His mile pace was 4 minutes 55 seconds for the 26.2-mile race.

Brandon Leslie finished 17th overall with a personal best time of 2:15:20. Both runners qualified for the Olympic Trials in the marathon for the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games. They also both recently trained at the Center for High Altitude Training on the NAU campus.

“I come to Flagstaff three times per year to focus on training,” said Abdi Abdirahman in a recent interview. “Without the NAU track, the trails and the help of the people who work at the High Altitude Training Center, nothing would be possible.”

Alvina Begay, another runner who trains at the center, finished with a time of 2:43:30 in the Medtronic Twin Cities Marathon on Oct. 1. This result qualifies her for the Olympic Trials.

All three athletes are participating in the Flagstaff Running Project, receiving varying levels of financial support and coaching/consulting from the Center for High Altitude Training. The Flagstaff Running Project is funded by the city of Flagstaff, the Ak-Chin Indian Community and contributions made at the center’s Olympic fundraiser last February, Night of Champions.

The Center for High Altitude Training hosts U.S. and international teams traveling to Flagstaff for training at altitude to enhance athletic performance. The U.S. Olympic Committee has designated the Center for High Altitude Training a U.S. Olympic Training Site, home to a Community Olympic Development Program and a U.S. Olympic Community Partner.