If you missed the 2016 US Olympic Trials in LA on February 13th than you missed out on an incredible two plus hours of racing. I was way more excited about seeing this race than I was for watching the Super Bowl a few weeks ago. I knew that years of training and preparation came down to this one race for these athletes, and I did not want to miss a single moment. Which, incidentally, I almost did because I forgot it started at one o’clock…thank goodness for DVR! It had all the drama, suspense, and action that you could hope for in a marathon. There were highs, lows and surprises. There were moments of beauty and moments of deep felt disappointment. All-in-all, it was all you could hope for in a race, and the racers really left it all out there. At the end of it all, I felt there were 5 key takeaways from the race which I share below.
Be sure to share your thoughts in the comment section at the end of the post!
Training Can’t Prepare You For Everything
No matter how much you train and no matter how many situations you try to prepare for, there is always the chance that on race day that either the race itself or your own body will throw you a curve ball that you did not expect. With temperatures around 70 degrees, racers had to deal with the hottest Olympic trials marathon on record. Heat brings with it many challenges, including cramping and dehydration, which Shalane Flanagan could attest to first hand. As she shared with Runner’s World, “I was really dizzy, chills, ringing in my ears, couldn’t see straight.” With so much on the line, however, Flanagan says she pushed her “body to a place I’ve never experienced.”
Support and Teamwork Go A Long Way
The scene as Flanagan crossed the finish line and was caught by Amy Cragg said it all. Through 26.2 miles these incredible women fought together to achieve a goal they had been working tirelessly towards for the past several years. After a disappointing fourth place finish at Houston in 2012, Cragg was propelled to victory through smart racing and the heart-felt support of her teammate Flanagan. They helped carry each other step for step through most of the race before Cragg finally pulled away for the win. Finishing 1-3 Cragg and Flanagan showed the world that even though running is thought of as a solo sport, the support of a teammate and the will to reach a shared goal can help bring you through the toughest spots of any challenge you might face.
30 is the New 20
The average age of the top 3 men and women was 32, with Jared Ward coming in as the youngest at 27 and on the other end you have Meb Keflezighi at 40 years of age. The 4th (Kara Goucher) and 5th (Janet Bawcom) spots for the women were both 37 years old. Sure, the first place men’s finisher was racing his first marathon, but he isn’t exactly a novice runner. It appears that seasoned runners with tons of experience under their belt might just be the future of the sport. What does this mean for the average runner? Don’t always assume that you’re going to get slower with age…Meb is 40 and is still killing it!
It’s Not Over Until It’s Over
It was interesting to watch Desi Linden throughout the race. She has this quiet and unassuming way about her. She had a plan and stuck with it, staying in the hunt but not pushing anything until she was ready. Then, with the end of the race nearing and Flanagan fading, she kicked it into high gear and came from behind to triumphantly finish in 2nd place behind Cragg. When racing it is important not only to stick to your plan, but also to never lose hope. Until you cross that finish line anything is possible. You need to simply stay focused and remember that you control this moment. Never give up, never surrender.
USA Marathoners Are Incredible
If you watched the race you saw the determination in each and every one of these competitors eyes as they powered through unprecedented heat towards the finish line. The past few years had all led to this moment and they made themselves and all runners proud by leaving it all out there. While I was sad to see Kara Goucher (whom I’ve interviewed several times over the past few years [Jan 2014 – October 2014 – March 2015]) finish fourth, I was proud and inspired by the heart she showed through all she’s overcome over the past few years to reach the finish line. And let’s be honest, being the fourth place finisher behind Cragg, Linden, and Flanagan is nothing to be ashamed of. The USA Olympic team is incredibly strong, and on that day while Kara laid it all out there the top three simply had just as incredible races.
The story lines were awe-inspiring: Rupp wins 1st marathon ever; Meb making yet another Olympic team (with authority) at age 40; Cragg coming back from a 4th place finish in 2012 to win; Linden’s qualifying after having to drop out of the Olympic race in 2012 due to injury; Flanagan stumbling across the finish line, delirious and dehydrated. It was a race to remember, and couldn’t be prouder to be a runner, to be an American, and to have these inspirational athletes representing us to the world.