Twenty-four years ago in 1996 Atlanta hosted the Summer Olympics. Yesterday the city once again took part in Olympic history by hosting the 2020 Marathon Trials. The race decided which top 3 men and women would represent our country in the Tokyo games. Though there is some speculation what is to happen with the current Coronavirus threat, for this day all of the athletes who trained so hard to get to this point still got the opportunity to put that effort to the test to take part in 26.2 miles of grit and determination, gliding through the hilly streets of Atlanta.
Ever since the date and location were announced, I had planned on being present to witness the event in person. As a runner myself, I couldn't miss the opportunity to spectate at such a big race! Quite a few of my colleagues are also runners or just fitness enthusiasts in general, so we made our plans to meet up and head downtown to lend our support to the athletes. We were especially pleased that the race did not begin until noon, so we did not have to get up at the crack of dawn to get to the course. I was able to get up and log a little over a 5k of running myself before heading in to work to teach the Saturday circuit class. After getting cleaned up, we all piled in to the van and made our way to our viewing spot!
The day couldn't have been much better for a late February race. A bit cool, but sunny and just a bit breezy. Given the hilly course, I think many of the athletes were most likely appreciative of the cooler temperatures. The wind can definitely throw you off your pace, but the way the course was laid out the runners got both a headwind and a tailwind to hopefully even the odds. We all knew what to expect and had layered up accordingly. With snacks in hand we set up shop right near the 5k marker along Peachtree Street. We chose that particular location to be out of the huge crowds near the start/finish line and to get to see the runners multiple passes as they were looping that area three times!
The men went off before the ladies, so they were the first runners coming by. We were all giddy with excitement! That early in the race it really is anyone's to take as all the runners have different pacing strategies. Some prefer to push it early and go out strong from the start, while others like to sit in a pocket and conserve energy for the end. Either way it is thrilling to see such talent from such an elite pack of athletes.
We were quite close to the turnaround at our part of the course, so it wasn't long before the gents made it back around...
Right after the first loop of the men, we ended up setting up shop across the street to meet up with a friend who had parked on the other side. Given the fact that he just had surgery to repair a torn Achilles tendon, we figured it was easier for us to get across to him than make him scoot across the course. Luckily where we were set up on the course was not crowded with spectators, so the view was just as good on the other side!
About 15 minutes after the men came through, the first of the women came in sight. I believe there were about twice as many women who qualified for the race as there were men. Almost 700 athletes altogether, a good 400-plus were women. Go ladies!
Spectating at a race like this is definitely interesting because you really do only see a tiny snippet of the event. I actually found it fun to wait and see what the field would look like when they made it around the 8 or so miles before passing back by us. A lot can happen in that time! Though there was one man, Brian Shrader, who held a commanding lead for the first two loops, which equated to the first half of the race. We were all surprised to see him out front on his own the second lap.
Not far behind was the main pack of men, just biding their time. Of course one of the big athletes to watch was Galen Rupp, winner of the trials in 2016 and big favorite to make the team again this year.
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The women made their way back around, with a solid lead pack of over a dozen athletes. The rest of the field had spread out considerably. There were even two pregnant women competing! I suppose if you have worked that hard to qualify and are in such stellar shape, it would be a shame to miss out on that opportunity to at least partake in the event. All of the other women competing were cheering them on and the crowd support was fantastic. Kudos to those ladies running for two!
Des Linden looked strong in the lead pack, along with some other early contenders like Sarah Hall and Jordan Hasay. However, a few of the top ladies pulled out before the finish, including Hasay, Hall and Molly Huddle. No one ever said the marathon was easy.
Finally, we saw the last loop of the guys charging up Peachtree Street for the last time. The tide had turned, with Rupp taking the lead and looking effortless as he passed us.
Abdi Abdirahman, another former Olympian, was right there with him. I was just happy to get some good shots of the gents as they flew on by us!
Though we were too far away to see the final push, Galen Rupp held out the lead to take the win in just under 2 hours and 10 minutes, with Jacob Riley in second and Abdirahman clinching his second Olympic marathon spot at 43-years of age! Well done gentlemen.
By the final pass of the women, it was still unclear who would take the top spots. Some of the early favorites had already dropped back or totally out, so we had no clue which of the remaining runners would edge out the rest of the competition.
Though I was cheering for Des Linden, she was edged out and ended up in fourth place. The top spot wen to Aliphine Tuliamuk by only 8 seconds over Molly Seidel (who by the way was running her FIRST marathon ever, having qualified with a half marathon time). Third place was claimed by Sally Kipyego. Again, well done ladies!
I had fun looking out for a runner I follow on Instagram who was running yesterday, as well. She's a stellar athlete and yoga enthusiast (@runnersloveyoga on IG). Though I've never met her personally, it was fun to have someone to look out for on the course!
Definitely interesting to be on the sidelines for the first time in a while instead of out there with the pack. Not that I have anywhere near enough talent to make it to this level of competition, but I am fully inspired to work hard for my own running goals again! Totally a blast to take part in, and even more fun to be able to log these memories in my blog. For more highlights of the race check out the Atlanta Track Club recap. Atlanta even lit up the 1996 torch while the race was going on as a fun nod to the Games. Here's hoping the 2020 games go on as planned so all of these athletes and others around the world can come together for the main event!
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