The US Olympics Trials Marathon

Today, let’s take a little detour from Allen’s road to Boston and talk about the US Olympic Trials, which are happening in Houston, even as I type.  3 of my friends – Caitlin Chrisman, Meagan Nedlo, and Megan Hovis – are competing and all should be finishing their first of three 8-mile loops just about now.

Everyone in this picture, except me, is in Houston today for the trials. From left to right: Jordan Kinley (in Houston as Meagan's coach), Meagan Nedlo (Olympic Trials qualifier), Mark Hadley (coach), yours truly (Olympic Trials blogger), Caitlin Chrisman(Olympic Trials qualifier).

I don't have a picture of all of us together so Megan gets her own shot. I snapped this after the Myrtle Beach half when a bunch of us went to play mini-golf.

1996 

The last time one of my friends ran in the US Olympic Trials marathon, was in 1996.  I’m not sure how I found out – I hadn’t talked to him in years – but somehow I learned that one of my former UNC teammates, Chuck Lotz, had qualified for the trials in the marathon, which was being run in Charlotte.

At the time, I lived on McAlway Road, just off Randolph which covered some of the last, hilly, miles of the course.  If my memory serves me correctly, the race was televised live in those days (today the race is tape delayed).  I watched the race on TV until the runners neared Randolph, then I ran down McAlway to where it intersected with Randolph and waited.

Back then, having never run a marathon, I knew very little about the race.  All I knew was that Chuck must have run a pretty fast time to have qualified (I’ve since found out it was 2:19 – not too shabby).  I was a little self-conscious as the only person cheering along this stretch of road – I felt like the runners probably thought I was some kind of Olympian stalker.  Runner after runner came by and I halfheartedly cheered for each and every one of them until I finally spotted Chuck.  Then I screamed loudly for him by name and he looked over, apparently curious about the only cheering guy on Randolph Road.  Again, I felt self-conscious and thought Chuck must be thinking, “Who is that freak?”

But knowing what I know today, with 7 marathons under my belt, I’m pretty sure Chuck was grateful for that lone cheering section past mile 20 on the course.  I, and most marathoners I know, welcome any support during the latter stages of the race.

After Chuck passed, I raced (as much as I could for an out-of-shape guy who hadn’t run in years) back to my place and watched the finish of the race.  It was one of the most inspirational races I’ve ever seen.  Bob Kempainen ran arguably the gutsiest marathon of all time, pun-intended, as he threw up multiple times over the last few miles, and still held on for the victory (see video of him at about the 1-minute mark of this Nike ad).  I love this quote from Keith Brantley, who finished third, “This guy is the toughest human being on the face of the earth.  I would have started crying and stopped.”

Chuck finished in 55th place.  But I was so stoked from seeing him and the other Olympic hopefuls, and especially from Kempainen’s amazing race (read about it here) that I started a little running comeback.  I remember running a few 5k’s, even picking up an age group award or two.  I often wonder if any of my current running friends ran any of those races.  I’ll have to go dig up the scrap book and see if I kept any newspaper clippings and/or some photo proofs – the internet hadn’t taken off yet so race results were only found in the newspaper and race photographers actually sent you physical 1-inch proofs that, if you liked, you could use to order the full-sized photos.

To this day, sometimes when I’m struggling through a marathon, when I just want to quit, I’ll reach deep down into the memory banks and picture Bob actually speeding up while vomiting, after mile 24.  If that’s not motivation, I don’t know what is.

2012

Fast forward to today.  Caitlin, Meagan, and Megan are running through the streets of Houston.  The odds of any of them making the Olympic team are pretty slim – they’re ranked 72nd, 152nd, and 183rd respectively – as only the top 3 head to the Olympics.  But they have a shot – they’re in the race and you never know when somebody might have the race of her life.  It’s worth noting that Megan finished 12th in the 2008 trials, so it’s not that much of a stretch to imagine her finishing 9 slots higher.

Regardless, I’m proud of each of them and I am excited to watch them on national television in a few hours!

Back to Allen’s Road to Boston

Okay, back to your regularly scheduled programming.  T-minus 14 weeks to go until Boston.  I’m using a Coach Brad Hudson plan, which is heavy on progression and fartlek runs, and incorporates a lot of hill sprints.  I’m still battling through the Achilles and stomach issues, but I’m back up to 30+ miles a week.

Boston is my Olympic Trials.  I may not PR, but I’m finally starting to feel optimistic that I’ll at least be fit enough to complete the Boston Marathon 14 weeks from now.  Man, it’s getting close!    I’m very curious to see what happens between now and then – I hope it includes some miraculous healing and some huge gains in fitness!  Stay tuned as we travel this road together!

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