At some point between 2008 and now I decided that I was going to make a go at hitting the Olympic trials qualifying standard in the marathon. I was fortunate to run Boston in 2008 and be on the sidelines watching the Olympic Trials and it was obviously inspiring. Since then at points I have literally been eating, sleeping, dreaming, running with OTQ on the brain. It definitely got out of hand but I never lost my passion for it and it has been this amazing pursuit to share with a ton of other fabulous women.
At Cleveland this year I was made aware of "Miles & Trials"and it has been fascinating to follow other women as they trained for and raced towards a sub 2:46. Though there are a few more days left to qualify CIM is pretty much recognized as the "last chance" to get into the trials, and wow it looks like it was an amazing race to be a part of. 25 women qualified and looking at the splits you can see that a group as large as 50+ really worked together throughout most of the race. This is something you really don't see very often around that level and it gives me hope.
I've found that for me the OTQ pursuit brought out some of my better and some of my less positive traits. At some point this year it had literally sucked the life out of me. I was this shell of a person who used to be this positive over the top bundle of excitement. I was worn out, I was frustrated, I was resentful, I was sad. But along the way I also found out that I love running fast, that I love pushing myself, that I am faster than I would have ever dreamed possible.
It has been interesting to watch and share this experience with so many other women. I think around 200 have officially qualified, and I am sure there are just as many, like me, that missed out by a few minutes or more in the pursuit. I thought that after CIM I might be sad to have to acknowledge that this was one goal I didn't achieve. But the truth is that, for me, the excitement was in the pursuit. It was an avenue for pushing myself to be better than I thought was possible. And though I didn't achieve the time, I most certainly have become a better runner, a better racer, and a better person from the journey.
I've learned that while being "sub-elite" or "elite" sounds very exciting, it comes with it's drawbacks. I learned that my competitive nature can get the best of me in an all fast female field. That I am not immune to racing like an idiot. I also learned that really these races are about the top 3 and I have no delusions of going to the Olympics or even being the best marathoner in a 30 mile radius, and I am not sure that had I qualified that the trials would be the racing experience I even desire right now in my running career. I think what Boston, Cleveland, and Indy Half showed me was that I don't particularly enjoy running someone else's race, and that if I want to run in a women's only field my race will be a lonely one as I watch the real elites run away and I pray there are a few like me to work with (and most times there aren't). (And the truth is I like racing men!)
And though I have figured that out, it doesn't mean that the OTQ isn't still inspiring deep down in my soul. I loved this note from a Miles and Trials fan to the movie director:
"I have a great belief in the content of this film. For me, the training and struggles for the amateur runner at this level are inspiring. Not that it is easy for athletes at any level, especially in the sport of running, but I have always been taken with this particular level of runner, male or female. I consider myself fortunate to be close friends with many. These are people who train as hard as any athlete I know and yet, if they receive sponsorship, it is minimal, their costs for training/travel/racing are typically their own, and ultimately the payoff is little more than self-satisfaction of their own achievement. They do not run to qualify for the Olympic Team, some do not even run to be in the Top Ten. Most run just to make the Trials and, as we well know, some of them train for years and never quite make even that. For me, this segment of athlete has always been, always will be, the true heart of amateur athletics."
It really has been fascinating to be a part of this amazing group of women who are at the cusp of sub 2:50 and trying for more. It has been entertaining to watch girls dream big that really have no shot, and to see the few of them that took a big chance and ended up running the race of their lives because of their bravado. And it has been heartbreaking to watch girls who had all the talent, put in all the time, but just couldn't line it up on the day. It really is amazing how many awesome runners made so many stupid or crazy decisions this year in pursuit of the OTQ. It has definitely been an eye opener for me into the mindset of a semi competitive female runner.
Congratulations to all the ladies who made it! I am really hoping I can line up the funds to get down there and cheer my ass off. So many rocking Ohio ladies are going to be running. And my epiphany at the finish at Philly really was that while sub 2:46 may be achievable for me, it is no joke. These girls had to have the talent, they had to have the drive, they had to put in the work, they had to stay injury free, they had to keep mentally healthy, they had to choose the right course, and the stars had to align a bit. The truth is the marathon is tricky and it can humble even the best of runners. So to have the patience and confidence to get it done is no small feat. These girls did an amazing thing and I hope they all revel in how awesome it is.
I have no idea what my body will give me as I head into my 30s. I have no idea if this was my peak and I will remain forever a 2:49 marathoner. But I have high hopes that in the pursuit of better I will learn more about myself as a runner and that I will have many many highlights in the future. So I am closing the door on a 2012 OTQ, but still have high hopes of getting faster when I start chasing the 2016 OTQ!