Geez. I am just now surviving and breathing post- Olympic Trials Marathon. It was everything- exciting, nervewracking, hot, devastating, and emotional. I laughed, cried, didn't breathe, and screamed so loud that morning. And then felt emotionally hungover after it was all over. Really. It was sooooo very exciting. But it was also extremely devastating and heavy to watch because I know how hard everyone worked to get here- devoting months if not years to this goal, and to see some have a bad day or just be devastated, murdered me.
The race gods were not gracious to the fastest athletes in the nation and it was set to be a blazing day. We got up early that am- 5 am and were on the road by 5:45 am to make SURE we didn't miss even a second of the race. Guys. Legit, I woke up and arrived earlier to a race that wasn't even mine than I EVER do for my own races. But that is neither here nor there. We got up to LA, parked at the Convention Center, and ran over to the start area and ended up right where all the athletes were coming and checking in and then warming up. It was surreal- that all these great athletes were in one place… and that something we have looked forward to for so long was finally here.
We parked our little non-running selves in the shade on a part of the looped course and got ready to cheer everyone on. It was beyond amazing getting to be there in person and to lend whatever emotional support we could give to each of the runners. But it was so tough that we literally just got snapshots of the race instead of seeing the whole thing as the race unfolded (and I'm still kicking myself that I forgot to record the race. ugh). (Side note- if you know how we can watch, LET ME KNOW.)
The men's race started and it was exciting seeing these guys speed away at ridiculous speeds- and then also thinking- good God- it's hot. How are they going to survive for a whole marathon?! The women went off twenty minutes later (poor girls- really having to run later in this heat!) and it was great that every couple minutes we would get to see either the men's or women's field coming through until halfway through the race and they started intermixing.
The race was amazing to watch. Everyone knows the outcome, so I'm not here to recap that. But more to speak to the atmosphere there. Cheering Kara on was like priority #1 in being there. She did incredible. She was always up there and didn't try to go out leading but was sticking it out with the leaders and fighting in the heat. Gosh- anytime she ran by we went nuts. She ran with so much heart, guys. SO MUCH HEART. Every loop that she passed I was just so relieved that she was up there and looked strong & was fighting. The last loop when we saw her coming and she was in fourth on her way to the finish line- I was literally dying not sure how it would unfold. It was torture waiting for the results. It was the most heartbreaking thing finding out she came in 4th- but I am so incredibly proud of the woman who put herself to the position where she was able to fight that valiantly for a spot for the Olympics and just barely miss it. She was the athlete that we have known her to be- stronger for going through all of the physical setbacks that have no doubt taken an emotional toll. She fought through all of that and got herself into the shape where she was able to fight that hard for the Team. I am proud of the athlete that was so willing to put herself on the line and be vulnerable in front of a huge audience. She did us proud. And I'm rooting for her going into a pursuit of a 10k spot.
I think what makes her special- and her story that much more impactful is how far she may have been from her previous levels of fitness when she set out the goal for Olympic Trials. There were injuries, critics, and self-doubt that could easily have persuaded her that MAYBE that was just too tough a goal or too far out of reach. As everyday runners, we deal with that on our own level. Things that ultimately want to snuff out any chance/hope we have at going after big dreams. Maybe it's been years since you've been at your peak fitness, or you are struggling to come back from injury, or you think your goal is just too far out of reach. But you know, if you don't go after them because you have already suffocated them with doubt and fear, you already know the outcome, right?! I think what I love the most is that she had a dream, and she gave it oxygen/life and let it breathe. She breathed life into her dream- and then followed through with ALL of the action everyday to breathe further life into it and make it real. And she did it. She didn't get a spot on the team, but she was right there- competing and legitimately fighting for that spot. So I'm just so proud that she put herself in that place - and then after that- you know, it's up to the day what happens. She is such a role model in inspiring me to do what it takes to make my dreams a reality- in the face of any type of physical or emotional discouragement that I may be facing. She is so brave.
Another athlete that had a tough day that I was so cheering for was Fernando Cabada, with the 8th fastest time going into the race. It wasn't his day and I know the brutal heat didn't help. But he stayed in the race, even when the results weren't what he was hoping for. I just feel like that is so brave & character-building. I have SOOOOO much respect for someone who knows their day has turned a bit ugly, but who fights to the end. Good things & faster days to come for him as well! Regardless- it's a privilege to be in this amazing field- no matter how the day turned out. What an honor to even be able to compete.
The heat really made this race such a wildcard. We would watch and all of a sudden be like- have you seen this person lately? Did they drop? Just made everything so much more unexpected. To watch these athletes battle fatigue, heat, and the sun in the middle of the day was inspiring. The work that each of these athletes put in to qualify and then to even toe the line is ridiculous. So thankful we had the opportunity to be here and support these guys in their big dreams. Gosh. So so hard to see the day turn out to be so rough/disappointing for so many people. And just a reminder that no one is immune from the heartbreak that running can bring- and it can be oh soooo heartbreaking. But I think the hope for a better day is what makes it all so beautiful too. I've known the disappointing/soul-crushing days- but have also seen how absolutely euphoric it can be when your day is magic- and that's what keeps you at it. ;-)
I think watching the trials- and seeing the heartbreak- actually helped me release some of my anxiety for Tokyo. Sounds counterintuitive, I know. But hear me out. I guess just seeing that bad days LITERALLY happen to everyone, even when you prepared to the max and did everything possible to make your day great, helped me to release the things out of my control and accept whatever will happen on February 28th. Gosh, I hope it's a good day. I feel like I am overdue for one of those. But you know, if it's not, LIFE GOES ON. My running goes on. I have literally done everything within my power to prepare for a great race. And that, my friends, is all I can do. The rest I leave up to God.
Tokyo is 6 days away...