The U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials are tomorrow. The race, for both the men and the women, is in Atlanta, and NBC will be broadcasting it at 12:00 pm ET.
But why do we care? Why are hundreds/thousands of runners so excited by this event, and why should non-runners even pause for a second to acknowledge its existence?
Well, there are the numbers. The Trials this year boast more competitors — especially on the women’s side, which has an enormous record number of entrants — than any previous year. When has American distance running had such depth of talent??
There’s also the competition. Will the actual Olympic Marathon this summer have as many athletes of such similar talent, with such similar chances to win? Maybe. Maybe.
But there are other things. Like the fact that there’s a handful or two of favorites, but who will actually land in the top three and secure a trip to Tokyo is anyone’s — anyone’s— guess. If memory serves correctly, that hasn’t happened in a while, and it illustrates the democracy of running beautifully. Everyone’s been working hard, and everyone could have a great day or a wretched day. Few other sports have such heart-wrenching, awe-inspiring equality.
And there are so many compelling stories. Stories of marathon veterans, of pros who have been grinding for years, of newer marathoners who shocked themselves and changed their own lives by qualifying for this race, of moms who refuse to believe that motherhood = erasure of self, of runners who barely call themselves runners because they wear so many other hats.
I LOVE IT.
I love the stories. I love the images of “random” people hurling themselves across the finish lines of their qualifying races. I love the fact that if the Trials themselves are someone’s goal race, it doesn’t mean they aren’t going into this like Rocky Balboa. I love cheering for veterans and underdogs alike. I love watching people chase their dreams with brutal, simple, unapologetic, unselfconscious intention.
Part of me wishes I could stand on the sidelines in Atlanta, cowbell in hand, hollering lungs good and ready. I won’t be there, but I’ll be watching at home with my family. I’ll cheer. I’ll point at the screen and tell my daughters, tiny as they are, “That’s how you do it.”