Competitor.com http://running.competitor.com Your Online Source for Running Sun, 14 Feb 2016 14:47:40 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.3.1 Sweet Redemption: Amy Cragg Wins U.S. Olympic Trials Marathon http://running.competitor.com/2016/02/olympic-trials/u-s-olympic-trials-marathon-womens-race-recap_145166 http://running.competitor.com/2016/02/olympic-trials/u-s-olympic-trials-marathon-womens-race-recap_145166#comments Sun, 14 Feb 2016 00:50:15 +0000 http://running.competitor.com/?p=145166

Photo: PhotoRun.net

LOS ANGELES—The women’s field at the 2016 U.S. Olympic Trials Marathon ran a hard race in the brutal and relentless Los Angeles heat.

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Photo: PhotoRun.net

LOS ANGELES—The women’s field at the 2016 U.S. Olympic Trials Marathon ran a hard race in the brutal and relentless Los Angeles heat. In the end, the runner who finished one spot shy of the podium at the 2012 Trials got her redemption in 2016: Amy Cragg, who won Saturday’s race in 2:28:20.

Desiree Linden stormed from behind to take second, and Shalane Flanagan placed third to round out the U.S. team that will compete in the Rio de Janeiro Olympics in August.

Within the first 5 miles, after the gun had gone off at 10:22 a.m., Cragg and Flanagan immediately took to the front of the pack and showcased a strong stride, fluctuating from a steady 5:37- to 5:50-mile pace. From the onset and for much of the race thereafter, it was obvious that the two Nike teammates who trained together through the build-up had dialed in their strategy to work together and grab two of the three spots for the Olympic team.

At mile 10, Flanagan and Cragg surged ahead of the group, leaving other top contenders such as Linden, Kara Goucher, Kellyn Taylor and Serena Burla behind.

It wasn’t until mile 25 when Flanagan started to lose steam and feel the heat. Cragg did what she could to talk her training partner through the rough patch and seeing Flanagan overheat, grabbed her a water bottle to pour over her head. Eventually, though, she had to leave Flanagan behind.

“With about a mile to go, I was keeping an eye on Des and I knew Kara wasn’t far behind her,” the 32-year-old Cragg recalled. “And I knew that was not a position I wanted to be in—the third/fourth position. Then I saw Des coming up and that’s when I decided I really needed to make a move, so I went forward.”

Cragg, who made the 2012 U.S. Olympic team in the 10,000-meter run, crossed the finish line victoriously in 2:28:20 and earned the $80,000 first-place prize check.

Linden passed Flanagan and raced ahead to take second in 2:28:54, running into Cragg’s arms.

“That was the toughest 26.2 miles ever,” said the 32-year-old Linden after the race. “It felt longer.”

An exhausted and overheated Flanagan then appeared around the final turn, falling across the finish line in third place and into Cragg’s embrace. Her time was 2:29:19.

RELATED: 2016 U.S. Olympic Trials Top 10 Finishers

“Sweet baby Jesus, I am so thankful for her,” Flanagan said of Cragg’s support through the final miles.

Needing immediate medical attention, Flanagan was swept out of Cragg’s arms and taken to the med tent. She gave a brief statement after the post-race press conference that she was unable to attend, saying “That was the hardest marathon I’ve probably run in terms of the last 6 miles being the hardest. I just got done getting an IV and I’ve never had one of those before. Clearly it took a toll on me today and it was a fight to make the team.”

Flanagan also added how she’ll need to work on her fueling in Rio de Janeiro, where it could exhibit even hotter and more humid temperatures. Temperatures ranged from 67 degrees at the start of Saturday’s race to 78 degrees near the finish, on a course with little to no shade.

PHOTOS: 2016 U.S. Olympic Trials Marathon

Besides the top three finishers heading to the Olympics, the rest of the field put up a good fight as well. Kellyn Taylor, a 29-year-old firefighter-in-training from Flagstaff, Ariz., positioned herself in third next to Flanagan and Cragg during the first 10K. She ended up finishing sixth in 2:32:50.

Throughout the first half of the race, Goucher seemed to settle somewhere in the middle of the lead pack with Sara Hall and Serena Burla. Occasionally, she broke wide of the group and surged up to third to catch Linden, but couldn’t hold it. Goucher finished fourth in 2:30:24, narrowly missing her third U.S. Olympic team berth.

Burla, a cancer survivor and mother from Washington, D.C., placed eighth in 2:34:22.

“If you made mistakes early, especially in the heat,” Linden said, “they’re magnified during the last miles.”

PHOTOS: Scenes from the 2016 U.S. Olympic Trials Marathon Course

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Galen Rupp Sizzles In Marathon Debut at U.S. Olympic Trials http://running.competitor.com/2016/02/olympic-trials/galen-rupp-sizzles-in-marathon-debut-at-u-s-olympic-trials_145091 http://running.competitor.com/2016/02/olympic-trials/galen-rupp-sizzles-in-marathon-debut-at-u-s-olympic-trials_145091#comments Sun, 14 Feb 2016 00:14:36 +0000 http://running.competitor.com/?p=145091

In his debut at 26.2 miles, Galen Rupp ran away with the 2016 U.S. Olympic Trials Marathon, crossing the finish line in 2:11:12. Photo: Ryan Bethke

Rupp, Meb Keflezighi and Jared Ward round out the U.S. Olympic marathon team that will compete in Rio.

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In his debut at 26.2 miles, Galen Rupp ran away with the 2016 U.S. Olympic Trials Marathon, crossing the finish line in 2:11:12. Photo: Ryan Bethke

LOS ANGELES—Beginner’s luck, rookie success, or whatever you want to call it, the first time was the charm for Galen Rupp on Saturday at the U.S. Olympic Trials Marathon in toasty downtown Los Angeles.

Competing in hot, dry conditions, the 29-year-old made his 26.2-mile debut a memorable one, running away from defending Trials champion Meb Keflezighi over the final 4 miles to win in 2 hours, 11 minutes and 12 seconds. Keflezighi held on for second in 2:12:20 while Jared Ward, who won last year’s U.S. marathon title, was third in 2:13:00 to round out the U.S. team that will compete in the Rio de Janeiro Olympics in August.

“I’m very excited with the way it went,” Rupp said after the race. “It’s always a tremendous honor to represent the United States. It’s the greatest honor on Earth. I’m so happy to be able to make my debut here and to be able to win was unbelievable. I’m so honored to be going to the Olympics.”

RELATED: 2016 U.S. Olympic Trials Marathon Top 10 Finishers

Rupp, who bided his time early and stayed tucked in amongst the lead pack, came through halfway with the leaders in 1:06:31. He stayed alongside Keflezighi when 2014 U.S. marathon champion Tyler Pennel opened up a slight gap after the 16-mile mark. By Mile 17, Keflezighi, Rupp and Pennel were running together again, but a 4:46 19th mile and 4:54 20th mile proved too much for Pennel.

“Tyler made that race,” Keflezighi said in the post-race press conference. “It was a good change of pace.”

Ward, who caught Pennel at Mile 21, concurred, saying that Pennel’s move caused him a slight bit of panic.

“When Tyler made that move, and Meb and Rupp went with him, I thought that’s a hard move,” Ward said. “If they can make it, I’m not going to catch them. So I went as fast as I could and I ran 4:50 that mile, and I’m sure that was my fastest mile. It was just hang on and I saw Tyler coming back and when I caught him, that was an adrenaline rush.”

PHOTOS: 2016 U.S. Olympic Trials Marathon

At the front, Rupp and Keflezighi ran together in tight quarters, and at several points over the next couple miles, Keflezighi was seen signaling to Rupp to give him some space.

“It’s not a track, the road is open,” Keflezighi said after the race, admitting it wasn’t a friendly conversation out on the roads.

Keflezighi was visibly pressing at mile 20, the strain on his face apparent in his effort to shake the lanky, long-striding Rupp. Just past the 22-mile mark, the marathon debutant decided it was time to put his foot on the gas, pulling away from his 40-year-old opponent with a hard 4:47 split to Keflezighi’s 5:05.

“At the beginning I was just trying to conserve as much energy as possible,” Rupp explained after the race. “After halfway, I thought I needed to cover every move. I didn’t know how my legs were going to feel those last few miles.”

Covering his last 3 miles in 4:52, 4:47 and 5:01, Rupp ran the second half of the race in 1:04:41, a near two-minute negative split on a day that was 66 degrees at the start of the race and 78 by the time all was said and done.

“Running with him, hopefully we gave the crowd some excitement,” the ever-gracious Keflezighi said after the race. “He gave a great effort and was great at the end. I’d like to congratulate him. I’m his teammate going to Rio.”

Ward, who wrote his masters thesis on optimal pacing strategies for the marathon, ran just 4 seconds off his personal best of 2:12:56, which he set at last year’s L.A. Marathon in similarly warm conditions.

“Eight hundred meters to go was the hardest thing of my life,” said Ward, who ran first and second half splits of 1:06:31 and 1:06:29 on Saturday. “With 600 meters to go, I started singing that song and changing the words. I said, ‘do it for your momma, do it for your wife, do it for your kids and do it for your life.’ It was just enough and that was the end of it.”

In winning the race, Rupp earned an $80,000 paycheck and secured his third U.S. Olympic team berth, having also made the team in the 10,000-meter run for the 2008 Olympics in Beijing and the 5,000 and 10,000 for the 2012 Olympics in London.

The silver medalist in the 10,000 in London, Rupp said he still considers that race his best event. He said he wants to compete in the World Indoor Track & Field Championships next month in his hometown of Portland, Ore., and has talked about attempting a 10,000/marathon double in this summer’s Olympics.

“I didn’t want to get ahead of myself, and everything leading up to this was all about the marathon,” he said. “I think that the double, with the way the schedule is, is a real possibility.

“This is kind of an interesting build-up because I definitely want to come back and try to run World Indoors in my hometown of Portland, Oregon. We had to do the marathon stuff. I had to do enough speed work to enable me to be able to come back after this and to continue to sprint I didn’t want to start from scratch with that. I think that the double in Rio is certainly possible. There’s a lot of time between the 10K and the marathon. The 10K is the shorter event. If the marathon were first, it would pretty much be impossible to double like that.”

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Photos: 2016 U.S. Olympic Trials Marathon http://running.competitor.com/2016/02/photos/2016-olympic-trials-marathon-photos_145078 http://running.competitor.com/2016/02/photos/2016-olympic-trials-marathon-photos_145078#comments Sun, 14 Feb 2016 00:13:11 +0000 http://running.competitor.com/?p=145078

A hot day in Los Angeles had a big impact on U.S. Olympic Trials marathon competitors. In the end, Galen Rupp and Amy Cragg prevailed and

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A hot day in Los Angeles had a big impact on U.S. Olympic Trials marathon competitors. In the end, Galen Rupp and Amy Cragg prevailed and won the race, with Meb Keflezighi, Jared Ward, Desiree Linden and Shalane Flanagan also securing Olympic bids.

RELATED: On to Rio! Galen Rupp, Amy Cragg Win U.S. Olympic Trials Marathon

Here are photos from the race, taken by Ryan Bethke, Brian Metzler and PhotoRun.net:

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Photos: Scenes From the U.S. Olympic Trials Course http://running.competitor.com/2016/02/photos/photos-scenes-from-the-u-s-olympic-trials-course_145090 http://running.competitor.com/2016/02/photos/photos-scenes-from-the-u-s-olympic-trials-course_145090#comments Sun, 14 Feb 2016 00:06:10 +0000 http://running.competitor.com/?p=145090

It was a festive day in downtown Los Angeles as thousands lined the streets for the U.S. Olympic Trials marathon. Here are some photos

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It was a festive day in downtown Los Angeles as thousands lined the streets for the U.S. Olympic Trials marathon. Here are some photos capturing the atmosphere surrounding the race.

RELATED: On to Rio! Galen Rupp, Amy Cragg Win Olympic Trials Marathon

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2016 U.S. Olympic Trials Marathon Top 10 Finishers http://running.competitor.com/2016/02/olympic-trials/results-at-the-2016-u-s-olympic-trials-marathon_145065 http://running.competitor.com/2016/02/olympic-trials/results-at-the-2016-u-s-olympic-trials-marathon_145065#comments Sat, 13 Feb 2016 21:47:55 +0000 http://running.competitor.com/?p=145065

Photo: Ryan Bethke

The top 10 in both the men's and women's races.

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Photo: Ryan Bethke

Here’s how the top 10 men and women fared at the 2016 U.S. Olympic Trials Marathon.

RELATED: On to Rio! Rupp, Cragg Win U.S. Olympic Trials Marathon

RELATED: Photos: 2016 U.S. Olympic Trials Marathon

MEN
1. Galen Rupp, 2:11:12, $80,000
2. Meb Keflezighi, 2:12:20, $65,000
3. Jared Ward, 2:13:00, $55,000
4. Luke Puskedra, 2:14:12, $25,000
5. Tyler Pennel, 2:14:57, $20,000
6. Matthew Llano, 2:15:16, $15,000
7. Shadrack Biwott, 2:15:23, $13,000
8. Patrick Smyth, 2:15:26, $11,000
9. Sean Quigley, 2:15:52, $9,000
10. Nick Arciniaga, 2:16:25, $7,000

WOMEN
1. Amy Cragg, 2:28:20, $80,000
2. Desiree Linden, 2:28:54, $65,000
3. Shalane Flanagan, 2:29:19, $55,000
4. Kara Goucher, 2:30:24, $25,000
5. Janet Bawcom, 2:31:14, $20,000
6. Kellyn Taylor, 2:32:50, $15,000
7. Maegan Krifchin, 2:33:28, $11,000
8. Serena Burla, 2:34:22, $11,000
9. Katja Goldring, 2:35:21, $9,000
10. Alia Gray, 2:35:47, $7,000

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On to Rio! Galen Rupp, Amy Cragg Win U.S. Olympic Trials Marathon http://running.competitor.com/2016/02/olympic-trials/on-to-rio-rupp-cragg-win-olympic-trials-marathon_145044 http://running.competitor.com/2016/02/olympic-trials/on-to-rio-rupp-cragg-win-olympic-trials-marathon_145044#comments Sat, 13 Feb 2016 20:57:12 +0000 http://running.competitor.com/?p=145044

Photos: Ryan Bethke

LOS ANGELES — The 2016 U.S. Olympic team for the marathon is set. Under warm conditions in downtown Los Angeles, six runners emerged at

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Photos: Ryan Bethke

LOS ANGELES — The 2016 U.S. Olympic team for the marathon is set.

Under warm conditions in downtown Los Angeles, six runners emerged at the U.S. Olympic Trials marathon and will represent the U.S. at the Olympic Games this summer. In the men’s race, Galen Rupp, Meb Keflezighi and Jared Ward got the cherished podium spots, while Amy Cragg, Desiree Linden and Shalane Flanagan finished 1-2-3 in the women’s race.

RELATED: Photos: 2016 Olympic Trials Marathon

Both races had impressive surges to spread out the field. Flanagan and Cragg took off at about mile 10 and broke away together, looking relaxed as they fed off each other and widened their lead. Their podium spots were theirs to lose after the half marathon split, though Flanagan struggled late and had to hang on. Linden, meanwhile, used the final 10K of the race to claw back into contention.

Cragg and Flanagan are training partners who did almost every workout together leading up to the Trials, including a training run at the Rock ‘n’ Roll San Antonio Half Marathon. It’s a partnership they’ve both cherished, and it was obvious throughout the race that they preferred staying together.

It wasn’t until Flanagan hit a wall at mile 25 that Cragg left her behind to take control of the race. Cragg won the race in 2:28:20. Linden ended up catching Flanagan in the final mile to finish second in 2:28:54, while an exhausted Flanagan finished third in 2:29:19, collapsing into Cragg’s arms at the finish line.

“Sweet baby Jesus I’m so thankful for her,” Flanagan said of Cragg after the race.

Kara Goucher finished fourth in 2:30:24, with Janet Bawcom (2:31:14) rounding out the top five.

RELATED: 2016 U.S. Olympic Trials Top 10 Finishers

On the men’s side, Keflezighi and Rupp surged ahead at about mile 18, breaking away from Tyler Pennell and taking control. Rupp further broke away from Keflezighi at mile 22, and showed the impressive speed that made him silver medalist in the 10,000m at the 2012 Olympics. He finished in 2:11:12, more than a minute ahead of anyone else. He crossed the finish line with a smile and a pump of the fist.

Keflezighi finished second, waving an American flag, in 2:12:20. Ward eventually caught Pennell and made his first Olympic team, crossing in 2:13:00. Luke Puskedra finished fourth, Pennell fifth.

While the Olympic team spots are the ultimate prize, there was also $600,000 passed out Saturday. Rupp and Cragg get $80,000 for winning, Keflezighi and Linden get $65,000 for second place and Ward and Flanagan will get $55,000 for third place. In all the top 10 places paid out.

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How to Watch the 2016 U.S. Olympic Trials Marathon http://running.competitor.com/2016/02/olympic-trials/how-to-watch-the-2016-u-s-olympic-trials-marathon_144478 http://running.competitor.com/2016/02/olympic-trials/how-to-watch-the-2016-u-s-olympic-trials-marathon_144478#comments Sat, 13 Feb 2016 07:32:42 +0000 http://running.competitor.com/?p=144478

Photo: PhotoRun.net

A look at your options for watching the Olympic Trials marathon.

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Photo: PhotoRun.net

Coverage of the U.S. Olympic Trials Marathon is better than it’s ever been in 2016. For the first time, both races will air live on network television, in addition to streaming options, through NBC.

Television

NBC will have three hours of live coverage beginning at 10 a.m. PT on Saturday, Feb. 13 (1 p.m. ET). The men’s race will start at 10:06 a.m. in Los Angeles, with the women taking off at 10:22 a.m. Tom Hammond will host the broadcast and be joined by Tim Hutchings, Lewis Johnson and Carrie Tollefson.

Online

NBC will also live stream the race via the free NBC Sports Live Extra app. You can download the app for free to your smartphone or tablet, and it’s also on platforms like Apple TV and Amazon Fire TV. To access the content, you need to provide login credentials from your television provider. On web browsers, the stream is available at nbcsports.com/live-extra.

In Person

If you’re going to be spectating in Los Angeles, the course setup assures that you’ll see a lot of action. You can line up in one spot along the Figueroa Street Corridor and see the runners pass several times in the span of two-plus hours. The start and finish is in downtown next to the LA Convention Center. A bulk of the race is along Figueroa Street between 11th and 34th Street.

Attendance is free. Inside the LA Convention Center is the health & fitness expo for the next day’s Los Angeles Marathon. It is free and open to the public as well.

RELATED: More U.S. Olympic Trials Coverage From Competitor.com

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The Inside Lane: What’s Rupp Got To Do With It? http://running.competitor.com/2016/02/olympic-trials/the-inside-lane-whats-rupp-got-to-do-with-it_145035 http://running.competitor.com/2016/02/olympic-trials/the-inside-lane-whats-rupp-got-to-do-with-it_145035#comments Sat, 13 Feb 2016 00:51:39 +0000 http://running.competitor.com/?p=145035

It remains to be seen how Galen Rupp's presence will affect the men's race on Saturday. Photo: PhotoRun.net

The 29-year-old marathon debutant will change the dynamic of the men's race on Saturday.

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It remains to be seen how Galen Rupp's presence will affect the men's race on Saturday. Photo: PhotoRun.net

It’s arguably the highest profile debut in American marathoning history, and athletes, fans and casual observers alike are curious to see what effect Olympic 10,000m silver medalist Galen Rupp has on the men’s race at the U.S. Olympic Trials Marathon on Saturday–providing he still plans to take the starting line.

The 29-year-old Nike Oregon Project athlete hasn’t had any pre-race media availability in Los Angeles, but he has been spotted making his way through the lobby of the J.W. Marriott next to L.A. Live, just a block from the race’s start-finish line area. By all accounts, Rupp appears ready to race, but there’s been speculation as to whether or not he’ll be a last-minute scratch due to the less-than-ideal weather conditions forecasted for Saturday.

So why would Rupp, who announced his plans to participate in the Trials on Jan. 28 in an exclusive USATF.TV-produced interview, not race at the Trials? It mostly comes down to risk. Obviously, an Olympic berth is the grand prize at stake on Saturday, not to mention a fairly sizable payday for finishing in the top-three and potential sponsor bonuses, but there’s also a track season right around the corner (including the World Indoor Championships in Portland next month, which Rupp has said he’d like to run), and the Olympic Trials on the track later this summer. If both Rupp and coach Alberto Salazar feel racing a hard marathon on a twisting, mostly concrete course in dry 80-degree temps would compromise his track goals later in the year—Rupp said his main focus for 2016 remains the 10,000m—I think there’s an outside chance Team Rupp cuts its losses at the last minute and scratches in order to refocus on his track goals over the next few months.

But let’s say he doesn’t. What does Rupp’s participation do for the men’s race?

From a fan’s perspective, it brings the excitement meter up a notch on what was already shaping up to be an awesome event. “How will Rupp handle the marathon?” is a question many people can’t wait to see answered. For the other top contenders, it changes the dynamic of the race in a serious way. Rupp racing means there’s another viable—and most importantly, unpredictable—threat to keep a close eye on for a couple hours on Saturday. Despite this being Rupp’s first marathon, he’s got the tools and the resume to contend not only for one of the three spots on the team, but also for the win. That’s rare for a debutant, especially at such a high-profile event with an Olympic berth on the line. Rupp’s presence will force the other runners to think a little harder about how they’ll handle a slow, strategic race. It’s hard to know what other racers are thinking, but I’m quite confident that the last thing anyone fighting for a podium spot wants with a 26:44 10,000m runner in the mix is a 20-mile warmup with a 10K race at the end of it.

So how will the race will play out? That remains to be seen, but given the conditions, the course and the competition, I expect it to be a slugfest from the start, with an honest tempo and a fair amount of surges thrown in from the early going in order to separate the contenders from the pretenders. Rupp certainly won’t be the only runner the other athletes are thinking about as they run lap after lap under a blazing hot Southern California sun on Saturday, but the longer the pace lags, the better the chances he’ll have the legs to blitz the final 10K—and no one who thinks they have a shot at finishing in the top three will want anything to do with it.

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Memorable Quotes From Top Athletes Before the U.S. Olympic Trials http://running.competitor.com/2016/02/olympic-trials/memorable-quotes-from-top-athletes-before-the-u-s-olympic-trials_145025 http://running.competitor.com/2016/02/olympic-trials/memorable-quotes-from-top-athletes-before-the-u-s-olympic-trials_145025#comments Sat, 13 Feb 2016 00:37:16 +0000 http://running.competitor.com/?p=145025

Photo: Ryan Bethke

Heading into the 2016 U.S. Olympic Trials Marathon, the energy in downtown Los Angeles is abuzz with elite runners and Olympic

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Photo: Ryan Bethke

Heading into the 2016 U.S. Olympic Trials Marathon, the energy in downtown Los Angeles is abuzz with elite runners and Olympic hopefuls. Back-to-back press conferences with the top men’s and women’s qualifiers have been occurring the couple days before race day on Feb.13, and the general consensus among the athletes we’ve spoken to is that they’re ready and feeling fit. Our staff has collected some of the more memorable quotes in the days leading up to race day from thoughts on how the weekend heat wave will affect the race outcome to individual athlete’s race day strategy.

Thoughts on weather and the course:

“With the heat, whether it’s going to make it more tactical or not, I don’t think anyone is going to try to run away early. But if they do you have to be ready for that. With that being said, it’s going to take a 2:08 effort.” -Luke Puskedra, 2:10:24 qualifying time.

“You know, I think time will be really hard to predict, especially with the heat. And even the course is a little slower in general with all the turns. It’s going to look pretty ugly.” -Annie Bersagel, 2:28:29.

“We’ve had some warm workouts, but nothing like this.” -Shalane Flanagan, 2:21:14.

On what it takes to make the team:

“It’s about closing well, it’s handling that last 10K and being able to finish a marathon and not really just hanging on and getting in.” -Desi Linden, 2:23:54

On running your best race:

“Honestly, the only marathon I got to run my way, was the (2014) Boston Marathon … The marathon definitely keeps you humble.” -Meb Keflezighi, 2:08:37

On training partners:

Within the top three qualifiers, Shalane Flanagan and Amy Cragg have been training together under Nike in Portland, Ore., and Flagstaff, Ariz., and both have a good chance of making the team.

“My training is always enhanced when I share it. Just having the comfort of her [Amy Cragg] next to me running will feel like we’re back in Portland or in Flagstaff doing what we know how to do. And I think having that synergy between us will allow us to stay calm and wait for the right moments to make the crucial decisions.” -Flanagan

“You run that much with someone [Flanagan] and you work so hard with that person and you see them working hard day in and day out. You become just as invested in them as you do yourself. We’re going to get out there and we’re going to work together as much as possible, and honestly just having her there will be a little bit of a comfort.” -Amy Cragg, 2:27:03

On tapering:

“As athletes, as runners, we’re a bit neurotic and we think more is always better, and you just have to trust that you have done enough.” -Flanagan

“And the taper tantrums are real.” -Flanagan

On motivation:

“I wouldn’t have come here if I didn’t feel like I had a chance to fight for it.” -Bersagel

“I’m tired of being the fourth place finisher in the Olympic Trials Marathon.” -Cragg

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Chasing Rio, Part 3: Meb Arrives in L.A. http://running.competitor.com/2016/02/video/chasing-rio-part-3-meb-arrives-in-l-a_145015 http://running.competitor.com/2016/02/video/chasing-rio-part-3-meb-arrives-in-l-a_145015#comments Fri, 12 Feb 2016 19:32:16 +0000 http://running.competitor.com/?p=145015

Meb Keflezighi arrives in Los Angeles, hoping to add another chapter to his legacy.

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The third episode of “Chasing Rio: Meb’s Road to the 2016 U.S. Olympic Trials” presented by the Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon Series follows Meb Keflezighi as he arrives in Los Angeles for the U.S. Olympic Trials marathon. We follow Meb as he goes for a quick run along the course, and also ask those in the running community about the impact Meb has made in the sport during his long career.

Episode 2: Meb’s Support System

Episode 1: Meb’s Quest for Rio

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Full-Time Lawyer Annie Bersagel Has Sights on Rio From L.A. http://running.competitor.com/2016/02/olympic-trials/full-time-lawyer-annie-bersagel-aims-for-rio_144997 http://running.competitor.com/2016/02/olympic-trials/full-time-lawyer-annie-bersagel-aims-for-rio_144997#comments Fri, 12 Feb 2016 19:17:10 +0000 http://running.competitor.com/?p=144997

Annie Bersagel sporting her race bib for the Trials on Saturday, Feb.13 in Los Angeles, at a press meeting. Photo: Emily Polachek

It’s all or nothing for the 32-year-old international lawyer.

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Annie Bersagel sporting her race bib for the Trials on Saturday, Feb.13 in Los Angeles, at a press meeting. Photo: Emily Polachek

Mentally, Annie Bersagel is prepared to toe the line this Saturday and be one of the three women to make the U.S Olympic marathon team headed to Rio de Janeiro. It’s all or nothing for the 32-year-old international lawyer who juggles a full-time job as an advisor for KLP Asset Management in Oslo, Norway, with putting in 130-mile weeks in her spare time.

“I wouldn’t have come here if I didn’t feel like I had a chance to fight for it,” she says confidently about making the team.

And she’s right. Bersagel’s running career has been on the rise ever since her first marathon of 2:44 in 2009, a respectable time that has progressed to a competitive 2:28:29 PR, which she set in winning the Dusseldorf Marathon in 2015. In between, Bersagel won the U.S. Marathon Championships in 2013 and took another victory with a 10-minute PR improvement at the Twin Cities Marathon that same year. She’s also one out of eight women in the Trials field with a sub-2:30 qualifying time. She’s got a shot.

RELATED: Excitement Mounts As Olympic Trials Marathon Fast Approaches

However, like every contender, Bersagel is wary of the physical elements she cannot control on race day. An unusually hot Los Angeles winter day with temperatures predicted to be in the 80s, and a course with multiple hairpin tight turns is not ideal for fast times.

“You know, I think time will be really hard to predict, especially with the heat,” she says. “And even the course is a little slower in general with all the turns. It’s going to look pretty ugly.”

Bersagel had knee surgery last June, and her recovery consisted of a lot of strength and stability exercises that she says she wouldn’t have done as much as before.

“This will be my first marathon since the surgery,” Bersagel says of her recovery. “But I feel I’m as fit as I’ve ever been. All I can do now is put myself in a position to make the top three and just hope that everything will cooperate.”

With a flexible work schedule (Bersagel says she’s been working at 60 percent and sometimes doing conference calls from home in her pajamas) she has been training mostly in her home state of Colorado the past couple months in preparation for the Trials.

You would think that the high mountain air provided some good altitude training, but unlike most of her fellow peers running at the Trials, Bersagel chose to train on a treadmill, especially after coming back from surgery. “I don’t want to take any chances and have my knee injury resurface,” she explains. During icy Oslo winters, she would also often do her long workouts on a treadmill or on the underground indoor track at Bislett Stadium.

Bersagel’s last attempt at making the Olympic marathon team did not fare well. At the 2012 Trials in Houston, she tripped in the first mile, pulled her hamstring and had to drop out of the race early. But this year, she’s looking for redemption.

Along with her agent, both her parents and brother will be supporting her along the course. And whether she does or does not make the team, she’ll be flying back to Norway the day after the race, arriving Monday and returning to a normal workday on Tuesday.

“I’m sure there will be a stack of papers waiting for me in the office when I get back,” she says. “I’ve been away a long time.”

RELATED: How to Watch the 2016 U.S. Olympic Trials Marathon on Feb. 13

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Why Should The Average American Runner Care About the U.S. Olympic Trials Marathon? http://running.competitor.com/2016/02/olympic-trials/average-american-runner-care-u-s-olympic-trials-marathon_144475 http://running.competitor.com/2016/02/olympic-trials/average-american-runner-care-u-s-olympic-trials-marathon_144475#comments Fri, 12 Feb 2016 19:14:35 +0000 http://running.competitor.com/?p=144475

Photo: PhotoRun.net

Olympic Trials qualifier Patrick Rizzo shares his thoughts on how to make the U.S. Olympic Trials Marathon more appealing to everyone.

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Photo: PhotoRun.net

This was an honest question that a friend and I discussed recently. We came up with a lot of answers, but we actually couldn’t come up with a good answer. That’s because the answer isn’t an easy one.

I consider myself a professional runner and I work hard every single day at being one, but it’s a situation made even harder when there’s little or no structure or support system for professionals to thrive. This is my third time competing in the U.S. Olympic Trials Marathon and it’s pretty obvious the sport of competitive running—especially the many disciplines of distance running—needs to change significantly for us to do a better job of marketing ourselves.

Without further ado, here is my proposal to make the U.S. Olympic Trials Marathon more appealing to everyone, including the elite runners ourselves.

RELATED: How to Watch the 2016 U.S. Olympic Trials Marathon on Feb. 13

1. Standardize uniforms.

There should be a standard color uniform associated with each company or sponsored team that agrees to “brand” as its own. People don’t associate with a brand’s identity or jersey color if they change every year. You don’t see other sports change its team jersey’s color year-after year. We need to create identity, not create confusion! Adidas-sponsored runners should have uniforms with its traditional royal blue/yellow; Nike could be purple; ASICS is red; Saucony is orange; Skechers is blue/green; Mizuno is yellow; New Balance is black/white; Newton is lime green with yellow; Oiselle is navy; Brooks is red/yellow/black; Hoka is white/baby blue/yellow; Tracksmith is peach and lavender. Or something like that.

2. Encourage hometown pride.

Make sure the right shoulder of a singlet is reserved for locational identity. There should be a national flag and a state flag. People LOVE to cheer for their home-towners! How awesome would it be to hear otherwise uninformed spectators identifying “the 10 guys from Colorado in the top 20.” It may even get people interested in approaching us and asking if all of us train together in our home state, sparking a conversation with us. (Don’t worry, we’re friendly!)

3. Run it during a major marathon.

I don’t mean the way we are doing it now with the Trials being run a day before the LA Marathon on a special criterium course. I mean we should run it with the race. Not only does this bring in a bigger crowd, it also brings down the LOC’s cost to host the event. They can replace, once every four years, the international field with an American-only invited field. The roads will already be closed, the police getting paid, the prize money up for grabs, and the infrastructure in place. Let’s let the LOC off the hook for footing the bill, USATF!

4. Broadcast, webcast and live Tweet updates in real-time!

Our sport still runs its media program like it’s 1896. The modes of broadcast have evolved a long way since the rules of track and field were written; the business model hasn’t changed. We have a product to sell and both passionate fans and casual fans who are interested in watching races, if we can make it easy for them to see it. This is a sport with PhDs, neuroscience majors, nuclear engineers, teachers, and other interesting and intelligent people. We can turn the athletes’ life stories into relatable stories.

On that note, don’t cut out video coverage every time a break is being made! Place commercials heavier in the earlier part of the broadcast and have scrolling sponsor marquees the second half of the race. Verbally mention sponsors more and cut away less from the action. You can even sell sponsorship in blocks: “miles 1-6 brought to you by …”

5. Allow more viable business models to the athletes.

We are often most dependent on our local sponsors to survive on a day-to-day basis. When we can’t represent them in our biggest stage, there is a diminished value to them sponsoring us.(We are currently restricted to two logos of 30 square cm each for advertisement on or jerseys.) For example, if I’m sponsored by Lou Malnati’s Pizza in Chicago, how exactly does that logo on my jersey diminish Nike’s banner ads every mile marker? You just may get all 35 Lou’s restaurants in the Chicago vicinity to broadcast the trials in-house and have regional viewing parties with local runners, high school teams and general fans packing those places to cheer on regional runners and national stars. Wouldn’t that be a great new way to generate interest in distance running?

I can understand why most people have no interest in the U.S. Olympic Trials as it currently stands. We’re a tribal society and we don’t show who our tribes are! Can you imagine other sports without geographic followings, brand identities, human-interest stories, and local promotion? They wouldn’t make it either. Would you care about football the same if you couldn’t watch games live, didn’t know where teams were from and you knew the final scores before you ever saw the highlights-only coverage? It would certainly be harder to pour your heart into it.

Why should you care about the upcoming U.S. Olympic Trials Marathon? Because these are the best runners in America, going all-out for a chance to represent the U.S. in this summer’s Olympics. Because this is going to be an era of change in American distance running and you don’t want to miss it. We have ideas and it’s up to us to implement them so this becomes a question of the past.

Recently signed as a Skechers Performance athlete, Patrick Rizzo, 32, is a three-time U.S. Olympic Trials Marathon qualifier from Colorado Springs. He placed 13th in the 2012 U.S. Olympic Trials Marathon in Houston in 2:13:42, which is his PR.

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Video: How Are the Race Tactics Different at the U.S. Olympic Trials Marathon? http://running.competitor.com/2016/02/video/video-how-are-the-race-tactics-different-at-the-olympic-trials-marathon_145006 http://running.competitor.com/2016/02/video/video-how-are-the-race-tactics-different-at-the-olympic-trials-marathon_145006#comments Fri, 12 Feb 2016 18:31:06 +0000 http://running.competitor.com/?p=145006

Photo: PhotoRun.net

Alan Culpepper explains how race strategy changes at the Olympic Trials.

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Photo: PhotoRun.net

The dynamic of the U.S. Olympic Trials marathon are different from any other race—the quest to make the top three, the sheer number of elites and more can completely change the strategy of the runners. We asked Alan Culpepper, the 2004 U.S. Olympic Trials champion, about how the approach of the runners differ in such a different race.

 

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Will the Olympic Trials Marathon Help L.A.’s 2024 Olympic Bid? http://running.competitor.com/2016/02/olympic-trials/will-the-olympic-trials-help-l-a-s-2024-olympic-bid_144990 http://running.competitor.com/2016/02/olympic-trials/will-the-olympic-trials-help-l-a-s-2024-olympic-bid_144990#comments Fri, 12 Feb 2016 07:10:42 +0000 http://running.competitor.com/?p=144990

City officials hope the Trials prove L.A.'s worth to host big-time sporting events.

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Los Angeles mayor Eric Garcetti said all the right things during the kickoff press conference to the U.S. Olympic Trials marathon. But in his mind, this weekend means a lot more than just hosting a high-profile marathon.

Garcetti thinks a smooth weekend with the Trials on Saturday and the Los Angeles Marathon on Sunday could be further proof that the City of Angels is ready for the Olympics again.

“We think we can show off L.A.,” Garcetti said. “We’ve got two back-to-back races, one that has to do with the Olympics and the other a world-class marathon. And then we have the Grammys a night later. It just shows that L.A. is the best stage anywhere on the face of the Earth.”

Los Angeles is currently bidding for the 2024 Olympics, after Boston withdrew their bid from consideration last year. Los Angeles’ bid became official long after the 2016 Olympic Trials committed to the city, but a flawlessly run Trials could just be one more piece of favorable evidence.

Certainly, few cities in the United States can make a stronger case than Los Angeles in terms of facilities. The 1984 Olympics in L.A. were considered a success because the sprawling metropolis already had many existing venues for use, cutting costs and in the end making the Games a profitable venture for the city.

What would be 40 years later in 2024, the same perk of existing venues can be a persuasive point—even if the venues are new or completely upgraded.

While the marathon doesn’t have high demands facility-wise, other venues in Los Angeles could step up for different sports. The Los Angeles Coliseum—where Joan Benoit Samuelson famously wrapped up her gold medal in the marathon in 1984—could be renovated before 2019 as part of a $270 million project proposed by USC.

In addition, the NFL’s Los Angeles Rams will build a new stadium that could be used, as well as existing venues like the StubHub Center in Carson, the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, the Staples Center just steps from the Olympic Trials start/finish area, and venues on the campus of USC and UCLA.

“Eighty-five percent of our venues are already built or are going to be built regardless if we get the Olympics,” Garcetti said.

Garcetti said he will be at the Trials on Saturday—both as a Los Angeles sports fan and a visionary to what his city can do with an even bigger sports stage eight years from now.

“L.A. knows how to get this done. A lot of cities can’t pull that off logistically,” Garcetti said. “This is a sports town. We have great fans, we embrace sports, many athletes live here and logistically we know how to do this.”

The International Olympic Committee will make their decision on the 2024 host city in September 2017. Other cities interested include Rome, Paris and Budapest.

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Bobby Curtis Hoping to Take Advantage of Olympic Trials Opportunity http://running.competitor.com/2016/02/olympic-trials/144987_144987 http://running.competitor.com/2016/02/olympic-trials/144987_144987#comments Fri, 12 Feb 2016 06:22:14 +0000 http://running.competitor.com/?p=144987

Bobby Curtis is ready for his Olympic Trials Marathon debut. Photo: PhotoRun.net

The 31-year-old believes he has what it takes to land on the podium in Los Angeles.

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Bobby Curtis is ready for his Olympic Trials Marathon debut. Photo: PhotoRun.net

(c) 2016 Race Results Weekly, all rights reserved. Used with permission.

LOS ANGELES — Since he won the NCAA 5,000m title in 2008, Bobby Curtis has hovered near the top levels of USA distance running. Although he’s never won an open national title, he’s made it to the IAAF World Cross Country Championships three times, has broken 28-minutes for 10,000m five times, and was the top American at the Bank of America Chicago Marathon in 2014 with a personal best 2:11:20.

But for all of his sweat and toil, the 31 year-old Curtis, originally from Louisville, Ky., has never donned the Team USA uniform for a major track championships. An Olympic team berth has slipped his grasp twice, with a sixth place finish at the USA Olympic Trials 5,000m in 2008, and a 10th place finish in the 10,000m at the Trials in 2012.

Curtis, who runs for the Hansons Brooks Original Distance Project, hopes to change that here on Saturday. Competing in his fourth marathon, and his first Olympic Trials Marathon, Curtis is in his best position ever to take a podium finish in a major domestic championships.

“I think it’s a great point to say that this is the best opportunity to make a team for a lot of distance runners in the U.S.,” Curtis told Race Results Weekly in an interview. “With people dropping out, with people being injured it’s more or less wide open. It’s awesome to have a great shot to make a team and also to be in shape to hopefully capitalize on that.”

Sporting a full beard with gray tips he said came from his marathon debut in New York in 2011 where he struggled home in 2:16:44, Curtis came directly here from Orlando, Fla., where his coaches Kevin and Keith Hanson held their pre-Trials training camp since December 28. The Hansons, Curtis said, had changed his training to be more marathon specific. When he ran New York, he trained like a track runner.

“Honestly, it’s been a process,” said Kevin Hanson in an interview. “Truthfully, I always think that there are a lot of people who attack the marathon from a track mentality, which is what he did. When he came to New York in his debut, he trained like a track guy, and up my mileage by 25 percent and everything will be fine. And he found out that was wrong.”

Off of higher mileage than he has ever run before in training, Curtis feels he now has the strength to compete well on Saturday, especially in the latter stages of the race. As he envisions how the race may play out, he sees a tactical contest with a painful second half.

“I was thinking earlier in the week that it would go out reasonably fast, but I think it’s going to go out like 66 (minutes), and then I think it’s going to be kind of a death march from there,” he said, cracking a sly grin. “People who are prepared and ready for the heat might be able to pick it up a little off of that. And then people who are over their head are going to struggle. That would be my best guess.”

Curtis finds himself competing in one of the most intriguing Trials in American history. In addition to established Olympic marathoners like Meb Keflezighi and Dathan Ritzenhein, the field is spiced up by the marathon debuts of three very strong 10,000m runners: Galen Rupp, Sam Chelanga and Diego Estrada. Those athletes could dictate the early pace, or might hang back, following the marathon veterans.

No matter what the pace, Curtis is focused on a podium finish, getting to Rio and putting on the Team USA uniform for the first time in an Olympic Games. It’s something he’s dreamed about since he started his professional running career eight years ago.

“I think it would be amazing,” he said. “As a runner, it’s the biggest thing you can accomplish. Like you said earlier, I’ve been knocking on the door of that area for eight years now. I had a really disappointing 2012, and I think if I could come back and make this team It would make the last four years totally worth it. It would be an awesome feeling.”

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For the Trials Contenders, There’s Even a Strategy for Water Bottles http://running.competitor.com/2016/02/olympic-trials/144979_144979 http://running.competitor.com/2016/02/olympic-trials/144979_144979#comments Fri, 12 Feb 2016 05:42:12 +0000 http://running.competitor.com/?p=144979

Addie Bracy is making sure her water bottles stand out among the dozens that will be at each table. She's not alone. Photo: Addie Bracy/Instagram

Runners go to great lengths to make sure their fluids are easy to find in a crowded race.

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Addie Bracy is making sure her water bottles stand out among the dozens that will be at each table. She's not alone. Photo: Addie Bracy/Instagram

A championship-style marathon like the U.S. Olympic Trials is full of race strategy and tactics that are deep and layered. But the strategy extends well beyond the two-plus hours out on the looped course in Los Angeles this Saturday.

It even goes into the water bottles that are prepared ahead of time.

“I have been thinking about the fluid situation with the weather, and how it’s going to go with 400 runners, each with eight bottles on a very contained course,” says Becky Wade, a 2:30 marathoner. “It will be interesting.”

Typically, tables are set up about every 5K along a marathon course, giving elites up to eight different spots to have their preferred fluids available. With Saturday’s race having 373 runners who are all elite, the number of runners expected to have their own fluids could make for crowded tables. Wade joked that it’s “the biggest elite fluid operation in the history of the world.”

Runners have to turn in their bottles mid-day Friday, and have been hard at work getting things prepared.

Jared Ward, one of the men’s contenders, grabs a roll of duct tape, a bunch of gels and eight water bottles, and gets to work.

The process is a detailed one for Ward. He will fill the bottles with water and a bit of GLUKOS powder depending on how hot the weather is supposed to be (with warm temperatures expected, Ward’s bottle will be more diluted with water). He will screw the lids on tight, then take six inches of duct tape and stick it to the top tab of the gel. He will then wrap the duct tape around the water bottle, right at the seam where the cap meets the bottle.

Voila. A water bottle with a gel taped to it. The meticulous work has many reasons behind it:

  • With the duct tape pinching the top tab of the gel, he can just rip the gel off the bottle and it’s already open for him to consume.
  • With the duct tape wrapped around the seam between the cap and the bottle, it assures that no one can tamper with his bottle (and he knows his bottle won’t leak if it falls over).

And the gel? “It gives me the flexibility to have a little less concentrated drink in the bottle,” Ward said.

This is how deep the strategy can go for some—but not everyone spends a lot of time on it.

Fernando Cabada, for one, doesn’t put much thought into it.

“I’ve run a marathon in 2:18 drinking water cups,” Cabada said. He will have his eight bottles set up, but “if my training is going good, I don’t need to worry about fluids too much. If I skip a bottle or it falls, I’m not going to (stress about it).”

Desiree Linden posted a photo on social media of her bag, packed with eight Nathan water bottles and four PowerGel Double Latte gels. Alana Hadley tweeted a picture of her bottles, wrapped in a decorative, multi-colored tape with a zig-zag pattern to make it stand out. Addie Bracy taped a flagstick with a mustache flag on her bottles so she can find it with ease.

Ward said he always prepares the maximum amount of bottles allowed, even if he doesn’t use them all. But not everyone thinks that way.

Nick Arciniaga will have black and blue bottles made by his sponsor Under Armour, with a PowerBar mix diluted with water inside. But unlike several others, Arciniaga only takes seven to the race.

“I never put one at the last table,” Arciniaga said. “At that point, I’m racing.”

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Excitement Mounts As Olympic Trials Marathon Fast Approaches http://running.competitor.com/2016/02/olympic-trials/excitement-mounts-as-olympic-trials-marathon-fast-approaches_139476 http://running.competitor.com/2016/02/olympic-trials/excitement-mounts-as-olympic-trials-marathon-fast-approaches_139476#comments Thu, 11 Feb 2016 20:04:03 +0000 http://running.competitor.com/?p=139476

Over 300 men and women will compete at the U.S. Olympic Trials Marathon in February. Photo: PhotoRun.net

The state of American marathoning is strong as excitement builds toward next February's U.S. Olympic Trials.

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Over 300 men and women will compete at the U.S. Olympic Trials Marathon in February. Photo: PhotoRun.net

The 2016 U.S. Olympic Trials Marathon is on Saturday in Los Angeles and speculation about how things might transpire at the front of the field is nearing its peak.

Four members of the 2012 U.S. Olympic marathon team—only Meb Keflezighi for men; Shalane Flanagan, Desiree Linden and Kara Goucher for women—are slated to be on the starting line in L.A., and there’s good reason to believe all of these individuals will be in the mix to punch a ticket to the Olympic Games in Rio later this summer. A record $600,000 in prize money is also up for grabs among the top male and female finishers, with the payouts extending 10 deep on both sides.

Keflezighi returns as the defending champion in the men’s race, and despite the fact that he’ll be 40 years old when he steps to the starting line, there’s no reason not to label him the favorite. His 2:08:37 winning time at Boston in 2014 is the fastest time—and only Major marathon win by an American—in the 2016 qualifying period, and the 2004 Olympic silver medalist has shown very little signs of slowing since joining the Masters ranks in May. He’s coming off a seventh-place finish at the New York City Marathon and also finished eighth (second American behind Dathan Ritzenhein) at the Boston Marathon in April. As long as Keflezighi is on the starting line in L.A., he can’t be counted out.

Two-time Olympian Ryan Hall, runner-up to Keflezighi at the Trials in 2012, announced his retirement on Jan. 15, citing chronically low testosterone levels and persistent injury issues as the reason for his exit from the sport at age 33. Abdi Abdirahman, who held off Ritzenhein in Houston to finish third and qualify for his fourth Olympic team, scratched from the race on Feb 1., after experiencing a setback in training.

RELATED: How to Watch the 2016 U.S. Olympic Trials Marathon on Feb. 13

RELATED: Sizing Up 2016—Who Will Make The Olympic Marathon Team?

The absence of Hall and Abdirahman makes the men’s race a wide-open affair with no less than 15 runners with a legitimate shot of landing on the podium. And while he didn’t make the Olympic marathon team in 2012, it’s worth bringing Ritzenhein into the conversation from the get-go. The 32-year-old three-time Olympian, who finished fourth at the 2012 marathon trials but later made the Olympic team in the 10,000m, is hoping to carry the momentum of a solid 2015 racing campaign into the Olympic year. Ritzenhein’s 2:07:47 clocking at the 2012 Chicago Marathon falls outside the official qualifying window, but he did run 2:09:45 there a year later, making him the only other sub-2:10 qualifier in the field along with Keflezighi. Ritz was the top American at April’s Boston Marathon, where he finished seventh—one spot and over a minute up on Keflezighi. Making his fourth Olympic team and landing a spot on the starting line of the 2016 Olympic Marathon in Rio is high on his priority list.

“I love racing all distances, but there’s something about the Olympic Marathon,” Ritzenhein told the media in a conference call last fall. “The excitement just captivates you and I want to be a part of that real bad.”

Reigning U.S. marathon champion Jared Ward, who also won national titles at the 20K and 25K distances in the past year, doesn’t have one of the fastest personal bests in the field (2:12:56), but he’ll carry the confidence of his recent racing successes with him all the way to the starting line. He also knows what it’s like to race well in hot weather, having triumphed at last years U.S. Marathon Championship in L.A. in toasty conditions similar to what’s forecasted for this weekend.

“Winning the national title gave me a lot of confidence,” Ward admitted. “I loved L.A. and all the people out there. I’m really looking forward to competing at the trials. I see it being hard for someone to be a surprise because the list of guys who have a shot is so long.”

RELATED: Jared Ward Takes Winding Road To Olympic Trials Marathon

The 27-year-old from Provo, Utah thinks the current depth of U.S. marathoning makes for a wide open race, and he’s right. Including himself, there are now 12 men who have run under 2:13 during the Olympic Trials qualifying period, and another seven under 2:14. Luke Puskedra carries the momentum of a fifth-place, 2:10:24 Chicago finish last fall with him to the starting line, and while another sub-2:11 runner, Jeffrey Eggleston, will be looking to elevate their careers to the next level. Ryan Vail, whose 2:10:57 personal best put him amongst the pre-race favorites, announced on Wednesday that he won’t race due to a femoral stress fracture.

The big wildcard on Saturday will be Olympic 10,000m silver medalist Galen Rupp. The 29-year-old made his marathon intentions official on Jan. 29, adding an interesting twist to an already unpredictable men’s race. Rupp, who qualified for the Trials with a solo 1:01:20 half marathon effort at a low-key race in Portland on Dec. 13, will be making his marathon debut.

“It’s definitely a new challenge and it’s a little daunting just because I’ve never done it before,” Rupp said during his announcement on USATF.TV. “It’s such a big step up in distance but I’m really excited to give it a shot and I think with everything we’ve done to prepare me that it’s going to turn out alright.”

Also worth considering are Diego Estrada, who won last year’s U.S. half-marathon championship in 60:51 and will be making his marathon debut at the Trials, and 2:14 marathoner Tim Ritchie, who just blew away the field at the Rock ‘n’ Roll Philadelphia Half Marathon with a massive 1:01:22 personal best. While a fast half marathon doesn’t always translate to instant success over 26.2 miles, if someone like Estrada is still in the mix with a few miles to go, watch out. There’s also new U.S. citizen Elkanah Kibet, a former Auburn All-American from Kenya, who ran 2:11:31 in Chicago in October; Matt Llano (2:12:28), the U.S. runner-up behind Ward last year in L.A.; Llano’s HOKA Northern Arizona Elite training partner Scott Smith, who is aiming to improve on his 2:14:40 personal best; and Craig Leon (2:13:53), who turned in a strong race with an eighth-place finish in New York City earlier this month. Brett Gotcher, six years removed form his 2:10:36 personal best, was fifth at the 2012 Trials and is hoping he can improve a couple places on Saturday. The sheer volume of potential contenders is so staggering that there are just too many to name.

RELATED: Resurgent Brett Gotcher Taking Hard Road To The Trials

On the women’s side, there’s Shalane Flanagan and Desiree Linden—who went 1-2 at the 2012 Trials in Houston—and then there’s everybody else. Times aren’t everything in marathoning, but they can’t be ignored, especially when the results back them up in a big way. Flanagan and Linden are the clear-cut favorites to make another Olympic team in the marathon, and with good reason.

Since winning the 2012 Trials in event-record time (2:25:38) and finishing 10th at the Olympic Marathon in London, Flanagan has not let her foot off the gas. The 34-year-old has added more national titles in cross country, road and track to her already extensive racing resume, and has posted the two fastest marathon times by an American female during the Olympic Trials qualifying period (2:22:02 and 2:21:14 at Boston and Berlin, respectively, in 2014).

“I think we [my coach and I] will work back from the trials knowing that’s an important race to be ready for and what fits in making sure I’m ready for that day,” Flanagan told Competitor.com last fall. “I still have a lot of aggressive goals.”

Flanagan was fourth at Boston in 2013, seventh in 2014 and ninth this past year (although she could move up a spot in 2013 and 2014 pending whether or not drug cheat Rita Jeptoo is stripped of her titles), and also took third at Berlin in 2014 when she ran the second-fastest American time in history. No other American woman has been as successful at World Marathon Majors races with the exception of Linden, who became the only American ever to beat Flanagan in a marathon this past April in Boston.

The diminutive Linden, who finished fourth at this year’s Boston Marathon in 2:25:39—two minutes and five places ahead of Flanagan—was runner-up to her rival at the 2012 Trials in Houston but was forced to drop out of the London Games due to a femoral stress fracture. The 32-year-old, a longtime member of the Hansons-Brooks training group in Rochester, Mich., says she hit the reset button after the disappointment of her last Olympic experience and is looking forward to competing for another chance to represent the red, white and blue on the world’s biggest stage in Rio next summer. “This is like starting over,” Linden said of her mindset heading into the 2016 Trials training cycle. “It was awesome to call myself an Olympian but I don’t feel like I lived up to that label.”

Linden finished 10th at the 2014 Boston Marathon in 2:23:54—the second-fastest marathon run by a U.S. woman during the Trials qualifying period. That mark is over three minutes faster than that of third-fastest qualifier, Amy Cragg, the fourth-place finisher at the 2012 Trials who was Linden’s college teammate at Arizona State. More on her in a bit.

Kara Goucher, the third member of the 2012 Olympic marathon team, has traveled a rocky road since finishing 11th—right behind her former training partner Flanagan—at the 2012 Games in London. She placed sixth at the 2013 Boston Marathon in 2:28:11, but then left her Portland-based Nike training group and returned to Boulder, Colo., where she currently trains under her collegiate coaches, Mark Wetmore and Heather Burroughs. Injuries have prevented Goucher from showing her once-dominant form over the past two years—she finished a disappointing 14th at the New York City Marathon in 2:37:03—but she’s had some bright spots too, most recently at last weekend’s Big Sur Half Marathon, where she won in 1:11:13.

“This is the starting place for me leading up to the (Olympic) Trials,” Goucher said after her victory. “It’s a good place to start; it’s the fastest I’ve started in years.”

Leading a tight group of women who have run between 2:27 and 2:30 is the 31-year-old Cragg, who equaled her personal best of 2:27:03 to finish fifth at Chicago in 2014. She’s had a good run on the roads the past two years, winning national titles at 10K in 2014 and 15K earlier this year, and posting runner-up finishes at last year’s 20K championships and this year’s 5K championships. But she’s struggled as well, dropping out of Boston in April and finishing 14th at the U.S. 20K championships this past fall. Fueled by the disappointment of 2012, and now training with Flanagan as a member of the Nike Bowerman Track Club, Hastings is keen on punching her ticket to Rio in L.A. this February.

American marathon record holder and Olympic bronze medalist Deena Kastor, who ran 2:27:47 at last October’s Chicago Marathon to break the U.S. Masters record (Kastor is 42), announced on Wednesday that she will not be competing in Saturday’s race due to a glute strain.

In addition to Flanagan, Linden and Cragg, only five other women have run under 2:30 during the trials qualifying period, and one of those athletes, Laura Thweatt—who ran 2:28:23 at her debut in New York in November—has said she will keep her focus on the track and not run the marathon trials. The unheralded Annie Bersagel, who lives in Oslo, Norway, where she works as an attorney, could very well run her way onto the Olympic team in February. She ran per PR of 2:28:29 at the Dusseldorf Marathon in April, winning for the second straight year and also captured the U.S. marathon title in 2013 at the Twin Cities Marathon. Serena Burla has ran 2:28:01 and was 10th overall at the world championships in Beijing this past summer. Reigning U.S. Marathon champion Blake Russell, who made the Olympic marathon team in 2008, will not race due to a recent hernia surgery.

Kellyn Taylor, who trains with Hoka Northern Arizona Elite in Flagstaff, Ariz., debuted in 2:28:40 earlier this year and has run under 1:11 in the half marathon, while another relative marathon newbie, as Sara Hall (2:31:14 at Chicago in October), also figures to be in the mix. Hall rebounded nicely at Chicago this fall after a forgettable debut in L.A. last spring. While forecasted temperatures and a loop-style course may slow down finishing times a touch, it’s going to take a low-to-mid-2:20s type of effort to make the Olympic marathon team and there are bucketloads of women knocking loudly on that door.

RELATED: Kellyn Taylor Ready To Handle The Heat In Los Angeles

The state of American marathoning is strong heading into Saturday’s Olympic Trials Marathon. Some old favorites will once again be looking to wrap themselves in red, white and blue while a large group of ambitious up-and-comers hope to catapult their professional careers into orbit by way of an Olympic berth. If you’re not in L.A. to watch the action up close, be sure to tune into NBC at 10 A.M. PST to see how it all shakes out.

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Blue-Collar Runners Putting It All On The Line at U.S. Olympic Trials http://running.competitor.com/2016/02/olympic-trials/blue-collar-runners-putting-it-all-on-the-line-at-u-s-olympic-trials_144359 http://running.competitor.com/2016/02/olympic-trials/blue-collar-runners-putting-it-all-on-the-line-at-u-s-olympic-trials_144359#comments Thu, 11 Feb 2016 16:02:49 +0000 http://running.competitor.com/?p=144359

Lauren Smith is one of dozens of runners who trained for the U.S. Olympic Trials Marathon while also working a full-time job. Photo: PhotoRun.net

Like boxing, distance running has always been a sport that propagates hard-working underdogs.

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Lauren Smith is one of dozens of runners who trained for the U.S. Olympic Trials Marathon while also working a full-time job. Photo: PhotoRun.net

Like boxing, distance running has always been a sport that propagates hard-working underdogs.

At the U.S. Olympic Trials Marathon on Feb. 13 in Los Angeles, maybe a dozen runners in both the men’s and women’s races have a legitimate shot at finishing in the top three and making the U.S. Olympic team bound for Rio de Janeiro later this summer. But with the exception of those top few professionals who can manage to make a living through sponsorships and prize money, the starting line in the City of Angels will be filled with hundreds of runners who work full-time and fit their passion into the bookends of the day and night. In our sport, we call them blue-collar runners, and they are as about as tough as they come.

For them, it’s all about the love of running, the passion to pursue excellence amid considerable sacrifice. They’re the dreamers. They can run fast enough to enter a race that determines the American Olympic team, but most are not nearly fast enough to actually don a USA singlet and pass beneath the Olympic flame. And yet they carry on, training just as diligently as their more polished professional contemporaries.

That’s just fine with Louis Serafini, a 24-year-old Bostonian who is the epitome of the blue-collar grinder.

“I’m still young and as far as I’m concerned, just being able to toe the line with America’s greatest distance runners is an honor,” says Serafini, who works 9 to 5 as a sales associate Heartbreak Hill Running Company. “For me, the Trials are an opportunity for me to have a great running experience and hopefully turn some heads in the process.”

RELATED: More U.S. Olympic Trials Coverage From Competitor.com

Every day, Serafini hits the streets of Boston early in the morning after a lot of coffee for his first run. Like the fictional boxer, Rocky, he attributes some of his speed to the protein he gets from eating eggs, albeit not raw ones like the movie character ingested on a regular basis.

“I’ve been favoring the egg quesadilla—it’s been a bit of a game-changer for me,” he notes.

After a day of selling shoes and gear—and occasionally dishing out bits of advice to recreational runners—he heads home for his second run. At 7 p.m., a time when most of us are ready for dinner, PJs and some binge TV watching, Serafini hits the roads with this roommate for 5 to 7 miles. He’s back by 8:30, stretches a bit and then hits the sack at 10.

The next day, he does it all over again. Day after day, for weeks on end. It’s that monotonous consistency, that hardened discipline, that earned him a place in the U.S. Olympic Trials. He punched his ticket to Los Angeles at the Rock ‘n’ Roll Philadelphia Half Marathon on Oct. 31, finishing 13th in 1 hour, 4 minutes and 31 seconds—just 29 seconds faster than the 1:05:00 cutoff.

Matt Sonnenfeldt also got his Olympic Trials qualifier in Philadelphia last fall, but by the narrowest of margins—a mere 2 seconds. His 1:04:58 effort makes him one of the slowest runners in the men’s race, but it doesn’t matter because he’s in. He, too, works close to the sport as a marketing assistant and promotions coordinator for Flynn Sports Management in Gray, Tenn., the athlete agency operated by legendary miler Ray Flynn.

“When your boss has run 3:49 for a mile, he is one of few bosses who understands the time and dedication that goes into training for something like this,” Sonnenfeldt admits.

When it comes to the reality of making the team, Sonnenfeldt doesn’t mince words.

“I think I can speak for a lot of the people that are in my position in that making the Olympic Trials is kind of like our Olympics, and a lot of the motivation came in the months, maybe years, leading up to trying to qualify for the race,” he says. “I was one of the last qualifiers to make it in, so for me, the motivation for the Olympic Trials is to finish in the first half of the field.”

Maintaining a full-time job while trying to compete against pros that get the luxury of naps and personal massages could be grist for the mill. But Sonnenfeldt won’t have any of that.

“Not everyone can have it as a job,” he says of the elite pros. “Just like not every college football player can make it on a NFL roster or to the Major Leagues from the minors. Yes, there are runners that probably are good enough to merit a contract, but I believe the majority of the pros that do this for a living have earned the right to do nothing but train, and I’m fine with that.”

RELATED: How to Watch the 2016 U.S. Olympic Trials Marathon on Feb. 13

Along with his full-time job, Sonnenfeldt manages to fit in triple-digit weekly mileage, two hard workouts (typically Tuesday and Friday) and a long run of 20 miles or longer on Sundays.

“It’s probably the best jobs one could have, if they wanted to juggle training and work,” he says. “I’m very fortunate and I’m very much an outlier. There are many who have it much worse than me.”

Lauren Smith, of Lake Jackson, Texas, doesn’t have it much worse than Serafini, but she does have to get up pretty early to get her miles in. Smith, who works as a fitness coordinator at the Angleton Recreation Center, earned her qualifier at Rock ‘n’ Roll San Antonio Half Marathon on Dec. 6, finishing in 1:14:53—just 7 seconds ahead of the cut-off time.

She got there by waking up at 5 a.m., and often running twice a day, sometimes at lunch, sometimes late at night. Despite these challenges, Smith isn’t bitter about her full-time professional rivals come marathon day.

“We all have 24 hours in the day and that’s plenty of time to get in the training I need to get in,” she says. “I don’t have a lot of perks most runners have. I don’t have a massage therapist, chiropractor, altitude tent or a coach, but I do all the hard work and put in the miles, and I think that’s the most important part.”

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Kellyn Taylor Ready To Handle The Heat In Los Angeles http://running.competitor.com/2016/02/olympic-trials/kellyn-taylor-ready-to-handle-heat_144924 http://running.competitor.com/2016/02/olympic-trials/kellyn-taylor-ready-to-handle-heat_144924#comments Thu, 11 Feb 2016 15:19:03 +0000 http://running.competitor.com/?p=144924

Kellyn Taylor is heading into Saturday's U.S. Olympic Trials Marathon confident and ready to compete. Photo: Justin Britton | A Runner's Eye

The 29-year-old firefighter-in-training is hoping to land a spot on the podium at the U.S. Olympic Trials Marathon.

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Kellyn Taylor is heading into Saturday's U.S. Olympic Trials Marathon confident and ready to compete. Photo: Justin Britton | A Runner's Eye

The unseasonably warm weather forecasted for Saturday’s U.S. Olympic Trials in Los Angeles isn’t ideal for marathon racing, but the predicted 80-degree temperatures really don’t faze Kellyn Taylor all that much.

The 29-year-old firefighter-in-training from Flagstaff, Ariz., will only be racing her second marathon on Saturday, but she’ll be stepping to the starting line wth the confidence of a veteran who isn’t afraid to hold her hand close to the flame.

“I told Ben [Rosario, her coach] that I felt bad feeling as confident as I do,” admits Taylor, who ran 2:28:40 at last year’s Houston Marathon, placing sixth among a competitive international field. “I have no doubts that if I hit a good day that I can run with anyone else out there. The workouts I did leading up to the trials were good. I am both physically and mentally ready.”

RELATED: More U.S. Olympic Trials Coverage From Competitor.com

Taylor, a 2009 graduate of Wichita State, has thrived since joining Rosario’s HOKA Northern Arizona Elite training group in January of 2014. After a breakthrough campaign that first year saw her place fourth at the U.S. cross country championships and win a national road title in the 25K, Taylor went on a PR tear in 2015, following up her strong Houston debut with personal bests in the 10,000m (32:29.88) and half marathon (1:10:59), not to mention a bronze medal in the 5,000m at the Pan-Am Games in Toronto. That success, combined with a inherently fierce competitiveness, has helped her develop the confidence to butt heads with the best runners in the country every time she takes to the starting line.

“She’s super confident in herself as an athlete,” Rosario says. “And I phrase it that way because she’s super confident in any athletic endeavor she takes on. If you’ve heard of a baseball player bringing a ‘football mentality’ to the locker room, that’s sort of what Kellyn is like. Most runners are humble to a fault. She’s outwardly humble of course but inwardly she’s nothing but fierce.”

RELATED: How to Watch the 2016 U.S. Olympic Trials Marathon on Feb. 13

In the buildup to the Trials, Taylor, the lone female from NAZ Elite competing on Saturday (teammates Matt Llano, Ben Bruce and Scott Smith are entered on the men’s side), has taken her training to the next level. A rough last few miles at Houston isn’t far from her memory, and both she and Rosario feel they’ve made the necessary adjustments to ensure she has what it takes to go the distance on Saturday. Rosario, a former Olympic Trials Marathon qualifier in his own right who finished second at the U.S. marathon championships in 2005, has bumped Taylor’s mileage consistently above 100 miles per week, while continuing to emphasize the essential elements that made her first go at 26.2 miles a successful one.

“Houston went so well until the last two miles,” admits Taylor. “With two to go I hit a wall and jogged it in with 6-plus minute miles. I felt as though I had adequately prepared but knew immediately that an AT (anaerobic threshold) distance run would be beneficial in my trials buildup. This cycle we did many of the same workouts, and also a 26.2-mile run, and had several other workouts and runs that hit 20-24 miles. My body should hold up for 26.2 miles this time around.”

RELATED: Sneak Peek—Elite Runners’ U.S. Olympic Trials Marathon Gear

Rosario, who contends that Taylor is stronger than she’s ever been in the two years they’ve been working together, believes that his athlete simply needs to have the race that she’s capable of executing in order to punch her ticket to the Olympic Games. With forecasted temperatures expected to be 30 degrees higher than what’s considered ideal for racing a marathon, Taylor has been training alongside her teammates in San Diego the past two weeks, bundling up in layers to better acclimate to the dry, oven-like conditions she’ll encounter in L.A.

“It was definitely sports bra weather,” Taylor says of her team’s mini pre-Trials training camp 120 miles south of L.A. “But in order to prepare for the heat we wore tights, long sleeves and jackets. We looked crazy but I feel that will significantly help my teammates and I on race day. I’m not going to go out race day and do something stupid. I want it to be an honest race and I feel it will be. Fluids will be huge and will make or break some people’s races.”

Warm racing conditions aside, the competition in the women’s race will be a deep mix of established superstars and ambitious upstarts all vying for one of three slots on the U.S. Olympic marathon team. All three members of the 2012 squad—Shalane Flanagan, Desiree Linden and Kara Goucher—will be on the starting line when the action gets underway at 10:22 a.m. on Saturday. In addition to Flanagan and Linden, three other women—Amy Cragg, Serena Burla and Annie Bersagel—have qualifying times faster than Taylor’s mark. Despite an experienced field full of firepower, however, Rosario is confident Taylor has what it takes to handle the heat and put herself on the podium.

“She just needs to go out and run what she’s capable of,” Rosario says matter-of-factly. “I really believe she controls her own destiny. I remember going for a run with Kellyn in Palo Alto last year the day before the Payton Jordan track meet (at Stanford) and I told her that exact thing. What I meant was that if she did everything right from that point on, and got in as good of shape as she could possibly be in by the time the Trials rolled around, then there would not be three women that would be able to beat her on the day. My mind has never changed.”

RELATED: Onto The Radar: Interview with Kellyn Taylor

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Out There: Runner’s Face? Really? http://running.competitor.com/2016/02/out-there/out-there-runners-face-really_144894 http://running.competitor.com/2016/02/out-there/out-there-runners-face-really_144894#comments Wed, 10 Feb 2016 22:09:55 +0000 http://running.competitor.com/?p=144894

Does running cause us to age faster?

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Lately, I’ve been getting emails from plastic surgery offices, each one suggesting I write an article on their latest fix for the so-called epidemic of “Runner’s Face” afflicting athletes. The first time it happened, I rolled my eyes and hit the “delete” button—everything’s a syndrome these days, right?

The second time a procedure for Runner’s Face popped up in my inbox, I was equal parts amused and annoyed.

After the third, fourth, and fifth time, I began to wonder if the universe was trying to tell me something.

Runner’s Face, if you haven’t heard, is a premature-aging phenomenon affecting the appearance of athletes in their 30s and beyond. Those affected claim all the bouncing from running causes the skin to lose its elasticity and sag; that, combined with exercise-induced weight loss, causes a runner’s visage to look like the face-melting scene from Raiders of The Lost Ark.

At least, that’s what it sounds like in most written descriptions of Runner’s Face. To confirm, I did a Google Image search for Runner’s Face. Note to self: Never, ever, ever do a Google Image search for Runner’s Face again.

“I think I need Botox,” I told my sister in a panic, showing her the photos I had discovered of haggard-looking men and women with sunken cheeks and droopy bags under their eyes.

“I think you need to get your head checked,” she replied.

“LOOK AT THIS!” I poked at my cheeks frenetically. “I’m just one marathon away from becoming a shar-pei!”

Meghan rolled her eyes and walked away, refusing to acknowledge my fears. But I couldn’t stop thinking about the cosmetic fate in store for me. That afternoon, as I ran past glass storefronts downtown, I scrutinized my reflection in motion: Are those jowls? Are they bouncing? Do I need to wear a supportive garment on my chin, like a face bra? Does anyone even make face bras?

That night, I browsed through the seemingly millions of anti-aging products available—creams, serums, balms, potions—hoping to find the fountain of youth. I bought something called “Hope in a Jar,” convinced it sounded exactly like what I needed. Later, I stumbled onto a video series that claims to tone and tighten facial muscles through a series of stretching and poking.

“What are you doing?” My husband said when he walked into the living room. I was mid-stretch, my eyes widened and mouth in a surprised “O” shape while extending my neck as far as it would crane.

“Turning back the hands of time,” I said with determination.

Neil turned on his heel and walked away, presumably in search of a wife who wasn’t following DIY facelift instructions from YouTube.

“I think we need to have a talk, Susan.” My dermatologist said when she walked into the examining room, a printout of my unnerved e-mail in hand. I had requested an immediate appointment to discuss my options for keeping my emerging Droopy Dog at bay. As a runner and triathlete herself, I was certain she’d understand my concern.

Instead, she shook her head and sighed: “Runner’s Face? It’s not a real thing. There is no evidence that running causes anyone to look older than they are.”

“But all those doctors—”

“Stop,” she interrupted. “You should know better. You see runners every day. What do they look like?”

I paused for a moment, scrolling through my mental photo album of fellow runners. She was right: I was being irrational. The only time I had actually observed a case of pallid, haggard Runner’s Face was in the photos from plastic surgery websites during my panicked Googling. In the real world, it was…well, not a thing in the real world.

Faces change as they age, yes. People get wrinkles and crow’s feet and deep ridges around their mouths. But they get those things from living—from smiling at their loved ones, furrowing their brows at a gripping story, squinting in the sunshine on a beautiful spring day, and laughing so hard they cry. The changes of aging aren’t always desirable, but they’re earned.

My doctor was right—there’s no hard evidence that running accelerates the natural processes of aging. She sent me on my way with a recommendation to drink more water, remember to reapply sunscreen often, and stop reading unsolicited e-mails from plastic surgeons.

I’m still keeping my Hope in a Jar, though. Just in case I need it someday.

* * *

About The Author:

Susan Lacke does 5Ks, Ironman Triathlons and everything in between to justify her love for cupcakes (yes, she eats that many). Susan lives and trains in Salt Lake City, Utah with three animals: A labrador, a cattle dog, and a freakishly tall triathlete husband. She claims to be of sound mind, though this has yet to be substantiated by a medical expert. Follow her on Twitter: @SusanLacke.

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