Chasing a Dream with the Support of an Entire Running Community
Out on a cold wintery run in Anchorage, Alaska, I still remember the exact place where one of my friends and former coaches suggested that I race a Marathon. My immediate reaction was, “hell no, why would I ever want to do that.” At that point, I never thought I would want to run that far, let alone race the distance. My prior racing specialties were 1500m and 5 km. However, by the end of that run, the group of 4-5 other runners had managed to plant the seed for things to come.
I had chased many different running goals for the past 10 years, continuously coming up short of my expectations and dreams. In that time I had put an emphasis and self worth on how close I came to those goals and less on the process of getting there. The ups and downs of this kind of mentality wore on me year after year. However my love for the sport and the connections I had made through it, continued to make running a staple of my life.
In 2016, I moved to Vancouver to be with my partner. It was also the time that I decided I would finally give the Marathon a try. With a refreshed mindset on running and the excitement of being in a new place, it was fun to embrace a new challenge and make my early connections in the Vancouver running community. After a few months of adequate training, I made my debut at CIM (California International Marathon). Heading to the start line, I remembered telling myself “Don’t be an idiot today, make the experience something that you can build upon. If you get off on the wrong foot with this event, you will never do another.” Finishing my debut in a time of 2:26 and a smile on my face, I knew I had accomplished my objective for the day and was confident there was more to come in the years ahead. This was the birth of my chase for an U.S. Olympic Trials Standard.
The U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials is one of the most exciting running events that draws attention from runners around the world. This year a record 700+ athletes have hit the time standard of 2:45 (3:54 per km) for women or 2:19 (3:18 per km) for men. All of these accomplished athletes will be ready to toe the line in Atlanta on February 29th. The race will take place an 8 mile loop course, with the women starting minutes after the men. This will provide non-stop action for the spectators who will be lining the course. Finally, the beauty and captivating aspect of the event is in the pure nature of the race, the top 3 men and women to cross the finish line earn the honour to represent the USA at the Olympic games this summer.
Furthermore, the weekend in Atlanta will be one of the greatest celebrations of distance running we have seen in the USA for years. The magnitude of the Trials race on Saturday, the 10,000 participants in the Atlanta Marathon on Sunday, and the countless other events supporting the running buzz will make for a running enthusiast dream.
With the prospects of qualifying for an event like this and the urge to take on a different running challenge, my dreams of chasing the olympic trials standard began to mature. It was also around this time that I connected with Dylan and Rob, two incredibly accomplished marathoners in their own right, who were bringing avid runners together for the early days of the M2M group practices. The “small” group consisted of 15-20 runners who cruised the Seawall together and shared their passion for the sport. This supportive and enthusiastic environment drew me in. Having previously coached high performance collegiate athletes, I was keen to learn what brought these athletes to the sport, why they were part of the group, and what events people were working towards. Running for a collegiate scholarship or a national title made sense. But, to run a marathon just to be able to say you did it?! It was here that I first started to process that no matter what someone was chasing the level of excitement, commitment, and enjoyment could be the same. The energy and pursuit of a challenge was independent of the magnitude of the event.
Over the next few months my running pursuits and my involvement with M2M grew, learning week to week what the marathon was about and being given the opportunity to coach some athletes through M2M. I spent plenty of hours running with Rob and Dylan talking about training, coaching, and their general views on the sport. Each day learning more and furthering my excitement for the chase.
The spring of 2018 was a big turning point in my journey. I confirmed that I would take my first real shot at the standard and I decided to make coaching athletes through M2M my main priority. These two things fit perfectly together. As I navigated some of the challenging workouts and training weeks, I was getting first experience. This provided insight into what my athletes were going through at the same time. I recall many meetings with athletes going back and forth sharing stories from the previous weeks of training. These conversations became the foundation for strong relationships and a genuine enthusiasm for the daily grind. Coaching is much more than writing a detailed training plan and telling an athlete to complete it. It is a personal investment into an athlete’s pursuit of the sport. The best coaches that I have had were fully invested in me and I wanted to be there for my M2M athletes in that same way.
That fall I ran the Berlin Marathon. The first attempt at the standard was a rude awakening of how cruel the marathon can be. A final 15+ km of wondering what was going on with my body and if the struggle could really get any worse. I remember thinking after the race, “I thought I was as prepared as I could be, maybe I am not cut out for this.” But after a little bit of time and the positive energy from those in the M2M community, It was easy to get back in the saddle and back to the day to day enjoyment of training and living the lifestyle.
In the spring of 2019, I went down to Eugene with a crew of M2M athletes. Each and every one had different goals and reasons to be there, but they all shared a love and passion for the sport. Most importantly they all showed a genuine interest in one another’s goals. The excited chatter on the group shakeout run the day before showcased this fact perfectly. As the race commenced everyone started the day knowing that we were all out there together. This day was also my second attempt at the standard. Whether it was the additional experience, sights of familiar faces on course, or just a lucky day, the stars aligned and I ran 2:18:49 to sneak under the time standard. It was a day that I will remember forever. And although, It was the first major running goal that I had ever achieved I quickly realized the most rewarding part of it was sharing the experience with the people around me and those that helped get me there. After the race 15-20 of us got together at a local brewery to celebrate the day and share stories. Moments of triumph, struggle, laughter, were all magnified by the fact that everyone just went through the same experience. This further illustrated to me the importance of pursuing your goals with likeminded people. In doing so it makes the journey more enjoyable and the destination more achievable.
Since qualifying for the trials, training has not been ideal, I have dealt with some nagging injury issues and inconsistent training. However, my excitement for the Marathon Trials has never been higher. To be part of an event of this magnitude and to spend the weekend with so many people who chased this same dream, will be absolutely amazing. It will be thrilling to toe the line with the best marathoners in the USA and I expect to represent myself well by running hard and competing to my best ability. However, with all that said it is important to remember how I got there, and thanks to all those around me in the M2M community, I have recognized how much this entire journey has meant to me and shaped my experience of running for the past four years. All the training sessions with Rob and Dylan, the challenging long runs with Kate on the bike, the countless runs with dozens of other runners, and the shared enthusiasm for the sport with my M2M athletes. The marathon trials will be a celebration of that journey, and a reminder that what got me there was the pure enjoyment of all of the moments along the way.