The Surreal 2016 U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials
Inspired, motivated, captivated, excited, proud, empathetic, and ELECTRIC are words I would use to describe how I felt experiencing the 2016 U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials. When I started thinking about moving to LA to hide out the NYC winter, it was the fact that the trials were being held in LA that put the plan in motion. You can't open Runner's World or Women's Running Magazine without seeing running legends like Kara Goucher, Shalane Flanagan, Meb (no last name needed, he's basically Beyonce), or Sara Hall and that's just the tip of the ice berg. It's an exciting time for the US marathon and getting to see the people I read about almost every single day in an event with such high stakes was unforgettable.
The day started off on a pretty disheartening foot. I went to a a Nike Shakeout Run before the trials began and it was one of the most uncomfortable events I've ever gone to. A friend of mine sent me the link when we were trying to figure out when we could meet up when I was in LA and I thought it was a normal Nike Run. As I was walking up, the group looked less than inviting. I really just wanted to log some low key miles with friends and I was getting ready to bail when another friend spotted me. She was headed to the Nike run as well and talked me into staying. The only reason I signed up to run in the first place was so that I could finally hang out with Jamaica King, a blogger and all around bad ass who I have been tweeting back and forth with for over a year but never had the chance to meet in person. She's one of those people you see online who just puts a smile on your face and I was stoked to finally get to run with her.
Once I signed in, I regretted the decision to stay. I love what Nike is doing. I've been frequenting their track workouts here in LA (which are incredible and a serious workout) and I have nothing but good things to say about Nike Run Club and the things Nike is doing to get people active. I, unbeknownst to me, ended up at a special Shakeout Run that wasn't a normal Nike Club run (which I'm not even sure is true. I don't go to these things often and this is just what I was told by people there). I saw someone get asked, "What are you doing here? You shouldn't be here." and then one of their coaches kicked the run off with, "Pretty people in the front, ugly people in the back. It's never too early to hurt people's feelings." I know it was a joke, but the entire experience just really bummed me out. I didn't get the sense that most of the runners were there to support one another, they were there to be seen and to have their picture taken. I love that Nike is helping so many people get active and chase down their goals. It just sucks that a small group is hurting Nike's mission because I felt uncomfortable the entire time. And I'm pretty comfortable going solo and keeping my head down.
I walked away disappointed and honestly, a little sad. I am so frustrated by the people that give running a bad rap. Here is my least favorite part about running and social media, I hate the posed, perfect, curated images. I love seeing people grinding, sweating, red in the face or happy to be running. I hate seeing posed pictures that seem to show off how cool someone looks. Running in cool clothes or standing still in athletic clothes doesn't make you a runner, that makes you a model.
Here is why I was frustrated, to me running is about rooting for the person next to you, in front of you, and behind you. Running is about supporting everyone equally and making sure everyone feels included and welcome. It doesn't matter how slow or fast you run, just the fact that you showed up and went forward is something to celebrate. The spirit of a runner is an infectious and contagious one. It's impossible to be around a group of people working tirelessly to accomplish a goal and not find yourself inspired and affected by them. That's why I love running and that's what I stand for. I don't care how cool you look in a picture, I care about how you support the people around you. I didn't get that vibe from the people at the Shakeout Run.
I just wanted to get out of there and find my tribe so they could remind me that what I had experienced was the outlier, not the norm. So I convinced Jamaica to go watch the trials with me and my NP friends and we went and found ourselves the perfect Olympic trials viewing spot. Immediately I forgot about the disappointing morning and was swept up in the excitement of the trials.
Where we were standing, we got to see the athletes zoom past us and then again when they were headed back out. We made friends with the people around us and had the perfect spectating neighbors. We got to cheer with a Mother for her daughter who was running and we got updates from the two guys behind us who were analyzing the race via live feeds. So even when we couldn't see the runners, we were in on the action. I think that was my favorite part of the race, getting to interact with the people around us.
Experiencing the trials was surreal. Of all the incredible runners, Kara Goucher was someone I was really, really excited to see. This is a woman who stuck to her guns and really acted as a trail blazer for women in the running community. I love following her on social media because she feels real and vulnerable. Sure she came in fourth place in the trials which couldn't have been easy but she has won in my book.
And that's not to discredit any of the women who ran in the trials. Watching Shalane Flanagan and Amy Cragg run together, strong and effortlessly is nothing short of motivating. They are proof that we are so much stronger together than we are alone. What was interesting was getting to listen to the two guys behind us talk about how Amy was struggling and Shalane was helping her through it. Then we'd see them run by and see it first hand for ourselves. Then in the end when Shalane was fighting and Amy had run on, getting to witness that, that was enough to remind me that we're capable of so much more than what we think we are. The fight Shalane put up, it was really insane. (And both Shalane and Amy are Nike athletes EMBODYING what it means to run as a team. Truly stunning.) And DESI! CAN WE JUST TALK ABOUT DESI! I mean my God, what a woman! Watching her run, slowly getting more and more powerful, it is something I will keep with me for the rest of my life. Every single person out there ran with purpose. It didn't matter whether you were in the back of the pack or the front, they were all so amazing to watch.
The men were groovy too (I'd be lying if I didn't admit that I yelled boyfriend at about 100 men...) but the women, holy smokes. It was an incredible event to witness firsthand. I'm normally not someone who finds sporting events very exciting. I mean, don't get me wrong, put me in any sporting event and I'll figure out how to have a good time but I don't go to "watch the game". There's something about the marathon though. The grit, the determination, the drive, the hope and the strength, it lives in it's own world.
It was Kathrine Switzer who said it best, "If you are losing faith in human nature, go out and watch a marathon." Until next time, #RunSelfieRepeat.