Jordan Hasay

Missing the Olympic marathon team can mean a wait of 4 years, or a few months

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As Des Linden saw three women ahead of her late in the U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials — in a race where only the top three go to the Olympics — she considered dropping out for the second time in her 20 career marathons.

“For one split-second,” she said. “I hate to even think this, but there’s a point in the race where it’s like, well, s— I’m running [the] Boston [Marathon on April 20]. Should I just shut it down and jog in?

“But it mattered to me, and that’s why I came out here. I still fought all day. You’re already too far into this, and it means a lot. Pull your head out of your ass and go.”

Linden said she didn’t give up until the last 100 meters of the 26.2-mile race. Not until Sally Kipyego crossed the Atlanta Centennial Park finish line 11 seconds ahead of her, clinching the last spot on the U.S. team for the Tokyo Games.

Linden, the most decorated woman in the record field of more than 400, came thisclose to becoming the first U.S. woman to make three Olympic marathon teams.

MORE: Olympic Marathon Trials results

For Linden and the other favorites who missed the team, there will be more races, more marathons. But this race, the trials, will not happen for another four years. Linden will be 40 come the next Olympic year. Then again, 43-year-old Abdi Abdirahman finished third in the men’s race.

“If you asked me four years ago, I wouldn’t have planned on being here,” said Linden, whose career was reinvigorated by making the 2016 Olympic team and then winning the 2018 Boston Marathon. “Meb [Keflezighi] made the team at 41 [in 2016]. So that’s certainly popped in my mind.”

Bernard Lagat is 45 years old and a five-time Olympian. He finished 18th on Saturday, failing to break his own record as the oldest U.S. Olympic runner in history (which Abdirahman ended up snatching).

Like Linden, Lagat plans to return to marathon training after a short break and race 26.2 miles again this spring (though Lagat has not chosen a specific one). Before trials, Lagat did not rule out returning for June’s Olympic Track and Field Trials in the 10,000m, according to Sports Illustrated.

“I feel like with how I ran today, 2:14 in a [hilly] course like this in a windy day, I want to give 100 percent, one more good run somewhere in Europe,” he said. “I’m not going to stop.”

Jordan Hasay, the second-fastest U.S. female marathoner in history, knew something was wrong from the first mile.

A hamstring injury affected her build-up. Then this week, a lower-back issue flared. She tried to block it out, but Hasay dropped from the lead pack just before the halfway point.

“It was just all about finishing,” said Hasay, who ran in purple and gold in honor of Kobe Bryant. “It sucks when you’ve got an hour to go, and you’ve got to keep running.” 

She crossed more than 10 minutes behind winner Aliphine Tuliamuk in 26th place. She was enveloped in the arms of men’s winner Galen Rupp, with whom she shared a coach in Alberto Salazar before Salazar was banned last fall in a doping case. Salazar is believed to be appealing. Neither Rupp nor Hasay were implicated, and both have a clean drug-testing record.

Other women’s favorites who struggled dropped out to preserve their legs for the track trials 10,000m. Hasay was determined to finish after withdrawing on the eve of the 2018 Boston Marathon (heel) and two miles into the 2019 Chicago Marathon with a torn hamstring.

“I worked this hard to not sit and watch this on TV,” said Hasay, who at 28 seemingly has years of marathoning ahead of her.

Jared Ward, who was third at the 2016 Olympic Trials and sixth in Rio, was considered arguably the safest pick to make the marathon team. The men’s field wasn’t seen as deep as the women, and no man could match his consistency the last two years.

But Ward, an adjunct statistics professor at BYU, was 27th. Once Ward dropped from the leaders and saw his Olympic dream fade, he thought of his four kids between ages 1 and 7.

“I want my kids to know that when things get tough, we can still do hard things,” he said of finishing. “We don’t have to pull the plug when things get hard. So I feel a sense of accomplishment.”

Ward noted that he will always have that magical day at the trials in Los Angeles four years ago. And that, at 31, he is 12 years younger than Abdirahman.

“I was ready to pull the plug and consider a different marathon, but the streets were just yelling for me,” Ward said. “My mantra going into this race was, ‘Beyond me.’ There’s more to this than me.”

Emily Sisson, arguably the women’s pre-race favorite, and Molly Huddle, the American record holder at 10,000m, did not finish. Sisson and Huddle, who share a coach and sometimes train together, made strategic decisions after losing contact with the leaders around the 20th mile.

They don’t have to wait four years. As soon as Sisson and Huddle walked off the course on Saturday afternoon, they became favorites to make the Olympic team in the 10,000m at the track trials in June.

“Have unfinished business in the marathon, so I’ll be back,” was posted on Sisson’s Instagram, “but for now it’s time to rest & refocus.”

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MORE: A U.S. Olympic women’s marathon team of surprises, unique stories

A U.S. Olympic women’s marathon team of surprises, unique stories

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ATLANTA — The U.S. Olympic Women’s Marathon Trials produced an unpredictable team for the Tokyo Games, one with three striking personal stories.

Aliphine Tuliamuk, who won in 2:27:23 and by the smallest women’s margin in trials history (eight seconds), was seeded 10th of 510 qualifiers. Kenyan-born Tuliamuk, who has 31 siblings (dad had four wives), was driving an Uber and crocheting while sidelined by injuries the last two years.

“I did not see this coming,” she said.

Neither could runner-up Molly Seidel, also a first-time Olympic qualifier. Seidel made her marathon debut Saturday, three and a half years after receiving treatment for an eating disorder.

Third-place Sally Kipyego has Olympic experience, taking 10,000m silver for native Kenya in 2012. She gave birth to daughter Emma in summer 2017 and became eligible to represent the U.S. last August. She came to Atlanta seeded sixth, turning out to be the least surprising woman to make the team.

Missing the Olympics: 2018 Boston Marathon winner Des Linden (fourth place), American 10,000m record holder Molly Huddle and Jordan Hasay, the second-fastest U.S. female marathoner in history.

MORE: Olympic Marathon Trials Results

Soon after crossing the Centennial Park finish line, Tuliamuk grabbed a red, white and blue hat from her boyfriend. She had crocheted it for this day to show the love of her new nation.

“When I came here over 10 years ago, I didn’t even think that I wanted to stay here,” said Tuliamuk, who earned a public health degree from Wichita State in 2013 (and was a nine-time All-American for the Shockers). “When the chance came [to become a U.S. citizen], at that point I realized just how fortunate I am. I didn’t even second-guess myself. Now I get to live the American dream.”

Tuliamuk earned citizenship in April 2016. Last June, she was diagnosed with a stress fracture in her right femur. Tuliamuk barely ran until late August, instead developing a side business selling hand-made beanies on Etsy.

In her first race back in November, Tuliamuk established herself as an outside Olympic team contender by placing 12th at the New York City Marathon.

“I knew that I was fit,” she said. “I just didn’t know the extent of my fitness.”

Seidel was a can’t-miss kid. In fourth grade, she had a class assignment to write her biggest wish and dream. She wrote, “I wish I will make it into the Olympics and win a gold medal.”

Later at Notre Dame, Seidel earned NCAA indoor, outdoor and cross-country titles. She also developed an eating disorder, hitting rock bottom while attending the 2016 U.S. Olympic Track and Field Trials in Eugene, Ore., as a spectator. She broke a vertebra earlier that year because she was so weak from losing so much weight.

One of her best friends sat Seidel down in a hotel room in Oregon.

“I think she straight up told me, you look like you’re dying,” Seidel said on the Running On Om podcast. “That was the moment I got help.” Two days later, Seidel checked in for eating disorder treatment.

“I hate seeing photos of myself from that time,” Seidel said on the podcast, noting how she looked when she swept the NCAA Indoor 3000m and 5000m in early 2016. “Knowing that those are out on the internet, and people are seeing those and associating those with winning a national championship, that’s what kills me. There’s some little girl who’s running somewhere that might see the photo and think that’s what I have to look like to win a national championship. And I hate that. I hate that more than anything.”

Seidel had more recent obstacles. She said she was on crutches after placing 13th in the Peachtree Road Race 10km on July 4 in Atlanta.

“My coach and I just had a crazy idea that we might try this and see how it went,” said Seidel, who qualified for trials via a December half marathon. “We had nothing to lose. I’m really grateful for the people around me who are just as dumb as I am.”

Kipyego, the lone qualifier with Olympic experience, moved to the U.S. from Kenya 15 years ago on a college scholarship. She became a U.S. citizen in 2017 but her competition representation switch from Kenya wasn’t finalized until August.

“I always knew that I wanted to be an American,” Kipyego said. “That had little to do with running. … I’ve been able to pay for tuition for children back in Kenya. I’ve been able to support my family, my extended family.”

Kipyego said it took more than a year to recover from childbirth. She couldn’t put together a month straight of training without getting fatigued or ill. She considered quitting often.

“A lot of women have children, they come back and they run and they’re fantastic,” she said. “That was not my story.”

On a podium with Tuliamuk and Seidel to her right, Kipyego closed the post-race press conference with a line applicable to all three.

“I have struggled,” she said. “Today, I was victorious. I was victorious because of where I came from.”

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MORE: U.S. athletes qualified for Tokyo Olympics

2019 U.S. and world marathon rankings

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The last full year of marathons before the 2020 Olympics saw not only Kenyan Eliud Kipchoge‘s successful bid to break the two-hour mark under controlled conditions but also a women’s world record and four of the fastest men’s times ever.

Brigid Kosgei of Kenya took more than a minute off Paula Radcliffe‘s 16-year-old record, winning the Chicago Marathon in 2:14:01.

FAST TIMES: Kosgei, Kipchoge herald new era

Kipchoge still holds the world record of 2:01:39, set in the 2018 Berlin Marathon 14 months ago. But Kenenisa Bekele of Ethiopia came within two seconds of that mark in this year’s Berlin race, and Kipchoge himself won the London Marathon with the third-fastest time in history (2:02:37).

Add the runners-up from those races — Ethiopians Birhanu Legese (Berlin, 2:02:48) and Mosinet Geremew (London, 2:02:55) — and the four fastest times behind Kipchoge’s world record were posted in the past seven months. 

The top U.S. runner on the IAAF’s compilation of the year’s best times is Sara Hall, whose time of 2:22:16 in Berlin tied for 33rd on the list. (The IAAF site currently has a glitch listing a U.S. runner higher on the list; the time is incorrect.) Emily Sisson was 49th with her 2:23:08 in London. Sally Kipyego‘s 2:25:10 in Berlin ranks 93rd. (Add times from courses the IAAF considers “irregular” for various reasons, and Kipyego ranks 96th.)

With Galen Rupp out of action while recovering from Achilles surgery, the only U.S. runner among the top 100 was Leonard Korir (tied for 87th, 2:07:56, Amsterdam), but nine of the top 10 U.S. times in the Olympic cycle were posted this year. Only Rupp’s 2:06:07 from Prague in May 2018 ranks higher.

The two next-fastest U.S. men’s times from 2019 were at the Boston Marathon, which the IAAF considers “irregular” because the finish line isn’t near the start line and the overall elevation at the finish line is lower than the start.

The top U.S. women’s times from the Olympic cycle still belong to Jordan Hasay (2:20:57, Chicago 2017) and Amy Cragg (2:21:42, Tokyo 2018), followed by Hall and Sisson.

USA Track and Field will hold its Olympic marathon trials Feb. 29 in Atlanta.

The fastest times of the year (* – on “irregular” course) …

U.S. men

Name Time Race Result
Leonard Korir 2:07:56 Amsterdam 11th
Scott Fauble 2:09:09 Boston* 7th
Jared Ward 2:09:25 Boston* 8th
Jacob Riley 2:10:36 Chicago 9th
Jerrell Mock 2:10:37 Chicago 10th
Jared Ward 2:10:45 New York City 6th
Parker Stinson 2:10:53 Chicago 11th
Andrew Bumbalough 2:10:56 Chicago 12th
Matt McDonald 2:11:10 Chicago 14th
Matt Llano 2:11:14 Berlin 14th
Scott Smith 2:11:34 Chicago 15th

U.S. women

Name Time Race Result
Sara Hall 2:22:16 Berlin 5th
Emily Sisson 2:23:08 London 6th
Sally Kipyego 2:25:10 Berlin 7th
Jordan Hasay 2:25:20 Boston* 3rd
Emma Bates 2:25:27 Chicago 4th
Kellyn Johnson 2:26:27 Prague 4th
Molly Huddle 2:26:33 London 12th
Desiree Linden 2:26:46 New York City 6th
Aliphine Chepkerker Tuliamuk 2:26:50 Rotterdam 3rd
Kellyn Johnson 2:27:00 New York City 7th

World men

Name Time Race Result
Kenenisa Bekele (ETH) 2:01:41 Berlin 1st
Eliud Kipchoge (KEN) 2:02:37 London 1st
Birhanu Legese (ETH) 2:02:48 Berlin 2nd
Mosinet Geremew (ETH) 2:02:55 London 2nd
Mule Washihun (ETH) 2:03:16 London 3rd
Getaneh Molla (ETH) 2:03:34 Dubai 1st
Sisay Lemma (ETH) 2:03:36 Berlin 3rd
Herpasa Negasa (ETH) 2:03:40 Dubai 2nd
Marius Kipserem (KEN) 2:04:11 Rotterdam 1st
Asefa Mengstu (ETH) 2:04:24 Dubai 3rd

World women

Name Time Race Result
Brigid Kosgei 2:14:04 Chicago 1st
Ruth Chepngetich 2:17:08 Dubai 1st
Worknesh Degefa 2:17:41 Dubai 2nd
Brigid Kosgei 2:18:20 London 1st
Valary Jemeli 2:19:10 Frankfurt 1st
Degitu Azimeraw 2:19:26 Amsterdam 1st
Lonah Chemtai Salpeter 2:19:46 Prague 1st
Tigist Girma 2:19:52 Amsterdam 2nd
Vivian J. Cheruiyot 2:20:14 London 2nd
Ashtete Bekere 2:20:14 Berlin 1st

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