Just before our Tuesday night Terrors workout yesterday the journalist who interviewed me for her health and fitness column came to interview Jesse, Poray, Little, our coach Matt and myself again about our attempt to qualify for the 2012 Olympic Marathon Trials. The story is of interest to her for a number of reasons, but selling our efforts to a corporate newspaper who, as she put it, “only runs stories about sports that use a ball.” is another matter. She may never get a story about us in or maybe she will. Regardless, she came out to meet us and I think was taken aback by the bombardment of one-liners and sound bites thrown her way. I had my time in the interview chair previous to this, so I let most everyone else do the talking and talk they did…surprisingly delivering all sorts of passionate diatribes and not the poop and fart jokes I was afraid might dominate the conversation.
For me, I think the most revealing portion was when we started talking about the trials and what that meant to all of us, essentially agreeing that the trials are OUR OLYMPICS. We hold no illusions that we have the ability or maybe just the time to devote to running a sub 2:10 marathon. That’s what it takes. For us, it’s about working full time, juggling relationships, kids, girlfriends, social lives and any other number of non-running activities while still staying committed to putting in the necessary work to run at the trials level EVERY SINGLE DAY. There is no compromise. There is no half-assing. There is no arguing or whining our way in. It’s about running day in and day out and pushing ourselves every chance we get. So for us, to have all these other obligations coupled with the obligation of running every day, qualifying for the trials is an incredible accomplishment in its own right. But what I hadn’t really come to terms with until yesterday was just how incredible of an accomplishment that is.
Just this week the USATF sifted through the bids to host the 2012 trials sent in by New York, Boston and Houston. Houston won. However, before any of this took place a vote was made a year or so ago to change the qualifying standards for the trials race. Previously, you needed to run 2:22 or less to qualify for the “B” standard, which secured you a place in the race, but not much else. You could also run 2:20 or less to qualify for the “A” standard, which secured you a place in the race, travel and hotel fees as well as any other number of amenities. That’s the rock star standard. Overall, approximately 150 or 250 (still not sure the more specific number) men made it into the trials with those qualifications, but now things have changed thanks to that recent vote. In order to qualify for the trials one must run 2:19 or less, which means EVERYONE in the trials has achieved the “A” standard, which means EVERYONE gets rock star status. The whole goal is to push american distance running to a higher level, to force runners to really put in the work to achieve more and more. The jury is still out on the outcome of that theory. Regardless, what this means population wise is that only about 100+ runners will make the Trials this time around. So, for the four years between the trials, there will only be 100 and a handful of runners who put in the time and have the natural talent to run a marathon in sub 2:19.
And here are four of us, 3 in the same house and one just a couple blocks away….all with a chance to be one of those hundred. What are the odds. Now, in my naievity I really didn’t understand what it meant to qualify for the trials. Granted, I know how hard it is to run that type of qualifying time for that distance, but I guess I thought there would be a significant number of runners that would make that time…like anywhere between 500 to 1000. Yes, I’m naive. I really thought that was the case. I had no idea until very recently that only 100 or so people will make the Trials, and I’m still trying to come to terms with the fact that I may be one of those 100. This, if I pull this off, might be the greatest accomplishment of my life in certain terms. I guess, not to arrogantly pat myself on the back, I didn’t realize what sort of talent I’ve been dealing with since I started running again. I just didn’t know I was at this level until I saw those qualifying numbers plain as day. And I now find it even more fascinating to think that 4 of us in the same city, in the same neighborhood have a really great chance of being one of those qualifiers. That’s huge, and no matter what corporate media thinks, that’s a story to me. Of course, I’m biased.
But let’s not get ahead of ourselves here. We still have a lot of work to do and so far not a single one of us has qualified for the trials (this time around anyways). As it stands, we are still just runners who can win local and regional races fairly consistently, not trials qualifiers. We have not yet made it to our own olympics, but damn is that something I want real bad and I think I speak for everyone else when I say they want the same. We have an amazing opportunity at our fingertips and it would be incredibly foolish to let it slip by. So until we reach that rockstar status, we’ve got a lot of work to do. See you in the streets.