4 Lessons From Olympic #Marathon Hopefuls Any #Runner Can Use

Watching America’s best long-distance racers can teach the rest of us a lot.

running-advice-bugLast weekend in Los Angeles, 370 of the best American marathon runners competed for a few key slots on the U.S. Olympic team. (Only 256 finished the race.) As a runner who watched the event, I could have simply taken in the spectacle and enjoyed the excitement. But, I learned from the experience as well. Here’s what these phenomenal runners taught me – and what you can learn from them too:

1. Fatigue happens.

85Most marathon runners worry that they’ll run out of gas somewhere in the late miles. This fear is warranted, as it happens to most of us at some point. After all, the marathon is a long race in many ways: physically, mentally and geographically. But many runners don’t realize that even the sport’s best participants face this challenge.

Sure, top runners make it look easy in some respects, but they also put in a massive amount of training to prepare. On top of that, many of them are supported by trainers, coaches, nutritionists and therapists. And they’re built – physically speaking – with bodies made for running. Still, as I saw last weekend, even top runners fade dramatically late in the race.

What can you learn from this? Don’t beat yourself up when the pressure and fatigue piles on late in the race. That’s just the way it feels – even for the very best.

2. Have a plan – and run with it.

One of the fundamental elements of marathon training is having a plan and executing it. For most of us, that means setting a realistic goal pace, practicing that pace over and over, and running that pace on race day.

At the trials, Shalane Flanagan and Amy Cragg did just that. The two women competitors ran together at the front of the race, step for step, leaving behind their rivals early on. They had practiced their pace and committed to running it, even if the rest of the field didn’t go with them. That can be an uncomfortable feeling, but Flanagan and Cragg had faith in their race plan and stuck to it. With Cragg finishing in first place and Flanagan taking third, both women made the Olympic team.
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Racing — Coach Joe’s Notes to the Olympic Marathon Trials Athletes

running-advice-bugI’m not Facebook friends with all of the athletes that figured prominently in this past weekend’s 2012 Olympic Marathon Trials, but if I were I’m sure each of them would have posted something on their wall about their performances. I would have then perhaps taken a moment to comment on their performances. Not just a “good job” but a few of the thoughts that crossed my mind as I watched the race. So today, here are my comments to some of the standouts at the 2012 Olympic Marathon Trials.

Dear Ryan — Ryan, oh Ryan. We love you brother. You are our fastest marathon runner. In fact, you were minutes faster than any American runner last year and you’re sitting on something like a four minute gap over everyone else in between your PR and theirs. We get it that you don’t like to “run in back”, but you seem to keep doing the same thing over again. You get out in front and lead the race from the start and then don’t quite have it at the end. Here’s all I’m saying: when you’re sitting on like a four minute differential in your PR over everyone else in the race, maybe let the other guys lead and save it for the last two miles. Then bust out that great speed and take it home. Granted, things will be different at the Olympics where there will be much faster people in the field. But you are a great talent and still young. You can race to make the difference between first and second.

Dear Shalane — Shalane, the people of Portland are really proud of you. You were facing the probably the toughest competition ever in a US Olympic Trials and you were far from the most experienced runner in the bunch. A lot of people were thinking that experience would trump the young speed in the field. I wasn’t one of those people. I knew it was going to come down to the new faces. I admit that I had picked Desi to take the win, but I would have put money on you to win, place or show. You looked great out there. Your form is picture perfect. With more experience at the marathon distance you are going to be unstoppable. Nice work!

Dear Meb— Meb, I met your dad once. Ever since, I’ve been a huge fan. You were such an inspirational American story before this win, but this just really tops it. Now you can add “comeback” to the resume. You looked so strong out there in the last miles. When other people were falling apart, you had it. You looked great on the hills in New York the last couple of outings as well. Despite Ryan’s speed, you really are the strongest American marathon runner right now. What you have is the combination of strength and strategic thinking that it takes to win. You’ve shown that you can perform on tough, hilly courses like New York and Athens with international competition. The question is how will you do in London? Thrilling I’m sure!
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Olympics — Keflezighi, Flanagan Win 2012 US Olympic Marathon Trials

running-advice-bugRyan Hall led much of the US Olympic Marathon Trials today in Houston, but it was Athens silver medalist Meb Keflezighi that took the win and the first position on the US Men’s Olympic Team. Keflezighi finished the close race in an unofficial time of 2:09:08, which would be a new personal best for him.

The other two members of the Men’s US Olympic Marathon team headed for London would be Ryan Hall who finished in 2:09:13 and Abdi Abdirahman in 2:09:47. Portland’s Dathan Ritzenhein came in fourth in a personal best 2:09:55. The top four finishers came in within one minute of each other. This will be one of the strongest US Olmypic Marathon teams in a long time, based on the amount of Olypmic experience represented by Keflezighi, Hall and Abdirhman collectively.

In the women’s trials, Shalane Flanagan takes it in 2:25:38, which will be a new personal best for her. Desiree Davila is second in 2:25:55 and Kara Goucher finishes third in 2:26:06. Amy Hastings is fourth in 2:27:17. The previous Olympic Trials record was Colleen De Reuck’s 2:28:25 finish from the 2004 Trials, so all four of the first women were faster than the old Trials record.

The race will be televised later today on NBC stations nationwide at 3:00PM Eastern Time. Check your local listings for exact times.

Talent on Display
The full strength of US Marathon running was on display here in Houston today. Among the favorites were some of the favorites runners in the world among both men and women. When we look at both the winners and the runner’s up, we see Boston marathon front-runners, Olympians and New York City Marathon champions among them. It was an impressive list of runners who had been intent on securing one of the spots to compete for the US in the marathon later this year in London.

Looking at the men first, winner Meb Keflezigihi had faltered a few years back, but has now returned to his earlier greatness. After winning silver medal at the 2004 Olympics in Athens, he didn’t make the team for Beijing. But over the past few years, he won the very touch New York City Marathon in 2009 and then ran a personal best there in 2011, a time that he would beat in today’s Trials by just a few seconds. Many people will be happy with Meb’s victory today, because as they say, “he’s got fans.”

Ryan Hall on paper would have been expected to win this race if we only looked at his personal best times. In terms of raw speed, he’s the fastest US marathoner in history. But his performances have been a little up and down the last couple of years. He tends to start races very hard, telling people before the race today that he “doesn’t like to run in back.” But since going “coachless” he hasn’t found his success from earlier in his racing days. Hall’s most recent stand-out performance was his 2:04:58 in the crazy-fast Boston Marathon of 2011. In Chicago later last year, he ran 2:08:04 showing his inconsistency at the moment. He’s got the speed and he’s still young at only 30 years old.

On the women’s side, everyone had been looking to Deena Kastor to win another Trials after her win in the 2008 Trials. But the young guns were coming after her. With the likes of Desiree Davila and Kara Goucher in the race, not all of the favorites were going to make the team. Desiree had run an outstanding 2:22:38 in Boston in 2011 and she was my pre-race pick to win, having run such a strong time this past April. But Kara Goucher was sitting on a 2:24:54 PR and Deena Kastor still held an astonishing 2:19:36 PR from back in 2006, meaning she could have had the speed in the tank to win.

Shalane was one of several Portland runners in the race, joined by Dathan Ritzenhein and Kara Gouchers among others. She is wicked fast, having been a major contender at the 10,000M distance and winning the bronze medal at the 2008 Olympics in the 10K. She’s raced primarily at the shorter distances and half-marathons, running the fastest time by an American in 2011 at the Miami Beach Half Marathon in 1:09:58. Her marathon debut at NYC in 2010 was a 2:28:40 which earned her second place that year.

Running Advice and News


Racing: Deena Kastor wins US Women’s Olympic Marathon Trials

BOSTON — Deena Kastor displayed all the poise of her Olympic medalist status today, storming from behind to win the US Women’s Olympic Marathon Trials. Kastor allowed Magdalena Lewy Boulet to run at the front of the race for nearly 24 miles before she blew past her coming into the closing miles of the course.

The US Women’s Olympic Marathon Trials were held on a special multi-loop course running from dowtown Boston into Cambridge and along the Charles River. The four circuit course gave runners to size up their competition, a factor Kastor appeared to take into consideration during today’s race.

From the start, Boulet jumped out to an early lead. Kastor had been expected to dominate the race, so the sight of another runner far out in front caused many of the specators in the crowd at the four mile mark to wonder if Bouler might have been a pace-setter.

When the field came around the course for the second time, Bouler was still far in front at about mile 9 1/2. This time spectators seemed to uniformly be wondering, “who’s number 43?”
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Preview: US Women’s Olympic Marathon Trials

Olympic Trials LogoBOSTON — Tomorrow morning the top women in America get their chance to bask under the spotlight of marathon racing and three women will earn spots on the US Olympic Team to represent the United States in Beijing.

The Women’s version of the US Olympic Marathon trials come the day before the 112th Boston Marathon and about six months after the men squared off to earn their Olympic slots in New York last November.

Rather than running in a point-to-point fashion from Hopkington into Boston, the Trials will be held on a special course that uses the Boston Marathon finish-line as both it’s start and finish. The course starts off through historic Boston with a one-time loop that passes Boston Public Garden, Boston Common, the State House and Beacon Hill.

Runners will then run four loops of approximately six miles each heading down Commonwealth Avenue, crossing the Charles River into Cambridge using the Massachusetts Avenue Bridge, running east, then west along Memorial Drive. Runners then return from each of the Core Loops via Massachusetts Avenue.

Unlike the Boston Marathon course with its undulating hills throughout, the Trials course will be most flat. The only slowing factors for runners will be the numerous turns and u-turns on the course and the potential of wind along the Charles River. But with an exellent weather forecast, this special course should produce quick times.

The story of the day will be the crowning of an Olympic Trials Champion and the selection of three women to represent us at the Beijing Olympics. Considered the odds-on favorite is American Record Holder in the Marathon and 2004 Olympic Bronze medalist Deena Kastor. Kastor finished second in the 2004 Trials, after fading last in the race and being passed by Colleen De Reuck.
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Broadcasts: US Women’s Olympic Marathon Trials TV and Internet broadcast coverage

Olympic Trials LogoThe Boston Athletic Association will host the 2008 U.S. Olympic Team Trials – Women’s Marathon on Sunday, April 20, 2008, the day before the 112th running of the Boston Marathon.

Starting and finishing at the traditional Boston Marathon finish line on Boylston Street, the Olympic Trials race will feature a specially designed course that tours historic Boston with a one-time loop that passes Boston Public Garden, Boston Common, the State House and Beacon Hill.

Live Coverage on the Internet (Webcast)

The U.S. Olympic Team Trials for the Women’s Marathon will be broadcast live on the Internet at nbcolympics.com/marathon. The live webcast on April 20 will begin at 8:00 a.m. Eastern time. The broadcast is free to watch.

NBC Sports commentator Al Trautwig and 10-time NCAA All-American Ed Eyestone will provide commentary for the wire-to-wire coverage.

TV Broadcast Highlights Show

A one hour show will recap the race and cover the highlights. This show will be broadcast Sunday, April 27, 12:00-1:00 p.m. Eastern Time, on the MSNBC network. Check your cable channel line-up and listing for channel number and to verify the time in your area.

Live Blog Coverage
Running Advice and News will be on the race-course providing live blog updates as the race unfolds. Check back here for the story of the day, race photos and video clips from this historic event.

For broadcast coverage of the 2008 Boston Marathon, click here.

Running Advice and News


Racing: Ryan Shay inquiry ends without answers in cause of heart failure

The results in the investigation into Ryan Shay’s death in the US Olympic Marathon Trials were announced yeaterday with no clear answers to be found. Ryan Shay died on November 3rd 2007 in the Trials in New York City.

According to a statement by the New York City’s medical examiner’s office, Ryan Shay died of “cardiac arrhythmia due to cardiac hypertrophy with patchy fibrosis of undetermined etiology.”

“The heartbeat went into an irregular rhythm due to an enlarged heart with old scars,” Ellen Borakove, public affairs director for the office of the chief medical examiner, told the Detroit Free Press in a phone interview. “It’s an unknown source — we’re not able to identify what caused the scarring.

“It’s a natural-cause death.”

“They just don’t know what caused it,” said Joe Shay in the Detroit Free Press. “Fibrosis is scarring of the heart. It could have been from a heart attack. It could have been a virus — he was diagnosed with an enlarged heart at 14, when he had pneumonia. They just don’t know.”
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Interview: Khalid Khannouchi on the US Olympic Marathon Trials and his plans

Last month at the PF Chang’s Rock N Roll Arizona marathon I conducted a number of interviews with elite athletes. Here is the last in the series – the one that I’m most excited about.

At a media briefing before the event, race organizers planned to introduce the elite athletes that would be running the marathon. But before they did that, they went around the room and introduced some of the other “dignitaries” in the room. As they pointed people out in the back, I heard the name “Khalid Khannouchi” and just about jumped out of my seat. I swung around to see the former two-time marathon world-record holder standing near the back of the room.

When the briefing wrapped up, I practically sprinted up the stairs to make my way towards him to ask him a few questions.

Khalid Khannouchi RNR SJ Half
<strong.Khalid Khannouchi at the Rock N Roll San Jose Half Marathon in 2007
Photo Credit: Elite Racing

Khalid Khannouchi’s marathon running career has had its ups and downs. Over the last few years, he has struggled with injuries that have kept him running at his best. But in his early career, he was an amazing, phenomenal, incredible marathon runner – you pick the adjective. His marathon debut in Chicago in 1997 was then the fastest marathon debut in history (2:07:10) and was the fourth fastest time in the world. In 1998, he set the world record for 20KM on the road in 57:37 (this is just shy of a half-marathon). And then in 1999 he set a world record in the marathon at the Chicago Marathon, running 2:05:42.
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Races: Hall breaks record at US Men’s Olympic Marathon Trials

On a day that began with tactical running, it was Ryan Hall that took control of the race in the US Men’s Olympic Marathon Trials. He would eventually leave no doubt of his strength, winning the race in a new Trials record time of 2:09:02.

Hall becomes the first of three members of the US Men’s Olympic Marathon squad who will represent the USA in Beijing next Spring.

Finishing behind Hall also with exceptional performances were Dathan Ritzenhein (2:11:07) and Brian Sell (2:11:40). They also join Hall on the team. The fourth finisher, and alternate to the team, is none other than former world record holder Khalid Khannouchi, who finished in 2:12:34. Ritzenhein was running only his second marathon.

Hall moved ahead with a lead pack at mile 8 with Abdi Abdirahman, Ryan Hall, Fasil Bizuneh, Dathan Ritzenhein and Meb Keflezighi. Hall would eventually push the pace up at mile 13 (4:46) and then kept notching up the pace, at mile 18 turning a 4:32 mile as he stretched out the lead. One commentator noted that that may be the fastest mile ever run in Central Park.

Hall would run alone for almost the last 10 miles of the race, eventually winning by more than two minutes. As he closed the race, he waved to the crowds and seemed to be taking time to bask in the moment.

Hall’s incredible show of strength caps a year in which he ran the fastest debut marathon by an American in history at the London Marathon this April (2:08:24) and, in doing so, became the second fastest American marathoner of all-time behind only Khalid Khannouchi.

Today’s performance comes on a difficult course against one the strongest US fields ever assembled. He will be a tough competitor in Beijing next Summer for sure.

It is interesting to see Khannouchi in the alternate spot, as he would represent the USA if any of the top three finishers decided not to compete in the marathon at the Olympics. This is a strong possibility with Dathan Ritzenhein as he may prefer to compete in the 10,000M. If the berth were to open up for Khannouci, and the former world record holder were in top form, the USA squad could have exceptional potential – even being as strong as it already has come together with Hall at the lead.

Some of the other favorites suffered illnesses and injuries today, forcing them out of the race. Abdi Abdirahman, one of the pre-race favories, dropped after the half-way mark. Dan Browne suffered from calf problems, and defending champion Alan Culpepper dropped as well.

Also of sad note, Ryan Shay, former USA Marathon Champion from 2003, passed out about 30 minutes into the race at mile 5 1/2 and later died after receiving medical treatment at a local hospital. No word yet on an official cause of death.

Race Results for the US Men’s Olympic Marathon Trials

Here are the top ten finishers for the US Men’s Olympic Marathon Trials:
1. Ryan Hall – 2:09:02
2. Dathan Ritzenhein – 2:11:07
3. Brian Sell – 2:11:40
4. Khalid Khannouchi – 2:12:34
5. Jason Lehmkuhle – 2:12:54
6. Dan Browne – 2:13:23
7. Nathaniel Jenkins – 2:14:56
8. Meb Keflezighi – 2:15:09
9. Josh Rohatinsky – 2:15:22
10. Jason Hartmann – 2:15:27

More to come this weekend as the details unfold and as we see the best International field ever at the ING New York City Marathon. Check back here for more coverage. For television and Internet coverage details for the New York City Marathon, click here.

Related Article:
Athletics Weekly: Ryan hall takes victory at US Marathon Trials

Coach Joe English, Portland Oregon USA