US Olympic Marathon Trials Weekend in Atlanta Recap

Atlanta Trials weekend

What’s your idea of an awesome weekend away with friends? If there’s a marathon to spectate, I’m game. 

A couple of months ago, Ashley (RunningBun on IG) invited me to go to Atlanta with her, and a group of ladies to watch the US Olympic Marathon Trails. Having listened to a number of running podcasts interviewing US runners, and having followed a number of their careers over the last few years, I felt invested in the outcome of this race. I don’t see it as any different to people following a football team. 

I flew into Newark airport after work on Thursday, and stayed at Ashley’s house before flying together to Atlanta the following day (I was flying on Tom’s standby ticket, so flying into NYC where there are 10+ flights per day is a better option than flying direct to Atlanta where there’s only 1 flight per day). 

Amanda and I were hosting a book meet up on Friday afternoon as the Inside Tracker hub, it was so fun to meet so many running enthusiasts in town for the marathon weekend. And we were so lucky that GU provided barbecue food (which I discovered what different to a BBQ!) to enjoy post run. I always feel really nervous to host any sort of meet up incase no-one comes (read this post) but was thrilled with the turnout and I’m excited to be hosting something with Amanda in NYC in two weeks time. Her book is out tomorrow but I think it’s only available in the US right now. 

Cook Eat Run Book Tour meet up

Saturday morning we joined Kara Goucher’s shake out run, with 300+ other women, some of whom I have to say, were a little aggressive and pushy on this ‘fun run’! The run was a good indicator of just how tough the Olympic Trials Marathon was going to be…it was ALL HILLS. And it was really cool to see the marathon start and finish line plus the Olympic Rings in Centennial Park. 

Atlanta Trials Weekend Kara Goucher

Our plan for spectating were to head to a part of the course where we could get food, drinks and watch the runners come by as often as possible. The wind had really picked up, and sitting outside the restaurant as planned was a bit nippy, so we moved inside, ate lunch while following the coverage of the race on the TV and sprinting outside when the runners were getting close. We saw them 3 times each, mile 1, 9 and 17th – it was so thrilling to follow. The packs were absolutely huge from the start, with the women’s race not spreading out until after they’d passed us at mile 17, and Galen Rupp taking the lead around 16 miles. 

Saturday wasn’t just about the elite runners. We loved cheering on the other OTQ runners, those that have full time jobs, who balance parenting with work and training, for the people that race day was their Olympic equivalent. There were women who were running 6 months pregnant, men who had dealt with injuries since qualifying and a whole lot of dedication, determination and grit in that field. 

Atlanta Trials weekend

Atlanta Trials weekend Sara Hall

I was particularly cheering on Des Linden, Sara Hall and Steph Bruce (although I thought Kellyn Taylor, Steph’s teammate might pip her to the top 3 post). However, it was NAZ Elite Aliphine, then first time marathoner Molly Siedel followed by Sally Kipyego to go one, two, three. Chasing Sally down even in the final stretch was Des Linden who I screamed my head off for, with Laura Thweat chasing her. Stephanie Bruce ran arguably the race of her life for a strong 6th place, then Emma Bates, Kellyn Taylor, Nell Rojas and in the top 10 was Julia Kohnen (we were frantically googling her while tracking the race!).

Atlanta Trials weekend

On the Men’s side, which I was unashamedly less interested in, Galen Rupp took the win, with Jacob Riley (a bit of a dark horse) and masters runner, Abdi Abdirahman taking the second and third place spots. Although it was a battle for those places with Leonard Korir getting to within 4 metres of third.

A BIG story from the weekend is of course the Nike shoes, with every single runner in the trails being given a pair of the new Nike Alphafly. Numerous runners were seen wearing them on Saturday, presumably for the first time for many of them as they were released to the public on the same day (and sold out in minutes). With that said, although 4 of the top 6 runners were Nike sponsored athletes (three of the men but only one of the women), the top 10’s on each side showed a spattering of Saucony, Hoka, Asics, Reebok and Brooks runners too.

Noticably absent were any Adidas or New Balance trainers in either of the top 10 (infant having IG stalked it looks like and Adidas sponsored runner wore Nikes for the race, as did many others apparently). Such is the belief in the Nike technology. I do wonder whether research will be done into the different impact for men and women on the Nike carbon plated shoes, as it looks like most of the men in the top 10 were wearing them whilst only a couple of the women donned the controversial trainers.

Post race we headed to the live Ali on the Run Show to hear from runner’s Sarah Sellers, Taylor Ward plus some other Olympic Trials runners about their race experience. The cutest moment was when one of the girls started running and was comforted by Meb Keflezighi. Sarah Sellers ran an outstanding race for 11th place and a personal best (she came second in Boston in that monsoon year in 2018) and still works full time as a nurse anaesthetist.

Atlanta Trials weekend 5K race

I signed up last minute for the 5K race on Sunday, partly because I thought I could get a longer run around it but mostly to get to cross the same finish line as the Saturday runners! Truth be told I was going to sign up for the half marathon but it sold out while I debated re timings.

However, after running those hills I was kind of glad it worked out like that. I ran the 2 miles from our air B&B to the race start line with just a few minutes to collect some safety pins and head to the start corral. My plan was just to run comfortably without worrying at all about pace (ran a 25.37, 8.15 average) then ran the 2 miles back…bumping into Sara Hall on her post-race shake out run on the way back.

Atlanta Trials weekend 5K race recap

The route for the 5K was hilly, as expected, with few markings but the pack was big enough that I never worried about getting lost. There was an aid station at the halfway for those that wanted, and the post-race goodies were amazing. The highlight was Trials winner Aliphine setting us off on the race in one of her trademark beanies!

I have to admit, I did not envy those running the half and full marathons on that course, especially after a day of hard-core cheering. Not the best pre race strategy, but I’m sure the inspiration and motivation from the Saturday was more than enough to help the mental game.

The weekend gave me a lot to think about, chatting with all the speedy runners in the house, and helped me create strategies for my own goals. I think I now have a proper plan in place for it…stay tuned!

Were you watching the trials this weekend? Were you surprised by the results? 

Atlanta Trials weekend 5K medal

5 Comments

  1. Andrea Hartwell
    2nd March 2020 / 1:34 pm

    Glad you enjoyed your time in Atlanta; you’re right about those hills!! Living in Atlanta, we all laugh about those “rolling hills”! I ran the Marathon for the 3rd time (my 14th in 4 years) and loved it (the weather was perfect) and certainly felt inspired after watching the Trials the day before.
    Hope y’all come back for the Peachtree Road Race on July 4th!!

  2. Anne
    2nd March 2020 / 6:02 pm

    Thanks for the nice recap. I enjoyed your interview on the Another Mother Runner podcast.

  3. 3rd March 2020 / 8:26 am

    Really interesting recap 🙂 It is quite interesting to see what is going to happen with the new Nike shoes. If even Adidas sponsored athletes wear Nike, they must have faith in the technology. Not sure why women would wear them less though… I am looking forward to see what new is going to come out of this trend 🙂

  4. 9th March 2020 / 2:51 pm

    Nice medal! I hope you post about the NYC event for your friend’s book. I’d love to join if I can

  5. 11th March 2020 / 7:03 pm

    This was my first time watching the trials and I was pulling pretty hard for Des, one of the few runners I follow. It was a great race though and I definitely don’t envy everyone having to deal with those hills. Sounds like you had a good time there and appreciate your recap!