Reflections on the Trials
My journey home from the Trials was not what I’d expected; on the third and final leg of my trip we encountered some bad weather. Instead of landing in Little Rock, we had to reroute, refuel, and finally, three hours later, we made it to the ground safely. Surviving on a power nap from the night before (and little sleep during my longest flight, thanks to two screaming children), to say that I was a little grouchy would be a huge understatement.
I knew that I needed to get some rest before work but I really, really wanted to go for a run; I tried to go to bed as soon as possible so that I could still make it out for a few Monday morning miles.
Not only did I feel the need to shake out my sore legs, especially after that long journey home, but there was also a different motivation: watching athletes put their dreams on the track and field right in front of me, for an entire week, was indescribably powerful.
While I was in Eugene, I had the pleasure of hearing multi-talented Lauren Fleshman speak; while reflecting on her own Olympic Trials experiences, she said several things that stuck with me including the fact that “in every race that you’ll see this week, someone has to be fourth,” referring to the first person who does not make the U.S. Olympic Team in each particular event.
For very few, the Olympic Trials offer an opportunity to represent their country on the biggest stage of their lives; athletes like Kate Grace, of Oiselle, who has clawed her way back into competition after so many frustrating situations, injuries, and moments of being the equivalent of “fourth.” She finally had the day she needed to make it happen.
For the majority, their performance at the Trials is significant in other ways – four Oiselle athletes, that I can think of off the top of my head, turned in personal best performances at Hayward Field; what an impressive effort in those conditions! Success has so many definitions and, for those of us who will never be on a grand stage, I think this is a great reminder.
As I reflect on the races I watched, the messages I heard from the athletes and families I encountered, and the running community with whom I spent time during this trip, I’ve realized that the gap isn’t that wide, the gap between “us” and “them,” the “elites” and the…well, the rest of us.
Ultra runner Devon Yanko said that one of the toughest things about competition is to accept that “we’re all going to have a day; just have a day.” Your day may not be great, or even good, but you have to take the risk and see what happens. Isn’t that true with everything in life, not only in our athletic endeavors?
There are those like recent college grad and pole vaulter Morgann LeLeux who, had she finished in the top three on Sunday, could have cemented her spot in Rio; she cleared a personal best and finished fourth. I met her parents on the shuttle ride from the track to the parking lot and we discovered that they live about 30 minutes away from my Texas hometown.
There is Correion Mosby, also a young college athlete, with whom I shared the flight from Portland to Dallas. When I asked him if he competed in the Trials, after seeing his gear, he responded affirmatively and said he ran in the 200 meter event.
I asked him what kind of day he had and he said, with a sigh, “Well, it wasn’t a good day; the top 21 were able to move on and I was number 22.” I found his time online; he finished five 1000ths of a second behind the last qualifier for the semifinal round.
At a loss for words, I said, “Thank you for sharing your efforts with us; keep up the great work.” I have a strong feeling he will, just like he has been and like all of these athletes have been doing for many years.
So, as I tied my shoes early Monday morning, thinking I could have stayed in bed, I told myself to have a day and to keep up the great work; I think that’s the best I can do and I offer the same to each of you.