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Top Running Lessons from 2016 US Olympic Marathon Trials


There are so many amazing running lessons to be learned from watching the 2016 US Olympic Marathon Trials. The Olympic Trials provided a crash course in why I love and respect the marathon between the mens’ and womens’ races!

Top Running Lessons from the 2016 US Olympic Marathon Trials

Running Lessons from the 2016 US Olympic Marathon Trials. Find out how to run your best race ever! @suzlyfe

1) Run YOUR Own Race!

If anyone had told you at mile 8 that Desi Linden would have placed 2nd in the women’s race, you likely would have looked at them with a hilarious amount of incredulity. At that point, Desi was still in the pack, if not a bit far back, Amy Hastings Cragg and Shalane Falanagan were beastmoding with Kellen Taylor, and there seemed to be no discussion. So how did Desi Linden end up where she did?

2016 US Olympic Marathon Trials Desi Linden and Amy Cragg |

She ran her own race. She didn’t run the race that the others were setting up, or fall prey to nerves and pressure to change her strategy. Instead, she played to her strengths, the plan that she and her coach had developed over months of training and then a final analysis of conditions for Saturday, and she went about her business. 

Whether you are running for sport or competition, it can be so very tempting to give up your tried and true training and follow someone else’s lead. But remember: just as everyone has a training plan, a racing outfit, the perfect shoe, and the perfect fueling plan that works FOR THEM, each of us has a strategy that works best for us. And something tells me that running someone else’s race strategy for the first time ever on marathon day? Not such a good idea. Just as we have to trust our training, we have to trust our plan. Run your race. No one else’s.

2) Teamwork Makes the Dream Work aka #SquadGoals

Now, this might seem slightly hypocritical considering the last lesson, but there is so much to be said for being a part of a team or partnership. You can still run your own race while supporting others: Cragg got to the point that it was time for her to break from Flanagan, just as there came a time for me to let Wendy break free from me during the Chicago Marathon. You CAN have teamwork in an individual sport: it is called sportsmanship and bringing out the best in one another. 

2016 US Olympic Marathon Trials Flanagan and Cragg demonstrating incredible teamwork | @suzlyfe

Runners and cyclists that are competing against each other will often draft off of each other as they move, and there was plenty of that as the runners competed on Saturday, particularly in the men’s competition. To another point, Flanagan and Cragg were encouraging and supporting each other the entire race–at one point, Alex (who can read lips), told me that he saw Cragg shouting “You got this!” to Flanagan, who was, at that point, suffering from dehydration. At the end of the day, each of these women was out to win, to get that spot on the US Olympic Team, but they still wanted to EARN that spot.

I encourage you, the next time that you are out on a run or in a race, to think of each person out there as a potential teammate and see how their actions encourage and make an impression on you, and how you think about them differently.

We should all be so awesome as Papa Bear Meb, who ran up to hug and help Jared Ward.

3) Running is a Sport for All Ages

Speaking of Meb, look at the ages of the top three Men’s finishers: Galen Rupp (turning 30 in a few weeks), Meb (turning 41 in May), Jared Ward (27). Yes, there is a time when you age starts to have a negative impact on running (as in, you aren’t “competitive” in an elite field), but in large part that is due to recovery needs and injury potential. But I know many “adult onset runners” (Yo, Wendy!) who are PR’ing again and again. Running is a sport that you can do all your life (look at the 100 year old marathoners!) and that we should hopefully be able to do all our lives. Never feel that you are tool old to start something; just make sure that, when you start, you go about it properly (I would encourage you to find a coach to help you avoid injury and increase enjoyment!

2016 USA Olympic Marathon Trials Men's Winners | @Suzlyfe

But never think that your best days of running are over: my former training partner Wendy, who jokingly said during the Chicago Marathon that she was considering going for a 3:15 and then when I asked her about it later told me she wasn’t sure that I should have listened to her mid-marathon “nonsense” (“I’m not 20 anymore!) just PR’d in the 3:18 range at the LA Marathon!

4) The Importance of Fueling and Hydration Cannot Be Underemphasized

Up to about mile 20, Shalane Flanagan made the marathon look like child’s play: each stride was strong, she seemed to be handling the heat well, and she and Amy Cragg were just out for a Saturday romp. Mile 20, she started to lose her running form–I saw the arc and landing of her right foot change. At mile 21, you could see it in her face. By mile 23, it was obvious that she was just holding on (and Cragg #squadgoals was pulling her through). 

Cragg helping Flanagan at the end of the 2016 US Olympic Trials Marathon

In discussion of what happened during the race, Flanagan cited severe dehydration and a failure of her hydration plan. According to Flanagan, she just didn’t seem to be absorbing her hydration solution. The day was warm like it was during the Chicago Marathon and the Women’s Magnificent Mile Half MCragg helping Flanagan at the end of the 2016 US Olympic Trials Marathonarathon and many runners had a very difficult time during both of those races. The moral of the story is to practice practice practice your hydration and fueling!

5) Running is a Humbling Sport but it Also Is a Redeeming One

Sometimes, you do everything perfectly, and the wheels still come off. Flanagan and Cragg did exactly what they had planned to do, and while Cragg flew, Flanagan crashed at the end (I don’t know if I can call finishing 3rd in the US Olympic Trials crashing). Kara Goucher ran an amazing race; she simply wasn’t the best that day. 

2016 US Olympic Marathon Trials Jared Ward |

You can be a marathoner and there will still be days when 4 miles feels like you are getting beaten with a wooden spoon (thus why I like running by effort versus other pacing strategies! In my upcoming podcast with Denny of Diz Runs, I discuss why the half marathon is my favorite distance to race, while the marathon is my favorite race distance/distance to train for: in short, running is humbling, and the marathon demands respect. All of the pieces have to come together on that day. And sometimes they do, and you blow your own damn mind (I have been lucky to do so at Marine Corps Marathon, Twin Cities Marathon, Phoenix Marathon, and Chicago Marathon). But the trick is to always respect your body, the race, the conditions, and the other runners. If you do that, then you have learned the best lessons that running has to teach you.

From #squadgoals to being humbled, the top lessons of the #olympicmarathontrials #la2016 #runchat Click To Tweet

What are some other lessons that you witnessed during the Olympic Marathon Trials?

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