Eight D.C.-area runners take on Olympic Marathon Trials

Sam Doud was itching to run, just for a few shakeout miles. 

The problem was that he was at a post-race party after the California International Marathon (CIM) in Sacramento, Cali., where everyone else was happy to put the last 26.2 miles behind them. On that December 2018 morning, he was 52 seconds too slow to qualify for the 2020 Olympic Marathon Trials, and eager to fix that. But he took a few steps and realized a run just wasn’t going to happen. 

The next few years were a mix of overtraining, a pandemic and three failed attempts, but when he came back to Sacramento in 2022, he had his time. Running 2:15:52 brought him comfortably under the men’s qualifying standard of 2:18, making him one of three D.C. area runners to qualify for the 2024 Olympic Marathon Trials that morning, all members of the Georgetown Running Club (GRC). The men’s race starts at 10:10 a.m. and the women’s race starts at 10:20 a.m.. It will be broadcast live on Peacock and at noon on a tape delay on NBC. Franklin Hall — 1348 Florida Ave. NW — will play host to a viewing party with doors opening at 9:30 a.m. and a run starting at 8:30 a.m. 

In the next year, GRC would add five more qualifiers and all eight will represent the D.C. area at the Olympic Marathon Trials Saturday in Orlando. Susanna Sullivan also qualified for the Trials, running well under the women’s 2:37 marathon standard, but announced her withdrawal Wednesday after a positive COVID test.

 

Doud, who lives in D.C. was the first to join the club, a year after he made his marathoning debut back when the Rock ‘n’ Roll D.C. races included 26.2 miles, when he won in 2:26:57.

“That’s when I started thinking about what I could do on a faster course, with more people and I’m not wearing head-to-toe spandex.”

Despite Doud’s travails en route to his OTQ, GRC Coach Jerry Alexander said he hasn’t been far off.  

“He’s been in great shape, the timing just hasn’t been right,” Alexander said. “It was never a lack of fitness.”

With his qualification out of the way, Doud has spent the lasy year racing shorter distances and planning a fall wedding to a fellow marathoner, Emma.

 

Doud followed Fairfax County’s Tom Slattery (2:15:34) and D.C.’s Zach Herriott (2:15:42) to the finish line at CIM. 

Slattery and Herriott had made one attempt together that spring at the Glass City Marathon in Toledo, Ohio, where hot and humid conditions humbled the pair, sending Herriott to the medical tent. 

“I vividly remember finishing and telling my friend that I was never running another marathon again,” Herriott said. 

Herriott had taken a few years off of running after a record-setting career at the University of Virginia. The pandemic prompted him to start training again — and to win the virtual Credit Union Cherry Blossom Ten Mile — and upon joining GRC, he found support for a return to competitive racing. And the marathon seemed like the right goal at that time of his life.

“I was getting close to 30 and didn’t think I would be racing college kids on the track again,” he said. “After a few months of consistently running and occasionally doing workouts, I started to enjoy the rhythm of training again.”

While he felt ready to race the marathon again at CIM in December 2022, he first raised money for Fred’s Team at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center and ran at the New York City Marathon a month earlier. 

“The timing was really close to CIM, but I felt like it was a good way to bleach the memories of Glass City out of my head,” he said. “I think I would have qualified either way, but I really think doing that was really big for my confidence because it made me not afraid of the distance.”

 

CIM was Slattery’s second time qualifying for an Olympic Trials. He previously qualified for the 2020 Trials at the 2020 Houston Marathon running 2:18:35, after just missing the qualifying standard by nine seconds six weeks prior at CIM. Running his third marathon in as many months he finished 152nd at the 2020 Trials in 2:32:21.

Slattery hoped to avoid a similarly dense racing schedule this go round by qualifying a year in advance. Securing his qualifier in 2022 allowed him to ease up over the first half of 2023 before racing in the elite field for the New York City Marathon in the fall, fulfilling a lifelong dream. 

With a newborn daughter, Slattery plans to ease back even more from running after the Trials.

“This is the top of the mountain for me,” he said. “I just want to enjoy the experience of running with the guys I qualified with and look at the race as a celebration of all the coaches who invested in me to help me get here.”

Those coaches  include Kevin Beirne and Bill Carriero from Slattery’s Long Island alma mater Chaminade High School, Tom Dewey and Brian Horowitz from Fordham University and Alexander.

“Tom doesn’t need coaching, he just needs a pat on the back,” Alexander said. “With all he has going on, he’s remarkably good at compartmentalizing and focusing on running when it’s time to run and everything else when it’s not.”

 

Elena Hayday, the only local woman racing the Trials, had the distinction of being one of the few nationwide to meet the 1:12 half marathon standard, running 1:11:33 at the 2023 Houston Half Marathon. 

Despite leaving the cross country and track teams at the University of Minnesota, Hayday kept training and discovered, after beating her 5k PR by almost a minute at a low-key track meet, that she had more left to do with competitive running. 

“Whatever I was doing in college, I was not running at my potential and it kind of just lit a fire to figure out what my potential actually is,” she said.  

She followed that up with a 2:30:51 at Grandma’s Marathon in Duluth, Minn., her first serious effort at the marathon, but one that came without the pressure of qualifying.

“I was a little afraid of the distance,” she said. “I got started with some women who were running a little faster than I should be, so there was a point where I felt like I shouldn’t be hurting that much at mile 13 if I have to run 26, but after I dropped back for a while I finished pretty strong.”

The last few months have seen Hayday, of D.C., focus more on marathon-oriented mileage and longer workouts.

“I feel like I’ll be much more confident in making a move a little bit earlier even if it hurts a little bit more and actually being able to hold on to that pace,” she said. 

Alexander said though the marathon distance is relatively new to Hayday, her preparation should make up for her inexperience.

“She has no reason to be nervous going in,” he said. “People who haven’t done the work should be nervous. She’s not one of them.”

 

Arlington’s Clint McKelvey edged Doud in moving to the D.C. area nearly 10 years ago. Running primarily with Dustin Sweeney’s old Pacers team in the middle of the 2010s, he stuck to the traditional post-collegiate 5ks and 10ks until looking toward the marathon at the end of the decade.

 “If you’re at a certain competitiveness level where you’re running post collegiately but you’re not going to go pro, making the Olympic Trials is kind of the biggest milestone people work towards”

McKelvey took swings at Grandma’s Marathon and the California International Marathon in 2019, finishing about a minute and a half off the qualifying standard at the latter. He took the opportunities provided by remote work during the pandemic to run more, including training at altitude in Park City, Utah, and came into early 2021 as ready as he had been to race fast, except there were few races and the qualifying window for 2024 had not yet opened. 

He tried to come back from a metatarsal stress fracture and put himself back a few months in 2022, but he found good time for a Trials attempt at the Eugene, Ore. Marathon in spring 2023 where he ran 2:16:35.

McKelvey felt a bit of a motivational lull during the D.C. summer, but eventually saw a positive trend in his training.

“Before Eugene I felt better on my shorter workouts, but in this cycle I feel better on my longer workouts,” he said. “Given that I’m racing a marathon, that’s going to be a good thing.”

He’s been training in Central Florida since Jan. 1, adjusting to warmer and more humid conditions and flatter routes.

“His problem over the years has been staying healthy,” Alexander said. “Once he figured out what training he could tolerate safely, his tactical sense really put him ahead of a lot of runners.”

 

Owen Ritz ran his first, and only, marathon on a whim after finishing graduate school at Georgetown. The Philadelphia native raced his hometown marathon in 2022 at the urging of his former Dartmouth teammates that summer.

“I was starting to train more and more like a long distance runner at Georgetown,” he said. “I was running 90-100 miles a week my fifth year and my teammates said I should race a marathon.”

After starting the first 10k was a group of runners pushing a 2:12 pace, he relented, figuring that would be unsustainable. To his surprise, there was no chase pack to latch onto, so we went alone.

“You think about every situation that can happen in a big race, but it’s pretty rare that you end up being on your own for 20 miles,” he said. “I just stayed calm and pretended I was on a long run.”  

He finished in 2:17:46, securing his Trials qualifier,  and looks forward to a little more company in his next marathon.

 

D.C.’s Zack Holden is one of the few “Division IV” runners in the field — collegiate club runners.

“I feel a little imposter syndrome, but I’m getting used to competing with people who have been a lot faster than me and who come from more resources,” he said.

While running for Virginia’s club team in 2019, he tacked on the Philadelphia Marathon to the end of his season. Running his first marathon brought him an epiphany that may be familiar to others: he went  from amazement that people complain about marathons in the early miles to understanding why once he hit mile 20. 

Holden grew up in Vienna, Va., where he ran for James Madison High School and scored as a junior for a Warhawks team that upset two-time defending 6A champion Lake Braddock in the 2016 state championships.

After joining GRC in 2022, he spent the first half of 2023 refining his shorter distances — a 14:26 5k, a 29:57 10k — before running 48:53 at the Broad Street 10 Mile in May that demonstrated he was ready to make an attempt at the standard at the Indianapolis Monumental Marathon in the fall. 

“Broad Street was probably the moment when I felt like it wasn’t just a possibility,” Holden said. “But I would not be here without having guys like Zach Herriott, Sam and Slattery. When I joined the team I looked up to them and now I’m able to train with them.”

Holden’s instincts were right. He felt good with 5k to go in Indianapolis and closed smoothly for a finishing time of 2:16:54 and a trip to the Trials.  

As the announcer in Indianapolis celebrated Holden’s finish, John McGowan was falling apart. The last five miles passed in slow motion, as he saw his pacing deteriorate and finished 38 seconds short of an OTQ. Excitement for his teammate Holden anesthetized him somewhat and he turned his hopes to the California International Marathon in December.. Fortunately, McGowan was aided by a scheduling quirk that put Indianapolis a week earlier than usual, offering an extra seven days of recovery before his next attempt.

“I felt like I had the fitness but just couldn’t quite make my legs move the way I wanted to [in Indianapolis],” he said. “I finished the race pretty gassed but also feeling like I had a little bit more to give.”

McGowan had recently returned to D.C., where he had grown up as a runner–and Foot Locker finalist — for Sidwell Friends School, and attended law school. He had a three month gap between ending his clerkship in New Haven, Conn. — where he had also run for Yale — and his start at a law firm.

Approaching 30, fatherhood and a more rigorous professional life, he aimed to run a fast marathon. A win at the 2023 Providence Marathon in Rhode Island told him he was on track, and upon moving home, he started training with GRC. He lived like a pro–making lunches for his wife, napping, doubling and making the most of his sabbatical. That included a win at the D.C. Half Marathon in September.

When he got to California, he did what he couldn’t in Indiana — run 2:17:28. His reward, besides a trip to Orlando? He had to start work the next morning back in D.C.

 “I’ve had to get all the more efficient with the way I use my time now, but I’m enjoying some of the professional challenges that I have now,” he said. “It’s just some more balls in the air, so I have to be more efficient—no more doubling, I’m running 80 or 90 miles a week instead of 120.”

 

Five runners who grew up around the D.C. area but continued racing will be competing on Saturday. 

Keira Carlstrom D’Amato, who ran at Oakton High School and American University and now lives in Richmond, comes into the race as the second fastest American marathoner (her 2:19:12 at the 2022 Houston Marathon was an American record) and half marathoner (her 1:06:37 was an American record). She’s ranked second only to Emily Sisson, who now holds the American marathon record in 2:18:29. She finished 15th at the 2020 Trials, and has since made World Championships teams in the marathon in 2022, where she finished eighth, and 2023. 

Johnny Phillips, a Thomas Jefferson alumnus who lives in Boston, ran 2:14:11 at the 2022 Grandma’s Marathon, and is the fastest marathoner with local ties. He was 40th in 2020.

Poolesville alumnus Chase Weaverling, who now lives in Boulder, following a 2:15:48 at Grandma’s in 2023, is heading to his second Trials. 

Alex Taylor, a Woodbridge alumnus living in Boston, will be one of the oldest men in the field at age at his second Trials. He ran 2:17:32 at Grandma’s Marathon in 2023.

Ellicott City, Md. native Brian Harvey, who lives in Boston, ran 2:17:40 at Grandma’s Marathon in 2022 to qualify for his third Trials.

 

Two qualifiers with local connections will not be racing.

Susanna Sullivan, who ran at George Mason (now Meridian) high school and lives in Reston, saw a career resurgence starting in 2020 after working with George Mason University coach Andrew Gerard. She ran 2:24:27 at the 2023 London Marathon, ran the 2023 World Championships Marathon and won the 2022 Credit Union Cherry Blossom Ten Mile, but will miss the Trials after testing positive for COVID.

Katy Kunc Presley, a Lake Braddock alumna living in Lexington, Ky. qualified with a 2:33:31 at the 2022 California International Marathon but suffered a torn labrum in her hip and will not race.

 

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