For Shauneen Werlinger, a trip to the 2020 Olympic Marathon Trials figured to be the culmination of a long development that started at Thomas Jefferson High School, continued through a spectacular collegiate career and evolved to include her career and family.
But instead of competing in Atlanta, she’ll be following the race alongside her husband and children. Instead of growing the Trials field by one, she’s growing her family by one, with a son due in January.
The decision to pass on the race is one Werlinger, 34, said she did not take lightly.
Mark Leininger did a lot while in D.C., including breaking the American University 10,000-meter record. But running off the track, at the Credit Union Cherry Blossom Ten Mile Run, spurred him to greater heights and longer distances.
“I didn’t really think about [competing post-collegiately on the roads] too much,” Leininger said. “I wanted to still run faster on the track.”
What made me consider it was when I ran Cherry Blossom right after college and I ran 49:08, and that’s on pace if I were to continue for a half marathon to qualify. After I did that, I thought about running a half-marathon to qualify [for the Trials]. [Cherry Blossom] was my longest race just coming out of college, and it made me realize I could probably run a pretty fast half-marathon.”
Since his breakout performance, Leininger has expanded his range and competed in the marathon in the 2016 Olympic Trials. And thanks to a career-best performance of 2:17:51 at the California International Marathon last December and a 2:18:00 six months later at Grandma’s Marathon, Leininger is headed back once again to American running’s biggest stage, where he hopes to build off his past Trials experience and surpass the competition.
When Aileen Barry was a lacrosse player for Watkins Mills High School in Gaithersburg, she knew she was quick on her feet.
If she got the ball, “no one could catch me,” Barry remembered.
It was the first sign that the Montgomery Village native, now 37, had a hidden talent for running. But it wasn’t something she paid much attention to back then, instead concentrating on ballet and field hockey in addition to lacrosse.
Fast forward to 2018, when Barry punched her ticket to the 2020 Olympic Trials at Grandma’s Marathon in Duluth, Minn. She finished in 2:44:49, 11 seconds under the 2:45 standard for women (her gun time was 2:44:51, which is what U.S.A. Track and Field accepts for its qualifying standards.)
“It was close,” said Barry, who now lives in Manhasset, N.Y. on Long Island. “Grandma’s was an amazing experience. I honestly didn’t know what to expect. At mile 24, would I totally blow up?”
Instead, she passed two other women in the last mile.
Barry’s OTQ came as little surprise to her coach, Devon Martin, who has been working with Barry since she joined the Central Park Track Club in 2006.
“Six weeks before the marathon, I knew she was ready,” Martin said.
Spot her two letters and Fairfax’s Bethany Sachtleben can rearrange her name to spell “schedule.”
Her daily routine dictates how she fits in her 100+ mile weeks around her full-time work and coaching, but even farther removed from that, she was trying to figure out where all those miles were going. Yes, the 2020 Olympic Marathon Trials Feb. 29, but more immediately, she was supposed to race a marathon on July 27. For Team USA.
But less than a week before she was due in Lima, Peru, she wasn’t so sure. Told in early June that she was on the Pan American Games team, she was now apparently off. She found out on Friday; Her flight was the next Wednesday.
“I heard, ‘we’re offering your spot to everyone on the 2019 (performance) list,'” Sachtleben said. Her last marathon was a month before 2019 started. Everyone else would have to decline, including runners whose times were slower. “Then I started getting calls from friends saying they had been offered my spot and they turned it down. I felt awkward and uncomfortable for everybody because it’s a huge opportunity, but nobody is going to decide to jump into a marathon the week before.”
If Chase Weaverling didn’t think he was going to qualify for the US Olympic Marathon Trials before starting the Houston Half Marathon, it definitely didn’t help his confidence when he hit the ground a half mile into the race. He clipped the heels of a marathoner he was drafting off of, then stumbled once that the marathoner went down.
Weaverling, who graduated from Poolesville in 2014, was a few months into his post-collegiate running career following a solid four years at the University of Virginia.
But in less time than it would take to explain that his Reebok Boston Track Club is actually based in Charlottesville, he was back on his feet and catching back up to a pack which included two pacers aiming for 1:04:00. That’s the time he needed to qualify for the trials and that’s what he ran, tying him for the slowest time qualifier, and at 23, making him one of the youngest. It was another example of him making the most out of his opportunities.
“I just told myself not to freak out,” Weaverling said. “My left side was pretty scarred up, but I didn’t even realize I was bleeding until afterward.”
Though she had kept a relatively low profile since winning the 2016 Marine Corps Marathon, Perry Shoemaker is back after qualifying for the 2020 Olympic Marathon Trials April 28 at the Eugene Marathon. Her 2:43:33 was a PR of more than eight minutes.
“I’m still shocked that I did it,” Perry said a little over a week after the race. “And of course I’m still very excited.”
For years, Perry, 48, has challenged the notion that results slow down with age. She says that qualifying for the Trials became a dream when she realized she could do it with the right conditions and without injuries. “Without injuries” turned out to be a key challenge.
Setting a PR in the 10k seems like it would make most people happy. Especially if they do it at age 34, more than a decade after the conclusion of an All-American running career.
Not Keira D’Amato. She was third at mid-April’s Monument Avenue 10k in Richmond, and she was pissed. Winner Bethany Sachtleben gapped her by almost a minute.
“I got crushed,” she said the next day. “I ran the best I could and I didn’t even last a mile with them.”
She acknowledged the obvious.
“I’m just a competitive person,” she said. “I know I should be happy, it was a lifetime PR (33:37),” she said. “I’m now in better shape than I ever was in college.”
Less than a week ago, Patrick Reaves was on the starting line – and on the list of “Olympic hopefuls” – for an eight-mile race in Atlanta. This was a special event held to preview the course for the U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials, now less than a year away.
Reaves’s result will tell you that he ran 42:14, 5:09 pace, to finish 33rd, and that he lives in Portland, Ore. What it will not tell you is that the 34-year-old runner was actually racing in his hometown, the city where he ran his first marathon as a 19-year-old club runner at the University of Maryland.
And while his result indicated — and Reaves himself will confirm it — that a fellow Nike athlete, and three-time national cross country champion, Chris Derrick, tagged along doing a tempo, it will not tell you that Reaves is a professional in the more traditional sense. He’s not paid to run; instead, he’s paid to guide Nike’s social impact strategy, a position that connected him to Bowerman Track Club’s elite corporate team when he and his wife, Valerie, moved to Portland in 2014.
Reaves’s result also will not tell you how he earned the opportunity to be on the starting line: how, in December, at the California International Marathon (CIM), his half marathon split of 1:08:47 was a personal best. He then nearly PRed again, covering the back half only six seconds slower.
This is how Reaves chopped approximately six minutes from his personal best to clock 2:17:40 and beat the sub-2:19 men’s qualifying standard for the trials. Now he’s a year away from competing in the event back in his hometown where his marathon journey began.
D.C.’s Kerry Allen punched her ticket to the U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials in decisive fashion Oct. 7, running 2:41:33 for a seventh place finish at the Twin Cities Marathon in Minneapolis, nearly four minutes faster than the minimum qualifying time of 2 hours, 45 minutes. It makes her the second-fastest full-time female D.C.-area resident to qualify for the 2020 trails, Feb. 29 in Atlanta.
The 30-year-old Senate health policy advisor succeeded after three previous attempts at a qualifying time went sour midway through. Over the two years prior, she was the first (2016) and first-ranked (2017) runner in RunWashington’s rankings, but she hadn’t made it past 16 miles in the New York, Grandma’s or California International marathons without faltering. But Twin Cities was different.