On February 29 in Atlanta, seven members of Distance Project NYC will be on the starting line of the 2020 U.S. Olympic Team Trials for the marathon. That’s an astonishing number for a team that’s been in existence for just over a year and has a roster of fewer than 20 active members.
DPNYC was formed in January 2019 and had its NYRR race debut at the 2019 United Airlines NYC Half. The team quickly established itself as a local force, winning the Women’s Open C division at a number of NYRR races and receiving that division award at NYRR Club Night on January 30. Four runners—Megan Foster, Lauren Perkins, Ana Johnson, and Megha Doshi—finished the 2019 TCS New York City Marathon in times ranging from 2:43 to 3:07, placing DPNYC second overall in the women’s open division. Throughout 2019 and into 2020, all members have competed at a variety of distances in local, national, and international races.
The seven DPNYC Trials qualifiers are Foster, Johnson, Perkins, Harriott Kelly, Angela Ortiz, Caitlin Phillips, and Allison Goldstein. They’re in the final stages of preparing for the trials, which will select the U.S. men’s and women’s marathon teams for 2020 Tokyo Olympics. With some 800 total qualifiers, the trials races will also showcase the extraordinarily deep talent in American distance running.
In New York City, that talent is on display week in and week out. It creates a nurturing environment where success breeds success and runners are supportive rather than cutthroat. “[Running] is pretty infectious once you move to New York and engage with the running community,” said Perkins during a “Runners of NYC” podcast recording at the NYRR RUNCENTER on January 16.
The members of DPNYC all spent years honing their talents before coming together as a team. Most were previously members of other local teams and became friendly in start corrals and finish chutes; eventually they started talking about forming a “collective” of runners who’d support each other and make decisions democratically. “It absolutely happened organically,” says Foster. “We are all friends and have spent years and years running with and against each other. This friendly competition and genuine support is how I believe we all got to this level. That’s how the team was forged as well.”
The team is for women only, and remains small and democratic. There’s no team coach, no set meetups and workouts—just a commitment to work together toward bold goals. “Our main focus is to come together to support each other in whatever endeavor we set out for individually,” says Ortiz. “It’s rare that all of the qualifying women on our team will do a workout together, but on our own a few of us will often meet up for easy runs or the occasional long run. We try to work together in workouts and races as much as possible, because what’s the fun in being on a team if you’re not doing that?”
The DPNYC qualifiers are eagerly anticipating being together in Atlanta—not just as a team but with all of the NYC-area qualifiers. “That experience of building the team and training together is going to bring a richer experience to the weekend,” said Perkins. “All the familiar faces from the New York scene and all the folks who have left New York that have qualified—that entire constellation of women—is going to be really meaningful.”
Ortiz, too, is excited to be part of the New York contingent. “NYC is a tough place to train, but despite this, or maybe because of it, I think the runners in this community are some of the sharpest, most resilient, most resolute runners in the country,” she says. “I’m super proud to represent this this team and city at the trials!”
Foster concurs. “‘Epic’ is the only word that comes to mind when I think of the crew of NYC women running in the trials,” she says. “We all have competitive goals, but I think it will be a massive celebration while on the run!”
Support the local NYC runners by tuning in to watch the Olympic Trials races on February 29 on NBC at 12:00 p.m. ET.