With less than six weeks to go, excitement is high for the 2020 U.S. Olympic Team Trials for the marathon that will take place on February 29 in Atlanta, GA. Marathoners from all over the country will converge to compete and show off the American depth of talent in distance running.
New York City and the tri-state area will be sending a large number of runners, many of whom are members of local running clubs. On January 16, the popular “Runners of NYC” podcast taped a live session at the NYRR RUNCENTER showcasing three of these athletes.
Hosts Chris Chavez and Leigh Anne Sharek (herself a trials qualifier) sat down with Brendan Martin of New York Athletic Club, Jenny Donnelly of Central Park Track Club New Balance, and Lauren Perkins of Distance Project NYC, all three of whom will be running at the trials.
Martin earned his spot in 2018 at the BMW Berlin Marathon with a time of 2:16:26. However, this will not be his first time running at this event as he competed in the 2016 Los Angeles Olympic Trials, a race that’s remembered for its brutal heat, and finished in an impressive 20th place.
For sub-elite runners, the Olympic Trials is one of the most important races they can run, and Martin has learned how to avoid potentially race-ruining anxiety with a special mindset.
“You want to approach it the same way as if you made the Olympics,” Martin said. “If I made the Olympics I would be like, ‘I’m probably not going to medal, so it’s awesome I made the Olympics, I am going to enjoy being here and I am going to do my best.’....this is my version of the Olympics.”
Donnelly is headed to the trials for the first time. As a collegiate runner, she could hardly wait to start running marathons and completed her first one in Montréal right after she graduated college.
Her journey to the trials came to its peak when she was part of the large group of women runners who got their qualifying times at the California International Marathon this past December. It was an emotional day for all who participated in and witnessed the event. Donnelly got a personal record with a 2:44:35, earning her spot at the trials with only 25 seconds to spare. It was a race she will always remember.
“It’s still just the most surreal experience,” Donnelly said. “With two [miles] to go I knew I had it, and those last two miles were the most amazing feeling...I was so grateful and overwhelmed thinking about all the people who had supported me and gotten me there, and how much I had fallen in love with the sport over the last year. It was very emotional.”
“The freight train of OTQ hopefuls, for both men and women, was extraordinary,” added Perkins, who had flown out to watch the race. “I started to beam in texts back to New York, ‘Jenny is putting on a clinic. She’s got this. She’s locked.’”
Perkins moved to New York in 2010, which sparked the love of running she had held since she was a child watching the Boston Marathon.
“[Running] is pretty infectious once you move to New York and engage with the running community,” she said. The running bug bit Perkins hard, and she became a founding member of one of the city’s most visible running clubs, Distance Project NYC. She earned her qualifying spot at the Chicago Marathon in 2018 with a 2:42:55. When she steps to the start line in Atlanta, she will do so with six other members of her running club, all of whom have been training together and helping each other achieve this tremendous accomplishment.
“That experience of building the team and spending more time and training together alone is going to bring a richer experience to have this weekend together. But even bigger than Distance Project NYC, 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,” Perkins said.
You can listen to the episode on the Runners of NYC podcast or watch below. Make sure to support your local NYC runners including Martin, Donnelly, and Perkins by tuning it to watch the Olympic Trials Race on February 29 on NBC at 12:00 p.m. ET.