by Weldon Johnson
June 30, 2016
America’s quadrennial celebration of the sport we all love starts tomorrow when the 2016 Olympic Track and Field Trials begin in Eugene, Oregon.
With the start of the Trials, it’s time to know, who you got? Not the athlete you think will win the Trials or make the team, but who you hope makes the team.
While there is no cheering in the press box, to pretend there aren’t certain athletes I want to do well would be dishonest.
Without further ado, here’s one woman and one man I’m rooting for.
Woman: Kate Grace
This one was easy. I went to Yale, Kate went to Yale. Yale cross country and track and field was such an important part of my life, barring an act of God, I’m going to root for my fellow Bulldogs. Plus, I and probably a lot of you can relate to Kate’s career. She was a lot better than me in college, but she wasn’t thrown a lucrative contract and had to love the sport to get where she is now. She graduated in 2011 as a 2:03 800m runner thinking she could move up to the 1500. The next year she went out of the 2012 Olympic Trials in the semifinals and and then decided to keep going in the sport. In 2013 she was 4th at USAs in the 800 and went sub-2:00 for the first and only time in her career. Things were definitely going in the right direction.
However, in 2014, she stagnated or regressed. She only broke 2:02 twice and although she did improve her 1500m pr by .05, she was only running 4:07. 2015 would be pivotal for her and what happened? She missed the entire year injured.
The beauty of the Olympics is they only come around once every four years, so you have no choice but to get your shit together. And that’s exactly what Kate has done this year. She hasn’t finished worse than 3rd in a race all year, has PR’d at 1500 (4:05.65) and won the 1500s at Oxy and Portland, but also has run great at 800 (2nd at Pre, she won the first Portland meet in 2:00.05). She’s trying to make the Olympics in arguably America’s best distance event, the women’s 800m, but if making the Olympics were easy, none of us would care about it.
Man: Jordan McNamara
While I can relate to Kate, I can really relate to Jordan McNamara for Jordan is a running junkie and a LetsRun devotee.
Jordan’s story is one of perseverance. LRC’s Jon Gault wrote an excellent profile on him here. Reading the profile, one thing is clear. Jordan is a running geek.
He was constantly battling injuries (but he was injured way more than anyone I’ve heard of: as of 2014, Jordan had suffered 14 stress fractures). Jordan graduated college and what did he do? Have surgery and not be able to run for 6 months. No shoe contract awaited him. What did he do? He worked 40-50 hours a week as a barista while training twice a day. I can relate to that. Those of you with jobs can relate to that.
All of that makes me want to root for Jordan, but there wasn’t the personal connection to push the allegiance over the top… until two weeks ago when I met him after he won the 1500m at the Harry Jerome meet.
Since I was going to talk to him one on one, I formally introduced myself. A big grin came on his face, and he said something along the lines of, “Wejo… No Way… 28:06 (which is my 10k pr).” He then proceeded to put his bare foot up on the table and say something about navicular stress fracture surgery.
This was all a bit of a blur as I was trying to figure out what the hell was going on. How did a pro 1500m runner, who was 16 years old when I last competed, know my 10k pr to the second and know I had a navicular stress fracture? Because Jordan was, like myself, a running junkie who was constantly injured, looking for “the secret” to get the next level.
Where did that lead him? To LetsRun.com in high school, where he devoured the nuggets of training wisdom while filtering the noise.
Jordan in the interview below said, “I’ve been reading LetsRun since I was a sophomore in high school. That’s where I got all my training insight. That’s where I learned about professional running. As much criticism as your guys’ site gets, there’s some shit on there, but there are so many pearls of wisdom. If you ignore the absolute verbal vomit some people like to put out, you’ll see some absolute nuggets of gold.”
Jordan Wants to Inspire You Down, But Not Out Runners: “Here’s what happened to me and hopefully you get something decent from it”
Jordan and I were then talking off-camera and he was so positive, I put the camera back on him so he could give you his words of advice. They are below. I thought Jordan might be a bit bummed about not hitting the Olympic standard at Harry Jerome, but he could appreciate winning the race, and he gave LRC nation some advice. Keep dreaming, keep striving:
Highlights: “To all you guys who are on the fritz collegiately wondering if it can happen, if you can get a contract, I’m telling you now it’s going to be a lot harder than you think. When you’re in college you think of going pro and money is just everywhere….No….”
He then quickly summarizes his journey (we recommend reading the profile on him). But if you think Jordan is trying to discourage you with the quote above, you are totally wrong. He gets to do “my absolute dream job.” He said, “The current is always going to be against you as a pro, you’re always going to have to fight for every opportunity, but you’ve got to make the best of it all the time. You’ve got to positive. You’ve to be determined you’ve got to make it happen.”
That is what the Olympic Trials and LetsRun.com is about.
For a site whose motto is “Where Your Dream Becomes Reality”, if something I wrote played a small part in Jordan’s dream or journey to the Olympics, then I’m definitely rooting for him.
So who you got? Tell us in this thread or on Twitter with hashtag #whoyougot.
Weldon Johnson, aka Wejo, is one of the co-founders of LetsRun.com. He had a navicular stress fracture and ran 28:06 for 10,000m as Jordan McNamara noted. His most popular article is “Why I Sucked in College“.