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Editor's Note: LetsRun.com's Weldon Johnson (WEJO), finished 25th in the Men's Olympic Trials. Here he recaps his race:
I gave myself a chance
Although obviously, I'm disappointed with my result, I am not disappointed with my race. I wanted to put myself in contention to make the Olympic Team, and I did that by putting myself in the 2nd pack that contained the winner of the race. By halfway, I was pretty certain the winner would come from my pack, it just turned out not to be me. All in one can ask for is a chance to make the Olympics and I gave myself one. Let me give a full recap of the race.
It was brutally hot
First, the conditions were brutal. After the women's Olympic Trials, my comment was, "I can't believe the women did not try and run under the Olympic A standard (the time required for more than one person to go to the Olympics). The men won't do that." But now I see how wrong I was. The conditions in Columbia were brutally hot, and the conditions in Pittsburgh were terrible. It was extremely hot. I see now that in such conditions the runners are forced to adjust their pre-race plans because today it would have been suicidal to try and run under 2:14. I was a bit surprised to find Todd Williams, in the 2nd chase pack (the pack that I joined at mile 9) after his comments at the pre-race press conference that he would decide it wasn't a 2:14 day when "he was sitting on the curb." However, I give Todd a lot of respect for recognizing the conditions and adjusting his plan accordingly. Unfortunately, for Todd (and myself), the winner who emerged from our pack was Rod DeHaven.
No, I did not miss the start
When I first ran by my Team Wejo fan club (45 supporters adorned in Team Wejo, LetsRun.com t-shirts) there was some debate between my coach and brother as to whether I had missed the start. No, I did not. I just started slow. My first mile was in 5:20, and my next one was slow too. (I've always seemed to have some trouble getting going in the marathon). However, I was not too worried. I was confident in my preparation, and felt I would put myself in contention. If I never put myself in contention to make the team, I would be extremely upset with my race, but that would not be the case.
Joining the Winning Pack
Gradually, I began to run a faster pace and to gain on the chase packs. The race for the first half consisted of one or two leaders, and 3 chase packs, and then everyone else. I caught the 3rd pack that included eventual 6th place finisher Dave Scudamore (who never put himself in position to win) at mile 7, and the second chase pack, that had the majority of the top guys around mile 9. At this point after recognizing that eventual winner Rod DeHaven, Scott Larson, John Sence, and Mike Dudley were in this pack, I began to think that the winner would come from this pack A few seconds later, after also recognizing Todd Williams and Mark Coogan in the pack, I was convinced the winner would come from this pack. (Hey I was right, although Peter DeLaCerda put up a good fight). I decided to quit moving up and run with this pack until after the big hill at mile 12.
The Pack Breaks Up
During the 14th and 15th miles, the pack began to break up and my shot at making the team slowly evaporated. After passing half-way in 1:08:30 I knew that only the winner of the race would be going to the Olympics. The first to leave the pack was DeHaven, and slowly it strung out, with myself staying in the back. I continued to be somewhat confident, and run my own race, feeling somewhat strong although I was losing some ground.
David Morris and the T.V. Cameras
During the 15th mile, I passed the #1 seed, 2:09 marathoner, David Morris. I felt sorry for him because he's run 2:09, and his shot of going to the Olympics were clearly over. To my dismay, the lead t.v. truck dropped back, and filmed David Morris in his agony for probably a mile. I could hear the truck behind me the whole time. Finally, I was glad to not hear the truck anymore and figured they had left David alone. However, that was not the case, as I would learn from my uncle that the only reason the truck stopped was because David had stopped clutching his stomach in agony. Once they got the picture they wanted they left him alone.
Olympic Dream Slips Away
Probably around mile 16, I realized that I was not going to win the race and make the Olympics, as Coogan, DeHaven, and Larson had left my pack and were ahead of me charging for the leaders. However, I was still passing people and moving up. By miles 18 or 19, I was in 12th place and could see 7 guys within striking distance for sure. The plan along was to make my strongest move the last 4 miles, so I felt a top 5 question was not out of the question. Soon, my problems would begin in earnest.
Todd Williams in Agony
Around mile 18 or 19, I passed the favorite of the race according to the LetsRun.com poll (click
here for poll results), Todd Williams. Todd obviously had given it all he had to win the race from my pack and now was in trouble. He clutched his side and ran-walk as I went by. Todd should be commended for running a smart race, and finishing when he clearly had nothing to gain.
Myself in Agony
During the 20th mile, my slow trip to hell began. I was obviously running slower now but had been passing people until this point. However, I began to cramp in my stomach, and soon was struggling to run at my very slow pace. Soon my pace became slower and slower. Gradually, guys began to pass me one by one. I even stopped for 10 seconds and bent over trying to get rid of my cramp, and although it helped a bit, I was running very slowly. All along, I could not believe more people weren't pasing me. Money was not sufficient motivation anymore, as I did not even try and put up a fight as I fell out of the top 20 somewhere in the last 3 miles (20th place received $1000, and 21st $0). The point now was to finish, and that's what I did. A bunch of college kids cheering for another runner were my companions the final 3 miles as they ran alongside on the sidewalk. I asked them how slow I was runing and they politely responded that I wasn't running slow. When they told me I looked good I knew they were lying.
At mile 25, I asked Shawn Hellebuyck (wife of 5th place finisher Eddy Hellebuyck), who was winning the race. She told me that "Rod DeHaven had won, and Eddy was 5th." I remember being shocked to learn they were already finished since I had been with Rod an hour previously. Not soon enough I made it to the finish and ended my agony. Each of the last miles seemed like they were each 5ks.
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