Most people tend to reset their goals in life every year with New Year’s resolutions and the like.
For elite marathoners, things tend to work in four-year cycles — the Olympic cycle, to be more precise.
Once every four years, all things culminate at the Olympic Trials, where dreams of making an Olympic team are either fulfilled or shattered in the span of 26.2 miles of grueling running.
For those who didn’t make it to Rio last year, it means turning the page and evaluating whether another four years of rigorous training are worth the sacrifice.
“I contemplated retirement after a disappointing showing at the 2016 Olympic Trials,” said 2:13 marathoner Pat Rizzo. “Then I had a conversation with my college coach last year and he asked me the most important question: Do you still love doing it? I absolutely love doing it and as long as that’s the case, I think I can find success.”
Those like Rizzo who are continuing to aim for 2020 first have to check the box of an Olympic Trials qualifier. The qualifying window opened on September 1, meaning the the USATF Marathon Championships, run in conjunction with the California International Marathon (CIM) in Sacramento on December 3, will be the first opportunity for many runners to hit Trials standards — 2:19:00 for men and 2:45:00 for women.
Varying goals and motivations
Outside of the the obvious goals of running well, each runner lines up for a race with different things on their mind.
If the high demands of being a pro runner wasn’t enough, Janet Cherobon-Bawcom, the 2012 U.S. Olympian in the 10,000 meters, recently took on a new life challenge — a full-time job as a nurse at Grand Canyon National Park.
“I never set out to be a professional runner — it just sort of happened. It was better than getting a job, so I went with it,” Cherobon-Bawcom says. “Now that I do have a job, it’s even more important that my running be about having fun and staying fit.”
For Rizzo, a new addition to his family has brought a new sense of motivation. His son, Judah, was born just a few months ago on August 19.
“He’s not yet old enough to understand the work I’m putting in to be at my best, but he will be old enough at the next Olympic Trials to watch his dad bust his butt to accomplish a goal,” Rizzo says. “I want to set that example for my son and I want him to take that with him into whatever pursuit he chooses in life.”
Knowing he has just a few years of competitive running left, longtime Eugene resident and 2:13 man Craig Leon has set very specific goals for himself for the remainder of his career — he wants to set one more PR and represent the U.S. again in an international competition.
“I’m on the backside of my career and it’s increasingly difficult to balance my training with my work responsibilities, but I know it’s still in me,” Leon said. “I just have to be more strategic about planning out my training and racing schedule than I used to be. Timing is everything.
For two California natives, being close to home provides all the incentive they need to lay it all on the line on the roads of Sacramento. Fernando Cabada, the former U.S. 25k record holder, was born and raised just a few hours drive away in Fresno, while Danny Tapia, the third place finisher at CIM last year, is from Salinas.
“I’ve ran CIM twice now and had great success,” Tapia said. “It is a great opportunity to once again race in front of a home crowd and build on my success here.”
Tackling the course
The CIM course, which runs from Folsom to downtown Sacramento, is net downhill and has a reputation for being a great place to run a Boston qualifier. That can lead a lot of people to call it an “easy” course, but the reality is quite different.
“It’s not a pancake flat course like Berlin or Chicago,” Cabada said. “There are some rolling hills and that can make things interesting.”
Leon agreed, adding that local runners in his hometown of Eugene advised him to not be fooled by the “downhill course” reputation.
While no two marathons are the same, the CIM course does share some similarities with the aforementioned Boston Marathon.
“You’ve got a point-to-point course, with a fair amount of downhill in the first 10 miles, but similar to Boston, it’s not necessarily all downhill,” Leon said. “It rolls along the way, which can deceive people.”
Stay tuned tomorrow as we unveil “the rookies” — folks making their marathon debut at CIM.
The rest of the field
Name (Hometown), Marathon best
Renee Metivier (Bend, OR), 2:27:17 (2012 Chicago)
Janet Bawcom (Flagstaff, AZ) 2:29:45 (2012 Houston)
Clara Santucci (Lawrence, PA), 2:29:54 (2011 Boston)
Lauren Totten (Santa Barbara, CA), 2:33:22 (2016 CIM)
Heather Lieberg (Helena, MT), 2:34:09 (2014 Twin Cities)
Kelsey Bruce, 2:36:09 (2016 Grandma’s)
Samantha Bluske (Toledo, OH), 2:36:26 (2016 CIM)
Roberta Groner (Randolph, NJ), 2:36:33 (2017 Boston)
Semehar Tesfaye (Revere, MA), 2:37:27 (2016 Fargo)
Carrie Dimoff (Portland, OR), 2:37:30 (2017 Boston)
Joanna Reyes (San Jose, CA), 2:37:55 (2017 Los Angeles)
Lauren Philbrook (Williamstown, MA), 2:38:00 (2016 Chicago)
Anna Weber (Indianapolis, IN), 2:38:39 (2015 Twin Cities)
Madeline Duhon (Berkeley, CA), 2:38:44 (2017 Boston)
Kate Landau (Tacoma, WA), 2:38:45 (2016 Portland)
Andie Cozzarelli (Raleigh, NC), 2:38:47 (2016 Indianapolis)
Meghan Peyton (Bloomington, MN), 2:38:58 (2013 Twin Cities)
Kaitlin Goodman (Providence, RI), 2:39:29 (2014 CIM)
Laura Paulsen (Brookline, MA), 2:39:54 (2014 CIM)
Jenelle Deatherage (Dunlap, IL), 2:39:59 (2015 Grandma’s)
Sarah Pease (Elizabeth, IN) 2:41:45 (2017 Birmingham)
Name (Hometown), Marathon best
Nick Arciniaga (Flagstaff, AZ), 2:11:30 (2011 Houston)
Fernando Cabada (Lakewood, CO), 2:11:36 (2014 Berlin)
Danny Tapia (Mammoth Lakes, CA), 2:12:28 (2016 CIM)
Patrick Rizzo (Colorado Springs, CO), 2:13:42 (2012 Houston)
Craig Leon (Eugene, OR), 2:13:52 (2013 Chicago)
Tim Young (Fredericksburg, VA), 2:14:40 (2014 Chicago)
Timothy Ritchie (New Haven, CT), 2:14:50 (2013 Twin Cities)
Malcolm Richards (San Francisco, CA), 2:15:10 (2016 Berlin)
Craig Curley (Tucson, AZ), 2:15:16 (2013 Twin Cities)
Tyler McCandless (Boulder, CO), 2:15:26 (2014 Twin Cities)
Christopher Zablocki (Essex, CT), 2:15:39 (2015 Valencia)
Jameson Mora (Paso Robles, CA), 2:15:44 (2013 Grandma’s)
Tyler Andrews (Arlington, VA), 2:15:52 (2016 Albany)
Eric Loeffler (Minneapolis, MN), 2:16:48 (2015 Grandma’s)
Brian Harvey (Cambridge, MA), 2:17:05 (2014 Grandma’s)
Eric Ashe (Boston, MA), 2:17:06 (2015 Grandma’s)
Eric Finan (Eugene, OR), 2:17:51 (2016 CIM)
Matthew Fecht (MI), 2:18:00 (2014 Grandma’s)
Colin Leak (Chadds Ford, PA), 2:18:16 (2016 Houston)
Tyler Jermann (St. Paul, MN), 2:18:33 (2016 Houston)
Mason Frank (Denver, CO), 2:18:34 (2015 CIM)
Kiya Dandena (Flagstaff, AZ), 2:22:14 (2016 Chicago)
Jon Grey (Boston, MA), 2:24:09 (2016 Los Angeles)