Scars & Streaks: Molly Beckwith by Jon Gugala, note by Larry Eder


As Jon Gugala travels through Europe this summer, we at Runblogrun asked him to develop several stories for us. Here is his second piece from the Herculis Monaco meeting. Jon is writing about one of our favorite athletes, Molly Beckwith. Molly is an eight hundred meter runner, and ran a near perfect race for 750 meters. She is also an example of the improvement in the US women's 800 meter fortunes. 

Molly Beckwith is part of the reason for that success...

July 22, 2012

Scars and Streaks: Molly Beckwith  
by Jon Gugala

MONACO - It's Saturday morning. Molly Beckwith, 24, crosses her legs, left over right, 
and the long, vertical scar on her knee is white, surrounded by the tan of the skin.

Today is just under a month since the 2012 Olympic team trials in Eugene, Ore., where 
Beckwith, arguably one of the form runners through the rounds, did not make her first 
Olympic team. After holding a strong second place coming into the last 100 meters of 
the women's 800-meters final, she began tying up. Ahead, Alysia Montaño won. On 
Beckwith's outside, Geena Gall passed for second. And on her inside in the last 
five meters, Alice Schmidt snuck into the third spot. Beckwith would finish fourth 
in 1:59.68, .12 seconds off a trip to London.

"I had confidence going into the rounds--I had to have that confidence going in. 
But I never had in my mind 'I'm going to make the team' because I knew the quality 
of the U.S. girls. I was the dark horse, I felt like," Beckwith says.  "I stepped on 
the line and I said, 'This is going to be good?'"

There's a strange question in her voice as she says this.

She goes on: "I made a move--a very risky move--at 550, 600 [meters]. 
What happened was the worst possible scenario: tying up at the end 
and getting passed."

Beckwith's hotel is less than 800 meters from the Monte Carlo Casino, and it seems fitting 
since in the trials final she bet the farm and lost. Now she's back at the tables.

Because her story did not end at the trials: It moved back to her hometown of Worthington, 
Ohio, where she gave herself "48 hours to pout" and to scar over. A verbal ass-kicking over 
the phone by coach Ron Helmer, who developed her at Indiana University and continues to 
guide her post-collegiately also helped move her on. "You didn't do all this work and get 
ready to run this fast to just sit at home this summer," he said. 

"I didn't put myself through a momentous amount of pain in these workouts to shut my 
season down," Beckwith says. "I haven't even peaked yet, I don't think. I still have 
that really big one in me right now."

So she went to Europe, and in Madrid ran 2:00.35. Then came the London Diamond League, 
and in chilly conditions she battled to the line with 2008 Olympic silver medalist Janeth 
Jepkosgei, where the big one, at least in terms of achievement, came. With the margin to 
the thousandth of a second, Beckwith won in 2:00.68.

But she's not happy with it.

"At this point, I would much rather take last place running a PR than winning a race 
running slow like London," Beckwith says. "For me right now, I'm looking for that time, 
that consistently-running-under-two-minutes, because I have so much room to grow. Next 
year, when I'm consistently running 1:59 and it's feeling like just another day, that 
1:57 is going to come at the right time and I'm going to be ahead of where I ever thought 
I would be."

Beckwith, with her 1:59.37 fourth-place finish in Monaco, has gone sub-two minutes four 
times this year--the most of any American. You could argue that she's already achieved 
that 1:59 regularity. And with her result, she's also sitting in fourth place in Diamond 
League overall standings, which will only increase her chances in getting into the 
remainder of the season when it resumes on August 23 in Lausanne. Those races will let 
Beckwith gamble again for the big one. 

"I was talking to Nick Symmonds after the [Monaco] race, telling him that at 550 meters, 
I had the decision whether to go with the top three or stay behind the fourth place girl, 
and I decided to stay," she says. "And he interrupted me right as I said that, and he said 
when you're thinking about whether or not to go, always decide to go. He said, 
'There's been .1 percent of the races I've ever ran in where making that decision 
was not the right choice. Always go when you're unsure.'"

Smart gamblers know that if you're in the game long enough, that chance comes again. 
And when it comes, you bet the farm. For Beckwith, you bet it again. 

Because four years goes fast. Rio 2016 will need three more Americans for the women's 
800-meters, and asking Beckwith if she plans on being there for it, she doesn't hesitate: 
"Yeah, there's definitely no question." 

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