LA is for Dreamers: The Women's US Olympic Marathon Trials, by : Cait Chock

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When Cait Chock and I corresponded, I asked her to give me a different view than the previews I was recieving. She focused on the Women's side of the race, and rightly so.

LA is for Dreamers, and one or two of those dreamers will make an Olympic team on Saturday, February 13, 2016.

Cragg_AlistirAmy-SanAntonio15.jpgAlistir and Amy Cragg, December 2015, RNR San Antonio, photo by PhotoRun.net

LA is for Dreamers: The Women's US Olympic Marathon Trials

By: Cait Chock

Most everyone headed to Los Angeles has stars in their eyes and big dreams in their hearts. On February 13th, a collective flocking of runners is no different. Among those lining up for the 2016 US Olympic Marathon Trials are the seasoned veterans and multi-Olympians. There are the expected, the dark horses, and even the star-struck for whom racing at this level feels a bit foreign, like trying on a new pair of racers. Awkward, unsure of how it's supposed to fit, but exhilarating in the best possible way.

Each of their individual stories all collide, the chapters to be written across 26.2 miles. The agonizing beauty of the marathon is that, ultimately, the race comes down less to pure fitness and more to circumstance and luck.

Even for those of the 'expected', in training there is never any shortage of changes and surprises, good and bad. Training is both structured and fluid, needing to adapt when the body throws its curveballs.

For Amy Cragg, this marathon cycle will be unlike any of her others, having relocated to Portland, Oregon to train alongside Shalane Flanagan. Now a member of the Bowerman Track Club, Cragg feels she's made a smooth transition and workouts to prove that. Anytime one is matching strides with Flanagan, rest assured they can confidently say they must be doing something right. This latest powerhouse partnership of two of America's leading female marathoners is reminiscent of the 2012 Olympic Marathon Trials.

That story of course featured Flanagan and then partner, Kara Goucher. Post the 2012 Olympics, Goucher and her family moved back to familiar territory and reunited with her University of Colorado coach, Mark Wetmore. Heading back to Colorado was both refreshing and reinvigorating, ultimately leading to Goucher becoming just as much of a key player in the competition side of the sport as much as the branding, sponsorships, and political venue. Goucher has always effortlessly won over the hearts of the 'mortal' runners of the world with her humanity: Goucher runs with heart.

Speaking strictly personally, as one who's witnessed Kara achieve things above her fitness level (making a World Team off of a collective 4 miles run outdoors the entire season build-up), if there's an athlete who can press incredible things from pure heart, it's Goucher. One can only imagine the possibilities hearing she's in her best shape physically and mentally.

Now, if there is an athlete who can grit out anything based on sheer force of will it is Shalane Flanagan. If Kara runs on heart, Shalane runs on iron grit. This marathon build-up has felt a bit like foreign waters for Flanagan only in that she actually has faced set-backs. Be it from luck, though more probably from her meticulous attention to recovery and diligence in living the full life of a runner, Flanagan is remarkable in that she's never faced serious injuries. Though true to nature, Flanagan put her nose to the grindstone, taking any setbacks in stride and never veered from what would get her back to the pavement in the best possible shape. As the big day approaches, she may not be gunning for the win, but you can safely bet Flanagan on any kind of hunt, be it 'just' a top three finish, is a force all its own.

Des Linden comes in with the second fastest qualifying time and a bit of the 'Darling of Boston' attached to her sleeve. Always a contender, she etched herself into every hopeful American's hearts with her dramatic tear down Boylston Street in the 2011 Boston Marathon. Dually noted for her tenacity and drive, Linden has an air of a lone wolf sentiment to her style of training and is just as fierce.

Sara Hall, in her first Olympic Trials for the Marathon event, has a double handed number of transitions going into this race. Having added motherhood to her resume this past year, Hall is now balancing raising four young girls along with her training. Husband Ryan, the fastest male American to have run the marathon, just announced his official retirement, and is coaching Sara.

Then there is Deena Kastor, a star all her own. She comes almost with a bit of an aura, one can't help but call upon the poignant image of tears running down her face as she captured the Bronze medal in the 2004 Olympic Marathon. Now as a Masters, she's left a trail of crippled records to that end, a feat that proves she is almost ageless. A most benevolent breed of running royalty. (Deena has pulled out, due to injury-editor's note).

What is always exciting is that we will always have the delight of watching an 'unknown' dramatically jump about 20 levels and rise to running 'celebridom ' in a single race. The marathon is especially keen on acting catalyst for starry-eyed runners who have been chasing their dreams.

In just the act of qualifying for the Trials we have seen some of the burgeoning of such stories. Lauren Smith out of Texas and Ashley Brasovan out of Colorado are still living in a bit of shock after hitting the qualifying standards in recent half marathons. For each of them this will be their first full marathon, a daunting yet honorous endeavor.

With the stage of the US Olympic Marathon Trials set, I say that there is almost too much to anticipate both genuinely speaking, but also perhaps as a bit of an excuse. You see, scrolling down the list of entrants I keep catching myself, "Oh YES!! Yeah!! Oh I just want her to kill it out there!" There are too many stories behind each name and words to say about each of them, all that I couldn't possibly cram into even the most epic article here.

And therein lies the wondrous nature of what is to be acted out before us the 13th, watching a series of stories played out before us, shared with feet in lieu of words.

For, actions are infinitely more powerful.

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Caitlin Chock (caitchock.com) set the then National High School 5k Record (15:52.88) in 2004 and previously ran for Nike. A freelance writer, artist, and designer she writes about all things running and founded Ezzere, her own line of running shirts (www.ezzere.com). You can read more, see her running comics, and her shirts at her website.

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