What a difference A Change Makes, by Carolyn Mather, for Racing South

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Cragg_AmyFV-UsaOlyTr16.jpgAmy Cragg, photo by PhotoRun.net

Reposted April 14, 2016 for your enjoyment over Boston Marathon weekend. Amy Cragg started her run for Rio last Boston marathon, April 2015! Here is a wonderful behind the scenes piece by Carolyn Mather, who has written for Racing South and Running Journal for three decades, we believe!

The Women's Trials race was a very intruiging race. The battle between Amy Cragg, Shalane Flanagan, Kara Goucher, Kellyn Taylor and Desi Linden was intense.

Kara Goucher said it afterwards, " I gave it all I could." And she did, and she praised her competitors.

Watching Amy Cragg make the team, and Desi fight it out and then, Shalane keep herself on her feet, which she did with more guts than I have seen in ages.

The women's race teared me up. I respect athletes who put it on the line and the women's field did, with more stories than I can write.

Here is Carolyn Mather's story on the women's race!

WHAT A DIFFERENCE A CHANGE MAKES

Today's Olympic Trials Marathon in extremely hot conditions did not have many unexpected surprises as the top five female finishers were the same five as at the 2012 trials. But the fours years took the 4th place finisher in 2012 to the number one spot in 2016.

The women started at 10.22 16 minutes after the men and the top ladies quickly went to the front. The contenders, Shalane Flanagan, Desi Linden, Amy Cragg, Kelly Taylor, Kara Goucher and Janet Bawcom were in the lead pack. They passed mile one in a pedestrian 6 minutes and ran conservatively until about 10 k when Shalane and Amy , training partners and best friends took the lead. Watching the two of them come through 8 miles was pure poetry in motion. They looked like twins in their matching outfits and running stride for stride.

Kellyn Taylor and Kara Goucher came next followed by a small pack including Sara Hall, Jane, Desi and Serena Burma. The heavyweights were positioned for battle. Shalane and Amy continued to make a large gap on the field.

During the 3rd lap of the four Amy hit a bad patch and Shalane talked her through it. The following pack was breaking up and Desi fell behind as did Serena. A bit later Sara dropped out.

WomensPack-UsaOlyT16.JPgWomen's lead pack, photo by PhotoRun.net

On the third lap, Amy had a bad patch and Shalane got her through it. But, in the fourth lap, Shalane turned bright red and told Amy she was not going to make it. Amy intentionally slowed and got her training partner water. She told her to take it a mile at a time and she would make it. With a mile to go, Amy saw Desi coming and she put the pedal to the metal.

When I saw her with 400 meters to go I burst into tears.

Amy had made a drastic change in October moving from Providence to

Portland. She took a big chance and began training with Shalane. They lived a spartan existence consisting of only training and a time at altitude. They totally skipped all holidays and focused on Rio.They had no life but training and even did two runs on Christmas day.

After a disastrous 10 mile race in Twin Cities, Amy pulled it all together in four months. Such sweet redemption brought the smiles and accolades she so deserves.

Meanwhile, Desi had executed her plan, although she said it was her longest marathon ever as it was a battle and horrible grind. Desi recorded dreaded second place finish but she is on the team.

Shalane was really struggling, and at 26 she was stumbling and weaving. I thought Kara was beginning to catch her but Shalane is one tough cookie. She battled to the finish and collapsed into Amy's arms. She had to go to medical as she was so dehydrated and got her first IV.

Despite their talent all three ladies suffered mightily as did all of the other participants. It was a true war on the course.

I was dripping wet just standing and cheering. I do believe these three ladies will do great things in Rio. Many kudos to all who ran. You are all heroes!!

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