There were more than a dozen women in the lead pack for a majority of the U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials on Saturday. A sense of camaraderie strengthened and propelled them through their collective 26.2-mile quest to make the Tokyo Summer Games.

One of the front runners was Laura Thweatt, who ebbed in and out of the top three through the end of mile 19. Though she was in first place at the halfway point, after fading in the last two miles, she finished fifth.

While her time of 2:29:08, didn’t secure her a ticket to Tokyo, she is still pleased with her performance. In fact, she was just happy to get to the start.

“The biggest thing was that I came in healthy. I haven’t come in healthy for a marathon in three years. So that was huge. I just wanted to give it everything I had and so I did that,” Thweatt said.

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After setting a personal best of 2:25:38 in the 2017 London Marathon, the Boulder, Colorado, native who trains under coach Joe Bosshard (in the same group with Emma Coburn) has struggled on and off with injuries like osteitis pubis for more than two years. Following that race in London, she didn’t run for six months and didn’t race for almost a year. She snagged her spot at the Trials during the 2019 Chicago marathon, her first in two years, and she finished in 2:29:06.

Fifth is a familiar place for Thweatt—she was also fifth at the 2016 Olympic track trials in the 10,000 meters.

But the marathon is where she feels most competitive—especially in conditions like Saturday, where Thweatt excelled at strategizing on the hills. At the 2015 New York City Marathon, she ran the seventh-fastest debut ever by an American woman—2:28:23.

“The Trials course was similar to New York. It’s constant, you’re up, you’re down… and all the elements were out there today. I was definitely channeling a course like New York. We trained perfectly for it, we prepped really well. I felt strong on the hills,” Thweatt said.

Though Thweatt was prepared for the 1,300 feet of elevation one way or another, the brisk 46-degree temperatures and 16 mile-per-hour winds added another layer of difficulty to the day. “We knew it was going to be a dog fight out there today and the women brought it,” she said. “We all had to run out of our minds to finish where we did.”

Although she’s understandably disappointed that her next step is not Tokyo, she was thrilled to be a part of 450 female field. “It was an honor to be out there. There was unbelievable crowd support and really cool camaraderie,” said Thweatt, whose boyfriend Alex Monroe also competed in the Trials, finishing in 2:25:57. Thweatt fed off that sense of camaraderie when portions of the race got difficult, especially with Kellyn [Taylor] and Des Linden.

“Des came up to my shoulder, and turned back to Kellyn and I and said, ‘Let’s go. Let’s go. Let’s do this!’ And I was like, Des Linden is egging me on, I need to do this, I can dig a little deeper,” Thweatt said. “So Kellyn and I were with her, and I was just running for my life at that point, and I knew I was in fourth. So, I was giving it everything I had.”

That sense of companionship pushed not only Thweatt, but other runners, like second-place finisher Molly Seidel. This race was Seidel’s debut marathon.

Unaware of exactly how to approach the race and pace herself, Seidel found strength in Thweatt’s presence.

“It really helped having both Molly Huddle and Laura Thweatt up there as my Saucony teammates,” Seidel said. “It was a really calming presence. Both of them have so much experience in this field, so being able to be like, ‘Okay these are people that I know I’m going to run off them, pace off them, and just stay as calm as I can.’”