Behind the Scenes at the 2020 U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials
The results only tell part of the story—the emotions, excitement, and enthusiasm at the 2020 U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials were historic.
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At the 2020 U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials in Atlanta on Saturday, fans lined the entire course, sometimes five deep, to see the race to select the athletes for the Tokyo Games. The enthusiasm surrounding the largest women’s field in history—with 511 qualifiers and 390 finishers—was palpable.
Aliphine Tuliamuk, now a ten-time national road champion, won the race; marathon debutant Molly Seidel (who had qualified by running 1:09:35 in a half marathon) was second; and Sally Kipyego, who earned a silver medal in the 10,000 meters representing Kenya at the 2012 Olympics, took the final podium spot.
It was a blustery day in Atlanta, where the athletes took on a hilly course in high winds. The the results only told part of the story. Photographer Nicole Bush captured the atmosphere, emotions, and spirit of the 2020 Olympic Marathon Trials through her photographs.
Pre-Race Running for the Fans
The 12:20 p.m. start time for the women’s race allowed runners of all abilities to join shake-out runs on the course. An estimated 300 people showed up to catch a selfie and a few miles with Kara Goucher, who is a two-time Olympian. She joined forces with the Clean Sport Collective, Harlem Run, and Women’s Running for the event that started at Centennial Olympic Park.
Jitters in the Lobby
On race day, the lobby of the Omni Hotel was flooded with athletes and their supporters who were getting ready to go to the start area across the street inside Centennial Olympic Park. The area was filled with nerves and anticipation.
A Short Sit-Down at the Start
Jordan Hasay took a seat on the street near the start line of the Olympic Marathon Trials. Standing near her with the red, white, and blue hat is Tuliamuk. Hasay, who entered as the fastest qualifier with a 2:20:57, had a tough day, telling reporters afterward that she experienced pain in her lower back and felt that a previous hamstring injury had hampered her preparation. She still finished, however, in 2:37:57.
Golden Rings Garb
Katie Thompson, Sarah Kniffin, Christine Weisman were in Atlanta to cheer for their friends Neely Spence Gracey and Katrina Spratford.
From left, Molly Grabill (2:37.57), Olivia Bellew (2:43.53), Bria Wetsch (2:37.58), and Stephanie Pezzullo (2:39.19) run in a small pack among other packs. This portion of the course was part of an eight-mile loop the athletes covered three times—here the women were on Peachtree Street, which was also a long out-and-back. In the distance, past the orange pylons, runners are heading out toward the turnaround as spectators line the course.
A New Perspective
Shalane Flanagan, far right, had to stand on her toes to catch a glimpse of the race. It was a new Olympic Marathon Trials perspective for Flanagan, who won in 2012 and was third in 2016, now retired from competition and moving on to coaching the Bowerman Track Club.
Hugs from Mom
Marie Zanderson (left), and her mom, Luanne Schaper (right), hugged after Zanderson finished 153 out of 390 women, in 2:46.40. “Been wanting to do this for how many years,” said Schaper, as she trailed off while tearing up. Zanderson missed the 2016 Olympic trials by 15 seconds. She ran 2:44.26 in Berlin to qualify for the race on Saturday.
“I feel incredible. I mean I was just honored to be here and super excited,” Zanderson said. “And once we got out there it was a party. Everyone was just so happy.”