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Reunited: The 2021 Women’s Olympic Marathon Team Talks Training and Pandemic Life

They qualified for the postponed Tokyo Games right before COVID-19 shuttered the nation. They catch us up at the virtual Boston Marathon Expo.

The last time Aliphine Tuliamuk, Molly Seidel, and Sally Kipyego were together was February 29, in Atlanta, and they had just qualified for the U.S. Olympic marathon team.

“It feels like 10 years ago. Or more than that,” Tuliamuk says, laughing. “I would say it was one of the best days of my life.”

Then, of course, the whole world changed—and the chance to compete at the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo deferred to 2021.

As part of the virtual Boston Marathon expo, which begins on Friday, September 4 and goes for 12 days, the trio reunited on Zoom to reminisce about that Olympic Trials race, talk about the disappointment they’ve felt regarding the postponement of the Tokyo Games, give some advice to the runners participating in the virtual Boston Marathon, and reveal how they’ve been handling life and training during the pandemic.

The panel discussion, moderated by Women’s Running senior writer Erin Strout, will air at 3 p.m. Eastern on Friday, September 4 and again at 10 a.m. on September 12.

Kipyego, who lives in Eugene, Oregon, has been in Kenya visiting her family since the pandemic hit. Because of travel restrictions she, her husband, and their daughter haven’t been able to return home yet. Tuliamuk usually lives in Flagstaff, Arizona, while training, but is spending time at her home in Santa Fe, New Mexico, with her partner, Tim Gannon—she’s taken a more relaxed approach to training while crocheting her Allie Resiliency beanies and renovating her house.

Seidel has spent most of the pandemic at her home base in Boston, training almost always with a mask on in the city (she’s gone up to 14 miles without taking it off, she says). She is now in Flagstaff to prepare for the elite-only London Marathon on October 4, which will be her second go at the 26.2-mile distance. She has welcomed the extra time to prepare for the Olympics to gain more experience—and because she had partially torn her plantar fascia during the Trials, she says.

“In my mind, it was such a sudden shock for me to make the team…and because I’m on the younger side for a marathoner; I was 25 when it happened,” Seidel says. “For me, getting another year of training is pretty important because I had only had five months of steady training [before the Trials].”

The women have an hour-long conversation about the twists and turns of life in 2020 and how they hope 2021 shapes up for the worldwide running community. The expo is one component of the Boston Marathon Virtual Experience, in which 18,000 runners are expected to race 26.2 miles wherever they live, from September 5-14.

Officials also announced on Thursday that registration for the 2021 Boston Marathon, which typically takes place in September, will be delayed while an expert advisory committee studies when it will be safe to hold large-scale road races in Boston again.

“COVID-19 has affected mass participation road races in ways that we never could have imagined,” said Tom Grilk, CEO of the Boston Athletic Association, in a written statement. “Convening this cross-sector group of professionals with decades of experience in epidemiology, viral infection, mitigation strategies, and our own race operations was entirely necessary to begin planning for the 125th Boston Marathon.”