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Our 2020 U.S. Olympic Marathon Team is Hoping Patience Pays Off

The top three finishers at the 2020 Olympic Marathon Trials have shown us how to adapt to the circumstances.

No look into the new year would be complete without a nod to the women who earned their places on Team USA in 2020. Aliphine Tuliamuk, Molly Seidel, and Sally Kipyego finished the U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials just before the pandemic hit, weathered the storm of COVID-19 race cancellations, and are hopeful their patience will pay off at the rescheduled Games in August.

The threesome conquered a historically hilly course on a windy Leap Day in Atlanta to qualify for the Tokyo Olympics. Tuliamuk and Kipyego are the first Black athletes to ever make the U.S. Olympic marathon team, while Seidel was the February surprise, finishing second in her first attempt at the marathon race distance.

Since then, Seidel has been using the extra time before the Games to gather more experience. She finished sixth in October at the elite-only 2020 London Marathon in 2:25:13. Kipyego, who won the 2012 silver medal in the 10,000 meters while representing Kenya, was planning to race the 2020 Boston Marathon until it was canceled. Since the pandemic hit, she has spent a couple of months training at her U.S. base in Eugene, Oregon, but has mostly stayed put at her family’s farm outside of Eldoret, with her husband, Kevin Chelimo, and their daughter, Emma.

Meanwhile, Tuliamuk will likely have one of the most challenging buildups as she and her partner, Tim Gannon, welcome the birth of their daughter in January. She’ll have about six months to prepare for the Olympic marathon, scheduled for August 7, in Sapporo, Japan.

“I am hoping that I will be one of those few people who after having a few weeks to recuperate, will be able to come back to training healthy,” Tuliamuk says. “I keep telling my coach, ‘I’m going to light the world on fire.’ But, really, we’ll see about that.”

This profile was first published in the Winter 2021 print issue of Women’s Running as part of “Women Who Lead: Power Women of 2021” which celebrates 25 women who are reshaping the running industry for the better. You can see the full list of honorees here.