Wednesday, February 1, 2012

I got to see Olympians!

A huge part of why I decided to run the Houston Marathon again (after being pretty adamant about NOT doing it in 2012) was because I could see the Olympic Marathon Trials the day before. How in the world could I possibly pass up the chance to see Olympians race at their ridiculous pace?

For weeks before the Marathon Weekend I was absolutely giddy. I admit, part of it was because I knew it was going to be like a mini-vacation for me, but I was REALLY looking forward to the Trials. I talked non-stop about it to just about everyone. (I tend to annoy people, yes)

My friend, coach, running buddy Tony was my partner-in-crime for this adventure and I think he was probably just as excited as me...although I think a lot of his excitement had to do with seeing Kara Goucher.

I can't blame him

The only downside was having to get up early enough to pig out at breakfast and then walk over to Discovery Green to see the start of the race, which began at 8am. But the thought of good Kara Goucher pictures was motivation enough. I really didn't have much trouble waking up at 6am, shockingly enough.

The Start Line was already pretty busy by the time we made our way over there, and I knew I couldn't really get any good pics of the athletes so we didn't stay there long. I did get to see my friend Tricia and her husband and adorable son, however, and that was awesome.

Tony and I decided to camp out about a quarter mile up the course on McKinney Street and made our way over there with plenty of time before the start to position ourselves for good pictures. The way the course was set up would allow us to see the athletes four times. They would start with a 2.2 mile short loop through downtown, and then do a longer 8 mile loop through Memorial Park and back to downtown three times before the finish. With the way these guys would be running, the time would certainly fly by.

As soon as the gun went off you could hear the cheers of the crowd. It wasn't long before the police escort and cameraman vehicles were making their way down McKinney and into our line of sight. And then we saw the guys! Ryan Hall, as expected, was leading. He always likes to lead and take charge in a race.

The women weren't slated to start until 8:15 so we knew we'd see the men make their second pass before we even saw the women. We hopped across the street to avoid sun glare in the photos and had an even better view of the runners coming down McKinney. On the second pass Ryan was still leading.

One of the cool things about the spectators was that you always knew when the men were coming around for another loop. It was like a low grumble building up around the green as people caught sight of the lead runners and started cheering like crazy. Houston is such an energetic city. We were loving it!

Now it was time to see the women and I was ready to do my work to get a really great shot or two of Kara for all the silly boys in my life (geez!). Unfortunately I didn't even see her in the huge pack of female runners at the very start, but knew she'd eventually distance herself in the next two loops.

I was hoping the next pass would produce some frontrunners. 

It was getting pared down a little...we caught a glimpse of Kara and Shalane and there was Desi right out in front. What an awesome picture!!

By the third loop for both the men and women it was very obvious that this was going to be a battle between a very select few people. And there were no surprises. The frontrunners were all the athletes we expected to take charge. The only question was going to be who could hold on for the entire 26.2 miles.

On Loop 3...about 10.4 miles into the race

the ladies on the 3rd loop


I think it was right about now that Tony said "Kara, come back. I want to have your babies." Oh, boy.

At this point we know we're only going to see both groups one more time before we need to head to the finish area. It amazes me that so little time has passed. These runners are incredibly fast...18+ miles in only 1 1/2 hours or so. 

When the guys passed for the 4th time I of course totally wasn't prepared and my camera was off. But I got their backsides. And now we're down to 3...Ryan, Meb, and Abdi. Who was going to pull ahead?

And now for the women at about 18.4 miles into the race. It's now down to about 4 contenders unless there's a big upset in the last 8 miles. Desi, Shalane, Kara, and Amy.

This is a SWEET picture

Another blatant display of Kara's butt. Poor Kara.

Deena is one of my idols. She was bronze medalist in the 2004 Athens Olympics and is my age. She's right behind the lead pack.

As soon as the ladies passed us for the last time, we hightailed it across the Green. The guys should be done in less than 10 minutes and we didn't want to miss the final stretch. We moved over to Lamar street and found a spot that was about a quarter mile from the finish. I fully expected to see Ryan cruising to victory, but low and comes MEB! And he has the BIGGEST smile on his face. It's clear he is having an absolute blast. 

And not too far back was Ryan Hall.

One of the most awesome things to see in this race was the reaction of the women runners as Meb, Ryan, and the lead guys passed them. They were cheering and clapping just like the crowd, while in their own race. It just goes to show that while everyone is competing, they are still a super supportive and close community and sincerely root for each other to do well. I wish I had thought to videotape that part. It was truly special to see.

Not too far past Ryan we could see Abdi coming down Lamar Street. But he was clearly hurting bad. His pace was significantly slower than the leaders and it made me wonder if he could pull off 3rd place. We then saw Ritz hauling butt to try to catch him. The cheers from the crowd were deafening. Unfortunately we knew he didn't really have quite enough time to catch Abdi, but that would have made for an even more spectacular finish.

So it appeared to us that the 2012 Olympians would be Meb, Ryan, and Adbi...and total heartbreak for Ritz. I couldn't imagine the feeling of coming in 4th.

With about a half hour or so before the women would finish, we decided to wander around the Green a bit and camp out in front of the big screen to watch the women's finish.

It really wasn't a big surprise to see that Desi, Shalane, and Kara were the front runners. Amy Hastings had fallen back and out of contention, short of a total breakdown by one of the leaders. Based on how they were running, that didn't seem likely.

Shalane made her move with a few miles left in the race and led the entire remainder to come through with the win. She is a killer on a marathon course...what's so surprising is that she can race so well and this was only her SECOND marathon. But Desi and Kara hung in there strong to the end to come up with second and third place and their spots on the Olympic team. 

And here is our Olympic Team for the 2012 London Games....what a worthy group of athletes!

So after this wonderful day ended, I realized that I didn't actually get a lot of proof that Tony and I were there in the form of pictures. But I didn't forget to get a picture of my boots, so there's that.

And there's Tony's foot, too
I'm already conspiring on getting to see the 2016 Olympic Marathon Trials, although if they're in New York I'll probably pass. I'd want it to be a similar weekend as this one....see the Trials on Saturday, then run the marathon on Sunday. New York holds zero appeal to me. But I think Houston made a big name for itself and I'm holding out hope I can have a repeat weekend there. 

Man, I love marathons.


  1. These pictures are awesome!! It was exciting enough following the race on Twitter, I can't imagine how it was in real life. What a great experience! (and I'm totally jealous!)

  2. Great job with the blog, Steph. I really loved re-living the event, you captured the morning perfect.
    And Yes, if the trails return in 2016, we're there!

    Maybe there next year...can you say sub 4:00 Marathon?

    1. Mr Anonymous must be Tony :) Hey, do not try to talk me into Houston next year! Haha. But YES!!! SUB 4 ALL THE WAY

  3. You took these pictures? They're great! So glad you got to enjoy such a special event (right before running your own special event) :)

  4. I took all the pics except the two of the winners together - those were from Brightroom. You should consider's so fun!