5 Things I Learned While Spectating the Trials

OT Win!I love watching races, especially super competitive ones! There’s nothing more inspiring than watching the culmination of years of sacrifice and hard work come together for one shot at a lifetime dream. That’s why my husband and I traveled to Houston in 2012 to watch the Trials, where we had an absolute blast. Four years later, having several friends participating, it was a no-brainer to make the trek to LA for the big event.

Friday evening the race area was buzzing with energy and everywhere we looked running celebs wandered by! We literally ran into Ginger and Cinnamon on the street. Then on Saturday, running near the course, it was fun to bump into friends who were warming up and to really feel like part of the action. We were psyched to get a spot to watch near the finish line and I, the veteran Trials-spectator, even learned a new thing, or five.


Meb swaps bibs with Shalane Flanagan
Posing with Shalane during the press conference, Meb couldn’t contain himself amid the propriety–he swapped their bibs just to get everyone smiling!

1.  Oh, Meb! ?  I am a Meb fan. You are a Meb fan. Guess what? Everyone is a Meb fan. He exemplifies hard work, humility, kindness and sacrifice. Desi Linden said it best: “Meb’s the epitome of a hero. He’s Mister Consistency. He’s put your head down and go grind out. He’s been with his team for a long time and obviously trusts in them and is just very loyal, a good guy. I think he’s what we strive to be. He’s an amazing model for us to look up to and we’re super lucky to have him. There’s great athletes, there’s incredible competitors, but Meb’s a hero.”

He drew more cheers from the crowd than Galen or anyone else. I knew he had the respect of fans, but the noise for him went to a different decibel level. It was even more apparent to me at the awards ceremony when the crowds cheered louder for him than Rupp. Hmmmm….

2. Running spectators love to give commentary (even when you don’t want to hear it). Ok, so I’ve already experienced this after watching several road and track races from the side, but it still simply amazes me. Every time my husband and I talked about the race, some guy next to me butted in to insert his opinion into our conversation. I guess I shouldn’t be too critical, in fact maybe I should consider myself fortunate to be standing next to an expert on Kara, Meb, Galen, and Shalane during the entire race! Ahem. And of course when he turned to me at the end and told me that it would be an amazing last five minutes to the finish, I barely nodded my head. We were standing roughly 250 meters from the finish line! These runners were not going to take five minutes to get to the line. Thanks for the insight, buddy.

Chris Barnicle finishes at the Olympic Trials
Chris Barnicle finishes dead last, even behind the women. But heck, he finished and he got his Olympic Trials medal! Way to go, dude!

3. You CAN run a serious race in a cotton T-shirt. Most of the participants sported new race kits from their sponsors even though their sponsors’ logos had to be properly covered. But, did you catch the guy in the white, cotton T-Shirt? Chris Barnicle? Finished last in 3:45. The guy wore a white, cotton shirt the entire race, no joke! Runner’s World did a short write-up on him after the Trials. He qualified in 2013 with a 64-minute half marathon. A former high-school and college running stud, Barnicle did a training stint in Kenya, but suffered chronic injuries so he moved to LA and is now in the medical marijuana business. This begs the question: why cotton instead of hemp? Just weeks ago he decided to give the Trials a go, and was definitely a crowd favorite on Saturday! And to further note, the guy popped up on a Let’s Run thread, so he is now somewhat of a (minor) celebrity!

4. Even elite runners smile and give high-fives.  We were fortunate enough to know several runners in the Trials, both men and women. Most of them knew they were a long shot to make the team, but still, they ran, smiled, and even gave us a few high-fives along the way! Before heading to LA, I bought a Colorado flag that I waved as every Colorado runner I know went by. Lots of runners reported to us that it was the fan support that kept them going in the less-than-ideal racing conditions, and it was no surprise that our flag got a lot of smiles! It was great seeing these runners have fun in such a highly competitive event.

Jared Ward finishes the Olympic Trials Marathon
Jared Ward arguably had the most epic finish he could have hoped for, getting a welcome to Team USA baptism from Meb himself.

5. It really is a special day. We are fortunate here in the US that we hold an event that gives our top athletes one final chance to make the Olympic team. Many countries ‘select’ their athletes based on past performances. We hold Trials to see who is the best on that particular day. After all, isn’t that what racing is all about? It comes down to that one day. We witnessed that on Saturday when Jared Ward finished third and claimed the final spot on the men’s team. Who is Jared Ward? He’s an accomplished distance runner who won the USA Marathon Championships last year. But, I don’t recall him on many lists to be a favorite for the team. Well, Jared had his special day, and he is going to the Olympics. Anything can happen!

Bonus: If you can’t qualify for the Trials, you can still run on the course!

Vanilla and Mr. Vanilla on the Olympic Trials Course
Running on the course made Mr. Vanilla and me feel like we were in the game ourselves!


Did you have a favorite part of the Trials? Would you ever go?


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Native Ohioan now living in Boulder, Colorado. I love to run, tri, train, eat good chocolate, drink good rum, and laugh (a lot). I am a CPA by trade and work for Newton Running.

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  1. Love this, and so cool you and the mister were able to go again! I definitely want to go sometime in whatever capacity I can (spectator….big dreamer wondering about a B standard…ya know). There were so many cool stories that came out of the trials, I’m still sifting through articles and articles about it all. I watched it on TV but still want to see more, nerd over here. I think one of my favorite parts was the last few minutes of the women’s race where you really didn’t know what was going to happen. The uncertainty leaves you on edge of seat for sure! I’m also a sucker for the comeback kid story with Amy Hastings Cragg, 4th a few years ago which lit a fire (obviously) and here she is winning it 4 years later!

  2. It was ABSOLUTELY the crowd support that got me through!! Thanks to you and every other spectator for cheering us all on and making us feel like celebrities!! 🙂

    Also, Meb, yes AMAZING. But Desi could seriously be describing herself with that quote–she is just as humble and inspiring. In my opinion she doesn’t get enough credit or fanfare (but Meb didn’t for a long time either) so hopefully someday she will!