Saturday, January 14, 2012

4 is the loneliest number

If you're a reader of my blog, you might've noticed that I like running. I like running races. I like running with Molly. I like running just for fun. But, I also really like running for medals. And, I have a problem with landing in 4th place. It seems to be a curse for me. It happens a lot. I've talked about this.

Well, Saturday morning, I spent two hours of my day glued to my phone screen watching the live updates from the Olympic Marathon Trials in Houston, Texas. NBC did play the video later in the day, but, I couldn't pull myself away from the live blogging on my Runner's World's web site. My heart was pounding and pulse was racing as I read all about Ryan Hall's intense pace from the get-go. He pushed the pace with 4:45 miles and ended up hitting the halfway point at 1:03:25. What?!? To put that into perspective for you, my PR (personal best) for a half marathon is 1:57:29. Only 54 minutes slower than Hall. And, he continued on for another 13.1 miles. Crazy speed. 

Anyway, Hall was racing in the lead for almost the whole race, with Meb Keflezighi, Abdi Abdirahman and Dathan Ritzenhein rounding out the lead pack. Slowly, Ritzenhein began to fade and it looked like it would easily be Hall, Keflezighi and Abdirahman as the top 3 finishers. (Only the top 3 finishers make it onto the Olympic Team). But, then, Abdirahman started to fall apart, and Ritzenhein pulled it together. Could it be? Could Ritzenhein come from behind and grab third? 

Ritzenhein who spent much of the last year recovering from injuries? Ritzenhein whose only two races in the last year have been 5Ks? Could this be the comeback story for the ages (or at least for some amazing newspaper copy)?

Alas, no. Ritzenhein ran out of road before he could catch up to third place Abdirahman. 

The results: Keflezighi - 2:09:08 (PR), Hall - 2:09:30, Abdirahman - 2:09:47. And, Ritzenhein - 2:09:55.

I was broken-hearted for Ritz. I was pulling for him to get out of that dreaded 4th place spot. Nothing against any of the guys who were in the top 3, but I don't think I can help cheering for a 4th place to move up. Everyone loves an underdog story, right? 

Then, I read the news reports from Houston. Ritzenhein fell apart after the finish. I don't mean physically. He started crying. He is quoted saying, "Maybe I'm not made for the marathon. Maybe I'm forcing it. Everybody wants me to be a marathoner, and I want to be a marathoner, but right now maybe it's not in the cards. Maybe it's just not there."

Ritz right after finishing.
Then, I got a teary-eyed. I mean, you run your heart out for something like this only to get 4th place? 4TH PLACE!?!? Argghhhh. It really is the worst place in the world. And, for Ritz, he ran a PR. In fact, he was a mere 8 seconds behind 3rd place. And, it is the first time in the Olympic Marathon Trials history that more than one person was under 2:10. Today? The top 4 finishers were under 2:10. But, only the top 3 get to go to the Olympics. 

So, in honor of all the 4th place finishers out there (although in no way do I compare myself at all to anyone of his running caliber), I salute you, Dathan Ritzenhein. You ran an awesome race. You should be proud. And, in the immortal words of Journey, "Don't Stop Believin'"


  1. 8 seconds after 26.2 miles. That hurts.

  2. Amy, (Nelson Townsend, Melanie's husband, here), I was so glad to read your post! I wanted to watch the trials, but my life got in the way. I'm not even going to go to Runner's World now -- you've said it all! I just finished a 50:00 run, nursing a knee, and I'm still recovering (emotionally) from a disappointing Kansas City Marathon in October. Thanks for your post. It's an inspiration. I also run to Journey, and my favorite is "Be Good to Yourself" (when nobody else will). I highly recommend it.

    1. That's a great Journey song to run to! Glad I could sum up the trials for you :)