Pain and pleasure at Olympic Marathon Trials

Roseville’s Tim Tollefson didn’t qualify for the U.S. team, but he recovered from a foot infection to complete a ‘26.2-mile victory lap’
By: Tim Tollefson/Special to the Roseville Press Tribune
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Editor’s note: Running his third marathon in three months and overcoming a staph infection in his foot slowed Rocklin High School graduate and Roseville resident Tim Tollefson on the streets of Houston, but he still felt “honored and humbled” to compete in his first U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials. Tollefson shares his experience.

We had an incredible experience in Houston and are very honored and humbled to be part of the best U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials to date.

The top four women broke the previous Trials record, and the top four men ran under 2 hours, 10 minutes. Previously, no more than one man had done that in the Trials.

From the moment I stepped off the plane, I was given the royal treatment by the Houston Marathon Committee and USATF staff — definitely unlike any other sporting event I’d ever taken part in.

My race went about as I expected. It was my third marathon in three months (Chicago, the California International Marathon in Sacramento and the Trials), which in of itself doesn’t bode well for a great performance.

On top of that, one week after the CIM I learned I had a staph infection in my foot, which forced me to take off significant time from training. My focus changed from the Trials to keeping my foot, as it ballooned to nearly twice its size in 24 hours. Following the setback, I began the slow grind of getting back into shape for Jan. 14.

Based on my fitness leading into the race, I knew the best-case scenario would be about a 2:22-2:24 marathon. Due to the elite field, however, I knew that to run that pace I would be well off the back of the pack running solo. So, when the gun went off, I rushed out at a much faster pace than I had any business trying to run.

The pack I was with went through 16 miles at a 5:21-per-mile average (a 2:20 marathon pace), and my body was already showing signs of distress. As I predicted, the wheels began to fall off and I found myself running between a 5:40 and 6:10 mile average to the finish.

Every mental demon was screaming at me to drop out. Despite running a pedestrian pace nearly a minute slower per mile than my personal best, and the medial side of both knees beginning to bleed secondary to chaffing from both hip abductors giving out, I kept my slow, somewhat embarrassing pace all the way to cross my first Olympic Trials finish line in 2:26:58.

Honestly, the time was irrelevant. I know I’m capable of running 2:16 under the right conditions. It was all about finishing what I set out to accomplish, and regardless of how painful and slow the run became, I was not about to drop out knowing so many others will never get the opportunity I was given.

In a very strange way, I viewed that race as an extremely painful 26.2-mile victory lap for a breakthrough season that resulted in something many people never thought was possible for me.

I left Houston happy and excited for the next four years of training. I predict that in 2016, I’ll toe the line at the Olympic Trials a much different runner and ready to truly mix it up with the other top contenders for the Olympic team.