It was a tight competition at this weekend's US Olympic marathon trials with a record number of runners taking part but a surprising record was set – Molly Seidel became the first American woman to qualify for an Olympics by running her first-ever marathon.
Seidel finished in second place in Atlanta with a time of two hours, 27 minutes and 31 seconds. She was just seven seconds behind Aliphine Tuliamuk who finished in two hours, 27 minutes and 23 seconds. It was the closest women's finish in the trials.
The third and final Olympic spot went to 2012 Olympic 10,000-metre silver medallist Sally Kipyego.
Seidel started her running career at college but has struggled with injuries, taking on jobs at a coffee shop and as a baby sitter to pay her bills. She qualified for the marathon trials after running a half marathon in one hour, ten minutes and 27 seconds in San Antonio in December.
Speaking to USA Today after the race, Seidel said: "I definitely did not expect to be up here.”
“I wasn’t paying attention to the miles or pace and just going off feel and when we made our move I just wanted to keep running the pace I felt good at. But all the sudden it was kind of just the two of us. The last part definitely hurt but it was calming to know, it’s supposed to feel like this. It’s OK to hurt, it’s not OK to stop. A lot of it was trying to keep my emotions steady because it was a high tension situation.”
Growing up, Seidel became the most decorated distance runner in Wisconsin high school history, setting state records in track and cross country disciplines.
She has also been open about her experience with disordered eating, something that caused her to take a break from running, even as she was the fastest woman in the NCAA.
Now all Seidel's attention will turn to her second-ever race across 26.2 miles – the Tokyo 2020 Olympic marathon.
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