Roads to the Olympic Marathon Time Trials converge in Atlanta, Georgia as area runners run the grueling 26.2 mile course in windy and hilly conditions.
Marisa Hird: My mom kept saying “I’m just so proud that you never gave up” and you know after 11 years… it crossed my mind a few times.
It took a decade, but Marisa Hird made it.
Marisa Hird: Fast forward 11 years and it kind of became a habit. Like “oh yeah, I’m training for the trials. And I finally did it and it was an incredible feeling. It’s been an incredible journey. I’ve had so many friends help me get here, and it’s been incredible.
The road to the US Olympic Marathon Time Trials is a unique one for every participant.
For Hird, a decade of just missing out included the Naperville Marathon, but ended when she qualified in November at the Indy Monumental Marathon… 13 months after having her son, Jack.
Marisa Hird: Being a new mom and figuring out a new body… and literally a new person, that was all a huge adjustment. There were days where I was either not going to go for a run or I was going to push him in the stroller. So I probably ran five days a week with the stroller, which was a blast. It was fun having him for the daily runs.
For Ryan Root, the journey also has an early detour in Naperville. An All-American runner at North Central, naturally, credit is given to legendary long-time coach Al Carius.
Ryan Root: The five years I spent at North Central really set me up to be a marathoner. Just by going through the whole high mileage process that Al’s got going.
His path to Atlanta, Georgia wasn’t taken alone though – rather, with longtime teammate and friend Travis Morrison.
Ryan Root: We (Travis Morrison) had been really close to hitting the trial standard before and this was going to be the first time we’d race together since literally the first out of college, so it had been three or four years since we had raced together. So we were pretty excited to lace up and we really didn’t know how the race was going to go.
Once on the start line, more than 800 hundred runners from around the country saw their voyage… converge. A special moment for Metea Valley teacher and coach Alyssa Schneider.
Alyssa Schneider: I love Des Linden, and I got to start right behind her. So just standing on the starting line and she was one step ahead of me. It was so cool.
The race was challenging. High winds and a hilly course proved difficult. But Alyssa, Ryan and Marisa all battled through, finishing the 26.2 mile course.
Alyssa Schneider: Personally, I developed some really bad heel blisters, really early on. So I was negotiating the pain burning from my heels and the pain of a marathon.
Alyssa Schneider: I put so much work into that training and so I was just like “I am finishing this. It’s going to hurt, but I am finishing this.”
Ryan Root: Because I had to try to just not walk the last three miles he ended up catching me with 400 to go. We just high fived and we’re like “let’s just finish together”. I was super grateful that he was able to battle back because having him there and being able to share that last stretch together
Marisa Hird: If you saw my training on paper you’d have said no way. No way would I have run this time to qualify. But my mind was stronger than it ever had been. And I believed in myself, the training I was doing. And everyone always says there’s mom strength and there is, in so many ways. And that’s what got me through.
Hird finished with a time of 2 hours and 50 seconds. Schneider ended up 74th out of 390 competitors. And Root, crossed side by side with Morrison – in 93rd and 94th places.
All taking the same road for 26.2 miles… despite taking such different journeys to the starting line.
Reporting for Sports Story Sunday, I’m Kevin Jackman.