Late last year Chris Heuisler approached me about joining a team he was hand picking to volunteer at the US Olympic Team Trials. At the time he did not have many details but promised it would be an amazing experience and that we would have the best view of the races. Even before he finished asking I knew my answer.
Chris, you may know him as the RunWestin Concierge, is one of the nicest people you will ever cross paths with. He can be found at many of the Rock ‘n Roll marathon series races and loves to meet new people. So much so that I swear he knows everyone!
Friday morning I made the trek to downtown LA to pick up my official trails gear as well as my Los Angeles Marathon packet since I was running my own marathon that weekend and let me tell you, the gear is very cool! Several times during Saturday’s trials I had people stop me and ask where I purchased the clothes I was wearing. As far as I know it was not sold anywhere and I did not see many people dressed in our “uniform” so I am not sure it ever was on sale.
The first job for “Team Awesome,” as Chris named us, was to get the athletes from the host hotel to the starting area. From there, we made sure the runners were able to access the warm up area as they prepared to run the race which would allow the top three men and women’s finishers to represent the USA at the 2016 Olympic games in Rio. We would have other tasks during the day, both pre and post race but our real purpose was to provide the runners with directions and make sure they had what they needed.
Our final pre-race duty was to get the female hopefuls to the starting line.
In the running world, speed is relative. What is one person’s personal best might be another’s training run. But the speed of an elite runner is unreal! To see humans running at a five-minute-mile pace, about 12 miles per hour if my math is correct, up close is jaw dropping. And I had a front row seat to witness this speed!
By the time I sat down, grabbed some lunch at the hospitality tent, and made my way back to the starting line, the men were closing in on the 20-mile mark. It was a two-horse race by that time and the leaders looked calm, cool, and collected.
After snapping a photo of the men’s leaders, it was time to start making end-of-race preparations and that meant making our way down to the finish line. There was no real drama as to who was going to win the race on either the men or the women’s side as Galen Rupp and Amy Cragg had build sizable leads over the final six miles to punch their tickets to Brazil. That did not stop the crowds of people lining the finisher’s chute to roar with excitement as the champions closed in on the tape.
Chris was right when he said we would have the best seat in the house. It was an amazing experience to see the best the US has to offer competing for the privilege to represent their home country in the Olympics.
Running is often considered an individual sport but when one is running for the entire country, then it becomes much, much more than that. I know I will be tuning in come race day to see how the marathon unfolds and will do so knowing they are running at speeds most people drive through a parking lot.