“People who hate to lose are not going to go through with a running career because you have to lose and lose and lose to get to a point where you can win, to get to a place where you’ll lose again.” – Tom Derderian
“Athletes must meet the “B” standard (2:18 marathon or 1:05 half marathon) in order to enter the 2016 U.S. Olympic Team Trials – Marathon event.” – USATF
It is one thing to talk about second — or third chances, but realistically how many chances do you have to run a really fast race over such a long distance? So much has to go right, and it takes so little to go wrong for another chance to slip away. And it’s not like you can run a race every month. For each attempt, you have to build the base, do the specific preparation, avoid injury, avoid illness, and hope that on one day several months in the future, the weather will be favorable.
On January 19th 2014, a quartet of runners approached the finish line of USA Half Marathon Championships in Houston, all of them desperately close to the “B” standard time of 1:05:00. The first to cross the timing mat was Minnesota’s Mike Reneau. His official time: 1:04:59. A moment later, Brookline’s Eric Ashe crossed the line. His official time: 1:05:01 — a split second too slow to meet the qualifying standard.
Ashe’s quest to qualify for the trials inspired a story on NPR (“The Ragged Edge“), which inspired the quote from Tom Derderian at the top of this post. It traced Ashe’s career from Whitman-Hanson high school to BU to post-collegiate competition with the BAA. It noted that he won the Cape Cod Marathon in 2012, but spent much of 2013 injured. Finally, it talked about his quest to qualify for the trials.
After running 1:07 and change at the New Bedford Half Marathon in March, Ashe took another serious shot at qualifying at the Boston Marathon in April. Needing to run 2:18 to meet the “B” standard, he passed halfway in 1:08:36, and was still on pace through 25K. But the hills took their toll, and although he held it together pretty well over the final miles, his final time of 2:21:41 was a long way from 2:18.
Yesterday, Ashe and several other top New England runners took another shot at the Medtronic Twin Cities Marathon/US Marathon Championships. Once again, Ashe was extremely, nail-bitingly close. But this time, he was on the right side of the standard, crossing the line in 2:17:56. I imagine that after running the final few hundred meters in fear of missing again, the relief at making it must have been unbelievable.
As a bonus, Ashe also moved up in the last few miles to finish 10th, which gained him the final prize money position. That will come in handy, since “B” qualifiers have to pay their own expenses to get to the Trials.
I should also note that Ashe was not the only New Englander to qualify. Ashe’s BAA teammate Brian Harvey placed 8th in a wonderfully well-paced 2:17:05.