Accomplished St. Louis Area Runners Train For Olympic Marathon Trials

Athletes will run the marathon Trials on Feb. 29 in Atlanta

Paige Bostic

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LHS Publications

Mrs. Hall competes at the Olympic Marathon Trials in Atlanta Feb. 29.

Emily Barnett, Reporter

An Olympic year is upon us. Accomplished athletes from across the globe have spent several months in intensive training in hopes of having the honor to represent their country in front of the whole world. The time for the United States’ top marathon runners to express years of dedication and months of rigorous work is near.

Missouri is well represented in the event. LHS health teacher Ms. Hall, a former Mizzou runner, Mizzou cross country and track alumni Megan Cunningham, who is from Eureka, and Jocelyn Todd, a PhD student in biomedical engineering and marathoner from St. Louis will represent. The women eagerly prepare for their last few weeks of training before leaving to participate in the U.S. Olympic Team Marathon Trials in Atlanta, Georgia on Feb. 29.  

By Feb. 27, most athletes will travel to Atlanta and spend two days in a host hotel prior to the race. Most marathoners are gathered in a host hotel. Within the hotel, the athlete village is where conference rooms and athlete suites reside. In the suites, snacks, special drinks, and massages are utilized by marathoners during their stay. During these two days, athletes and coaches attend meetings, get their uniforms checked to make sure no logo advertisements are showing, and gather a good idea on how race day will run course. Various magazines and reporters are also on scene, zeroing in on the athletes, asking questions and reflecting on their emotions before the big day.

On Feb. 29, athletes gain the opportunity to express their talent from the minute the gun goes off until the race is over. The top 3 finishers and one alternate in both the women’s and men’s race qualify for the Olympic team that will represent the U.S. in Tokyo this summer.

USATF’s final list includes 511 women and 260 men, for a total of 711 qualifiers. This is the largest number of qualifiers in Trials history, according to Runner’s World. 

My dad motivates me to run as well as the idea of self-improvement. Running is such a cool sport because it ultimately is you versus the clock and it is so easy to measure improvement”

— Megan Cunningham

Phil Roeder
Megan Cunningham of the University of Missouri, winner of the women’s 10000m race in April of 2018.

“On race day they allow families to go in certain areas, they are really good about making it secure for the athletes which makes it very serious and cool. The athletes that get top three get to go to the Olympics to represent the United States so it’s a really big deal,” Hall said. 

Hall trains for 14 weeks prior to the race. During this time, she focuses her attention on pushing herself. 

“I train in the offseason but I train about 14 weeks from my race. I really train. It gets a lot harder. There is more quality, there are more long runs,” Hall said. “I can only sustain this type of training for 14-16 weeks without either getting injured or getting burned out.”

Cunningham has been consistently running about 80-85 miles each week.

“A huge factor is sleep and nutrition,” Cunningham said. “These two things help your body recover from the higher mileage that comes with marathon training.”

Hall competed in the 2012 Olympic Trials and is experienced in the process. She anticipates the race being one of her last and is hopeful of a new personal record.

“I am very excited, I definitely feel like I am in a position to run a personal best, although, the course is supposed to be super hilly,” she said. “I’m just going to go out there and have a good time, enjoy this awesome life experience and it might be one of my last times at one of these and just run really hard. Whatever happens, happens. Hopefully, I’ll have a good life moment. I will have my girls [daughters] with me and I’m excited.”

Many runners find joy in pursuing multiple careers and interests. Todd is currently a biomedical engineering student who conducts research on cartilage mechanics in the hip. After competing collegiately, she had success in local races and decided to keep competing. Sponsorships help support her hobby and her biggest motivator is when she runs for herself. 

“I feel fortunate to have earned the opportunity to race at the trials and am approaching the race with gratitude and inspiration. Most of us work normal jobs and train at an elite level on the side, and it’s humbling to be in a race with so many incredible women and men (…),” Todd said. 

Behind all the training and progress that takes place, the marathoners stay true to their goals and motivations. The love of working towards achieving success and the excitement after executing races is evident.

“My dad motivates me to run as well as the idea of self-improvement,” Cunningham said. “Running is such a cool sport because it ultimately is you versus the clock and it is so easy to measure improvement.”