Chasing The Dream: The Olympic Marathon Trials

Left To Right: Sisson, O'Keeffe, Linduurm

The excitement in the air was palpable as hundreds of men and women toed the line on February 3, 2024 in Orlando Florida to chase down dreams of earning a coveted spot on the Olympic Marathon team in the upcoming 2024 Paris games. The field consisted of several faces familiar to those of us in TCTC including Keira D’Amato and Winston Salem’s own favorite son: Donnie Cowart. As these incredible athletes were warming up so were the temperatures in Sunny Orlando Florida. While the thermometer read 63 degrees at the race start, the mercury would continue to climb until it announced temperatures in the mid 70’s during the middle of the race. Couple this with an unforgiving Florida sun and 63% humidity and you have a recipe for one challenging endeavor.

The energy was electric as friends, family members, and fans of the sport lined the streets of Orlando in droves all eager to witness the magnificent feats of endurance that only these elite few could deliver. Back home in Winston, the Twin City Track Club was buzzing with anticipation as 100 runners and running enthusiasts gathered at Fiddlin’ Fish Brewing Company to share in their own pre-trials long run, refreshments, community, and swapping their favorite Donnie Cowart stories all while screaming their support from the Tar Heel state all the way to the Sunshine state.

Words can’t describe the inspiration that watching someone fight for their dreams can bring. Unfortunately, the unforgiving combination of sun, heat, and humidity led several runners to drop from the race entirely and others to slow their paces to times far off their personal bests. Despite all this, an elite few pushed through to claim the five US Olympic Marathon spots unlocked at the 2024 games. Conner Mantz (2:09:05) finished in 1st place while Clayton Young (2:09:06) brought home a close 2nd. Both men have claimed their place as Olympic competitors. Leonard Korir who finished 3rd with a time of 2 hours, 9 minutes and 57 seconds could still have a shot at the Olympic dream if a third spot for the US team is “unlocked” by May 5th of this year. More on how these spots are allocated can be found here.

Not to be outdone, the women brought some heat of their own beginning with the first female finisher: Fiona O’Keeffe. O’Keeffe was the first female to finish with a time of 2 hours, 22 minutes and 10 seconds setting a new record for the fastest time ran by a female at the Olympic trials. She was followed closely by Emily Sisson (2:22:42) and Dakotah Lindwurm (2:25:31). All three women have earned spots representing the USA in the Marathon in Paris this summer.

In victory and defeat one thing remains, the indominable will of the human spirit to strive – and strive these athletes did. Congratulations to all the athletes that competed in these trials. You showed us what is possible when we dare to dream and chase that dream with everything we have. Getting to this stage put you in rare air. Putting yourself in the arena and being willing to go to war for your dreams, that’s the stuff that makes champions and have no doubt you are each true champions.

Left To Right: Young, Mantz, Korir