"What is happening?" Molly Seidel kept asking Saturday in Atlanta after running a marathon for the first time. It was hard to believe. With a time of 2 hours, 27 minutes, Seidel had just finished second in the Olympic trials, earning her a ticket to the Games this summer in Tokyo. She beat some of the best runners around, the New York Times reports. Knowing the quality of her competition, she tried not to put too much pressure on herself before her marathon debut. "But talking with my coach," she said, "I didn’t want to phone it in just because it was my first one." Seidel, 25, describes herself as more of a racer than someone who does well in time trials; she said the tough course and headwinds worked in her favor. She was in the pack until Mile 21, when she made her move with Aliphine Tuliamuk and Sally Kipyego. They were the first three finishers and now make up the 2020 Olympic squad. Tuliamuk finished first at 2:27:23.
At Mile 7, Seidel veered over to high-five her sister. Seidel's route to Atlanta wasn't especially direct. She's overcome an eating disorder. She works two jobs in Boston. She's been a success in 5,000- and 10,000-meter races and won a national cross country championship in 2011. But no marathons. It was her time in a half-marathon in December that qualified her for Atlanta. Seidel has endured a series of injuries over the years, including a stress fracture in her lower back; she hugged, thanked and hugged again her chiropractor on Saturday. Just six months ago, Seidel said, she wouldn't have thought she'd reach even the Olympics trials. But she did think it possible as a fourth grader in Wisconsin. Asked her biggest wish and dream, per Sports Illustrated, she wrote on the back of a photograph of herself, "I wish I will make it into the Olympics and win a gold medal." Her parents still have it. (Read more 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games stories.)