Molly Seidel ran her first marathon ever on Saturday.
And now she’s headed to the Tokyo Olympics.
The former Notre Dame distance star placed second in the Olympic Trials in Atlanta on Saturday, finishing behind Aliphine Tuliamuk. Tuliamuk won with a time of 2:27:23, less than a minute off her personal best of 2:26:50.
Seidel, 25, finished in 2:27:31. She is the first U.S. woman to make the Olympic team in her debut marathon. Sally Kipyego finished behind those two in 2:28:52. This will be her second Olympics and her first competing for the U.S. She competed in the 2012 London Olympics, running the 5,000 meters and placing fourth for her native Kenya. The top three in the Trials qualify for the Olympics.
Galen Rupp won the men’s race — his second consecutive victory in the trials — in a time of 2:09.20. Jacob Riley came in second, at 2:10:02, and Abdi Abdirahman finished third, at 2:10:03.
According to the New York Times, it wasn’t until after mile 20 that Seidel, Tuliamuk and Kipyego made their moves. Seidel set the pace, the Times reported, with Tuliamuk trailing closely behind, and Kipyego was about 22 seconds behind. Until the final half mile, it appeared that Des Linden could overtake Kipyego, but Kipyego was able to hang on for third place.
Another former Notre Dame standout, Molly Huddle, competed in the event and was considered among the top contenders. Huddle ran with the large lead pack for the first part of the race and was part of the 12-woman group still together at 19 miles, but she ultimately dropped out and didn’t record a split past the 21st mile.
Huddle’s marathon best is 2:26:33, set at the London Marathon last April. She has finished third (2016) and fourth (2018) at the New York City Marathon.
Four years ago, Seidel was the top female distance runner in the NCAA with four national titles.
She was expected to compete at the Olympic Trials but was sidelined with a sacral stress fracture. Seidel also was dealing at the time with depression and an obsessive-compulsive disorder that manifested itself in an eating disorder.
Before the race, Seidel told Runner’s World, “You never really know what it’s gonna be like until you get there. It’s going to be an unknown of what your body can do. Keep an open mind and know how much it’s going to hurt, and be prepared for that amount of pain.
“Tenth to 20th range would be a good day for me. All of these women are really good and have the times (to back it up). I want to go out and be realistic, but not count myself out.”
Seidel won the NCAA 10,000-meter title during her junior year (2015), becoming Notre Dame’s first individual national champion in women’s track and field. She also won the NCAA cross country title as a senior– another first for the Notre Dame program.
She added NCAA indoor 3,000 and 5,000 titles as a senior.
Per Runner’s World, she is still based in Boston, and shares an apartment with her sister. She works at a local coffee shop, though she has spent the past few months training, totaling 105-mile weeks at high altitude in Flagstaff, Ariz.
Seidel qualified for the Olympic Trials with a 1:10:27 win at the Rock ‘n’ Roll San Antonio Half Marathon in December.
“Realistically, it’s kind of a moonshot for me doing this race,” she told Runner’s World. “I might as well do this for the experience and, hopefully, down the line, have a more legitimate shot. Something my coach and I talk about a lot is trying to preserve my legs as much as possible in the first 20 miles.
“Be a little bit more conservative, see how the course goes and then, hopefully, get to the last couple miles and see what I can do. You never know.”
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