Meet your USA Marathon Team for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics
by Brendan Martin, DPT, PT, FAFS
A marathon is a long race to run. Watching one can also feel like a marathon if you don’t have a favorite in the race to root for. The United States is sending an amazing team this year, and I’ve compiled some backstory and fast facts on each of your country-men-and-women representing us at Tokyo 2020. I love racing, and the marathon is my favorite. I hope that this will give you a greater interest in the race and compel you to support these amazing athletes!
Atlanta Olympic Marathon Trials Time: 2:27:23
You may remember Aliphine Tuliamuk from the Olympic Marathon Trials on February 29, 2020– a time that feels quite like a lifetime ago. Just a few weeks later, the world shut down, including a postponement of the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo. With so much uncertainty, Aliphine decided to chase another one of her dreams: becoming a mother.
Her healthy baby, Zoe, was born on January 13th this past year and continues to be a source of motivation and strength. We’d be remiss if we didn’t mention that for most of her pregnancy, Aliphine was able to maintain 80-mile weeks while going to physical therapy for both running injury prevention and for her pelvic floor. Tuliamuk continues to regularly work with her physical therapist to improve the strength of her pelvic floor, core, and other muscle groups impacted by her pregnancy and childbirth. Aliphine runs for the Hoka NAZ Elite Club and is coached by Ben Rosario in Flagstaff, where locals are amazed at how quickly her fitness is coming back – not us though, we know the power of PT and we’re excited to see what she can do this weekend.
Atlanta Olympic Marathon Trials Time: 2:27:31
Formally known to her college friends as “One-Speed-Seidel” because her mile, 5k, and 10k pace were all very similar – something I can relate to – you could say the now 27-year old Molly Seidel has honed her marathon skills.
While the Trials in Atlanta were her marathon debut (!), Molly Seidel is no stranger to representing the US in tough competition. She competed at the Great Edinburgh International Cross Country in 2012, 2013, and 2018, taking 3rd place at the latter event. Molly was also the first woman in 30 years to break the “Foot Locker Curse,” meaning she won both High School Foot Locker Nationals before going on to win the NCAA Cross Country title in 2015.
But if you had asked Molly Seidel at the end of 2019 whether she would have anticipated representing Team USA in the 2020 Games in Tokyo, she probably would have told you it was unlikely, previously calling her chance at making these Olympic Games a “moonshot.” She qualified for the Trials just two months prior to the race at the Rock ’n’ Roll San Antonio Half Marathon in December 2019, running 1:10:27, only to beat that time a month later in Houston, running 1:09:35.
Since gaining the spotlight, she has been very open and transparent regarding overcoming her struggles with an eating disorder, depression and anxiety, and has become a role model for young runners.
Atlanta Olympic Marathon Trials Time: 2:28:52
While the Tokyo 2020 Games will serve as the first time Sally Kipyego is representing the US (she became a citizen in 2017), she’s already a veteran Olympian, having represented Kenya in the 5,000m and 10,000m at the London Games in 2012, where she won Silver in the latter race.
This time around, the 35-year old mother had to hold off two-time Olympian and 2018 Boston Marathon Champ Des Linden by 11 seconds for the final spot on the marathon team at the Atlanta Trials. Even though this is her first Olympics representing the US, some of us New Yorkers already know her as a household name. Kipyego has a history of competing well in NYC, with a 2nd place finish at the 5th Ave Mile in 2011, a win and course record at the NYC Half in 2014, and 2nd place finish at the 2016 NYC Marathon.
Sally was inspired to become a nurse after an incident when she was 11 years old. Her friend was injured in a bike crash and she ran 7 miles to the nearest hospital only to have an intoxicated doctor kick her out. She vowed to provide better healthcare to her country. Many years later, she graduated with a nursing degree from Texas Tech.
Atlanta Olympic Marathon Trials Time: 2:09:20
University of Oregon
Longtime protege of Alberto Salazar, the former Nike Oregon Project coach serving a ban for questionable coaching maneuvers, the Portland Oregon native is now coached by Mike Smith of Northern Arizona University. Galen is one of the most decorated US distance runners of all time, with a silver medal at London 2012 in the 10,000m, and a bronze medal at Rio 2016 in the marathon. He is also a Chicago Marathon champion. To give you an idea of this guy’s off the charts natural talent, he ran an eye-popping 13:37 in the 5000m while in high school – that’s a 4:23/mile pace. He brings his A game when it counts, and you can expect him to be mixing it up for a medal! For such an accomplished athlete, he keeps a pretty low profile, so we can’t tell you too much about him personally aside from the fact that one time he drank a grape soda during an interview with the media after a great race.
Here’s a fun fact though: Galen’s home that he shares with his wife and two children is insulated and conditioned to sustain a simulated altitude of 10,000-12,000 feet above sea level. Rumor has it that it smells strange inside because air circulates neither in nor out. Talk about dedication to the cause!
Atlanta Olympic Marathon Trials Time: 2:10:02
I know personally that Jake is a great guy, hard worker, and fierce competitor – seriously. You can’t even play video games without feeling the wrath of Jake’s competitiveness. He was my teammate for a few years on the Hansons-Brooks Distance Project based in Michigan.
Jake had a serious achilles tendon repair surgery a few years ago, and was wondering if his running career was over. But his coach, Aussie Legend Lee Troop, believed in him when few others did, and the two have been on fire ever since. Still, Jake was a long-shot and unsponsored, as he arrived at the 2020 Atlanta Olympic Trials Marathon. Sponsorships aside, all athletes were issued a free pair of the brand new Nike Alpha Fly in the days prior to the race. This was done to comply with new footwear rules that state all athletes must have reasonable access to footwear in order for the shoe to be legal. Jake tried on his free pair of Alpha Flys the day before the race and made the gutsy decision to let it rip in shoes he’d never before run in on race day. They must have been a solid fit, as he set a PB on a mean, hilly, windy course. He smashed the competition to finish 2nd, behind a two-time Olympic medalist (Rupp.)
Atlanta Olympic Marathon Trials Time: 2:10:03
University of Arizona
Abdi is a five (!) time US Olympian. Nicknamed “The Black Cactus,” he will be 44 years young on race day, and is the oldest American runner ever to make the Olympic team. This is not his first rodeo as he qualified for his first Olympics in the year 2000, back when Jeff Bezos & Amazon were probably still selling books by mail order and rotary phone. Abdi has been written off many many times as “too old” or “done,” and yet he continues to surprise the doubters time and time again. After watching this guy bounce back from his only missed Olympics since 2000 in 2016 to later that year finish 3rd at the 2016 NYC marathon, I will never again doubt his ability to pull out an amazing performance. Abdi is a testament to the power of consistency, and is still coached by his college coach, James Li. If it ain’t broke…