By Dr. Andrea Toppin, DC
“Nevertheless She Persisted…2:35 or Faster…Olympic Marathon Trials 2024”
Cheesy enough, but I wrote this on my bathroom mirror in January of 2022 when the Olympic Trials qualification window opened. I needed every bit of motivation to try and qualify for an event that I thought defined how good of a runner I was. But NEWSFLASH the Olympic Trials (or any race) does not define you as a runner. A race is just a part of your journey as a runner. My journey as a runner and the athlete I am, I believe, is defined by a COLLECTION of my races, my grit, my perseverance, the amazing humans I meet along the way, and the positive influence I leave on others.
I did not qualify for the 2024 Olympic Trials in the marathon. I decided to give up on my dream of qualifying for my 2nd trip to the trials in late October 2023, 6.5 weeks before I was supposed to line up for the CIM marathon in California. My recent history of left hamstring and Achilles tendinopathies had taken its toll and it just wasn’t getting better fast enough to average 5:57 pace for 26.2 miles and qualify. Flashback to December of 2018 when I surprised myself, after essentially quitting running after competing at Iowa State (2011-2016), to qualify for the Olympic Trials in the marathon in the middle of chiropractic school. From then on in 2019-2020 I was training and racing the best I had in years. The fall before the Olympic Trials I was having stubborn Achilles tendinopathies in both Achilles – what a JOY. I took some time off – had a very short build to the Olympic Trials and when I lined up it was 50/50 if I would even be able to finish. I was so happy and proud to be there – especially after all the prior injuries and eating disorder trauma I had throughout college years before. Unfortunately, I had to drop at mile 18 – the hills were killing my hamstring and Achilles and I felt like I was going to faint. Then the pandemic happened. I became very depressed and the will to run and train was challenging for me. If I am behing hones, the will to run and train continues to be a challenge for me now. In the mess of a pandemic, I moved across the country, graduated from chiropractic school, and started my chiropractic career.
In December of 2021, the USATF changed the Olympic Trials qualifying standard from 2:45 to 2:37. I expected it, wasn’t too bummed out. Female distance running is amazing, in 2016 they had about 250 women run 2:45 and faster and in 2020 they had over 500 women run that standard. So they were trying to make the field smaller and make it a less chaotic event. Alright, game on. Let’s do it.
January 2022 – November 2022, I had found my joy and talent in running again. I matched my PR of 2:42 in June of 2022 in the marathon off of low mileage and doing barely any quality workouts. I was scheduled to try and run a 2:35/36 in December 2022 off of a fall of excellent training. Then I got a horrible cold/illness 10 days out from my marathon. I scratched, took about a month off of workouts altogether. I ran the Houston Marathon 6 weeks later and my body WAS NOT READY. I dropped at the half. I was mentally fried and devastated. I then set my sights on trying to qualify for the trials in June of 2023. 5 weeks out I strained my left proximal hamstring and when trying to run/train through that I tweaked my left Achilles too. I wasn’t healthy enough and I ended up dropping at mile 9. So then I set my sights on qualifying in December of 2023 – the last possible day to qualify for the Olympic Trials, but now my left Achilles was the problem child. After months of trial and error, mixed emotions about it all, no joy, more depression. My boss and chiropractic mentor, Dr. Lisa Goodman asked me what would I tell my patient to do in this situation. As I got choked up in tears, I said I would tell them to scratch, take time off, and slowly rebuild. So that’s my plan.
People have asked when my next race is and if I will race soon and how soon, my response – I’m taking my sweet time. Right now I’m doing a half marathon in June, that’s all I have decided. I’m using 2024 to figure it all out again and find my joy for running. I may break some PR’s and I may not even come close. I just want to ENJOY the process because when you enjoy the process – that’s when the success follows.
For me as an Enneagram 3 – The Achiever – I am SO hard on myself if I don’t succeed and accomplish all of my goals, especially the big ones – I feel lost. I am used to being the BEST at everything. And guess what, right now I am the BEST at taking care of my needs.
And so I will try again for the next Olympic Trials, but I’m not going to make it my whole center and purpose. It will be a bonus. I learned from my very good friend and Olympian Lanni Marchant - that enjoying the process is what it is all about. If I am happy and healthy – I am thrilled. To race successfully or to even race at all, that is the cherry on top.
Andrea Toppin, DC, FRC, SFMA is a sports chiropractor with an emphasis in women’s health (prenatal and postpartum) and pediatrics. As a former division 1 collegiate runner and a current elite marathoner, she uses her own experience as an athlete to help patients get out of pain and get back to their active lifestyles. Areas of special interest include running injuries, prenatal and postpartum care, pediatric care, instrument assisted soft tissue techniques, and rehab/strength training. Stay connected with Dr. Toppin on Instagram @washparkchiro or @atop1212.