In his 2018 book, The Incomplete Book of Running, Peter Sagal (best known for hosting NPR’s Wait Wait… Don’t Tell Me!) observes that running is one of the only sports in which amateurs compete in the same events as the world’s best. “I technically have ‘raced’ Meb Keflezighi — the finest American runner of our generation — twice,” he told NPR in an interview. By that accounting, I myself competed against the likes of Geoffrey Kamworor, the fastest half marathoner in the world (I just finished 4,924 places behind him).
Running, unlike other sports, welcomes amateurs to compete in many of its most elite contests, such as any one of the World Marathon Majors. On Saturday, February 29, that egalitarian tradition will be on full display in Atlanta as more than 700 runners compete for the six spots on the US Olympic marathon team. Many of them are pros with affiliations to shoe companies and premier running clubs; others are nurses, program coordinators, teachers and college students (reportedly, there’s even a maple syrup producer in the mix).
It’ll be easy to spot the pros — they’ll be toward the front. And, thanks to a unique program by Tracksmith, it’ll be easy to pick out many of these unsung runners too. The Boston-based brand has long celebrated amateurism, and it’s been supporting a squad of 138 qualified runners through its OTQ Program for most of the past year.
At the trials, these runners will be wearing a special race day kit. Tracksmith used high-end fabrics to make the OTQ singlet and short, which come in a patriotic red, white and blue (both will be available for purchase in limited quantities in early March). Spot these garments on Saturday, and you’ll know that the person wearing them, perhaps like you, squeezes in their miles before and after his or her day job.
The Olympic marathon trials begin shortly after 12 pm on Saturday, February 29. You can track individual runners here, and you can watch the race on NBC.
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