Molly Seidel had dreams of winning an Olympic medal within the women’s marathon Saturday, but she is additionally a realist. She checked out the opposite names within the field. She saw the private bests, many of them five minutes faster than her own. “I hoped to be top 10, really,” Seidel said. So when she crossed the finishing line Saturday morning, behind only a pair of Kenyans, Seidel had surprised even herself. She pumped her fists and let lose a celebratory yell. On a muggy morning in Sapporo, Japan, she became an Olympic bronze medalist, finishing during a time of 2:27:46.
It was just the third marathon Seidel, 27, has ever run. “Just trying to stay my nose where it didn’t belong and just quite get after it,” she said. “I mean, Olympics only happens once every four years. you would possibly also take your shot.” Seidel, who splits her time between Boston and Flagstaff, Arizona, is simply the third American woman to ever medal within the women’s marathon. Joan Benoit won gold within the event in l. a. in 1984, and Deena Kastor took bronze in Athens in 2004. Kenyans Peres Jepchirchir and Brigid Kosgei finished first and second in Saturday’s race, respectively.
Seidel’s performance in Sapporo was reminiscent of her similarly stunning race at the U.S. Olympic trials in Atlanta, almost 18 months ago. Few people expected her to even make Team USA, including contend for a medal. Although she won four NCAA championships at Notre Dame in race and track, the marathon remains a comparatively unfamiliar distance for her. “She’s running with experience that she, quite frankly, doesn’t have,” NBC analyst Kara Goucher said during Saturday’s broadcast. The Olympic marathon was held in Sapporo – about 500 miles north of Tokyo – thanks to concerns about extreme heat. Organizers also announced late Friday that the beginning time would be moved up an hour, from 7 a.m. to 6 a.m. civil time, for an identical reason.
Seidel said she was eating dinner with Kipyego on Friday once they received word about the change. “I think my jaw dropped a touch bit,” she said. While she knew the sooner start would leave cooler weather, it also forced Seidel to change her race plan at the 11th hour. She said she essentially left dinner and went straight to bed. “Everything about going to the beginning line of this race has been crazy,” Seidel said, “and that was just another bit of crazy thrown in there.” A Wisconsin native, Seidel grew up running 5k and 10k races before deciding to offer the marathon a try. She qualified for the U.S. Olympic trials in Atlanta with a half-marathon time from Dec. 2019, then proceeded to end second at trials in what was her marathon debut.
In Saturday’s race, Seidel kept with the lead pack for nearly everything of the race, hanging on as others began to fall behind. She said her goal was to be the one that would cause the leaders to seem around late within the race, see her and think “who the hell is that this girl?” “They’re the simplest within the world,” Seidel said. “But I figured if I hung with them long enough and just quite was brave, something good would come from it.”
Seidel fell slightly behind Jepchirchir and Kosgei within the last two miles, but by that time, she had about secured bronze. She finished 78 seconds before the fourth-place finisher, Roza Dereje of Ethiopia. After the race, during an interview with NBC, a reporter connected Seidel together with her family’s watch party back in Wisconsin, a FaceTime call halfway around the world. She began to cry. “We did it,” Seidel said. “I’m good. I’m so tired.” Seven seconds passed, with Seidel both laughing and gasping, trying to require it beat.