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Molly Seidel Runs Her Third Marathon Ever To Take The Bronze

By Lisa Costantini | Aug. 06, 2021, 10:56 p.m. (ET)

Molly Seidel crosses the finish line of the women's marathon final during the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 on Aug. 7, 2021 in Sapporo, Japan.

 

SAPPORO — When American long-distance runner Molly Seidel crossed the finish line in Tokyo to win bronze — running only her third marathon, ever — the word “Yes!” was quick to escape from her lips.

Happy with her podium finish as only the third American to earn an Olympic medal in women’s marathon, she had to have been equally happy to just make it across the line. 

“Just getting here was already a dream come true,” Seidel said after the race. “And to be able to come out today against a field like this and be able to come away with a medal, with a bronze for the U.S. — I’m in shock. I’m in disbelief right now.”

One month before the start of the pandemic, Seidel ran her first marathon at Olympic trials — finishing in second, only eight seconds behind her teammate Aliphine Tuliamuk. It would be the closest margin of victory in women’s Olympic trials history.

That would also be the last major track and field event for more than a year due to the coronavirus outbreak. 

The 27-year-old became the youngest American woman to make an Olympic marathon team since 1992.

Molly Seidel poses for photos during the medal ceremony for the women's marathon final during the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 on Aug. 07, 2021 in Kawagoe, Japan.

 

It was also around that time when it was decided that the marathons and race walks would be moved from the host city to the mountainous island of Sapporo 500 miles north. The high heat in the country’s capital was to blame.

With less than 12 hours before the gun was set to go off ahead of the women’s marathon, the start time was moved up an hour — because you guessed it, the high temperatures. But thanks to a heatwave, it was just as hot in the Hokkaido island capital.

So, with smiles on their faces and ice packs on their heads, the women’s race got underway at Odori Park at 6 am local time with 77 percent humidity upping the difficulty level for the world-class athletes.

With the sun up, it wasn’t long before temperatures were rising and athletes were dropping. 

Team USA’s Tuliamuk — a first-time Olympian and mom to a six-month-old — pulled out at the 20km mark due to a hip that had been bothering her for a couple of weeks. According to the USA Track & Field’s Twitter account: “She tried her best to get it right but couldn’t fix it. More to come when we have details.”

Her teammates, Seidel and two-time Olympian Sally Kipyego — who competed in London 2012 for her native Kenya — kept pace with the lead group of 11 well past the halfway point.

At the 30km mark, Kipyego dropped behind the lead group — the gap growing the closer they got to the finish.

 

Molly Seidel competes in the women's marathon final during the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 on Aug. 07, 2021 in Kawagoe, Japan.

 

Meanwhile, with only a couple miles to go and temperatures tipping into the 90s, Seidel — who finished the 2020 London Marathon in sixth — found her pace behind the two Kenyan runners, Peres Jepchirchir and Brigid Kosgei.

With only seconds between them, the trio crossed the finish with Jepchirchir securing the gold with a time of 2:27:20. Kosgei was 16 seconds off her heels, taking the silver and Seidel crossed another 10 seconds later.

After letting out her excitement, she had just enough breath left to shout out her parents, “Hi mom, hi dad,” she said while smiling at the camera.

By the end of the race, only 74 women remained, with 14 having dropped out — four of whom made it to the halfway mark. 

Five minutes and thirty-three seconds off the gold medal time, Kipyego finished in 17th, with a time of 2:32:53. Falling into the arms of her teammate, she was quick to congratulate Seidel, telling her, “Oh my God, you did so good!”

The men’s marathon race is scheduled to take place tomorrow in Sapporo, under what is forecasted to be cooler temperatures. In the past, the men are the last event to go before the Closing Ceremony. But this year, the men’s water polo finals will be the last medal match before the curtain drops on the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020.

Want to follow Team USA athletes during the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020? Visit TeamUSA.org/Tokyo2020 to view the medal table, results and competition schedule.

Lisa Costantini

Lisa Costantini is a freelance writer based in Orlando. She has covered Olympic and Paralympic sports for various publications, and has contributed to TeamUSA.org since 2011.

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