“We said we wanted to give a party, and everybody is coming,” Kenah, who competed in the 800 meters at the 2000 Olympics in Sydney, Australia, said this month. “It’s the golden age of the sport in this country from the perspective of the best runners.”
Still, the event is turning out to be far more complicated and expensive than the club anticipated. Runners could choose between having a single hotel room or bunking with someone else while collecting $300 reimbursement for airfare. About half the runners chose each option, which was a big relief for organizers, who had a limited number of rooms to distribute.
Dinners and transportation will be covered from Thursday night to Sunday morning.
The Atlanta Track Club had one piece of logistics working in its favor. The club will host the annual 2020 Publix Atlanta Marathon, Half Marathon & 5K on Sunday, which means that all equipment needed for a major race will already be in place.
There was one particularly big challenge, though — the water bottles.
At most races, only top-level runners typically have customized fluids waiting for them along the route, while the others hydrate from a mass-produced supply. But the Atlanta club’s commitment to equal treatment meant that everyone in the race on Saturday would be able to have bespoke fluids at the two hydration stations. Runners will pass each station three times.
Bottle organization for a couple of hundred runners is not a big issue. But when nearly 700 runners are bringing roughly 4,000 bottles, it means having fluid stations that are five blocks long, with 500 volunteers organizing the bottles by color and number to make sure each runner ends up with the proper liquid.
For their part, the top runners are trying to treat the trials like any other race. Kellyn Taylor, who has one of the top women’s qualifying times with a 2:24:28 at the Grandma’s Marathon in Minnesota in 2018, said at a news conference on Thursday, “You keep putting one foot in front of the other and keep chipping away.” Eventually, the finish line is close enough that giving up no longer feels like an option.
Linden said that while training in Arizona she had focused on finding hilly terrain that would mimic the elevation changes of the Atlanta course. She got a big confidence boost from a recent eight-mile run at a 5:25-per-mile pace.