Soaring to New Heights: Emma Huston Qualifies for the US Olympic Marathon Trials

On Sunday, December 8th, Emma Huston charged toward the finish line of the California International Marathon. In her debut marathon, she finished in a time of 2:40:39, placing 12th among women and earning a spot at the start line of the 2020 US Olympic Marathon Trials in Atlanta. She’s the second member of Rose City Track Club to qualify for the Trials, next to RCTC teammate Fionna Fallon.

The US Olympic Marathon Trials, taking place in Atlanta on February 29th, will see the nation’s top marathoners come together to compete for one of the three spots on the men’s and women’s US Olympic Marathon teams being sent to the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games. We caught up with Emma following CIM to learn more about how the race went down and get some of her thoughts on lining up at the most prestigious marathon in the US.

RCTC – What inspired you to choose CIM as your debut marathon?

EH – I didn’t decide until this fall that I wanted to train for a marathon and try to qualify for the Trials, so the timing worked out well since it was just enough time to get into shape. I had heard from others that the time standard for Trials will likely be lowered in the future, so I felt like this might be my only change to qualify. CIM seemed like the best option because it’s a fast course and isn’t too far from Portland.

RCTC – What has the past year looked like for you, running and life-wise? What have been some of the ups and downs in your training?

EH – After finishing grad school in 2018, I had to figure out how to make running fit with a full time job this year. I struggled with motivation, which made it difficult to really get into shape. Taking days off was just too easy. I did the Eugene Half Marathon in the spring and a few track races here and there, but I didn’t really have any direction in my training. After adopting a now or never attitude about the marathon and having a specific goal for the race, it was much easier to jump into training and maintain a positive mindset about it. One of my college teammates moved to Portland this fall and she was willing to run with me after work in the cold and the dark and let me drag her along to some seriously long and tough workouts. Between running with her and RCTC, I rarely had to run or workout alone, which was so helpful and made training much more fun.

RCTC – How were you feeling ahead of the start on race morning?

EH – So incredibly nervous! I’ve always gotten very nervous before races, but I was extra nervous for this one since I didn’t know what to expect for the marathon and I really wanted to meet my goal of sub 2:45.

RCTC – Walk us through the race! What went well? Did things go according to plan or were there some unexpected circumstances thrown your way?

EH – I honestly did not have a plan for the race when I started, but my general goal was to just hang on to the three pacers running 2:45 pace. Before the race I had put two gels in my pocket thinking that would be enough. At the last minute I added another one, but I still didn’t really know when or if I was going to take them. Needless to say I was feeling very unprepared at the start line! However, I started next to some fellow Portland runners, which was very comforting. I ended up running the next 25 miles side-by-side with one of those runners: shoutout to Sarah Reiter for being one heck of a racing buddy! I followed her lead on when to take the gels and hydrate and we paced each other at 6:10ish pace for miles and miles. I felt surprisingly relaxed during the race, which was unexpected but amazing. At about 10k to go it started to get much tougher, but at that point I was so excited about the pace we were running that maintaining seemed like the only option. With about 2 miles to go I was getting pretty amped-up and by some miracle felt good enough to pick it up a bit. When I crossed the finish line at 2:40:39 I felt so many things: tired, shocked, excited, and relieved to be done. All things considered I feel very, very lucky that things worked out as well as they did. When I was talking to my coach afterward he told me, “Well, don’t expect them all to be like that!” and I will definitely keep that in mind for Atlanta and future marathons!

RCTC – If you could pick one or two words to describe how you felt crossing the finish line, what would they be?

EH – Shocked and happy.

RCTC – What are you most looking forward to heading into the US Olympic Marathon Trials?

EH – Being able to run in a race with some of the strongest, fastest women in the country! No matter what time I run or how I feel during the race it will be so amazing to have that experience.

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