To qualify for the marathon distance at the Olympic Trials, a female runner must finish under a time of two hours and 45 minutes in a qualifying race.
Ruth Brennan Morrey qualified for the 2020 Olympic Trials at the 2019 California International Marathon with a time of 2:43.41.
That’s 1 minute and 19 seconds to spare.
Before the race: Training for the Olympic Trials
Training for a marathon is a formidable challenge for anyone, and Ruth is no different. She attempted to qualify last year at Grandma’s Marathon in Duluth but fell short. Ruth noticed that her body was struggling and was compelled to build it back up and try again.
By the summer, she had her doubts.
“I still wasn’t sure if I was just getting old and whether I was going to have another shot. Mentally, this was a challenge, but I also know that you can’t fight what your body won’t give you.”
Showing up day after day, cross training, walking during runs if necessary, and letting her body do the guiding was the solution.
By mid-September, however, her body bounced back and she could feel her old pep return.
“I was relieved because I knew that the California International Marathon was one of the last Olympic Trials qualifier races, so I knew that if I didn’t dip under 2:45, my Olympic Trials journey would end there.”
Despite struggling through an illness 10 weeks into training, Ruth’s training was consistent. She had numerous 20-mile runs, and logged several 90-mile weeks without injury.
“I was ecstatic for the chance to try again, especially with good health and a happy heart.”
Ruth was also thrilled to be racing among hundreds of other women who were competing for the Olympic Trials time.
“It was truly a sacred experience that I will never forget - a bunch of gutsy women with nothing to lose toeing the line as a team and working together during the race.”
Ruth says she didn’t put a lot of pressure on herself, even though this was an Olympic Trials qualifying race.
“There was no benefit of putting an ‘all or nothing’ pressure on myself. If I didn’t qualify, I would still walk away with tremendous pride for giving a lofty goal my heart and soul effort. That is why I love sport so much.”
Staying Here during the race: Keeping mantras in mind
Ruth holds a Ph.D in Counseling Psychology, and one of her favorite interventions to teach is mindfulness. Practicing what she preaches, Ruth uses mindfulness techniques and mantras in her running to push past some of the hard edges.
“I know that mindfulness practice can positively impact performance. With high-intensity racing, it is going to hurt at some point, and the tendency is to try to escape how we feel when discomfort arises. I know that I can perform best when I can accept all feelings fully and hold onto that experience.”
What helped her stay focused was a specific mantra that she kept in her mind throughout the marathon. Her mantra, ‘Stay Here’ was something that came to her during her training for the race.
“The most important mental skill that I practice during tough intervals is to be present. In my mind, to feel what we feel in sport is incredibly special, so I would rather embrace it than push it away. ‘Stay Here’ was also applicable to staying on pace, staying behind the pacers, and staying patient throughout the race.”
A mantra is incredibly important to Ruth because it reminds her of her purpose and provides her with reassurance and helpful self-talk.
“Belief in myself only comes from a positive mindset, so mantras are the perfect accomplice to have in training and on race day,” she says.
Ruth’s mindful mantra, ‘Stay Here,’ will no doubt grant her the courage she needs while competing at the Olympic Trials on February 29 in Atlanta, GA.
Let’s all ‘stay here’ with Ruth in spirit. Watch her compete at the Olympic Trials on NBC starting at 12:00 pm EST.