Last week, the international running community celebrated with Chris Thompson and Stephanie Davis, the two rather unlikely winners of the U.K. Olympic Marathon Trials. Each runner’s story of how they got to the start line of the trials is different and, by most standards, unconventional, and there are a few lessons runners everywhere can learn from their success.
Thompson’s story has been shared all over the internet for multiple reasons. Not only did he win the race and qualify for the British Olympic marathon team, but he did so only days after becoming a father for the first time. At 39 years old, Thompson chose not to go with the lead pack, but instead to run the majority of the race on his own, at his own pace. As the leaders began to tire in the last 10K, he made his move, closing a 30-second gap and passing his competitors for the win in 2:10:52. Not only did this secure his spot at the Tokyo Olympics, but it beat his previous personal best, which he set seven years ago. This will be the second Olympics for Thompson after competing in the 10,000m at the 2012 London Games, and his win comes an astonishing 23 years after he first represented his country on the world stage.
Davis has a very different story. Unlike Thompson, who’s had a very long and already successful career, she only began running seriously three years ago. Originally from Glasgow, the 30-year-old hardly raced at all during her twenties, but began training after she got a spot in the Berlin Marathon in 2018. Davis doesn’t have any sponsorship deals but instead works part-time for a financial company, fitting in her runs and workouts before and after work. Also unlike Thompson, Davis ran away from the rest of the field early on in the race and ran with no one but the pacer to cross the line in 2:27:16.
Watching these athletes race and knowing their stories, runners everywhere were inspired by what they accomplished last week, and their results drive home a few important lessons. The first is to have patience. As Thompson demonstrated, it can take years before your hard work pays off, but if you keep at it, eventually your day will come.
The second lesson is to trust yourself and your training. Most runners in Thompson’s situation would have counted themselves out or would have pushed themselves to catch up to their competitors. Instead, he stayed the course, stuck with his race plan, and it paid off in the end. Likewise, Davis, who is by all accounts a less-experienced runner compared to the other women in the race, could have opted to stay with the pack and allow her veteran competitors to dictate the pace. Instead, she trusted herself and her training and ran her own race.
The third lesson we can learn from these athletes is that it’s never too late. At 39 years old, Thompson could have decided he was too old to be competitive and hung up his flats, but instead, he kept going after his dream of making it back to the Olympic stage. Davis could have also decided that it was too late to start competitive racing since the majority of her competition had 10 years of experience on her, but rather than let that deter her, she pushed herself anyway. Both athletes are a reminder that it’s never too late to have success or to go after a goal, no matter how big it is.
So keep these lessons in mind as you head out on your training runs this week, and use these athletes’ stories to renew your motivation to go after your goal, whatever it may be.