Abdi Abdirahman had what most people would have called an outside shot at making the Olympic team. The 43-year-old runner has been a staple on the American running scene, but was he able to pull out a performance strong enough to land himself a spot? Probably not.
But on Saturday, after 42.2K of fight, the runner secured his spot on the American Olympic marathon squad, doing exactly what many fans thought was unlikely.
This guy has always been good – Abdirahman has been one of the best in the world for 20 years. Two decades have passed between the runner’s first and most recent (we won’t say final) Olympic team.
Saturday’s race came down to a three-man fight for two spots. By kilometre 30, Galen Rupp looked like a lock for the team. That left two spots open, and three runners hanging together. While the other two runners in the three-man pack would change several times (first the group included Leonard Korir, then it was Augusts Maiyo and finally it was Jacob Riley), Abdirahman would struggle, but he didn’t give up. When someone surged, Abdirahman responded.
Entering the Trials with a personal best from 2006, it was his promising 2:11:34 in New York in 2019 (which was also an American masters record) that put Abdirahman back on the map. He bettered his 2:11 on Saturday, finishing the trials race in 2:10:03. He’s on track to be the oldest American runner to even make an Olympic team.
His Olympic history
Abdi, as he’s known in the running community, made his first Olympic team in 2000, where he finished 10th in the 10,000m. Then, in 2004, he placed 15th in the Olympic 10,000m final. He would repeat this result in 2008 at the Beijing Olympics. In 2012, at the London Olympics, the runner didn’t finish the marathon, due to a knee injury.
He wasn’t able to run the 2016 Olympic Marathon Trials, due to another injury.
Looking at this trajectory, it would seem like Abdi’s best results were behind him. However, a string of tough luck didn’t discourage him from pushing through another Olympic cycle – and the gamble has paid off in spades.
Can he get faster?
Abdirahman hasn’t run a personal best since 2006, but he’s managed to stay close to it for several years. After running a 2:10 low on the hilly Atlanta course, bettering his 2:08:56 from 14 years ago is certainly possible on the right day. Even if he doesn’t end up bettering his lifetime best, his unwavering dedication to running fast is highly admirable. This is a runner we can’t wait to watch in the upcoming Olympic Marathon.