Mike Cox Qualifies for 2nd Olympic Trials Marathon
-8th Place overall, 2:21:42
-Only American man to achieve Olympic Trials Standard at Chicago Marathon
Over 100 American men toed the line with one last hope of achieving the sub 2:22:00 Olympic marathon trials standard on Sunday morning in Chicago. Only one succeeded.
Mike Cox of Athens, WV, head track and field and cross country coach at Concord University in Athens, WV, set out with a race plan and a thought in mind that he believed would guide him to the finish line successfully.
The race plan was to hold 5:25 per mile pace for 26.2 miles and squeak under the Olympic Marathon Trials standard of 2:22:00 . The thought in his mind was “Don’t let anything stand I the way of getting the standard.” Mike looked to his watch to accomplish the pacing required and he looked deep into his heart to prevent anything from getting in his way. And, plenty tried to get in his way. In the 30 year history of the race held on the Chicago lake front, Sunday saw record high temperatures. A 50 year high was broken at 87 degrees while temperatures on the sun drenched asphalt were much higher.
The start included a pack of approximately 15-18 invited elite runners that took off at a blistering pace while a pack of American trials hopefuls started more conservatively. At 1.5 miles, Mike found himself surrounded and running comfortably in the company of nearly 50 others. By mile 12, Mike led what had turned from a pack into a single-file line as everyone seemed more than happy to let Mike do the work and tow them through. At 14 miles Mike separated from the pack as he realized they were no longer any benefit, nor were they capable of remaining on qualifying pace. Mike realized he had been abandoned and was going to have to get it done alone.
Mike continued to run easily and comfortably while he got fluid and ate electrolyte tablets which he knew he’d need under such conditions to prevent late race cramping. From 15 to 21 miles, Mike continued to put distance between himself and the chase field while he began picking off places from the top of the field. He passed some while others simply dropped out, unable to continue the battle against the intense heat and pace. Mike appeared to wear slightly at 18 miles with no competitors in sight either ahead or behind, but at 21 miles, he looked as strong as he had in the early miles and continued his charge to the finish and the Olympic Trials standard. At the finish, Mike found himself 8th finisher overall and top American finisher by nearly 4 minutes. Of the scores of Americans aiming for the Olympic Trials standard, Mike was the only American man in the race to do so, running 2:21:42—a 10 second PR despite the brutal conditions and having no one to help share the workload for the last 14+ miles.
Mike will have only a short period of time to enjoy his finish as the 2008 U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials will be held in New York City on November 3.
“We’ve got a plan to recover and prepare for the next race which we’ll stick to and see what happens. I’m just happy as could be to have the opportunity to go to the starting line at the Olympic Trials marathon again.”
Mike placed 27th at the 2004 Olympic Trials Marathon in Birmingham, Alabama with a then-PR of 2:21:52.