The Pain of 4th Place

What kind of podium has a spot for 4th place… Image Source: CollegeHumor

In life, no matter how much preparation and effort you put in, sometimes things just don’t work out. It’s easy to take that failure and blame yourself for being inadequate. After failing my recent job interview despite making it to the final round, I couldn’t stop asking myself where I had faltered. Was I being too talkative? Did I seem too confident? Was I shaking my legs? Bad posture? These endless questions would consume my mind throughout the entire night.

The next day, I woke up late, feeling like a total loser. And then I remembered the LA Olympic Trials was being broadcasted for the first time on national television. That’ll occupy my mind I thought.

I watched the whole coverage for both men and women. It was incredible to see each athlete persevere against the LA heat that peaked around 75 degrees Fahrenheit. Turns out, this was a record setting temperature for the Olympic Trials. For some runners, the extreme heat was just too much and they had to dropout (including one of men’s favorite to win, Dathan Ritzenhein). Others weathered through the headache-inducing conditions, and a few brave souls even soared ahead to break the rhythms of their competitors. Tyler Pennel, who charged ahead and led the race fell to a fifth but honorable finish, missing the opportunity to represent United States by just two places. In a race where only the top three men and women will get to go to Rio out of 257 finishers, the 4th place is undoubtedly the most painful place to be…

Tyler Pennel who broke apart from the pack is starting to hurt. Galen Rupp just passes him with Meb not too far behind. Photo Credit: KTLA

The women’s race was extremely fun to watch. The top two women had a huge lead and maintained it until one of them appeared to have blown a gasket. Lucky for her, the other runner was her teammate, Amy Cragg. Amy would grab water for her suffering friend, Shalane Flanagan, instructing her to cool herself down, coaching her, encouraging her that she has what it takes to finish strong. It was an incredible display of friendship, faith and teamwork. However, the third place runner, Desiree Linden was quickly closing the gap. It was time for Amy to separate from her friend before risking her victory finish. Even her husband emerged from the crowds urging her to “take the lead now!” Still, Amy ran next to Shalane until about mile 25.

Amy Cragg finished first. Desiree Linden eclipsed Shalane for second place. Shalane managed to finish third. Kara Goucher finished 4th.

Amy Cragg hugging her teammate, Shalane who gave it her all to cross the finish line at third place. Photo Credit: Women’s Health

Shalane would later share with the media that the last six mile of this race was her toughest marathon experience to date. She also got her first IV treatment of her entire racing career. That’s crazy from someone who holds the American record times in the 3000m (indoor), 5000m (indoor), 10K and 15K road race. Almost forgot, a bronze medal in the 2008 Olympics in the 10,000m, a bronze at the 2011 IAAF World Cross Country Championships and a second place in the 2010 New York City Marathon.

So remember these amazing ladies:

  1. Amy Cragg
  2. Desiree Linden
  3. Shalane Flanagan
Amy Cragg (1st) and Desiree Linden (3rd). Shalane is getting IV? Photo Credit: Detroit News

Also, don’t forget the men too:

  1. Galen Rupp
  2. Meb Keflezighi
  3. Jared Ward
Jared Ward (left), Galen Rupp (middle), Meb Keflezighi (right). Image Source:

The men’s race wasn’t as close and exciting as the women’s race, but it would be a big oversight not to mention a couple of key facts.

First place Galen Rupp is an Olympic silver medalist from the 10k London Olympic Games in 2012. This was his debut marathon and he looked like he was jogging out there. Incredible athlete.

Second place Meb Keflezighi is 40 years old. He is the 2004 Olympic silver medalist in the marathon. He also won the New York Marathon and the Boston Marathon in 2009, 2014, respectively. And in 2015, he broke the U.S. Masters record at NYC marathon. A beast for sure. Super humble, my personal role model. Someday, I will meet this man.

Third place Jared Ward also finished third in the LA marathon in 2015. He teaches statistics at BYU. For his Master’s thesis, it was on “Optimal Pace Strategy in a Marathon.” Armed with numerical knowledge and strong momentum since his debut in 2014 Chicago Marathon finishing at 19th place, he’s career is just getting started.

Do you remember the title of this post? The Pain of 4th Place. One detail I kept until now is that Amy Cragg (1st place) finished an agonizing 4th in the 2012 Olympic Trials. This is what I learned about the value of being in a painful place. Yes, not getting that job sucks but it’s also a stepping stone, an opportunity to take this experience and win in the future. Suddenly, the voices that infected my mind were gone.

What are some 4th place kind of pain you’ve had before? Do you have any right now? Feel free to share in the comments below. And remember,

If you can survive disappointment, nothing can beat you.
-Louis CK

Thanks for reading, hope it was worth it!


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