It didn’t happen in the blink of an eye. The opportunity stayed alive for a full 10,000 meters and nearly 28 minutes, but it slipped away.
Ed Moran ’03 raced the 10k at the U.S. Olympic Trials July 4. He entered that race — only the second 10k of his career — as a contender for a top-three finish and a trip to Beijing.
The day of the race went like any race day for Moran. He lounged around and watched some television before his race. He went out for his mid-day jog. He admits now he was slightly more nervous for this race than previous competitions. But who could blame him? A spot at the Olympics was on the line.
That night he answered the gun and stuck his nose in the race, sitting near the front and remaining in contact with the race leaders.
Moran said that the race’s uneven pace — the leaders were alternating 32 second 200s and following them with 34 second 200s — left him “feeling a little bit more ragged” than he expected as he came through the 5k mark in about 13 minutes and 55 seconds.
Prior to the halfway mark, the lead runners were hanging together.
But a surge by Abdi Abdirahman splintered the lead pack, leaving Moran in a chasing group behind Abdirahman, Galen Rupp and Jorge Torres.
“I kind of sat back,” Moran said. “I was trying to bide my time.”
The gap continued to open until Moran, James Carney, Adam Goucher and Josh Rohatinsky found themselves running even splits with the leaders.
“No one in the group really committed enough,” Moran said of attempts to push the pace. “They were too far away to smell and get excited.”
Moran did pick up the pace as the race ended. He trimmed the distance between himself and Torres, but it was too late. He ran the second-fastest closing lap of the field — 60.3 seconds — but it wasn’t enough.
“Maybe if I would have committed [to making a move] 600 to 800 meters out,” Moran said. “Hindsight’s always 20-20.”
Moran finished fourth — one place shy of qualifying for the Olympics. His time of 27:52.10 left him less than six seconds behind third-place finisher Torres.
“I wanted to leave the track, think about the race and be by myself,” Moran said.
The race, in which Moran had invested tremendous emotional and mental capital, nearly wiped him out.
“The trials hit me a little bit harder than I would have thought,” Moran said. “I went through a funk.”
Moran’s funk took the fun out of his running.
“I didn’t want to get out of bed,” Moran said. “I went through the motions. My heart wasn’t in it. You can’t get away with that at this level.”
After the trials he spent 10 days in Williamsburg before heading to Europe for a couple of 3k races.
Moran recorded a personal best 7:47 in Stockholm for 3k, but he didn’t shake the “funk” until completing two more races back in the States.
He entered the seven-mile Falmouth Road Race and its separate mile event two weeks ago in Massachusetts.
“Falmouth was a good reprieve from myself,” Moran said. “[It was a chance for me] to go out and have fun.”
Competing in his first mile race since high school, Moran came into the race with no expectations and completed it in 4:00.01 — just shy of breaking the four-minute barrier.
“The season of almosts,” Moran said. “It was bittersweet.”
He ran the Falmouth Road Race the next day, finishing third among the Americans and ninth overall. Moran thought those two
“mediocre” races combined for a good weekend.
His 2008 outdoor track season now over, Moran has spent the past week or so enjoying leisurely runs without his watch, allowing him to forget about miles and minutes.
“It’s a nice a reprieve from the stress of the trials,” Moran said.
His Nike contract expires at year’s end, but there’s a fourth-year option included. Moran would like to race at least through 2009, which is a world championship year.
“I’ll take another shot,” Moran said.
Next time he’ll be ready to make the necessary move sooner.