Serving the Olympic Trials Marathon up Family-Style

I am back from Los Angeles, site of the 2016 US Olympic Marathon Trials. I’m coming down from a the high of the weekend slowly, and wanted to share my unique and wonderful racing experience here. For the record, this is my second Olympic Trials marathon (2012 was the first), and also my second DNF (did not finish). Stepping off the course after completing the first 2.2 and one 6 mile loop, I was all smiles. I was hot, sweaty, tired, and my pelvis ached and popped, but I couldn’t have asked for a better race result.

Why would I be excited about dropping out in the biggest US stage? For many reasons, but mostly because running that race was the culmination of years of work, sacrifice, and balance by me and my entire family.

I worked hard to qualify for the Trials. I earned my spot on that starting line, running my qualifying time at Grandma’s marathon in 2014. Just over two and a half hours, a single race is the shining capstone behind which the long days, months and years of accumulated mileage, hard workouts, good runs, bad runs, time spent stretching, cross training, recovering, etc. all hide. Activities which I am able to do because of the support of my husband, and more recently, my daughters.

Suiting up!

Going into the 2016 Trials, I knew there was no way I was going to finish the marathon and I was torn about whether I should even show up for the race. I just gave birth: I have 4-month and 3-year-old daughters. My husband and I are both in the middle of our grad school semesters. My longest run this year equals the distance I ended up running in the Trials: 8 miles. My training pace has been closer to 7:45 minutes per mile – not the sub-6 minute miles I’d anticipate running in the race. I’m nursing, and my daughter eats roughly every 2 hours. My pelvis is still mobile, and is quite painful.

After much back-and-forth, we ended up deciding that we would go to the Trials together, as a family, and we would experience this race together. My trademark procrastination resulted in exorbitant flight prices; so we drove. 700 miles from Albuquerque to Los Angeles [and back]. We drove overnight, stopping only for nursing breaks and gas fill-ups so our carsick-prone 3 year old would sleep most of the way.

The four of us stayed in the same room in the host hotel. My 3 year old helped me decorate my fluids bottles, and was my pajama-clad sidekick at the pre-race breakfast. My husband chatted with all my runner friends, with our 4 month old riding in the front pack on his chest. We walked to the starting line together with my parents and brother, who also came to offer their cheers and child-care support. We laughed and cried a bit together as we watched the race finishes from the sidelines. We took turns swimming and napping, and reveled in being part of this inspiring scene.

Many people have shared their condolences that I didn’t finish this race, but I don’t feel sad or defeated in any way. Sure, pocketing $80k and making the Olympic team would be totally rad, but there is no question in my mind – not even an inkling of doubt – that I would exchange a spot on the Olympic team for even one moment of the fun, full, chaotic & family-driven years of training I have lived over the past decade+ of competitive running. Being at the Trials – a mom of two, having just defended my PhD dissertation, being part of a loving marriage – that is exactly who I am. I am glad that I got to race, hope that my daughters will look at my work and performance as they grow up and strive to achieve their own big, wonderful goals. My DNF was an expression of my love of running, and also a testament to a life lived fully and joyfully. I come away from Los Angeles motivated, excited, and excited to get back into true racing shape.

The biggest star of this process is my husband: I can’t express the love and overwhelming gratitude that we are partners. He loves my running, keeps me positive, helps with my training, watches our daughters while I am running, and is the motivating force that [sometimes literally] kicks me out of bed to go running when it’s cold and dark out. He’s also an amazing father to our daughters, a model of patience and love. I can’t imagine a better way to spend the Valentine’s Day weekend than I did this year: racing, playing, driving, cuddling, surrounded by my family, celebrating the highest levels of running and teamwork.


Speaking of support, I have a hat’s-off thanks to Brooks running, who’s supported me through 2 Olympic Trials, 2 pregnancies, and is totally cool about my unique approach to running. Thanks to Powerbar, who’s kept me fueled for several years. Also my local team, the Dukes Track Club, members of whom ran with me during my pre-second-baby training, and the clubs’ sponsors, Nuun, Honeystinger, and Zensah. Additionally, a huge shout-out to Roll Recovery for offering to reimburse all athletes entry fees for the US Olympic Trials marathon.


6 thoughts on “Serving the Olympic Trials Marathon up Family-Style

  1. Kimberly Weeth

    This was the most amazing post!!! I was at these trials (as a spectator), and am totally in awe of every individual on that starting line. Thank you for sharing your journey. You are an inspiration to us all on living joyfully.

    1. magdalenadonahue

      Thank you! It was a wonderful experience! Thanks for cheering everyone on – your support is very important to us athletes!

  2. Rikki (Reiss)

    Hi Magdalena,
    Long time! I came via Jenny’s FB note. I just love your journey and post – thank you for sharing your experience regarding the ever-long quest for momma-me-wife balance! Much love to you and your family!

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