Three Lake Oswego runners battle in U.S. Olympic Trials in marathon
Three of Lake Oswego's best got the full experience during the 2020 U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials.
Julian Heninger, Dave Marks and Willie Milam — all Lake Oswego natives — competed in the Olympic Trials on Saturday, Feb. 29, in Atlanta, Georgia, and came away with experiences as different as each of the three men themselves.
Heninger, 25 and an employee at Nike in Beaverton, ran to a 55th-place finish in a field of 227, posting a finishing time of 2:19.39 on Atlanta's hilly, wind-swept course. A Lake Oswego resident, Heninger said he was thrilled with his success — he had hoped for a top-50 finish — and his overall experience in just his second marathon.
"I'm pretty stoked with how close I was to my 'reach-goal' of top 50," Heninger said. "I came in seeded 195th and finished 55th. In the words of a good friend, 'We take those.'"
Marks, 29 and a Regional Associate for Stego Industries, ran to a 137th-place finish with a finishing time of 2:30.03 in just his second marathon. A resident of Denver, Colorado, Marks said he was happy with his place and grateful he could finish the difficult course after battling stomach issues during his run.
"On that hilly course and in those super-windy conditions, I'm happy that I was able to finish," Marks said. "Had some stomach issues that caused me to stop four times, but I had to finish. (Placing) 137th in the country is something special for me. I know I could have finished higher on any other day, but I am grateful for the result."
Milam, 27 and a project manager for a web development and online marketing company, ran with the lead pack for the first 14 miles, but dropped out between the 22nd and 23rd miles when stomach issues ended his day. A resident of Louisville, Colorado, Milam was disappointed that he couldn't finish — a first in his running career — but loved the experience, nonetheless.
"It was my first DNF (did not finish) of my life so a pretty substantial disappointment," Milam said. "(But) outside of the race issues, it was an absolutely amazing experience. It was the most exciting race weekend and race that I have ever been able to be a part of."
To find out even more about the Lake Oswego trio, click here
Heninger, a graduate of Lakeridge High School, and later, Dartmouth College, said that overcoming the highs and lows of the 26-mile race was key to his success.
"I didn't look at my watch after the first mile and did my best to trust myself to feel out the maximum effort I could sustain on the non-stop ups and downs," Heninger said. "I was also able to link up with two great guys I'd never met for 19 miles or so of cooperative effort."
Marks, another Lakeridge grad who later ran at Lewis-Clark State, said that, despite his stomach problems, he was determined to finish and thoroughly enjoyed the experience.
"I had too many people travel (to watch the race) so I did it for them — for my wife, my family, and my friends," Marks said. "Anytime you compete at a national championship, it's special. It was my first time, and hopefully, not my last."
Milam, meanwhile, came into the race aiming for a top-15 finish, but unfortunately, Saturday was just one of those days when his body didn't feel right.
"From the gun, my body felt pretty bad — muscles and legs weren't exactly feeling great, and my stomach was not feeling normal," Milam said. "I made it about 10 miles of trying not to think about it and thinking it'd subside … (and) I was with the lead pack until I had to stop the first time. I then proceeded to start and stop until mile 20 or 21. At that point, I was so dehydrated and depleted that I could barely run or walk, was wobbly-legged, lightheaded, and (my) muscles began to become achy and cramp, and I ultimately had to stop."
For all their successes and trials, each relished the experience and came away determined to continue their running careers.
"This felt like a breakthrough race for me in a way, but at no point did I feel like I was having an extraordinary out-of-body experience where I coasted to new heights of capability," Heninger said. "It hurt for the majority of the race and I was just able to hold on. I think there's a good lesson there though. Not all breakthroughs feel dramatic. Sometimes it's just about holding on mile by mile and you'll surprise yourself."
"There were more spectators than I'll probably ever experience on a race course. They were lined along the race course the entire marathon, which was pretty special," said Milam, who will run next at the World Half Marathon Championships in Poland on March 29 as a member of Team USA. "The atmosphere was riveting, the community was amazing, and the whole weekend was unique and a lot of fun. Definitely a once-in-a-lifetime experience."
"The atmosphere, the fans, the support made it a really awesome experience, even at its worst," added Marks, who said his next event will likely be the Portland Track Festival 10K at Lewis & Clark College on June 4; after that, he'll begin training for a big marathon block leading up to the Chicago Marathon.
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