Two-time U.S. Olympian Matt Tegenkamp finished seventh in the 5,000 meters at the Milrose Games, and while the distance is far from the 26.2 miles of a marathon it was still part of Tegenkamp's marathon training cycle ahead of the 2016 U.S. Olympic Trials, to be held in Los Angeles on Feb. 13 of next year.
“(Coach) Jerry (Schumacher) and I talked things through and we knew the ultimate focus was going to be the Olympic Trials Marathon,” Tegenkamp told ESPN.com “I’m not going to run a marathon in 2015, but I am currently in a marathon cycle and doing things necessary pointing towards the trials.”
Tegenkamp did not race after last April’s U.S. 10-Mile Championships in Washington, D.C., and admits there were question marks surrounding his focus before he and Schumacher decided on a plan for 2016.
“Being banged up last year, having it lingering on, not getting the training in necessary and get in a fall marathon made me decide I didn’t want to do anything crazy this year,” Tegenkamp said. “In the U.S. you need to show up to the start line super healthy, firing on all cylinders, and need to finish top three.”
Tegenkamp has not been on an outdoor track in competition since the 2013 U.S. Outdoor Track and Field Championships in Des Moines, Iowa. He finished third at the 2012 U.S. Olympic Trials in Eugene, Ore., to make his second Olympic team, where he went on to place 19th in the 10,000-meter final.
“I need to supplement the long efforts in the marathon cycle with what I’m passionate about,” Tegenkamp said. “As tough as these races are, this is where I love to be. We’re going to introduce the marathon training when necessary, but have a little fun through this 2015 season.”
The six-time national champion debuted in the marathon at the 2013 Chicago Marathon, where he placed 10th in 2:12:28 and was the second American across the finish line behind Dathan Ritzenhein.
With the current state of American marathoning and no clear favorites for the Olympic team, Tegenkamp’s personal best puts him well in contention for the final spots headed to Rio De Janeiro.
“The trials become so much more about a competition,” Tegenkamp said. “It’s about worrying about the people around you. I don’t care what the time is going to be. You get me in that setup and that’s what I thrive in.”
Tegenkamp will to return to New York City for the NYC Half on March 15. He finished seventh at last year’s race in 62:04. He crossed the half-marathon mark in 65:14 in Chicago and cruised through the first 21 miles for a 2:10 projected finish.
Former training partner Chris Solinsky helped pace Tegenkamp through the marathon debut in Chicago. Solinsky, the former 10,000-meter American record holder, was slated to make his own debut in the fall of 2014, but injuries have postponed those plans.
“As far as I know Jerry’s been passing on the same workouts and they’ve been in touch,” Tegenkamp said. “Hopefully we’ll see him race again soon and things get clicking.”
Solinsky is currently working as an assistant coach at William and Mary while balancing his own running career. He last raced at the Fifth Third River Bank Run 25K where he finished fifth overall in 1:16:44, but was third for the U.S. Championship title.
He has until Jan. 17, 2016 to run under the U.S. Olympic Trials marathon qualifying standard of sub-2:18 for the marathon or sub-1:05 for the half-marathon.