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Steve Wagner / Forum Communications Co., Published June 10 2012

Wagner: USA running trials an inspiring event

Bemidji, Minn.

Once every four years, track and field takes center stage across the globe as the top athletes from more than 200 countries gather for the Olympics.

There are dozens of other sports, both individual and team, that are intriguing and fun to watch. Many of those sports rarely, if ever, are broadcast, and the Olympics remind us there are amazing stories of courage, determination and triumph.

But runners are naturally drawn to the track, where we can draw inspiration from athletes doing what we love to do every day.

For the many of the best U.S. athletes, the chance to punch their tickets to London, the site of this year’s Olympics, starts in 10 days.

Eugene, Ore., known as Track Town USA, hosts the U.S. Olympic Trials starting June 21.

Of course, the U.S. selected its marathon competitors earlier this year in Houston, but virtually every other track and field slot will be up for grabs.

The 2008 trials were filled with amazing performances, and while I had begun focusing on longer distances, the mid-distance events provided inspiration for my own running. The trials were right after Grandma’s Marathon, which was my first 26.2-mile event.

The athletes spent a lifetime in pursuit of a berth to the Olympics, where they could represent their country in the single greatest gathering meant to represent what is good and right in the world. Watching them filled me with the passion to run – even though I’d never be on the same talent level – and be my best. It also fueled my curiosity to learn more about the sport, incorporate speed work into my own training and discover my inner strength to push beyond mental barriers.

Last summer, when I visited Oregon, I left my hotel in the rain in the pre-dawn darkness to drive 90 minutes to Track Town USA. Once there, I snuck into Haywood Field for a glimpse of track’s most hallowed grounds, and then ran the city’s famous trails.

When the trials start next week, it will spark memories of my own journey and prompt thoughts about where the trail will take me in the future.

To learn more about the trials, schedule and athletes, visit tracktown12.gotracktownusa.com.

Bemidji (Minn.) Pioneer Editor Steve Wagner writes a running blog, which can be found online at runningspud.areavoices.com. He can be reached via email at swagner@bemidjipioneer.com.