Last-Chance Sprint Earns Trip to Orlando


Last-Chance Sprint Earns Trip to Orlando

By Barbara Huebner

At Mile 25 of the 2023 California International Marathon (CIM), Michael Duggan was in trouble. He’d built up a buffer of about 20 seconds in his quest to hit the time needed to qualify for the 2024 U.S. Olympic Team Trials – Marathon (2:18:00), but for the past two miles his pace had slowed and he was seeing his dream slip away.
Let’s cut to the chase: Duggan, 26, earned not only his Olympic Trials Qualifier but also the distinction of being the last man to do so in his last chance: CIM was December 3; the deadline was December 5.

As if the homestretch sprint against the clock wasn’t enough, the drama continued past the finish line.

CIM was Duggan’s eighth race at the distance, after doing the Vermont City Marathon in Burlington as his first in 2019 just two weeks after his final track competition for Northeastern University. (He cites breaking 15 minutes for 5,000 meters as the highlight of his Husky career.) With that 2:42:42 marathon debut he qualified for Boston; he then slashed that to 2:27:53 in finishing 5th in the 2021 Providence Marathon.

“Maybe in the next couple of years, I could chip away at the time,” thought the Mansfield, Massachusetts, native as he began to look down the road at a possible OTQ.
Duggan’s first try was at the BMW Berlin Marathon last September. After training all summer with the Bat City Track Club in Austin, Texas, where he now works as a treasury analyst at Sunpower, he arrived in Germany 48 hours before the race. Apparently underestimating the effects of jet lag, he struggled from the start and came nowhere near qualifying. After what he called that “massive” failure, he set his sights on a last-ditch attempt at CIM.

There, after slowing in Miles 23 and 24 to lose his time cushion – “I was pretty much at the breaking point” – Duggan was able to pick the pace back up for the last mile before an all-out sprint to the finish as the clock ticked down before his anxious eyes.

He crossed the line, and someone draped him in a blanket with writing on it that he was too exhausted to grasp. He kept asking everyone – spectators, officials, fellow finishers, “just anybody” – if he had made the cutoff.

In the family meeting area, he finally encountered a college friend who commented that his “U.S Olympic Team Trials QUALIFIER” blanket was really cool. That and a cell phone tracker came to his psychic rescue. Finally, he believed.

“They were able to show me on the screen exactly what I did,” he said.

What he did was finish in 2:17:59, an OTQ by one second. Not much of a cushion, but a soft landing nonetheless.
Asked a few weeks later how it felt to be the last qualifier on the last day, Duggan said: “I feel really lucky and grateful. At least I wasn’t the guy behind me.”

More News