When Ramiro “Curly” Guillen III slammed onto the pavement at the sixth mile of the 2020 U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials, he didn’t even take a 10 count. He rolled over, got up, and resumed running. He was hurting, his right ankle and hip swelling grotesquely, but he soldiered on for 20 more miles.
“Every step I took was painful,” the 37-year-old Goleta native reported. “I wanted to drop but didn’t come this far to not finish what I started. I was overcome with emotion in the final few miles because my grandfather helped carry me when I couldn’t go on further.”
His grandfather, Ramiro Guillen Sr., died five days before the race to select six U.S. marathoners for the Tokyo Olympics took place on a hilly course in Atlanta.
Strong winds raked the course. It was a sudden gust that threw Guillen off balance and caused him to fall. His final time was 2 hours, 34 minutes, 2 seconds — 17 minutes slower than his qualifying time.
Fellow Goleta runner Addi Zerrenner was among many who called it “the hardest course I’ve ever run.” Zerrenner, 23, went into the race having overcome recent physical ailments and knew she could not approach her previous 2:37:51 performance. “I realized that my love for what I do is greater than my ego and the embarrassment I might face,” she said. She finished in 2:57:52 and called it “truly one of the greatest days of my life.”
Zerrenner can take inspiration from Stephanie Rothstein Bruce, 36, who finished sixth in the women’s race. Bruce is UCSB’s record holder in the 10,000-meter run. The Arizona runner dropped out of the 2012 marathon trials; did not qualify in 2016 after having two children; then, last Saturday, she stayed with the leading pack and clocked in at 2:29:11.
Guillen also wants to try again. He can look to 43-year-old Abdi Abdirahman, an Olympic veteran who took the third men’s spot on the U.S. team.Another up-and-coming marathoner is Connor Reck, 26, a Santa Ynez native, who finished in 2:32:28 Saturday even though he cramped badly and stopped for five minutes with a mile to go.