Athlete Spotlight - Brian Olinger

When Brian Olinger steps to the starting line of the U.S. Olympic Team Trials - Marathon on January 14, he will be in for the run of his life. Of course the Olympic Trials are a big event for all who are racing, but for Olinger, it will also mark the first time he has ever raced more than seven miles on the roads.
Photo of Brain Olinger
© PhotoRun

Olinger will make his debut at the marathon distance in a unique way. He gained entry to the trials through his 10,000m mark of 28:07.5 from the Payton Jordan Cardinal Invitational in May. In fact, to date Olinger is the only man entered in the trials using only a 10,000m time.

“Coach came to me with the idea...and I actually laughed,” Olinger said. “Knowing him I thought he was being sarcastic and joking, but he said, ‘no I’m serious.’ I told him if he really feels it was a good move and a doable thing, then why not.”

After his collegiate career at Ohio State where he won the Big Ten Championships in the 5,000m and 10,000m, Olinger focused on the 3,000m steeplechase in his first years as a professional runner. During the 2011 season he shifted his focus to the 10,000m and increased his weekly mileage from around 75 miles per week to an average around 90 miles per week.

Now in the midst of marathon training, Olinger’s mileage has increased again to around 100 miles per week.

“The training thus far has gone really, really well,” Olinger said during an early December interview. “Certainly getting used to being on my feet for that length of time has been an adjustment. This week the cumulative effect of the training is starting to kick in and I’m feeling it and thinking ‘oh, boy, this is really tiring.’”

After Olinger runs in the Olympic Trials Marathon, he will have 160 days until the Olympic trials for the 10,000m. Olinger is confident that running his first marathon is a win-win and the training will only help his efforts on the track. However, Olinger is not running the marathon just for the experience or because it could help his 10,000m performance. He is running the marathon trials with the end goal of qualifying for the Olympics.

“At the end of the day it is another opportunity to make the Olympic team,” Olinger explained. “I’m certainly a long-shot. I’ve never in my life even run 26 miles period, so we obviously don’t know what is going to shake out.”

When Olinger says he is “as green as they come” in the marathon, he’s not exaggerating. Before this year’s ING New York Marathon where he was in town to compete in the NYRR Dash to the Finish Line 5 km, he had never even watched an entire marathon.

“I do think that a little bit of ignorance is bliss,” Olinger said. “Not knowing what is coming and what I’ll feel like at 18 or 20 miles could be a good thing. I think back to my first 10k on the track in college where I won the Big Ten champs and I think that not knowing what I was going to feel like was a little bit of a benefit to be honest.”

Olinger is not disillusioned about being a long shot at making the marathon team but he firmly believes in his reasons for running the marathon trials.

“Hey, I haven’t written myself off on not making the marathon team,” Olinger said. “I know I’m a dark horse, and I’m a guy that no one is thinking about, but the marathon is a fickle event at 26 miles. I wouldn’t be doing this if I didn’t think I can show up there and sneak on the team”

With a very strong field of more than 100 men currently entered in the Olympic Trials Marathon, Olinger has his work cut out for him to make the team. However, crazier things have happened in the marathon.