Feb 21, 2020

With a Late Brother in Mind, Malcolm Richards Returns For a Third Time in Atlanta

By Kaylah House

Grady Sports Media

While planning to run with a heavy heart, the third time might be a charm for Malcom Richards.

After losing his brother, Harrison, who inspired him to run, two years ago, Richards qualified for this year’s U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials in Atlanta by running a 2:13:28 at the California International Marathon. He had previously qualified in 2012 and 2016.

A native of Minneapolis, Richards found his love and passion early. He started running the mile in grade school when he saw his older brother doing it. Richards’ competitive drive came from trying to run faster than his brother had at the same age.

When he got to high school, his parents encouraged him to go out for the cross-country team, and that sparked his love for the sport.

“The coaches that I had in high school were experienced coaches and really encouraged me and got me going,” he said.

Richards then went on to attend Division III St. Olaf University in Northfield, Minn. While he was not a national star—he barely broke 15:00 for 5,000 meters—he  never gave up on himself.

After graduating in 2005, Richards continued to train at a high level and ran his first marathon in 2009. Richards trained on his own and with the Olympic Trials not even in mind, he ran 2:20:30 in his debut, a minute and a half off of the trials standard at the time. 

Richards didn't know exactly what he was doing.  “I think it was an encouraging first marathon because it made me think that I could probably do a lot better if i spent more time with it,” he said.

He then qualified for the 2012 trials with a 2:17, and re-qualified for the 2016 version of the trials with a pair of 2:15 performances. In the 2012 trials located in Houston, Tx. Richards finished 51st while running 2:20:15, while in the 2016 trials he finished 18th in a time of 2:18:40. 

As Richards gets older, he said that it definitely gets harder for him to be competitive. It’s more about the speed and pushing his own limits.

For Richards, this year’s trials and qualifying for them means something very special. Richard was preparing for the California International Marathon in 2017 when his brother passed away the week of the race after a battle with melanoma.

“It was very hard to even be running at all,” Richards said. “I felt like I kind of had to do it for him or in his memory.”

Heading into the race Richards had to block all of the emotional baggage as he tried to focus on his race. Richards finished 6th in this race which qualified him for this year's trials. 

“I have never experienced anything like this,” he said. “I have had grandparents pass before but nobody ever so close to me.” 

The past two years have been bumpy, but Richards has tried to use running to honor Harrison and has used it as  a motivator. 

“If I wasn’t running well, I would take the bad times more to the heart,” he said. “After Harrison passed, I realized there are things bigger than just the time.” 

In 2018 he went back to run the same marathon , the U.S championship, and also  got a tattoo to remember Harrison on his forearm.

In Atlanta, Richards’ goal is to finish in the top 20, even in a tough field. Although his age may put him at a disadvantage, his experience may help him on a difficult course.

“I’ve done plenty of marathons to know that even if you’re feeling good all the way through 22 miles it can still go bad the last few,” Richards said. “It’s about getting out on that day and running the best race I can that day.”

Leading up to the 2020 U.S. Olympic Team Trials – Marathon, Atlanta Track Club partnered with the Grady Sports Media program at the University of Georgia to profile some of the competitors in the 2020 Olympic Marathon Trials. The authors of these stories are undergraduate students enrolled in the program and have been lightly edited by the Club. See all of the stories at https://www.atlanta2020trials.com/news/uga-trials-project.