Jan 17, 2020

Sub 2:19? First Try. Getting to the Start Line? Not so Easy.

By Rita Giordano

For most runners, the big challenge is hitting the standard. The pursuit can take years; a cycle of trying, failing, trying again, inching closer.

Not for Quinlan Moll. This 23-year-old University of Missouri-Kansas City law student managed to qualify for the U.S. Olympic Team Trials – Marathon on his first attempt, just six weeks after using up his collegiate eligibility, and in the first marathon he ever ran. Matter of fact, he’s never raced longer than 5K on the roads.

For this young Missourian, the real test turned out to be just getting to his qualifying race. Literally. As in, from the time he left home until the time the gun went off.  

Moll was booked on an evening flight Friday, June 21, from Kansas City to Minneapolis. After a 40-minute layover in Minneapolis, he was supposed to fly to Duluth, where he was running Grandma’s Marathon early the next morning.

But about an hour before it was supposed to take off, he got a message that the flight to Minneapolis would be delayed 52 minutes. He was going to miss his connection to Duluth. Then he got more bad news: There weren’t any more flights to Duluth that night.

So he set out to find a rental car to drive from Minneapolis to Duluth, about 150 miles. No dice. Every rental car in Minneapolis was booked.

“So I was freaking out. I was like, ‘I’m not going to be on time for the marathon,’” recalled Moll.

As luck would have it, someone familiar with the area overheard his frantic search and told him about a shuttle from the Minneapolis airport to Duluth, and Moll was able to get a seat on the 9:30 p.m. departure. From there, he took an Uber to the University of Minnesota dorm room in which he was staying. He hit the sack at about 12:30 a.m.

About 4:30 a.m., Moll started hearing doors slam. People were already heading for the 7:45 a.m. start. “I’m like, ‘Oh wow, I must have slept in or something.’”

So he grabbed his gear and jumped on a shuttle. But the ride seemed really short, not the 25 minutes he was expecting. Wrong shuttle. He was at the start of the half marathon, which runs on the second half of the marathon course. 

“I realized I was like 13.1 miles away from the start line where I needed to be, and I had no idea how I was going to get there,” he said. Fortunately, a course volunteer materialized to take him and another poor soul to the right place.

Moll still had to find someone to give him his race packet. But he got it, even finding enough time to warm up. And then, finally, he was on the starting line.

“Once the gun went off, I felt good,” Moll said. “I made it, so I might as well just give it everything I can.’”

By the last mile, he was checking his watch, thinking, “It’s going to be really close.”

His time: 2:18:50. Ten seconds under the qualifying standard.

The Trials “will be by far the most prestigious, high-powered race I’ve ever been in,” Moll said. “Being able to go out there and compete well against these elite athletes, that’s my main goal.”

Well, that and getting there with a little less drama. Of his travel plans for the Saturday, February 29 race, he said:

“I booked a flight for Thursday.”


Photos: Courtesy of Quinlan Moll