Editor's note: The following profile originally appeared at Runnersworld.com
Dathan Ritzenhein will contend for a spot on the U.S. Olympic marathon team on Feb. 13 in Los Angeles. Here are some fast facts about him.
Marathon PR: 2:07:47 (Chicago, 2012)
Best trials qualifier: 2:09:45 (Chicago, 2013)
Most recent marathon: seventh (2:11:50), Boston, April 19, 2015
Residence: Rockford, Michigan
Age on race day: 33
Previous Olympic trials results: 2004: 22nd, 10,000 meters; 2008: second, marathon and eighth, 10,000 meters; 2012: fourth, marathon and third, 10,000 meters
Trials outlook: It was difficult to watch Ritzenhein cross the 2012 Olympic marathon trials finish line in fourth place. He couldn’t hide his disappointment, dropping to the ground, covering his face, in tears. And while he did make it to the London Games to compete in the 10,000 meters, it left unfinished marathon business for "Ritz," as his fans call him, over these past four years.
Since then, the 2:07 marathoner has made substantial changes in his life. He, his wife and his two children left Portland, Oregon, where Ritzenhein was training with the Oregon Project under coach Alberto Salazar. They moved back to Michigan to be closer to family, and Ritz now coaches himself. The keen observer has noticed a more light-hearted, seemingly happier athlete as a result, which only bodes well for his chances to make the marathon team going to Rio this summer.
The obstacle that Ritz constantly faces is his injury-prone body. After the 2015 Boston Marathon in April, where he finished as the first American ahead of Meb Keflezighi, he suffered some calf and shin problems. During his marathon trials buildup, he faced a hip injury that he says has healed.
While Ritzenhein and Keflezighi appear on paper to be the hands-down favorites to make the team, the late entry of Galen Rupp, who is debuting at the distance, will likely throw predictions off. The chemistry of the men’s race keeps evolving, with 2012 Olympians Ryan Hall and Abdi Abdirahman withdrawing; athletes like Rupp, Diego Estrada, and Sam Chelanga running their first marathons; and 10 other men capable of clocking a 2:10 or 2:11 toeing the line.
To finish in the top three, Ritzenhein will need experience to play heavily into his chances -- and like all of his competitors, he’ll need a flawless day in Los Angeles to earn the trip to Rio, which would be his fourth Olympic team.
“I know those feelings and the anticipation and all that. And going in, it gives me confidence knowing I’ve done it before and you just have to want it,” Ritzenhein says. “I mean, everyone wants it on the line, but you can’t fake it once you get past 20 miles. That fire and desire have to be there and if it’s not, it shows.”
Fun fact: Ritzenhein will seek red meat and get his carbohydrates in adult beverage form after the race is over. “If it goes great and I make the team, me and my wife will probably go out to a steakhouse,” he says. “Yup. A big steak and a nice, tall beer. That would be great.”