First, CONGRATULATIONS!

Qualifying for the Trials is a huge accomplishment, one many of us can’t even dream of.

Getting to the start line seems almost a separate accomplishment – staying healthy, getting funding, making the trip safely, avoiding last minute bugs.

I don’t know any of you. Some of you I’m a fan of, some of you are elite or professional, some I’m a fan of, some of your names I recognize from media coverage. Most of you, I’d only know your name from reading the start list.

But each of you has an amazing story. I wish I knew it and could learn about your unique journey.

Each of you has worked hard to maximize your physical gifts and made choices – from little to big – that weren’t easy or fun in the moment or popular (sometimes even with yourself) – from getting up early and going to bed early, to skipping treats and parties, to doing extra training (or not), to deferring dreams, taking extra jobs, getting loans or crowdfunding or selling things, to moving away from home and loved ones….the list goes on and on. Kudos on doing what it took to get where you so wanted to be.

Each of you has had moments – or days or weeks or years – filled with pain, struggle, disappointment and frustration – when you could have given up, wanted to give up, had people telling you to give up, maybe did give up (briefly)…but in the end, you said “I can and I will” and got back up to try one more time.

I hope you know you are or can be an example and inspiration to others, adults and children, for your dedication and hard work, for pursuing your dreams and goals.

I hope as you stand on the start, that you can breathe in the moment, the wonder of where you are and what you’re about to do. I hope you can sear it into your memory so you can revisit it and share it with others.

I hope you have family, friends and other supporters who are not only there with you on Saturday (in body or spirit), but who have been with you through the good times and the dark times. I hope you can share this experience with them and help them understand how grateful you are for their role in the day and getting you there.

I hope you run the race you want to run, whether you are competing with others or just with yourself, and that you remember, during the inevitable tough patches, how strong you are, what you’ve overcome, and how lucky you are.

I hope you cross the finish line healthy and happy with the effort you’ve given and that the memories, the wonder of it all, stay with you for the rest of your life.

Know that I will be cheering for each and every one of you with a heart full of admiration and respect and tears of pride and joy in my eyes.

You are all winners.

“The most important thing in the Olympic Games is not to win but to take part, just as the most important thing in life is not the triumph but the struggle. The essential thing is not to have conquered but to have fought well.” -Baron de Coubertin