There will be three men running for the U.S. National Team in Sunday’s Worlds Marathon Championship in Oregon.
Princeton’s own Colin Mickow is one of them.
Mickow qualified for Worlds as the second American finisher in the Chicago Marathon last year. He clocked a time of 2:13.1, placing sixth overall and earning him a paycheck of $12,000.
Mickow comes in flying under the radar.
And that’s the way he likes it.
“Compared to the other guys on the team, I would say I’m still relatively unknown. Definitely in the professionally running world, I’m one of the lesser-known guys,” he said.
“I don’t mind it. I like it. I guess being the underdog is kind of fun at times. … You can only be the underdog for so long. If I keep racing well, I don’t think I’ll be the unknown guy.”
Mickow, a 2008 Princeton High School graduate, will be the No. 3 runner wearing the USA colors Sunday.
Galen Rupp, 36, is the No. 1 U.S. runner, ranked 16th in the World. Keynan-born American Elkanah Kibut, 39, is the No. 2 U.S. runner, ranked 71st in the world.
Mickow, 32, is the sixth-ranked American, and is 237th in the world.
The U.S. Worlds team is based on top American finishes in a major marathon. Rupp and Mickow punched their ticket Oct. 9, 2021, at Chicago, and Tibet followed two days later with a fourth-place finish at Boston, bumping Mickow to the No. 3 position.
Mickow had to wait out the results of the New York Marathon a month later to see if his spot would hold up. American Ben True gave him a scare, finishing seventh, three spots behind Kibet, just one second out of the needed sixth-place finish.
“I didn’t want to cheer against the U.S. guys,” Mickey said. “It was kind weird. It was like, ‘I want them to do well, just maybe not sixth place.’ It was a close one. Definitely awesome when I found out I made the team.”
Mickow does not set expectations for times before he runs. He just wants to compete.
“I don’t really like to think about times much while I’m racing. I just want to go out and compete,” he said. “It’s hard to really say in Worlds where I’d place. It really depends on a lot.”
Sunday’s marathon, which will be streamed, will start and finish at the University of Oregon’s Autzen Stadium. It is a flat, looped course through Eugene and Springfield, Oregon, following sections of the 1972 and 1976 U.S. Olympic Trials course.
“I like flat, because obviously it’ll be faster when you do look at times,” Mickow said. “I’m not sure it gives me an advantage. I think I do well on a harder course. I like to grind it out a lot. That’s kind of the way I race.
“But, yeah, flat’s good. Chicago’s flat and I’ve run well there. I think I’ll be good still on flat and it’ll be faster.”
Mickow, a financial analysis living in Oswego, took six years off running after using up his eligibility at the University of Illinois in 2012 to focus on his career. He still ran in some local races, including some Homestead Festivals back home in Princeton.
Since getting back into competitive running, he’s made up for lost time in the only way he knows – fast.
He started running some half marathons in 2019, finishing second in the Rock ‘N’ Roll Chicago Half-Marathon.
He made his marathon debut in the 2019 Bank of America Chicago Marathon, finishing 26th in 2:14:55.
At the U.S. Olympic Team Trials Marathon in February, 2020, in Atlanta, Mickow was running on and off in the lead pack, settling for 15th place.
He placed 13th in the Aramco Houston Half Marathon in January.
When asked about his training, Mickow said it just depends on the day.
“An ‘easy’ day would be 12 miles in the morning, six miles after work. On the weekends, I’ll do longer runs and I’ll just do singles,” he said. “The runners typically have what they call their longest day of the week. I’ll do that on Saturday. I run a marathon for that [26.2 miles].”
When he’s not out logging the miles, Mickow’s chasing his newborn son, 3½-month-old Finn. He said he likes being a dad.
Mickow flew out Wednesday to Oregon. His wife, Melissa, and son along with his mother and friends joined him Thursday.
Mickow has come a long ways from Princeton High School, where he was a standout for the cross country and track teams, before running for the Fighting Illini along with his twin brother, Hunter. He was a two-time all-stater in cross country, placing fourth in Class 2A as a senior in 2007. He placed third in the 1,600 meters in track as a junior, but did not compete at state as a senior.
“I liked running back then, but I really didn’t know anything about professional running or even past high school, much less college,” he said. “Even going to U of I, I was never a guy that researched runners or even knew what was going on. I just raced and tried to beat people.”
The ultimate dream for Mickow would be to make the Olympic team one day and represent the U.S. The 2024 Olympics in Paris would be a great start.
“That would be awesome to make the 2024 team,” Mickow said. “That’s a little ways down the road, but yeah, that’d definitely be great. The trials would be early 2024. I was 15th in 2020, but I think I’ve improved quite a bit from then.”