37-year-old Dathan Ritzenhein eyes fourth Olympics

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ROCKFORD, Mich. (WOOD) — Dathan Ritzenhein of Rockford has already competed in three Olympics. He’d like to add one more to his resume.

But at 37, he’ll be considered the old man at the Olympic marathon trials in Atlanta Saturday.

“I think I’m addicted a little bit, to tell you the truth,” he said when asked why he was still running. “I think I know there’s no going back, either. I’m not fooling myself into a comeback. I don’t want to let go, you know. But at the same time, I know the end is getting close.”

An elite runner since he won the Foot Locker cross country nationals in high school, Ritzenhein estimates that he has covered nearly 85,000 miles. To put that in perspective, a trip around the world is about 24,900 miles.

He ran in the Olympics in Athens (2004), Beijing (2008) and London (2012), but he missed out on the Rio Games in 2016.

“There’s just something about the fact it happens every four years, it’s just still is like the No. 1 thing that gets you out of bed in the morning, is thinking about that four years. Every four years is that Olympic final and I think that you just know you don’t have many opportunities to do that,” he said.

So Ritzenhein put off retirement and kept putting miles on his legs, hoping for one more shot. He has been training in Florida, away from his family in West Michigan, for the past month. At his age, he needs every advantage he can get. Because the trials are in Atlanta, he needs to train in warmer weather.

But the biggest thing he’ll need is his health. If he has that on race day, he is confident he can finish among the top three men to earn a berth on Team USA and the chance race under the rings one last time.

“Only three people make it. Sometimes it’s cutthroat. In 2012, I was fourth in the trials at the marathon. They don’t give a spot to fourth place. It was only eight seconds in the marathon,” he said. “You have to perform on that day and you have to be ready to go. So everything matters that day. So you either celebrate and make your plans for Tokyo, or you think about what’s next.”

The 2020 Games in Tokyo begin July 24 and run through Aug. 9.

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