Tipp City’s Salyer ready for U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials

Saturday one of Ohio’s best marathon runners gets to find out where he ranks nationally.

More than that, running in the U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials will mark the culmination of a four-year running renaissance for Jason Salyer as he competes with 226 other men for one of just three spots on the team that will travel to Paris to compete against the best in the world later this summer.

“Every year there is a U.S. championship marathon, but that doesn’t guarantee that all the top runners will show up because some of the top runners might choose to run Boston or New York or Chicago or another big marathon where they’ll earn more money by competing in a different event,” Salyer said Thursday in a phone interview.

As the numbers might indicate, actually qualifying for a spot on Team USA is a long shot, but just getting to compete in the trials marks a major milestone for Salyer, who already has won multiple marathons in Ohio over the past year and a half.

At Tippecanoe High School, he had a successful track career and was the top cross country runner in the Central Buckeye Conference in 2007 and ‘08, but he gave up running after what he termed a “mediocre” college career at Bowling Green and a few years competing in regional races.

“In college, I feel like I didn’t maximize my potential because I was injured and I was afraid of running high mileage because I thought running high mileage would get me injured again,” said Salyer, now 33.

He taught school in Tipp City for a few years before going back to school a master’s degree and becoming a government accountant.

Salyer said he stopped running completely for about a year beginning in the pandemic summer of 2020 before deciding he needed to get healthier in 2021.

“I actually weighed 35 pounds more than I do right now, and part of that was muscle because I had gotten into weight lifting, but a lot of that was just an unhealthy lifestyle,” he said. “And I didn’t like the way that I looked, and I didn’t like the way that I was progressing.”

He also felt he had untapped potential.

“In the back of my mind, I thought I had not maximized my God-given ability to run fast, so I told myself, I’m gonna give it one more go,” he said. “And I started doing all the right things. I started being really consistent with running. I started being really consistent with injury prevention.”

The final push he needed ended up coming from his high school alma mater.

After accepting an invitation to join the cross country coaching staff, the still-bulked-up Salyer soon learned he was not as fast as the young Red Devils he was mentoring anymore.

“I started running with the kids in the summer and we had a time trial, and I raced against the high school kids and I was 10th on the team,” he recalled. “I was kind of embarrassed by that, and I felt like I wasn’t really helping them by me being so out of shape. So I started just running a little bit more each week, each month and had finally gotten in good shape by the end of the cross country season.”

That turned out to be the start of something big.

In 2022, Salyer won the U.S. Air Force Marathon at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base.

Then last year he won the Glass City Marathon in Toledo in April and the Flying Pig Marathon in Cincinnati in May before winning the Air Force marathon again in September.

He had an ambitious plan to sweep the major Ohio marathons, but that did not come to fruition.

“I thought I could go for four and do Columbus, which is the most competitive Ohio marathon, and my legs were just kind of exhausted from all those marathons,” said Salyer, who runs for the Dayton Track Club.

Finishing fourth in that race caused Salyer to realize he needed to give his body more time to recover, but he said he feels fresh headed into the Olympic qualifier after running five marathons in 12 months, which he described as “kind of unheard of.”

That included the California International Marathon in December 2022, a race that allowed him to qualify for the men’s Olympic trial race, which is set to begin at 10 a.m. Saturday. The event will be live streamed on Peacock. Television coverage begins at noon on Peacock.

What comes after that remains to be seen.

“It’s definitely realistic for me to continue running at a high level into my late 30s,” Salyer said. “I don’t know that I’ll want to do that, but maybe I will. I guess we’ll see.

“I’ve put a lot of things on hold to try to pursue this Olympic trials, and I feel like I’ve come pretty close to maximizing my potential. I’m never going to quit running entirely like I did during the pandemic, but I don’t know if I’m going to continue to enjoy the grind of getting up at 5 a.m. every morning and running over 100 miles week after week after week.”

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