First-Time Olympic Marathoner Molly Seidel Is Optimistic About Tokyo Games, 'Embracing the Chaos'

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Kevin C. Cox/Getty Molly Seidel

With her first Olympic Games happening in less than two months - and Japan in a state of emergency due to COVID-19 - Molly Seidel is staying cautiously optimistic that she'll be able to toe the starting line in Sapporo for the marathon.

The 26-year-old Wisconsin native - who was a surprise second-place finisher at the 2020 U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials, earning her a spot on the three-person Olympic team in her first-ever marathon - says that the last year has "been an education in embracing the chaos," and trying not to stress about whether the Games will go on or not.

"I think right now I am fully confident that the Games will go ahead," Seidel tells PEOPLE. "I mean, knock on wood, who knows at this point, everything could possibly change, but I guess the protocols are all in place."

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And with the Games being postponed last year, Seidel already knows how to manage that disappointment.

"I've mentally kind of prepared for that possibility," she says. "With a bad race or any sort of disappointment, I usually give myself 24 hours to mope and then you kind of move on and you figure out what you're doing next. I had planned on running the Olympic Games last summer and when they got postponed and it was kind of like, 'Okay, you can be sad for a little bit, but now we figure out how we're going to move forward from that.' "

Kevin C. Cox/Getty U.S. Olympic Marathon Team members Molly Seidel, Aliphine Tuliamuk and Sally Kipyego

But right now Seidel is deep into preparation mode, running around 125 miles a week and building up her pace from her training home in Flagstaff, Arizona. She's also getting ready to test out her speed against some of the top women in the country at the New York Road Runners' annual Mini 10K in New York City on June 12.

"It came at a really opportune time for me in my buildup for the Tokyo Games," she says. "It's right around six weeks out, it's one of those last great tune-ups and it's going to be a great field for the race. They've got a ton of pro runners coming in and it's just a really cool, historic race."

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Along with facing off against runners like Sara Hall and Weini Kelati, Seidel will get some practice for the last six miles of the marathon.

"The marathon course that we're going to have in Sapporo for the Tokyo Games is very flat and very fast," she says. "And my coach likes to say that it's a 20-mile run and then a 10K road race after. So to prepare for that faster last 10K of the marathon, really a big part of that is getting into some shorter distance races that we can tune up my feet a little bit."

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Whatever happens, Seidel is excited by the chance to fulfill her childhood dream of competing in the Olympics.

"I think it'll definitely be different than what a 'normal' Olympic experience will be," she says. "I more than likely will not actually enter Tokyo. I won't be allowed to go to the opening ceremonies and we might be in a full quarantine while we're over there, but just to have the opportunity to race at the Olympics - I taking nothing for granted right now and whatever it's going to be, it's going to be."