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Set to return in New York City Marathon, Molly Seidel relives her 'pinnacle' Olympics experience

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The bronze medal Molly Seidel won three months ago in the women's marathon at the Tokyo Olympics sits in a box on her kitchen counter.

"I'll just look over and pick it up every so often," she told USA TODAY Sports last month from a downtown Flagstaff, Arizona cafe.

"It's really heavy," she added. "And I'll just be like, 'Holy (expletive), that happened.' "

The race of her life to finish third. The chartered jet from Sapporo, Japan –- the northern city and site of the marathon to account for the summer heat – to Tokyo. International Olympic Committee chairman Thomas Bach handing Seidel a bronze medal during the closing ceremony that took place the day after her race to third. Her smiling so hard the muscles in her cheeks strained.

Yes, it all happened for the self-described "girl who goes out and drinks beer and trains hard" is the same class as some of her favorite marathoners, some of whom she will compete against Sunday in the 50th edition of the New York City Marathon.

For Seidel, 27, it will be just her fourth 26.2-mile race against an elite field.

She circled this race as her post-Olympics return due to a number of factors. Logistically, it was the latest of all the "majors," giving her ample time to recover and ramp up following Tokyo.

"Frankly, it's really hard, bouncing back after a marathon," Seidel said. "Even the three-month turnaround is very hard."

Molly Seidel won the bronze medal in women's marathon at the Tokyo Olympics.
Molly Seidel won the bronze medal in women's marathon at the Tokyo Olympics.

That may sound like Seidel took a break in her training, but the hiatus lasted a mere 24 hours. But it took a few weeks for her to clear the mental hurdle of running 130 miles per week and said in mid-October she felt she was hitting her stride again.

Plus, the 50th anniversary of the race she's watched on television many times before appealed to her.

"I just couldn't pass that up," she said.

Prior to Tokyo, Seidel went through a year and a half of what she called the best training in her life. The results showed with a 2:27:26 race and a podium appearance inside Olympic Stadium.

"Straight up, I was about to start crying," Seidel said. "That was pretty much what you dream of. That was the pinnacle of what an Olympics experience could be.

"We thought it was going to be some small thing on the front or back end and not actually during the ceremony. So when they were like 'you're going in the middle of it,' that was pretty cool."

Podium aspirations in mind, Seidel said the plan is to be competitive in New York. However, she realizes she put all of her chips in the middle -- and cashed them -- in Japan.

"I want to go out and race hard, but also know 'OK, I'm going to be tired mentally and physically,' " Seidel said. "So I'm going to make the most of what I got and I'm definitely not going to phone it in."

Follow Chris Bumbaca on Twitter @BOOMbaca.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: New York marathon: Molly Seidel ready after Tokyo Olympics