Subscribe Today
Marathons

Marathons (230)

By Larry Eder
 
The marathon is one of the most complicated events to race at the elite level. Experience is key for many, but if one does not have experience, then being around experienced coaching and support is key. With Galen Rupp, you have a guy who trains like a marathoner and is coached by a former WR holder in the marathon (Alberto Salazar). With Meb, you have a guy who has finished 23 of his 24 starts in marathons, and has spent 20 years with the same, fine coach (Bob Larsen). With Jared, you have a thoughtful marathoner with some strong experience, advised and supported by a great coach (Ed Eyestone), wonderful family and supportive team members.
 
In the first half, runners from Meb to Tyler McCandless, to Fernando Cabada to Sam Chelanga. Nick Arciniaga was up front several times, as he tried to build a bit of a rythym.
 
Pace was conservative, as the 5k was hit in 15:48, 10k in 31:34, 15k in 47:12, and 20k in 63:02. In the building heat, even that pace caused discomfort and the lead pack dropped to 30, then, to 20, then, to twelve.
 
On the four loop course (six miles, then a two mile run to finish), Galen Rupp and Meb Kefelzighi stayed in the pack until the half at 1:06:32.
 
Galen Rupp stayed out of trouble, early on. Galen sat off the right arm of Luke Puskedra. Meb floated around, as is his want. Rupp's coach, Alberto Salazar, had told Galen to stay out of the lead as long as he could. He darts up front, and then, in row two, and really is just getting himself into a groove. This time, not much of a groove, as some things were hurting. At 40, Meb has hurts guys ten years younger do not, but he knows how to minimize them. Keflezighi's attention to detail is key in all he does. His confidence in his Coach, Bob Larsen is also quite important.
 
Luke Puskedra, ranked third in the field looked good, as did many others. Matt Llano was looking good, as did Nick Arciniaga, who lead much of the early race. Patrick Smythe, Sean Quigley, Tim Ritchie were among the marathoners up in the lead pack.
 
But those things began to change. That 2:12 pace, in hot weather, took its toll. That there was little or no shade on the sunny, hot day was damaging to all of the field. Everyone felt the pain, some just delt with it better.
 
Tyler Pennel, he of sub four minute mile speed, decided to break open the race, and break it open he did. His quick mile dropped all of the pretenders. Even some of the non-pretenders, like Jared Ward, knew that they had to keep themselves in control. " It was hot and it was hard. That's it." was how Jared Ward described it. Tyler made his move at 25k.
 
At just before sixteen miles, Tyler Pennel dropped a 4:47 mile and they were off, with Meb, Galen and Tyler breaking the pack. Pennel looked good running very fast. Galen went after him, as did Meb, as did Jared Ward, who had come up through the pack.
 
"When Tyler made that move, and Meb and Rupp went with him, I thought that's a hard move. if they can make it, I am not going to catch them. So, I went as fast as I could, and I ran a 4:50 mile, and I am sure that was my fastest mile." noted Jared Web, as the race started to get away from him.
 
From mile 16 to mile 18, Tyler Pennel, Galen Rupp and Meb Keflezighi ran together. Then, Galen took the lead at the water stop, with Meb in tow and Tyler Pennel went back fast. By nineteen miles, Jared Ward was stalking third place...it was only a matter of time. Tyler Pennel, in only his second marathon, had made a brave move, and would hold onto take fifth.
 
But it was to be Meb who broke Tyler Pennel, with Galen floating right there. Just after mile 18, with Tyler Pennel falling back, Galen Rupp floated to the front, with no additional percieved effort.
 
Galen and Meb ran together miles, 19-21. Galen, a couple of times, looked to be in some discomfort. I could not figure out if he dropped his hat on purpose or by mistake. The pace was getting faster, as Meb and Galen tested each other. Now, was the time of reckoning.
 
Meb was pushing, and Galen was running real close. In Meb's mind, Galen was riding him pretty close. " I told him this was not a track, but a road."
 
In tough, tight races, there are opposing race plans. Bob Larsen and Meb spoke about getting Meb on the team, and when the time came to test, use his experience. Galen Rupp and Alberto Salazar were much more cautious; stay behind the leaders as long as you could. Obviously those plans clashed, and there are words, but athletes get over it.
 
In races, there are times when the competition gets hot and heated, and words can be exchanged, and they are. I recall the 1980 Olympic Trials where Craig Virgin road Herb Lindsay for about six laps. Meb and Galen had a disagreement, but that is the confluence of tactics and competition. It happens.
 
Meb Keflezighi got Galen and Meb away from their competitors, like putting about a minute and three seconds between 18 miles and 21 miles.
 
Around 22 miles, Galen Rupp, floating along, just did the natural thing and took the lead. As he slightly increased the pace, Galen looked more relaxed and he broke Meb quickly. In Meb's head, Meb was trying to make sure he made the team and that Jared and perhaps others were not going to catch him. That increase was to 4:47, and Meb had to make a decision: take Galen on, or make the team. Meb chose to make the team, and Galen Rupp floated away.
 
Between miles 22 and 24, Galen Rupp won his marathon.
 
Checking his position three or four times, anbd obviously hot, Galen Rupp ran 9:43 for two miles between 22-24 miles. Galen looked uncomfortable in the 18-21 miles, but looked fantastic as he ran over the last two miles. I recall Frank Shorter noting in the 1972 Olympic Games marathon, that he felt poorly in the early slogging of the marathon, and better when he broke it open.
 
I noted last night that Galen would not be here if Coach Alberto Salazar did not think he was ready. But it was hot, and the sun was unrelenting.
 
Galen Rupp ran hard, yet stayed within himself. Did he face discomfort? Of course. His last mile was just getting through with a uncomfortable experience, but Rupp was winning and feeling uncomfortable is part of the game at this level.
 
Meb Keflezighi kept his cool, and protected his margin. Jared Ward swept past Tyler Pennel, put some real estate between himself and kept a safe margin of 1:12 over the surging Luke Puskedra.
 
Rupp won the race in 2:11:12, in his debut. In that debut win, he followed the path of his coach, Alberto Salazar, who won his first marathon only three decades ago. His time was sixth fastest time in Olympic Trials history. Galen was quite ebullent, yet tired, speaking on his victory:
 
"I am very excited with the way it went. Tremendous honor to represent the United States. It is the greatest honor on earth. I am so hapy to be able to make my devut here and to be able to win was unbelievable. I am so honored to be going to the Olympics."
 
Meb Keflezighi, making his fourth Olympic team, ran 2:12:20 to take the second position. A tremendous race for the 40 year old super star. Meb noted, " I was cramping a bit early in the race but delft better a little after halfway."
 
In third, Jared Ward, coached by Ed Eyestone, ran 2:13:00 for the all important third place on the Olympic team. Ed Eyestone, Ward's coach, made two Olympic teams and was quite pleased with Ward's buildup. Jared noted, of his first Olympic team: "With 600 meters to go, I started singing that song and changing the words. I said, "do it for your momma, do it for your wife, do it for your kids, and do it for your life. It was just enough of it and that was the end of it."
 
Luke Puskedra ran a smart race, finishing fourth place! Tyler Pennel, the man Meb and Galen credit with breaking open the race, took fifth. And Matt Llano, HOKA ONE ONE Northern Arizona Elite, took sixth, in 2:15:16.
 
The team for Rio is strong. That Meb and Galen battled it out is no surprise. Jared Ward and Luke Puskedra is the new generation of marathoners showing their presence and Matt Llano joins that group. Some tought DNFs, with Dathan Ritzenhein and Tyler McCandless, but, that again, is part of a race or competition of this level.
 
Did the heat play a role in today's race? A huge role, but how does one think the weather will be in RIO?
 
Huge dnf rates today, with 166 men starting and 105 men finishing today.
 
In taking a day to consider the race once again, I am not surprised by the outcome. Galen did his job, with precision, and should be congratulated. Meb Keflezighi is the most experienced championship marathoner we have in the U.S., and his drive is like few others: he was going to make that team if there was any chance. Jared Ward used the support of his coach, family and friends to encourage his training and focus: coming down from the road of Utah, Jared Ward ran the race of his life to make the U.S. team.
 
2016 U.S. Olympic Trials marathon, Men, 1. Galen Rupp, Nike Oregon Track Club, 2:11:12, 2. Meb Keflezighi, Skechers, 3. Jared Ward, Saucony, 2:13:00, 4. Luke Puskedra, Nike, 2:14:12, 5. Tyler Pennel, Reebok ZAP Fitness, 2:14:57, 6. Matthew Llano, HOKA One One NAZ, 2:15:16, 7. Shadrack Biwott, Mammoth TC, 2:15:23, 8. Patrick Smythe, NIKE, 2:15:26, 9. Sean Quigley, Saucony, 2:15:52, 10. Nick Arciniaga, Under Armour, 2:16:25, #‎la2016
By Larry Eder
 
The marathon is one of the most complicated events to race at the elite level. Experience is key for many, but if one does not have experience, then being around experienced coaching and support is key. With Galen Rupp, you have a guy who trains like a marathoner and is coached by a former WR holder in the marathon (Alberto Salazar). With Meb, you have a guy who has finished 23 of his 24 starts in marathons, and has spent 20 years with the same, fine coach (Bob Larsen). With Jared, you have a thoughtful marathoner with some strong experience, advised and supported by a great coach (Ed Eyestone), wonderful family and supportive team members.
 
In the first half, runners from Meb to Tyler McCandless, to Fernando Cabada to Sam Chelanga. Nick Arciniaga was up front several times, as he tried to build a bit of a rythym.
 
Pace was conservative, as the 5k was hit in 15:48, 10k in 31:34, 15k in 47:12, and 20k in 63:02. In the building heat, even that pace caused discomfort and the lead pack dropped to 30, then, to 20, then, to twelve.
 
On the four loop course (six miles, then a two mile run to finish), Galen Rupp and Meb Kefelzighi stayed in the pack until the half at 1:06:32.
 
Galen Rupp stayed out of trouble, early on. Galen sat off the right arm of Luke Puskedra. Meb floated around, as is his want. Rupp's coach, Alberto Salazar, had told Galen to stay out of the lead as long as he could. He darts up front, and then, in row two, and really is just getting himself into a groove. This time, not much of a groove, as some things were hurting. At 40, Meb has hurts guys ten years younger do not, but he knows how to minimize them. Keflezighi's attention to detail is key in all he does. His confidence in his Coach, Bob Larsen is also quite important.
 
Luke Puskedra, ranked third in the field looked good, as did many others. Matt Llano was looking good, as did Nick Arciniaga, who lead much of the early race. Patrick Smythe, Sean Quigley, Tim Ritchie were among the marathoners up in the lead pack.
 
But those things began to change. That 2:12 pace, in hot weather, took its toll. That there was little or no shade on the sunny, hot day was damaging to all of the field. Everyone felt the pain, some just delt with it better.
 
Tyler Pennel, he of sub four minute mile speed, decided to break open the race, and break it open he did. His quick mile dropped all of the pretenders. Even some of the non-pretenders, like Jared Ward, knew that they had to keep themselves in control. " It was hot and it was hard. That's it." was how Jared Ward described it. Tyler made his move at 25k.
 
At just before sixteen miles, Tyler Pennel dropped a 4:47 mile and they were off, with Meb, Galen and Tyler breaking the pack. Pennel looked good running very fast. Galen went after him, as did Meb, as did Jared Ward, who had come up through the pack.
 
"When Tyler made that move, and Meb and Rupp went with him, I thought that's a hard move. if they can make it, I am not going to catch them. So, I went as fast as I could, and I ran a 4:50 mile, and I am sure that was my fastest mile." noted Jared Web, as the race started to get away from him.
 
From mile 16 to mile 18, Tyler Pennel, Galen Rupp and Meb Keflezighi ran together. Then, Galen took the lead at the water stop, with Meb in tow and Tyler Pennel went back fast. By nineteen miles, Jared Ward was stalking third place...it was only a matter of time. Tyler Pennel, in only his second marathon, had made a brave move, and would hold onto take fifth.
 
But it was to be Meb who broke Tyler Pennel, with Galen floating right there. Just after mile 18, with Tyler Pennel falling back, Galen Rupp floated to the front, with no additional percieved effort.
 
Galen and Meb ran together miles, 19-21. Galen, a couple of times, looked to be in some discomfort. I could not figure out if he dropped his hat on purpose or by mistake. The pace was getting faster, as Meb and Galen tested each other. Now, was the time of reckoning.
 
Meb was pushing, and Galen was running real close. In Meb's mind, Galen was riding him pretty close. " I told him this was not a track, but a road."
 
In tough, tight races, there are opposing race plans. Bob Larsen and Meb spoke about getting Meb on the team, and when the time came to test, use his experience. Galen Rupp and Alberto Salazar were much more cautious; stay behind the leaders as long as you could. Obviously those plans clashed, and there are words, but athletes get over it.
 
In races, there are times when the competition gets hot and heated, and words can be exchanged, and they are. I recall the 1980 Olympic Trials where Craig Virgin road Herb Lindsay for about six laps. Meb and Galen had a disagreement, but that is the confluence of tactics and competition. It happens.
 
Meb Keflezighi got Galen and Meb away from their competitors, like putting about a minute and three seconds between 18 miles and 21 miles.
 
Around 22 miles, Galen Rupp, floating along, just did the natural thing and took the lead. As he slightly increased the pace, Galen looked more relaxed and he broke Meb quickly. In Meb's head, Meb was trying to make sure he made the team and that Jared and perhaps others were not going to catch him. That increase was to 4:47, and Meb had to make a decision: take Galen on, or make the team. Meb chose to make the team, and Galen Rupp floated away.
 
Between miles 22 and 24, Galen Rupp won his marathon.
 
Checking his position three or four times, anbd obviously hot, Galen Rupp ran 9:43 for two miles between 22-24 miles. Galen looked uncomfortable in the 18-21 miles, but looked fantastic as he ran over the last two miles. I recall Frank Shorter noting in the 1972 Olympic Games marathon, that he felt poorly in the early slogging of the marathon, and better when he broke it open.
 
I noted last night that Galen would not be here if Coach Alberto Salazar did not think he was ready. But it was hot, and the sun was unrelenting.
 
Galen Rupp ran hard, yet stayed within himself. Did he face discomfort? Of course. His last mile was just getting through with a uncomfortable experience, but Rupp was winning and feeling uncomfortable is part of the game at this level.
 
Meb Keflezighi kept his cool, and protected his margin. Jared Ward swept past Tyler Pennel, put some real estate between himself and kept a safe margin of 1:12 over the surging Luke Puskedra.
 
Rupp won the race in 2:11:12, in his debut. In that debut win, he followed the path of his coach, Alberto Salazar, who won his first marathon only three decades ago. His time was sixth fastest time in Olympic Trials history. Galen was quite ebullent, yet tired, speaking on his victory:
 
"I am very excited with the way it went. Tremendous honor to represent the United States. It is the greatest honor on earth. I am so hapy to be able to make my devut here and to be able to win was unbelievable. I am so honored to be going to the Olympics."
 
Meb Keflezighi, making his fourth Olympic team, ran 2:12:20 to take the second position. A tremendous race for the 40 year old super star. Meb noted, " I was cramping a bit early in the race but delft better a little after halfway."
 
In third, Jared Ward, coached by Ed Eyestone, ran 2:13:00 for the all important third place on the Olympic team. Ed Eyestone, Ward's coach, made two Olympic teams and was quite pleased with Ward's buildup. Jared noted, of his first Olympic team: "With 600 meters to go, I started singing that song and changing the words. I said, "do it for your momma, do it for your wife, do it for your kids, and do it for your life. It was just enough of it and that was the end of it."
 
Luke Puskedra ran a smart race, finishing fourth place! Tyler Pennel, the man Meb and Galen credit with breaking open the race, took fifth. And Matt Llano, HOKA ONE ONE Northern Arizona Elite, took sixth, in 2:15:16.
 
The team for Rio is strong. That Meb and Galen battled it out is no surprise. Jared Ward and Luke Puskedra is the new generation of marathoners showing their presence and Matt Llano joins that group. Some tought DNFs, with Dathan Ritzenhein and Tyler McCandless, but, that again, is part of a race or competition of this level.
 
Did the heat play a role in today's race? A huge role, but how does one think the weather will be in RIO?
 
Huge dnf rates today, with 166 men starting and 105 men finishing today.
 
In taking a day to consider the race once again, I am not surprised by the outcome. Galen did his job, with precision, and should be congratulated. Meb Keflezighi is the most experienced championship marathoner we have in the U.S., and his drive is like few others: he was going to make that team if there was any chance. Jared Ward used the support of his coach, family and friends to encourage his training and focus: coming down from the road of Utah, Jared Ward ran the race of his life to make the U.S. team.
 
2016 U.S. Olympic Trials marathon, Men, 1. Galen Rupp, Nike Oregon Track Club, 2:11:12, 2. Meb Keflezighi, Skechers, 3. Jared Ward, Saucony, 2:13:00, 4. Luke Puskedra, Nike, 2:14:12, 5. Tyler Pennel, Reebok ZAP Fitness, 2:14:57, 6. Matthew Llano, HOKA One One NAZ, 2:15:16, 7. Shadrack Biwott, Mammoth TC, 2:15:23, 8. Patrick Smythe, NIKE, 2:15:26, 9. Sean Quigley, Saucony, 2:15:52, 10. Nick Arciniaga, Under Armour, 2:16:25, #‎la2016
by Larry Eder
 
In the second of two Olympic Trials contested today, the women’s race had the most drama. 2012 4th-placer Amy Cragg not only made the team, but moved up to the win. 
 
“I had spent four years training to improve one place,” she noted after her hard won victory. In fact, she improved by three places!
 
Defending champion Shalane Flanagan, who was about four weeks short on her training, battled not only the field but the heat, and went from looking like the unbeatable winner to barely holding on for third place and requiring an IV, her first after a marathon, to recover. “That was the hardest marathon that I have run over the last six miles,” Shalane confessed.
 
And Desi Linden, who, like Cragg, had spent four years building to this day, took second place in a race that saw her as much as a minute+ down at just past halfway. Desi called the race "grueling.”
 
Here is how I saw the race...
 
Training partners have a relationship that’s hard to explain.
 
This past December, I was at the RNR San Antonio, watching the half marathon for women. Kara Goucher won the race, and training partners Shalane Flanagan and Amy Cragg took third and fourth. After the race, Flanagan and Cragg ran eight more miles with coach Jerry Schumacher, making it a nice long day.
 
What I didn’t know at that time was that Shalane was only in her second week of training after an end-of-season, beginning-of-season injury that would play a major role in the Olympic Trials race.
 
Olympic Trials Marathon day, Feb. 13, 2016, was a good day for viewing sports, but a hard day for racing marathons. The overwhelming comments from our team on the course was how hot it was, how there was no shade, how classy Amy Cragg was in caring for her ailing teammate, and then, with the finish nearly in sight, kicking to the finish.
 
There were 198 women who actually started the race today, and 139 finished.
 
The pace, quite conservative for the conditions, started out, through ten miles in 2:33 pace. But even with that, the contenders and pretenders were separated pretty quickly.
 
Kellyn Taylor, who had debuted at the marathon in Houston in 2015 with 2:28:20, was up near the front in the early miles. Taylor broke open the race at nine miles, with Sara Hall, Amy Cragg and Shalane Flanagan in tow. Then Amy and Shalane took over, building up ten seconds by twelve miles and the race was on.
 
From mile 12 to mile 21, Cragg and Flanagan lead, and the race looked like it was in the bag.
 
What was quite strange was the distance (just over a minute) that Desi Linden had allowed to grow between her and the lead pack. Kara Goucher seemed to be struggling a bit.
 
But Desi started to move with Goucher in tow as first Desi, then Kara went by Taylor, whose early miles and nervous breaking up of the field cost her dearly.
 
As Desi and Kara battled for third, Flanagan was having some trouble with the heat. Cragg, who had been training with Flanagan for the past four months, didn’t want to leave her training partner.
 
As the lead shrunk from more than a minute to just over 32 seconds at mile 24, Cragg took over, rather reluctantly.
 
"I knew Shalane was having trouble. At mile 24 water stop, I had Shalane drop a whole bottle of water over her head."
 
With Linden closing the gap, Cragg had to pick up the pace in order to preserve the win. 
 
Cragg used her top-end 10,000 meter speed to cement the win in 2:28:20—three positions better than her 4th-place in 2012.
 
Amy then waited for Linden, who passed Flanagan just before 25 miles and went on to take second in 2:28:54.
 
Flanagan, who just barely held on, and did so with pure guts, ran 2:29.19 to finish in third.
 
Just over a minute later, Goucher crossed in fourth running an 2:30:24 in these hot and humid conditions. Kara gave it all she had, and that’s the most honorable result an athlete can have.
 
Janet Bawcom took fifth in 2:31:14, and one-time leader Kellyn Taylor was sixth in 2:32:50.
 
Among the top five 2016 finishers, it’s remarkable to note that the only thing that changed since 2012 were their positions. Amy Cragg was most improved.
 
When I asked Amy afterwards how she was feeling, there was a lot of emotion. Her level of fitness is much higher than any time before, but most importantly, her level of confidence has increased tenfold. From mile 21 on, Cragg could have won the race and run away by herself, winning two minutes faster.
 
She did not. Instead, she showed concern for her training partner, only reluctantly leaving her with less than two miles to go!
 
Her finish was strong, and her victory was exciting. The U.S. Olympic Marathon team of Amy Cragg, Desi Linden, and Shalane Flanagan is strong one. Each marathoner  has strengths and the ability to battle into top ten positions in Rio this summer.

NAPA, Calif. — March 6, 2016 — At today’s 38th Annual Kaiser Permanente Napa Valley Marathon (NVM), two first-time competitors at the race climbed the winners’ platform. Isidore Herrera, age 25, of Simi Valley, Calif. and Catherine Beck, 30, of Clinton, NY grabbed the victories, heading the field of over 2,800 entrants on a mild, partly cloudy morning in between rain storms. Herrera won the men’s race in 2 hours, 27 minutes, and 29 seconds. Beck crossed the finish line at Vintage High School in Napa in 2:52:34.

NAPA, Calif. — February 19, 2016 —A field of motivated entrants from 21 countries, 47 U.S. states, and Washington, D.C. will gather in California’s Napa Valley for the 38th Annual Kaiser Permanente Napa Valley Marathon on Sunday, March 6, 2016. The Napa Valley Marathon (NVM) asks each entrant to describe on their entry form their reasons for entering the race. Among the varied responses each year, many illustrate how the challenges of a 26.2-mile race spur marathoners to undertake charitable deeds that assist others who face adversity, to overcome personal adversities themselves, or to travel the globe in search of the most compelling races. A high percentage of respondents also cite the reputation of NVM as one of the best organized marathons in the U.S., and the allure of the picturesque Napa Valley wine growing region, as primary reasons for entering the race.

LOS ANGELES (12-Feb) -- On a day that will be remembered for the harsh wrath of mother nature and its crippling heat, Galen Rupp and Amy Hastings ran their way to the Rio de Janeiro Olympics here at the 2016 U.S. Olympic Trials Marathon. Rupp booked his ticket in dominating fashion, cruising to win his debut marathon in 2:11:12, while Cragg completed a pulse-pounding, drama-filled race in 2:28:20.

Monday, 15 February 2016 18:32

Image Gallery: 2016 Olympic Marathon Trials

Written by

2016 Olympic Marathon Trials

In the second of two Olympic Trials contested today, the women's race had the most drama. 2012 Fourth placer, Amy Cragg not only made the team, but moved up to the win. " I had spent four years training to improve one place," noted Amy after her hard won victory. She improved three places!

In his debut marathon, Galen Rupp won the 2016 U.S. Olympic Trials on a hot and humid day in sunny Los Angeles. Meb Keflezighi made his fourth Olympic team, second at the marathon, with his second placing. And in third place, Jared Ward, third in LA Marathon in 2015, made up a strong deficit and moved himself into third place in this hotly contested Olympic Trials.

Nearly four hundred athletes will be running the U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials next Saturday, February 13, in Los Angeles. We asked long time journalist and writer for Cal Track, American Track & Field and RunBlogRun Mark Winitz to pen his thoughts on the upcoming trials.
 
• The 2016 U.S. Olympic Trials Marathon will be the second time that both the men's and women's Marathon Trials will take place on the same day, at the same site. On Saturday, February 13th in Los Angeles, the men will start at 10:06 a.m. Pacific time and the women will start 16 minutes later.
 
• NBC will broadcast unprecedented live coverage of the event, on television and online, on Saturday, February 13th, 2016 beginning at 10:00 a.m. Pacific time.
 
Perhaps, in no other Olympic running event are the variables so abundant than in the marathon. After all, in a 26.2-mile race encompassing more than two hours a lot of unexpected surprises can occur. Before the 2008 Marathon Trials I wrote: That's the beauty and the irony of the marathon. In many respects, competing over 26.2 miles is a roll of the dice.
 
Only three men and three women will compose the U.S. marathon team headed to the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro (provided they meet the Olympic "A" standards of 2:19:00-men, 2:45:00-women. How will the dice roll for the 168 male and 202 female declared starters who will line up in Los Angeles on February 13th to test their mettle against the best in the U.S.? My conventional wisdom and almost 40 years covering the sport tells me that the top three slots at the Marathon Trials will go to one runner in the very top U.S. ranks, one highly ranked (but not necessarily a favorite) competitor, and one "surpriser." It doesn't always work out that way, but this outlook keeps my mind open for the many variables that come into play.
 
Certainly, 2016 conjures much speculation about the outcome of the Marathon Trials, and rightly so. And, with the varied opinions and projections come some key questions:
 
How much longer can Meb Keflezighi and Deena Kastor keep going at the top? Will Keflezighi, age 40, the 2004 Olympic marathon silver medalist, qualify for his third U.S. Olympic marathon team? Can Kastor, the U.S, women's marathon record holder (2:19:36) who will turn 43 the day after the Trials, make her fourth Olympic team? Deena Kastor is out.
 
Will the Trials in Los Angeles reveal a future Ryan Hall on the horizon? In 2007, the two-time Olympic marathoner turned in a 2:08.24 at the Flora London Marathon--the fastest debut marathon time ever by an American. He subsequently became the U.S. men's second fastest marathon runner in history (2:06:17). Last month, Hall announced his retirement from the sport at 33, an age when many distance runners are reaching their peak.
 
Will a marathon "rookie" make the marathon team? Several Americans in contention for a team spot, including 10,000-meter American recorder holder Galen Rupp, qualified for the Marathon Trials via the Marathon Trials' half marathon qualifying standards.
 
The qualifying period for '16 U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials ran from August 1, 2013 to January 17, 2016. In order to qualify for a berth on the starting line, U.S. men had to turn in a 2:15:00 or better "A" standard or 2:19:00 or better "B" standard marathon. They could also qualify by recording a 1:05:00 half marathon. The women's standards are marathon: 2:37:00 "A"/2:45:00 "B," half marathon: 1:15:00.
 
A total of 476 athletes qualified (217 men, 259 women). The states with the most qualifiers are Colorado with 58 (31 men, 27 women) closely followed by California with 54 (27 men, 27 women). USATF's Colorado Association sports the most declared athletes for the Trials with 46 (23 men, 23 women) followed by the Pacific Association with 30 (13 men, 17 women).
 
So here's a look at some of the top athletes who will line up on the Trials starting line in downtown Los Angeles--plus several potential surprisers. In separate races (for men, followed by women), they will first navigate a single 2.2 mile loop, followed by four 6-mile repeat circuits into South Los Angeles that will pass by Exposition Park and the LA Coliseum. 
 
Besides Olympic team berths, $600,000 in prize money will be at stake with $80,000 going to the men's and women's champions.
 
MEN
Meb Keflezighi (San Diego, CA) has, seemingly, done it all. Boasting a 2:08:37 PR that he registered at the 2014 Boston Marathon, the defending Olympic Marathon Trials men's champion appears to only get better with age. Meb has diligently prepared for the 2016 Trials at altitude in the mountains at Mammoth Lakes, Calif., his longtime adopted second home, under the steady guidance of Bob Larsen, his coach since his collegiate days at UCLA.
 
About his race day plans, Keflezighi said: "There's a lot less pressure for me right now. Before it was always a dream of making the team, or trying to win a medal for our country. This Trials race won't determine what my career will be. That's already been solidified.
 
"I always have plans going into the race and a list of things that can potentially happen. I've been very rewarded by the decisions I've made, whether they were in Athens, New York, Boston, or the Trials. You assess the competitors and see what they're doing. You can't have a single plan going in. You have to make adjustments along the way. You have to be ready for anything or anyone. You can't discount anybody, whether they're veterans or newbies."
 
Bob Larsen added: "Meb always brings his 'A' game to the race and makes his own decisions on the course. That's the beauty of Meb. They're going to have to get by him to make that team. We have very talented guys going to the starting line and then here's a 40-year-old. It's almost like he's out of place, but even recently he's been running fast. And, so far, the workouts have been going well, so he's got a shot. And so does Deena."
 
Dathan Ritzenhein (33, Belmont, MI) is on a mission. A three-time Olympian and former American record holder in the 5,000m, Ritzenhein was the top finishing American in the men's marathon at the 2008 Olympic Games in Bejiing, finishing in ninth place in 2:11:59. Then, he placed a heartbreaking fourth at the 2012 Olympic Marathon Trials in Houston, one spot shy of making the U.S. Olympic marathon team. Although "Ritz"--who was formerly coached by Alberto Salazar--subsequently made the '12 Olympic squad in the 10,000 meters and placed 13th in the Olympic Games 10,000m final, he has patiently waited for another opportunity to make the U.S. team at 26.2 miles. In 2012, he ran 2:07:47, his PR, at the Chicago marathon and he enters the '16 Marathon Trials with the second fastest qualifying time, a 2:09:45 (Chicago, 2013).
 
Luke Puskedra (26, Eugene, OR) is a relative newcomer to the marathon scene. After a devastating 2:28:54 debut at the 2014 New York City Marathon, he turned heads with a swift 2:10:24 fifth place finish at the 2015 Bank of America Chicago Marathon--the fastest marathon time by a U.S. man in 2015. As for the future of American marathon running, keep a close eye on Puskedra in Los Angeles. If he runs to his potential, the former University of Oregon standout will be with the leaders contending for an Oly team berth.
 
Jeff Eggleston (31, Boulder, CO) has represented the U.S. three times at the IAAF World Championships Marathon. In 2014, he had the second fastest U.S. marathon time (2:10:52 at Australia's Gold Coast Marathon), making him one of the top performers entering the '16 Trials.
 
"I'm excited and grateful to be running in my first Olympic Trials," Eggleston said. "Four years ago I couldn't make it to the starting line in Houston because of an injury. It was very disappointing. I've run in my share of championship style races before, but the Olympic Trials is something new and exciting for me. In racing, I always make it a goal to perform better than my ranking. On paper I think I'm seeded number four, so the goal is to do my best for number three or better in L.A."
 
Eggleston trains in Boulder, most of the time alone.
 
"My preparations for the Olympic Trials haven't been much different than my previous marathons," he said. "Track work, threshold running, and 
 long runs. I think I've been more conservative with training this time around."
 
Diego Estrada (26, Salinas, CA) tops the list of men headed for the Marathon Trials via USATF's 1:05:00 men's half marathon qualifying standard. Estrada, who will be making his marathon debut at the Trials, scored a convincing win at last year's USATF Half Marathon Championship in Houston, crossing the finish in 1:00:51.
 
"I think there's a little bit of Houston magic in the legs for LA," Estrada said about his upcoming Marathon Trials race. "I've done everything within my power to prepare for the race, and I feel confident, but the event is still a mystery to me. So I'm very optimistic but I want to be realistic. All my personal bests get better the longer I go and I'm just hoping to continue the trend."
 
Estrada has also qualified for the 2016 U.S. Olympic Track and Field Trials in the 5,000m and 10,000m. His PRs on the track are 13:15 (5,000m) and 27:30 (10,000m).
 
"Ultimately, I want to be a marathoner," Estrada continued. "And I feel that the Marathon Trials is a good place for me to debut. Rather then flying overseas and trying to hit it out of the water in the first one, I'll be surrounded by fellow Americans in a more controlled environment. And, I plan on being at the Olympic Track & Field Trials in July for the 5,000 and 10,000 even if I finish in the top three in LA."
 
And, what about Galen Rupp (29, Portland, OR), the American record holder at 10,000m (26:44.36) who abruptly--and to the surprise of many--announced his plans in late January to compete in the Marathon Trials? Anyone in his right mind has to consider the Alberto Salazar-coached athlete a serious contender for a slot on the Olympic marathon squad--although he's never run a marathon. He's raced only two half marathons, but the first, a 1:00:30 at the NYC Half in 2011, vaulted him into the #5 spot all-time in the U.S.
 
Only one man has earned a spot on Team USA in his marathon debut, and that was quite a while ago: George Young in 1968.
 
Additional top contenders (with qualifying times):
 
Ryan Vail (Portland, OR - 2:10:57 qualifying time) - The Oklahoma State University grad ran his marathon PR and Trials qualifying time at the 2013 London Marathon where he placed 10th. Last June, he placed 5th in the 10,000m at the U.S. Outdoor Track and Field Championships in 28:22.21 behind Rupp's 28:11.61 winning effort.
 
Bobby Curtis (Rochester Hills, MI) - In 2014, the 2008 NCAA Champion at 5,000 meters turned in a 2:11:20 at the Chicago Marathon to place himself in contention. And, he has leg speed with a 10,000m PR of 27:24.67 (seventh fastest American in history) which will come in handy in a pinch finish.
 
Elkanah Kibet (Fayetteville, NC) - The Kenyan native joined the U.S. Army in 2012 and was subsequently deployed in the Persian Gulf region. Upon his return to the U.S. in 2015, when he resumed focused training, he entered the Chicago Marathon for his marathon debut where he finished 7th in 2:11:51.
 
Fernando Cabada (Clovis, CA) - After completing his collegiate eligibility in 2006, later that season Cabada capped a breakout year with a spectacular debut over the marathon distance in Fukuoka, Japan where he turned in a 2:12:27. He ran his 2:11:36 marathon PR at the 2014 Berlin Marathon, qualifying for the Trials.
 
Nick Arciniaga (Flagstaff, AZ) - The 2016 Olympic Trials will be Arciniaga's 19th marathon, making him one of the most experienced contenders in the field. In 2013, he won the USA Marathon Championship title, and has twice finished in the top 10 at both Boston and New York. He has the 9th fastest marathon qualifying time in the field (2:11:47).
 
"To make the team, I'll have to run my best marathon race ever," Arciniaga said. "Tactically and time-wise, everything has to be close to perfect. There are many other experienced and inexperienced guys who will run well. I'll just have to hope that I'll race smarter than them. For me, it's going to take running my own race. If I let the leaders take me out of my comfort zone, I won't have the strength in my legs to finish strong the last 10K."
 
WOMEN
The credentials of women's favorite Shalane Flanagan (Portland, OR) go almost without saying: Three-time Olympian, defending Marathon Trials champion, second-fastest U.S. women's marathoner in history (2:21:14 at the '14 Berlin Marathon), 2008 Olympic bronze medalist at 10,000m, 18-time U.S. champion who holds six U.S. records. Flanagan was the top American finisher at the 2012 Olympic Games Marathon in London, finishing 10th in 2:25:51.
 
[Deena Kastor withdrew on Feb.10, 2016]
Deena Kastor (Mammoth Lakes, CA), the U.S. women's record holder at the marathon (2:19:36) can't be discounted as a contender for a marathon team slot headed to Rio. No matter that the 2004 Olympic Games marathon bronze medalist is now 42 years old. It wasn't long ago that the three-time Olympian thought she might ease her way into retirement. Instead, Kastor has gone on a rampage since turning 40 that includes a U.S. master record in the marathon (2:27:47 at the '15 Chicago Marathon) and world masters records in at least six distances. If both Kastor and Meb are on their "A games" in LA, we might see not one, but two, masters athletes make the U.S. Olympic marathon squad.
 
Desiree (Davila) Linden (Washington Township, MI) goes into the Marathon Trials following a sterling 2015 Boston Marathon where she led the race for 23 miles and placed 4th overall and top American in 2:25:39. In 2014, Linden registered a 2:23:54 at Boston, the second fastest American behind Flanagan at 2:22:02. In 2011, she ran 2:22:38 at Boston, her PR.
 
A native of Chula Vista, CA, Linden trains with the Hansons-Brooks Distance Project in Michigan, finished second at the 2012 Olympic Marathon Trials but didn't finish the Olympic Marathon in London. She stepped off the course after 2 miles, unable to continue and was later diagnosed with a stress fracture of her right femur. With the second-fastest qualifying time (2:23:54), Linden has said that she's going for the win in LA.
 
Amy (Hastings) Cragg (Portland, OR) comes into the Trials with the third fastest marathon qualifying time, 2:27:03 which she scored while placing fourth at last year's Bank of America Chicago Marathon. She also ran 2:27:03 in 2011 at the Los Angeles Marathon, her debut at the distance. Then she placed 4th at the 2012 Olympic Marathon Trials--a heartbreaker since her performance was one place short of making the Olympic team. She went on to win the 10,000m at the '12 U.S. Olympic Track and Field Trials and placed 11th in 31:10.69 at the '12 London Olympics. Hastings recently moved to Portland, OR from Providence, RI with her husband--3-time Irish Olympian at 5,000m, Alistair Cragg--where she trains with Shalane Flanagan, Not a bad training partner if you're shooting for an Olympic team spot.
 
Kara Goucher (Boulder, CO) enters the '16 Marathon Trials with a 2:37:03 qualifier that she earned at the 2014 New York City Marathon. Thirty-five women have faster qualifiers, but don't count out Kara. She is a two-time Olympian. At the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing, Goucher placed 9th in the 5,000m (15:49.39) and 10th in the 10,000m (30:55.16). In the 2012 Olympic Marathon Trials she was third (2:26:06) and placed a respectable 11th in the Olympic Games Marathon (2:26:07). With a marathon personal best of 2:24:52 and several fine half marathon victories in the past several months, Goucher's experience and knack for performing well when it counts most means she's a threat to make the team.
 
Anne "Annie" Bersagel (Victoria, MN). A Fulbright Scholar who earned a law degree at Stanford, Bersagel competes on the international scene while pursuing a professional career. A standout in Pacific Association/USATF competition while doing graduate work at Stanford, she currently lives in Oslo Norway (the land of legendary marathoner Grete Waitz) with her husband where she works full time for a pension fund and insurance company. After a disappointing DNF at the 2012 Olympic Marathon Trials, Bersagel has the 6th-fastest qualifier going into the 2016 Trials--a 2:28:29 she recorded while winning the 2015 Dusseldorf Marathon in Germany. In that race, however, she fell at 10K, injuring her knee. After surgery in June, she was on crutches for six weeks but is now on track for the Trials.
 
"It looked pretty bleak last fall," Bersagel admitted about her prospects, "but I ran my first half marathon in Dallas in December and then returned to California for another tune-up race with a 1:15:09 win at the Star Wars Half Marathon at Disneyland."
 
When asked if she gathers inspiration from Grete, a towering superstar of women's distance running who passed away in 2011 at the age of 57 after battling cancer, Bersagel said: "Of course! I have to admit I wasn't following running when she was active, but she is definitely a legend. I never met Grete, but I see Jack Waitz (her widower -Editor) in Norwegian running circles all the time."
 
Sara Hall (Redding, CA) comes into the Marathon Trials after competing in Olympic Trials at three other distances (5,000m in 2004, 1,500m in 2008, and 3,000m steeplechase). Hall debuted at the marathon distance at last year's Los Angeles Marathon on a warm day and finished in a disappointing 2:48:02. She chopped 16 minutes off that time at Chicago, her second attempt at the marathon distance, with a 2:31:14 10th place finish. The Trials will be Hall's third marathon, and with 15:20.88 5,000m and 32:35.87 10,000m marks on her resume, plus 4:32 miler's speed, she has plenty of room for improvement. Who knows, with husband Ryan on the sidelines cheering her on, can Hall take another big chunk off her marathon PR--which will be required to make the marathon team?
 
"I'm very excited about my first Olympic Marathon Trials. After watching Ryan compete in the last two, and great memories from them, I can feel the excitement building about toeing the line myself," Hall said. "Naturally, with a marathon buildup, I've raced less and you never run the full distance in training as you do in track. So, you always have a little more hope about what you can run in competition. I don't know what it will take to make the team in LA. There are a lot of talented women in the field."
 
Last fall, the Halls adopted four Ethiopian sisters who attend school in Redding, so they haven't traveled to Mammoth Lakes, CA where the couple has stationed themselves for altitude training in the past.
 
"I'm very happy with my training for the Marathon Trials in Redding," Sara said. "It was done all at sea level which was a nice change and allowed me to do everything faster and get a better sense of where I'm at."
 
# # #
 
Mark Winitz has written about running and track and field, organized programs for runners, and served as a consultant and publicist for road races for almost 40 years. He is a longtime activist within USA Track & Field and is a certified USATF Master level Official/Referee. He also assists road racing events through his company, Win It!z Sports Public Relations and Promotions in Los Altos, CA.
Page 11 of 17