Jenny Simpson, U.S. mile legend, to race Olympic marathon trials
Jenny Simpson, the most decorated U.S. female miler in history, is moving up in distance and plans to race the 2024 Olympic Marathon Trials on Feb. 3 in Orlando, near where she grew up.
“It’s an easy decision for me to run the marathon Trials in Orlando,” she wrote in an email after making the announcement in an Instagram live video with the Orlando Track Shack. “For a long time I’ve flirted with the idea of going the full distance and with Orlando hosting the Trials, I just can’t miss the chance to go back home.”
Simpson, 36, announced last October that she was shifting focus from the track, where she was a world champion and Olympic bronze medalist in the 1500m, to longer races on the roads.
Typically for distance runners that accomplished, it means an eventual move all the way up to the marathon. Simpson messaged then that her chances of racing over 26.2 miles were “51% :).”
A month later, Orlando was announced as the host of the 2024 Olympic Marathon Trials. Simpson’s family moved to Florida when she was in third grade, and she went to high school in Oviedo, which is 15 miles northeast of Orlando.
“It’ll be fun to literally come back to the beginnings of my running and take in the scenery of the place where I ran my first few races,” Simpson said in Tuesday’s video.
Simpson’s last track race was at the Tokyo Olympic Trials, where she was 10th in the 1500m final. It was her first time not placing in the top three at a U.S. outdoor championships since 2006 and first time not being on an Olympic team since 2004.
In September 2021, Simpson ran the Cherry Blossom 10-mile road race in Washington, D.C., nearly three times as long as the farthest distance she had raced as a pro up to that point.
She then focused much of her time in 2022 helping her Colorado community heal and rebuild from a late December 2021 fire.
She ran 5km and 10-mile road races late in 2022, then on Jan. 15 of this year placed ninth in the Houston half marathon in 70 minutes, 35 seconds to beat the Olympic Trials qualifying time of 72 minutes. That was her most recent race, according to World Athletics.
Simpson attended the 2020 marathon trials to watch husband Jason run. Jason has not qualified for next year’s trials yet but is still hopeful.
One U.S. woman has made Olympic teams in both the 1500m and the marathon in her career -- Francie Larrieu-Smith, who made her first team in the 1500m at age 19 and her last in the marathon at 39, according to Olympedia.org.
Simpson hasn’t said whether she will race a marathon in the fall or if the trials will be her debut at the distance, “but the next six months will be all about getting ready to go the extra 25.2 miles,” she wrote.
The list of marathon trials qualifiers already includes nine of the 15 fastest American women in history. The top three finishers on Feb. 3 will likely make up the Olympic team.
“As I get older, I didn’t want to run out of really good years to give to something that was so intriguing to me for so long,” Simpson said of the marathon. “I’ve accomplished a lot already, and now I can do something that I want to do, not necessarily something that’s going to just objectively, absolutely pay off.”