An Olympic Marathon Trials that’s not as simple as 1, 2, 3
The U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials teem with storylines before the 26.2-mile races even begin on Saturday in Orlando.
Peacock airs live coverage at 10 a.m. ET. NBC airs coverage at noon, also streaming on NBCSports.com and the NBC Sports app for subscribers.
The fields include three of the four fastest American women in history and the only two men to win multiple Olympic distance medals for the U.S. in the last 50 years.
At the last five marathon trials, the top three men and top three women made up the Olympic team. That might not be the case this time. It might not be sorted out for another three months due to, so far, a lack of U.S. men hitting an international time standard.
At least two men will make the Olympic team on Saturday. If a man other than Conner Mantz and Clayton Young runs 2:08:10 or faster on Saturday, then the top three finishers who have run 2:11:30 or faster on a certified course since November 2022 will make the Olympic team. Mantz and Young are the only American men to run faster than 2:08:48 over the last two years.
If nobody other than Mantz or Young runs 2:08:10 or faster on Saturday, then the top two finishers who have run 2:11:30 or faster since November 2022 will make the team. It’s possible that a third U.S. man can later make the team in that scenario, but it might not be determined until a May 5 cutoff date for international rankings.
The top three women will make the Olympic team, should they have run 2:29:30 or faster in one marathon (on a certified course) since November 2022 through the trials. More than a dozen women in the field have already broken 2:29:30 during that window.
It will mark the fastest collection of U.S. women’s marathoners in history, led by American record holder Emily Sisson (2:18:29), former American record holder Keira D’Amato (2:19:12) and Sara Hall, the fourth-fastest American in history at 2:20:32. All three are bidding for their first Olympic marathon team.
Sisson was arguably the pre-race favorite at the 2020 trials. She dropped out during that race, saying her legs were “destroyed” on the hilly Atlanta course. Sisson came back to make the Tokyo Olympic team on the track and placed 10th in the 10,000m at the Games.
D’Amato, 39, went nearly a decade between competitive races after college. She got married, had two kids and began working in real estate before returning to running to lose baby weight.
D’Amato ran the 2017 Shamrock Marathon in Virginia Beach with a goal to complete it without walking. She ran 3:14:54 in sleet, hail and wind that tossed sand from the beach into her face. Five years later, she broke the American record.
Hall, 40, bids to become the oldest female U.S. Olympic runner in history, according to the OlyMADMen. Hall will contest her eighth career Olympic Trials race dating to 2004. The previous seven were spread across the 1500m, 5000m, 10,000m, marathon and 3000m steeplechase. She has never made an Olympic team.
The fastest American woman in 2023 was Betsy Saina. Saina, a former Iowa State standout and 2016 Kenyan Olympian, gained U.S. citizenship in February 2021, had son Kalya in December 2021 and last year completed her first marathons since 2019. She placed fifth in March’s Tokyo Marathon in a personal best 2:21:40 and won September’s Sydney Marathon.
A few weeks ago, Saina saw on social media that she was atop the U.S. women’s marathon rankings for 2023. She smiled and called her agent.
“Going into the trials, you really want something that makes you confident,” she said. “So it just gave me a booster.”
Aliphine Tuliamuk, the Tokyo Olympic Trials winner, is also a contender in Saturday’s field.
Molly Seidel, the Tokyo Olympic bronze medalist, announced Thursday that she will miss the trials due to a knee injury.
The men are led by training partners Conner Mantz and Clayton Young, who at October’s Chicago Marathon posted the two fastest marathon times among Americans since the start of 2022 (2:07:47, 2:08:00).
They are the only two Americans who have run the automatic Olympic qualifying standard of 2:08:10 or faster during the qualifying window.
Mantz, 27, and Young, 30, are former BYU teammates who still train in Provo under coach Ed Eyestone, a 1988 and 1992 Olympic marathoner.
“Their build-up has gone every bit as well, if not better than their build-up to Chicago,” Eyestone said last week. “That gives us the confidence that we need going into the trials.”
The most decorated marathoner in the field is Galen Rupp, a two-time Olympic medalist who bids to become the first person to win the marathon trials three times since it became a one-event race in 1968.
In October, the 37-year-old Rupp completed his first marathon in two years (after injury setbacks).
His 2:08:48 in Chicago marked the third-fastest marathon by an American in 2023 and quelled at least some doubts about his chances of making a fifth U.S. Olympic track and field team.
The men’s field also includes Paul Chelimo, a two-time Olympic 5000m medalist on the track, in his marathon debut. And 47-year-old, five-time Olympian Abdi Abdirahman, who made the Tokyo team to become the oldest U.S. Olympic runner in history.
NBC Sports research contributed to this report.
Correction: An earlier version of this post incorrectly stated that Keira D’Amato’s first marathon was the 2017 Shamrock Marathon. Her first marathon was actually the 2013 Missoula Marathon.