Sarah’s Guide to the Olympic Marathon Trials

Geneva and I are off to Atlanta to watch the Olympic marathon trials in person this weekend! I know many people are much less marathon-obsessed than I am, so I thought I would do a quick summary of what this race is about and how to watch.

The Olympic marathon trials is a marathon race to determine who will be on Team USA for the marathon in the upcoming Olympics in Tokyo this summer. The top three women and top three men will make the team. But the Trials have become an event in themselves, sort of a faster version of the Boston marathon. To be allowed to run, women had to qualify with a time of 2:45 or faster at a previous marathon. Men need to run 2:19 or faster. For lots of amateur runners, the Trials already represent their Olympic moment. You can bet we’ll be cheering loudly for everyone!

Here’s how you can watch from home. Race coverage starts at noon on Saturday, February 29th and is on NBC and NBC Sports Gold. The men’s race starts at 12:08. The women start at 12:20. Slightly different start times will hopefully keep the men and women separate on the course. The course itself is looped and quite hilly!

Here’s a bit of information on the athletes.

The women’s field is what podcasters love to call “STACKED!” This is by far the fastest collection of American female marathoners ever assembled and we are so excited to get to watch them race!

Top Female Contenders (in order of marathon PR) with commentary from Sarah

Jordan Hasay (2:20:57) – Jordan has the fastest time of the women by over a minute. She’s definitely fast, but is she healthy? Unknown. She dropped out of Chicago. She used to be coached by Alberto Salazar, who was convicted of doping. She was 3rd at Boston in 2019 so she can run well on a hilly course. Bet against her at your own risk.

Sara Hall (2:22:16) – Sara ran asuper fast race at Berlin 2019 (Berlin is flat though). She is married to Ryan Hall, well-known runner and an Olympian in his own right. Sara’s been on a tear recently – She won a lot of races in 2019 and she looks like she’s having a blast. A very good bet to make the team.

Emily Sisson (2:23:08) – She hasn’t run many marathons, but her debut race was a 2:23, the second fastest debut by an American woman ever. She’s a very strong runner, considered a natural marathoner. Will she manage the hills of Atlanta and a much more experienced field of runners?

Kellyn Taylor (2:24:29) – Kellyn trains with the NAZ Elite team in Flagstaff (at altitude). She ran her 2:24 at Grandma’s Marathon last year after bonking at Boston. She and her husband care for foster kids and they have a daughter. She’s training to be a firefighter – Kellyn is SUPER tough and runs well at all distances.

Sally Kipyego (2:25:10) – Sally placed 3rd in NYC a few years ago – which is a tough hilly course, like Atlanta. Then she had a baby and coming back was harder than expected. She qualified for the Trials at Berlin (flat course) but is up and coming. She’s originally from Kenya and is a naturalized American. She’s flying a little bit under the radar, but look for her to surprise people.

Emma Bates (2:25:27) – She won the California International Marathon (2:28) in 2018 in her debut race and she did well at Chicago (both are flat). She has been quiet in public lately, not on many podcasts, etc.

Molly Huddle (2:26:33) – I call her America’s Sweetheart. She’s probably got the most national titles and might have more than the rest of women combined. Molly started as a 5k and 10K runner on the track. She’s a very smart runner, who trains in Providence. She has not run a marathon to her potential yet, but she was 3rd in NYC in 2016. Everyone loves her. Me too.

Desiree Linden (2:26:46) – Des really needs no introduction. She has been around forever, having already made the Olympic team in the marathon in 2012 and 2016. Yet she keeps getting better. She won Boston 2018, the year of the monsoon. Des is not as fast as some of the the other women in the field but she’s strong on hills. She also has nothing to lose and no fucks to give, which makes her dangerous to everyone else. She may not be the fastest but she is probably the toughest – and that includes the guys.

Aliphine Tuliamuk (2:26:50) – Aliphine is the second of the NAZ Elite women on my list. She did well at Rotterdam (Flat!). She’s had some time off recently because of injury.

Stephanie Bruce (2:27:47) – The third of the NAZ Elite women and my favorite in the race! Steph returned to professional running after having two kids and is faster than she ever has been. She shares a lot of her training online and wears her heart on her sleeve. She *wants* it BAD and that will matter. I don’t know if she’s run well on hills but she trains at altitude and she’s got two teammates with her. She pooped her pants at Chicago on her way to a PR so you know she’s awesome. Only awesome people do that.

The women’s race is truly wide open. It’s very hard to bet against Jordan (except I don’t like her because of the Salazar connection). Hall and Sisson are probably next most likely to win. Tuliamuk and Steph Bruce a bit more long shot-ish but I adore Steph. Never count Des Linden out.

Top Male Contenders (in order of marathon PR) with commentary from Sarah

Galen Rupp (2:06:07) – Galen is the fastest male BY FAR but he has not finished a marathon since having foot surgery last year. He did run 1:01 at a half marathon in early February so he looks to be in shape. He already has two Olympic medals (in the marathon and the 10K). Like Jordan Hasay, Rupp used to train with Salazar. Many people think he’s doping, but that is unproven. He is, however, kind of boring (that’s proven, in my opinion at least).

Leonard Korir (2:07:56) – I think he’s only run one marathon but he ran it in 2:07, the fastest American debut ever! His marathon was in Amsterdam (flat!) but Korir has also won the Peachtree Road Race, a hilly 10K in Atlanta. He runs for the Army team. He won the Grand Prix (a collection of races) last year. A well-informed friend of mine thinks he’s going to make the team for sure.

Scott Fauble (2:09:09) – Also on the NAZ Elite team, Scott ran well at Boston last year (2:09 at Boston is NO JOKE). He wrote a book with his coach about his training. He loves burritos. He’s an all-around cool dude and he’s fast.

Jared Ward (2:09:25) – Can Jared be the male sweetheart even with that ‘stache? After surprising people by making the 2016 Olympic team, he then came in 6th at Rio and he has only improved since then. Jared is an adjunct stats professor at BYU. He’s an incredibly smart runner, who also seems to be genuinely kind person. My favorite, among the men.

None of the other guys can hold a candle to these four but you never know what will happen. If you are betting for money, pick three of the above four and you can’t go too wrong.

It’s going to be an amazing race so tune in on Saturday and see if you can spot me and Geneva on the sidelines!

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