Friday, January 6, 2017


Happy 2017! What better way to move on from 2016 than by looking ahead to… 2020?

So get your goal books ready: the standards for the next Olympic Marathon Trials have been set. Well, mostly.

At the annual meeting last month, USATF set the B standards to be invited to the Trials: women need to run a 2:45:00 marathon (6:17 pace) and men a 2:19:00 (5:18 pace).  The qualifying window will open in September (and likely remain open until a month or so before the Trials).

You can also make it to the Trials with a half marathon time: women need a 1:13:00 (5:34 pace) and men need a 1:04:00 (4:52 pace). The window for qualifying with a half time will open a year later (the fall of 2018).

Unlike four years ago, the standards were pretty predictable; USATF kept the marathon times the same as the final 2016 standards, probably because of a last minute mess they found themselves in last time: a month before the window for qualifying for the 2016 US Trials closed, IAAF changed the standards for entry into the Olympic marathon, making the times slightly slower (2:19 for men/2:45 for women) so more countries could send full squads of athletes. USATF quickly revised their Trials standards to match the new IAAF Olympic ones, either because of the immediate backlash from people (“I can qualify for the Olympics but not the US Trials?”) or to avoid a possible legal mess. (Although other countries, like Canada, have standards much harder than IAAF’s, USATF has a rule that it can’t have standards that are harder than IAAF. But that rule applies to qualifying for the Olympics, not the Trials.) I had mixed feelings about the whole thing; I was psyched for the women with times between 2:43 and 2:45 who became qualifiers, I’m sure they were beyond excited, if not also totally blindsided. (“I’m running the Trials in two months? I was enjoying my off-season binge!”) But what about those who had gone for 2:43, realized en route it wasn't happening and given up to finish just over 2:45? Had they known 2:45 was the ticket, they might have made it.

And I have mixed feelings about the standard staying the same. I get that USATF probably doesn’t want a repeat of the 2016 fiasco (although what will happen if IAAF changes their standards again?? UPDATE: If IAAF's get easier, USATF will ease them again) but I am generally pro-raising the bar. Set the bar higher and people rise to meet it. (Despite the standards dropping from 2:47 in 2008 to 2:46 in 2012 and 2:43 2:45 in 2016, the number of qualifiers increased each  time.)

Also not surprisingly, the half marathon times have gotten a tad quicker (one minute faster for the men, two minutes faster for the women). The idea behind the half times is to allow people that haven’t yet tackled the full marathon distance—but have the potential to be speedy endurance beasts—to enter the Trials. (See Galen Rupp in 2016: he hadn’t run a full until the Trials, but got in because his half time showed his capability. He then won the Trials and got bronze in Rio.) So the half marathon standards are meant to be harder than the marathon times. But on the men's side, that didn't seem to be the case. In 2016, 86 men qualified with a marathon time and 125 with a half. (Though it helps that you can run multiple half marathons in a season, where as you can only race a marathon every 6 months or so.) For the women, 198 qualified by the marathon and 48 by the half.

The A standards are still unknown. (The B standard allows you to enter the Trials, the faster A standard means USATF will pay for your travel. The two standards used to mean more -- you had to finish in the top 3 and have an A standard to actually go to the Olympics in 2012 -- but now the IAAF has just one standard, so the A just means a free trip.)

Also unknown: where the Trials will be held, which will also determine when exactly they are. They seem to be sticking with a mid-winter race date (January in 2012, February in 2016) so perhaps 2020 will be a similar time. UPDATE: Sites will bid on hosting the Trials in December of 2017, so hopefully we will know a when and where then. (For 2016, the decision on the host city was delayed a month (because of more USATF messes—the committee chose Houston but the CEO wanted LA) and announced in January of 2014. Let’s hope for no delays and no USATF bickering this time!).

(I’ll update this post as we find out more...)

But even if we do have to wait on a date and a place, we know what it takes to get there: set your quadrennial resolutions for 2:45.

Dream 2:45 big,