Olympic Trials Preview

Written by: Andrew Ware
February 1, 2024

Try Something Different

As I dive more heavily into the running space, I love the thought of commentating on big things happening in the running world. Back when I was in grad school, I actually (very briefly) wrote for a sports blog, specifically about College Football and Baseball. However, starting the Run Build Grow Podcast, and spending way more time in the running scene both in the United States and the World, my mind sometimes fully lives in the running space. 

I often find myself consuming information around track and field and throughout the long distance running sphere.

Quick Plug (#notsponsored) – As a recommendation, I love reading, listening to, and consuming information from Citius Mag Network.

I also have several running podcasts that I love to listen to and learn the stories behind many of these competitive athletes.

Now onto the real reason of this article:

Preview the Marathon

I want to break down what I am watching for in the 2024 Olympic Marathon Trials for both the men and women who will be hitting the road on February 3 in Orlando, Fl. 

The Marathon is such a treasured distance in the athletics sphere. As such many take it very seriously. The 26.2 mile (42.2 km) distance is not one to be taken lightly. The Olympic Marathon trials is the opportunity for many athletes to reach that dream of adding Olympian to their resume. For others, the trials is their Olympics. They are excited to have met the qualifying standard, and Olympian would be icing on the cake. 

This is not, though, a winner-take-all type of event. For the most part it is the Top 3 that receive the glory. However, there are also monetary payouts for all athletes placing in the top 10 on both the male and female side. Now, I say for the most part, because there is technically a scenario where the men could only qualify 2 athletes for the Marathon in Paris. I’ll let you read this preview article from Citius Mag if you are as big of a running nerd as I am.

However, all told we are set up for an awesome race with athletes vying to be one of the best in America, and an opportunity to compete at the 2024 Olympics in Paris, France.

The Course

With this being a race course meant to mimic the course olympians will run on in Paris, The Local Organizing Committee in Orlando has set up a looped course. This is nice for spectators, but this hamster struggles when I have to run through the same spot multiple times in a race. Now, athletes have been training for this type of race, and I sure it will not bother them as much. In fact the might be boosted by the bigger crowds that can collect along the course. 

Check out the course here.

The Course starts with a 2.2 mile loop, followed by an 8 mile loop that the athletes will traverse 3 times. While there are some undulations along the course to give athletes some elevation changes, none of it should make much of a difference as it did on the Atlanta course in 2020.

The Weather/The Controversy

Originally the Local Organizing COmmittee and US Track and Field set the start time for 12 pm. However even in the winter, Florida can be a mixed bag weather-wise. Though often, people in warmer climates will remind you it is less about the heat itself and more the humidity. 

With temperatures in the 60-70s and Dew points in the 50-60s, it is shaping up to be a warm-ish day (though probably not as bad as Los Angeles in 2016). Now obviously the weather can change drastically between when this publishes and when they actually run. However, when the original time was set for a 12 pm start time, athletes were not thrilled. Runners knew the mixed bag and higher likelihood of higher humidity mixed with running at the hottest part of the day could lead to unsafe conditions. 

Much was written about this back and forth, and after meetings with several vocal athletes, sponsors, TV broadcast representatives, and the Local Organizing Committee, the decision was made to move the trials up to 10 am.

Will it make that much of a difference? I don’t know, but it has been amusing to see the weather adaptation training many of the athletes are putting themselves through. Seriously, buying heat lamps, sauna blankets, turning the heat up when running on treadmills, and so much more…all this reminds me that I probably don’t have what it takes to be a pro runner, so I’ll just hold onto my amateur status for a bit longer. 

Why I Love The Marathon Trials (by a runner who never wants to run another marathon)

Just because I don’t want to run another marathon, doesn’t mean, I don’t like to watch it. The marathon, especially at a national and international level, is such a tactical joy to watch. There is time within a race to make so many decisions, to do so many different things, and for spectators to really watch a race develop over the course of the 26.2 miles. 

My mind is often blown just thinking that many of these athlete’s per-mile pace is the same or sometimes even fast than my per-kilometer pace. There is something about watching the top of the top competing in a sport that you not only love, but actively participate in yourself. I often find myself have a little pep in my step (sometimes that equates to running too fast haha) after watching these events and here the stories. 

I feel like this take is transferable across the athletics world (that is running and track and field). I love to watch sports in general, but it is so fun to watch running, because it is something I am doing right now. I might not be a professional, nor will I probably ever be, but I know what it feels like to struggle on a long run. I know what it means to be towards the end of the race and needing to find that final gear to get you to finish. I know their experience (even I cannot fathom their speeds). 

Athletes to Watch

While I definitely have athletes I am cheering for and hoping will finish in the top 3, but I am a bit reserved about making predictions. The Marathon especially is such a wild card of a race, even the fastest seeded runners are not guaranteed to perform at the top level all the time. They may have an off day, the weather may cause different people to perform better, or injuries may creep in…you never know

*Note I am always hoping for perfect conditions, perfect health, and perfect everything for every runner to reach their true potential. However, sometimes people surprise us, weather isn’t perfect, and things happen.

Therefore, I have four athletes in each field that I will note as “Athlete’s to Watch,” and why I am rooting for them. You can check out all the athletes competing at the trials and their bios on the official Olympic Marathon Trials Website (you can also track your favorite athletes on their as well).

Women’s Field

  • Keira D’Amato: I first heard about Keira as that “mother-runner from Richmond who qualified for the Olympic Trials in 2020” when I was at a group run while I still lived in Chesterfield, Va. I always love rooting for the hometown folks. In 2020, I cheered and watched her come in 15th place think, “gosh this woman has some skill.” Then during COVID, Keira kicked up her training and has since become one of the top women marathoners in the country. She has set the American Record in both the Marathon and Half Marathon (both records having since been broken). Keira continues to train in the Richmond area and so I am going to keep rooting for the hometown hero!
  • Molly SeidelTo start when you are pronouncing her last name think…it rhymes with “title.” Molly shocked many around the country and the world, when in 2020 she finished second in the trials to qualify in her first marathon. Then she went on to win the bronze medal in Tokyo in 2021. However, in more recent years, she has struggled through injuries, but also was diagnosed with ADHD and has taken some time to care for her mental health. As a mental health and self-care advocate, I appreciate athletes who are willing to talk about their mental health (I know it isn’t for all of them, but the ones who do help to normalize the care we take).
  • Desiree Linden (Des): I have been a fan of Des since the 2011 Boston Marathon, when I saw her take that famous right on Hereford and left on Boylston to sprint to the finish only to get second. She has always been that example of that gutsy runner that puts it all on the line every time she toes the line. She went on to win the 2018 Boston Marathon and has qualified for the Olympics twice (2012 and 2016). Last year at the Chicago Marathon she set the Master’s Marathon Record (Master’s division is 40+ years of age). This will be her 5th Olympic Trials and she is going to try to avenge her fourth place finish in 2020.
  • Jenny Simpson: Another athlete competing in her fifth Olympic Trial, but it is her first marathon trial. In fact it is her first marathon. Simpson qualified using the half marathon standard of qualifying (running a 1:10:35). Simpson transitions from the track, having run the 1500 at 3 Olympics, and winning the bronze in Rio in 2016. I always find it fun to watch a track athlete transition to the roads. Simpson’s track pedigree seems to make her a prime choice to have marathon success. Not sure where she will finish, but this is definitely an athlete you will want to follow for the trials…and beyond. 

Men’s Field

  • Conner Mantz: Mantz boasts the fastest qualifying time of the Trials, and has done the work to unlock one of the two spots open to American Men. Mantz has been putting in the work the last four years, and has steadily increased his training as he has had this race on the calendar since the date was announced. Mantz was a 2-time Cross Country Champion (2020 and 2021) while at BYU. He has transitioned to the professional field, and has immediately become a standout.
  • Scott Fauble: Of course I am rooting for and watching the burrito aficionado in field. Fauble made a coaching change back in 2022, and it has only made him more consistent. He has been top American at his last 3 Boston Marathons (running each one under 2:10). I am always impressed by Fauble’s ability to run such an even split throughout a marathon. He always runs his own race. He knows the splits he needs and he runs those to a “T.”
  • Zach Panning: Having gone to a Division III School myself, I always love to root and follow athletes performing at the highest level that didn’t go to a Division I school. Zach Panning placed 2nd in the 2018 Division II Cross Country Championships to lead Grand Valley State to a team championship. Panning would also get two NCAA titles on the track, and now he is conquering the roads and the marathon distance. He finished 13th in Budapest at last year’s World Athletics Championships in the marathon, and now hopes to add Olympian to his resume. 
  • CJ Albertson: My gutsy watch for the men is Albertson. In 2021, Albertson led the first 20 miles when he kicked up the tempo on the opening downhill segment of the race. This became just one example of the tough efforts he puts in. Since then he has been the definition of high-mileage training, and has even gone so far as to buy heat lamps to train for the heat and humidity that is expected in Orlando. I expect him to keep the race honest.

Author

  • Andrew Ware

    My vision as the RunninRev is to build community and faith relationships through running and self-care. I have become an advocate in the church for clergy care, and helping clergy prevent or recover from burnout. I see my primary outreach to the community as building these communal structures through running and having fun together on the run.

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