U.S. Olympic Team Trials – Marathon: How to Watch and What to Watch For
by Rich Sands
- Stream: Watch live on Peacock
- Date: Feb. 3, 2024
- Time: 10:00 a.m. ET
When it comes to drama, it’s hard to top the U.S. Olympic Team Trials – Marathon. Follow along Making Team USA, presented by Xfinity, to witness history on the road to the Olympic Games Paris 2024.
Every four years, America’s best distance runners compete over 26.2 miles (42.2 kilometers) in an all-or-nothing shot at representing Team USA at the Olympic Games. The top three men’s and women’s finishers make the team (with some wrinkles thrown in; we’ll get to that later). Unlike the way that many other countries choose their squads, there is no subjective criteria and no selection committee.
“That's one of the brutal, but fun, things about the system we have here,” two-time defending trials champ Galen Rupp said in January before his final tune-up race. “That it all comes down to getting it right and being in the top three on race day. I think that pressure is great and really prepares Team USA for when we go to the Olympics to get it done there.”
Many of America’s most successful runners have survived this unforgiving format and made the team, including Frank Shorter, Joan Benoit Samuelson, Meb Keflezighi, Deena Kastor, Molly Seidel and Rupp, all of whom went on to win Olympic medals.
But given the unpredictable nature of the marathon, it would not be a surprise if an unheralded runner (or more) comes through on race day to grab a spot for the Olympic Games Paris 2024. Of course, experience is key, and these are runners who have shown they have what it takes to conquer the distance.
- Emily Sisson is the current U.S. record holder after running 2:18:29 at the 2022 Chicago Marathon. She won the 10,000 at the 2021 U.S. Olympic Team Trials – Track & Field and went on to finish 10th in that event in Tokyo.
- Keira D’Amato, the only other American to run sub-2:20 during the qualifying window, held the previous record, clocking 2:19:12 at the 2022 Houston Marathon. She placed eighth at the 2022 World Athletics Championships and set a (since broken) American record in the half marathon (1:06:39) last July.
- Betsy Saina set her personal best of 2:21:40 when placing fifth at the 2023 Tokyo Marathon, then won the Sydney Marathon in September. A former NCAA champion at Iowa State, she represented her native Kenya on the track at the 2016 Olympics but became a U.S. citizen in 2021.
- Aliphine Tuliamuk, the defending trials champion, gave birth to her daughter in early 2021 and still made it to the Olympic starting line (though she was unable to finish the race). Since then, she lowered her personal best to 2:24:37 at last year’s Boston Marathon, and her training appears to be going well: She recently reported the highest weekly mileage of her career, 129-plus miles.
- Des Linden will be running in her fifth Olympic Trials marathon, having made the team in 2012 and 2016, then missing by one agonizing spot in 2020. Though the 2018 Boston Marathon champion turned 40 in July, her experience and tactical savvy make her more than just a sentimental favorite.
- Sara Hall, also 40, is one of the most accomplished American distance runners, dating back to a gold medal in the steeplechase at the 2011 Pan American Games. In 2022, she set a national record in the half marathon (1:07:15) and finished fifth in the world championships marathon.
- Jenny Simpson might be the most intriguing entrant. The 2016 Olympic bronze medalist in the 1,500 meters, who grew up not far from Orlando, moved to road racing in 2022 and has been gradually testing herself at longer distances. “I’m not going to there to just see if I can do it [finish a marathon],” Simpson, who qualified by running 1:10:35 in the half last year, told Carrie Tollefson on a recent episode of the C Tolle Run podcast. “I’m going there thinking I really want to put an amazing effort out there. I want to race. I’m going to race. I’ve never been somebody that just goes out to tick the box.”
- Galen Rupp, a two-time Olympic medalist, is the most decorated entrant in the men’s field. The third-fastest American of all time (2:06:07) will be aiming for his fifth straight Olympic team (he won silver in the 10,000 meters in 2012 and bronze in the marathon in 2016). Now 37, Rupp has struggled with injuries in recent years but showed a return to form with a promising 2:08:48 clocking to place eighth at the Chicago Marathon in October.
- Conner Mantz, however, would have to be considered the favorite this time around. Last fall he finished sixth in Chicago in 2:07:47, the fastest time by an American in the past two years. Mantz was a two-time NCAA cross country champion at Brigham Young and finished fifth in the 10,000 at the track and field Trials three years ago.
- Clayton Young, came in right behind Mantz, his training partner, in Chicago, clocking 2:08:00. He also attended BYU, and won the 2019 NCAA title in the 10,000 meters.
- Scott Fauble has demonstrated remarkable consistency over the last several years. He finished 7th overall (and first among Americans) at the Boston Marathon three times (2019, 2022 and 2023).
- Leonard Korir, who wound up in the dreaded fourth-place spot at the 2020 Trials (just three seconds behind third), is coming off a series of strong results over the past year. His personal best of 2:07:56 is second only to Rupp among the Orlando entrants.
- Zach Panning, a former NCAA Division II champion at Grand Valley State, has a personal best of 2:09:28. He represented Team USA at the 2023 World Athletics Championships last August, finishing 13th on a hot and humid day in Budapest.
- CJ Albertson might be the most durable athlete in the field. Last fall he ran — and won — three marathons in a five-week span. He’s also the world record holder in the 50K road race — that’s 31.1 miles.
- Paul Chelimo is a fascinating wild card. The two-time Olympic medalist in the 5,000 meters on the track (silver in 2016 and bronze in 2021), will be making his marathon debut in Orlando (like Jenny Simpson, he qualified with a half marathon performance). He’s known to be a gritty competitor and very well could be in the mix up front.
The 2024 Olympic Trials will be held Saturday, Feb. 3 in Orlando, Florida. The event will stream live on Peacock, beginning at 10 a.m. ET, with the men’s race starting at 10:10 a.m. ET, and the women going off at 10:20 a.m. ET. NBC will have tape-delayed coverage beginning at noon ET. (The event was originally scheduled for noon, but given the potential for extreme heat and humidity, organizers moved the start up to minimize the risks.)
In theory, the first three finishers in both races will represent Team USA in Paris in August. But due to the complex nature of qualifying for the Games, it might not be so cut and dry on race day.
According to the system used by World Athletics (the international governing body for track and field), individuals need to have hit times of 2:08:10 (men) or 2:26:50 (women) during the qualification period or be ranked in the top 80 on World Athletics’ “Road to Paris” quota list by May 5. The U.S. women have already earned all three quota spots, but the men only have two guaranteed places right now. A third men’s slot could become available, depending on performances achieved this winter and early spring (including at the Olympic Trials).
The quota system allows for athletes who haven’t met the Olympic qualifying standard to make the team provided they have run the secondary time of 2:11:30 (men) or 2:29:30 (women).
Bottom line: It’s very likely that the first three women in Orlando will book their spots for Paris, while the first two men should be on the team. A third man could be added to the roster in May.