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December 1, 2017

Five Storylines to Watch at the USATF Marathon Championships

With Sacramento and the California International Marathon set to host the USATF Marathon Championships for the first time, here are a few storylines for Sunday’s race worth keeping your eye on.

Stay tuned to CITIUS MAG throughout the weekend as we provide comprehensive coverage of the marathon. As always, click onto, and follow us on Twitter and Instagram for behind the scenes content from race weekend.

The Hall factor

Sara Hall surprised a lot of people when she announced her intention to run at CIM just five weeks after setting a personal marathon at the Frankfurt Marathon. Though we know Hall has attempted unthinkable doubles in the past (she finished 20th at the World Cross Country Championships just 13 days after her debut marathon), two marathons in such a short timeframe is a relatively unprecedented.

On paper, a fresh Hall would certainly be the race favorite. But if she’s not quite 100%, things could open up for the likes of Janet Bawcom and Lauren Totten.

A wide open men’s field

It’s hard to put your finger on a favorite in the men’s race.

Sure, there are guys like Nick Arciniaga and Fernando Cabada who have fast PR’s in their back pocket but whose best races are likely behind them.

If you had to go with the guy with the hot hand, the smart money is on Danny Tapia. The Northern California native set his half marathon personal best three weeks ago, running 63:35 for the win at the Monterey Bay Half Marathon. That’s coming off an impressive third place finish at CIM a year ago when he set his marathon PR of 2:12:28.

As for the two main marathon debutants in the men’s race, it’s a tale of two half marathon tune-ups. George Alex, the former University of Oklahoma standout, ran a solid effort to win the Rock n Roll San Jose Half in 63:40. Oregon Duck turned Saucony pro Parker Stinson, meanwhile, struggled at the same Monterey Bay Half Tapia won, managing just 66:44 for ninth place. While half marathons are by no means the end-all for marathon performance, it’s always preferable to come off a good performance than a bad one.

USA Running Circuit standings on the line

There’s a lot of money on the line as Sunday’s marathon also serves as the concluding race on the 2017 USA Running Circuit. For those unfamiliar, the circuit is a series of road races ranging in distance from one mile to the marathon. Runners accrue points for each top ten finish at circuit events, with those earning the most points receiving prize money at the end of the series.

On the men’s side, both Tim Ritchie and Jon Grey enter CIM sitting in the top ten of the 2017 circuit standings and could improve their positions with a strong performances.

Meanwhile, Sara Hall current sits fifth in the women’s standings. If she finishes fifth or better on Sunday, she jumps into second place, an upgrade of $12,500 in prize money.

See the complete USA Running Circuit standings here.

Just how many Olympic Trials qualifiers?

We found out this week from my colleague Scott Olberding’s statistical analysis that 25% of all women’s Olympic Trials Marathon qualifiers ran their marks at CIM. It’s a pretty remarkable figure.

It brings up the question — how many OT qualifiers will we see on Sunday? With a vast swath of sub-elites entered and damn near perfect weather forecasted, it’s safe to say we’re going to see a lot.

Two potential qualifiers of note are Sabrina and Regina Lopez. If you’ve never heard of them, they are twins sisters from Southern California both chasing the dream of making it to the 2020 Olympic Trials start line. From Jorge & Ed Torres to Jim & Joe Rosa to Miki & Lisa Barber, we’ve seen successful twin pairings in track and field, but to see twin sisters both run Trials qualifiers in the same race would be pretty neat.

The weather = perfect

Recent CIM races have seen their share of questionable weather — spanning from the pouring rain to the ridiculously frigid.

Luckily, as of Thursday night, the weather forecast for Sunday morning is pretty damn perfect — a high of 57 degrees (and an estimated low 40’s at start time), light wind, and just a 10% chance of rain.

That means an opportunity to chase some PR’s, if runners choose to push the pace.

Race footage of the USATF Marathon Championships will be archived by USATF.TV here

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