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November 28, 2017

Where Do People Qualify for the Olympic Trials Marathon?

During the 900 days athletes had to qualify for the 2016 Olympic Trials Marathon, American harriers travelled the world in order to seek agreeable conditions and achieve their respective pre-assigned qualifying times: 2:19 for the men and 2:45 for the women.

[Editor’s note: This qualifying window also included half-marathon times (1:05 for men, 1:15 for women), but for the purposes of this analysis, we will only be looking at full marathon times.]

During that period, 86 men and 198 women qualified. Some ran their times as early as October 6th, 2013 and some as late as January 17th, 2016, the last day to qualify. For some, hitting the qualifying mark was a foregone conclusion and for others it was their moonshot.

Without further ado, let us take a deeper look into where, when and how fast people ran to achieve their dreams.

The following chart shows globally where the men ran under 2:19. A few of the results were secured outside of the United States, for instance in Fukuoka, Berlin, London, Brisbane, and even Valencia.


Taking a closer look at the United States, here are where the male qualifiers performed.

The Chicago Marathon, Boston Marathon, Houston Marathon, and California International Marathon (CIM) in Sacramento were all popular qualifier locations. Also, Grandma’s Marathon in Duluth, Minnesota and the Twin Cities Marathon in Minneapolis, Minnesota qualified 26 of the athletes. Fun fact: these two races in Minnesota qualified more than than any other combined races in a particular state — feel free to “wow” your friends and family with this factoid.

Looking at the women’s map, it becomes more evident that runners are reaching their times at a broader range of races. In fact, 13 women ran their qualifiers at 11 different races outside of the United States — from Dusseldorf to Shanghai.


Here is the map showing exactly where in the U.S. our aspiring female Olympians ran their times. No doubt about it here — the California International Marathon is the “queen of qualifiers.”  Forty-nine women hit qualifying marks at CIM, which comes out to 25% of the total number of qualifiers.

Analyzing the timing and frequency of male qualifiers, we can see a good amount got their times right out of the gate in October 2013 at the U.S. Marathon Championships at the Twin Cities Marathon. We also see some healthy bands of qualifiers each fall, with a really tight grouping of athletes between 2:16 and 2:18 at Grandma’s Marathon in June 2015:

Analyzing the women’s chart, things get pretty wild. In the 64 days between October 5 and December 7 of 2014, 59 women ran the standard, including the 2014 CIM. Twenty separate women achieved the standard at CIM in 2015, with one woman running exactly 2:45:00 to punch her ticket.

As USATF adjusted the half marathon qualifying times for the 2020 Trials, we may see more athletes elect to qualify in the marathon, albeit it being a beautifully brutal race.

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