An Olympic Marathon Qualifying Conundrum – Especially For American Men

By Citius Mag Staff

May 23, 2023

The following is a guest blog post by James McKirdy, a professional coach based in Flagstaff, Arizona who is also hosting the 2023 McKirdy Micro Marathon on Oct. 14, 2023 in New York’s Rockland Lake State Park for athletes on the cusp of U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials or Olympic qualifying marks. The course is World Athletics-certified and will count toward World Rankings and qualifying for the Summer Games in Paris.

Over the past few weeks, I've had many long conversations with USATF officials, World Athletics Committee members, agents, coaches, and media... David Katz, David Monti, USATF High Performance ... and many others in relation to the U.S. marathon selection process for the Paris Olympics.

Releasing the spots:
Running the Olympic Standard does not give an athlete an "automatic" advantage in the marathon selection process. Each Olympic standard that we have (male/female) "releases a position" at the Trials itself.

1 = 1st place at the trials

2 = 1st and 2nd place

3 = 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place

Running the Olympic standard simply releases the top positions at the U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials.

Rankings release spots:

We (the United States) can also earn a release of spots by way of ranking in the top 65 - but this is secondary and only counts if the world has less than 65 athletes who have achieved the Olympic standard (3 per country max) The window for ranking goes through Jan 30th (Top 65).

What counts:

So long as a course is World Athletics-certified and up to par... the time achieved will count. But there's a caveat... it might not count for the minimum time needed or the Olympic Standard - only for rankings.
For Boston, the 6th place finisher and after... their times will count towards rankings only. For competitors at the California International Marathon, rankings only. Any athlete who raced there or courses similar, even if under the 2:11:30/2:29:30 must have that time from Nov 1, 2022 or as late as the trials on Feb 3rd on a "valid course" to be eligible - so long as a position has been released.

Olympic Standards:

– The times can only be run on a valid elevation drop.

– They must also be WA certified and on the official WA calendar.

– OR Top 5 at Platinum label marathon

For example, Emma Bates earned the Olympic standard with a fifth-place finish at the Boston Marathon. Had she finished 6th... even in the same time... her result would only have counted for rankings - I.E. Fauble's 7th place finish.

How does this play out for the U.S. women:

– We have more than 3 women who have achieved an Olympic qualifying mark therefore all three positions at the Olympic Trials have been released.
So long as first, second and third achieve under 2:29:30 on a valid course prior to or AT the trials. They will have secured their place on the Olympic team - EVEN IF THEY DON'T HAVE THE OLYMPIC STANDARD.

How does this play out for the U.S. men:

We have zero positions released.

So what now?

The men, as a collective, COULD try to rely on rankings - being within the top 65 does release a position and if we have 3 in the top 65... all 3 positions will be released. But there are problems with that.

We won't know the official top 65 rankings until Jan 31st ... just 3 days before the USATF Trials are set to take place.
If more than 65 earn the OS (max 3 per country) then the ranking quota will be irrelevant.

Where's global number of Olympic qualifiers currently? According to David Monti from Results Weekly... 49.

Here's the breakdown via Monti: China 2; Djibouti 1, Eritrea 1; Spain 3; Ethiopia 3; France 1; Great Britain 1; Germany 2; Israel 3; Italy 2; Japan 3; Kenya 3; Morocco 3, The Netherlands 1; Norway 1; Peru 1; South Africa 1; Switzerland 1; Tanzania 2, Turkey 1; Uganda 3, Zimbabwe 1

There are only 16 spots remaining with 8.5 months left in the window - where athletes from all over the world could attain the OS. Something we (USA) have zero control over.

Why is this important to understand:

If we go into the trials with ZERO positions released... the only way we are sending any men is if we hit the Olympic standard at the trials itself. They must run 2:08:10 or faster.

Here's a reminder that it's in Orlando... where the likelihood of a late morning start (for viewership/broadcast purposes) along with warm and humid conditions are going to limit the performance ability of anyone in the race. But if we don't have positions released we will have absolutely no choice but to "go for it."

Our women have demonstrated what it takes to achieve. They have stepped up and simply crushed. It's long overdue for the U.S. men to follow our women's lead.

We need FAST times on valid courses. And we need them soon.

Citius Mag Staff