By Elizabeth Eckhart
The Sochi Winter Olympics are here, and many of us are going through a running competition withdrawal. Even seeing the familiar faces of famed Track & Field stars Lolo Jones and Lauryn Williams who both have now chosen to switch over to bobsled, doesn’t quite fulfill our needs. Which is why we’ve compiled some updates and news on the 2016 Rio Olympics, where our favorite runners and, hopefully some talented newcomers, will compete for medals once again.
Just a few days ago, Los Angeles was awarded the location for the 2016 men’s and women’s U.S. Olympic marathon trials, after a close debate between LA and Houston. Max Siegel, CEO of USA Track & Field (USATF) preferred LA, despite the knowledge that a trial in Houston would have taken place earlier, allowing for more time for runners to recover if they wished to attempt the Olympic 10,000m. Athletes like 2012’s Amy Hastings and Janet Bawcom, who finished fourth and fifth in the January marathon trials went on to make the Olympic 10k team in June. Nonetheless, the LA Olympic trial will be held on Feb. 13, 2016, and will determine Team USA’s marathon entrants at the Rio Games.
A positive aspect of the LA course is its multiple loops, meant to simulate the Rio course as closely as possible. Which means, those runners which do qualify really might have the best shot at medaling in Rio. The men and women will have separate starts, and both races will be televised on NBC (right now, you can watch the Sochi Olympics on the NBC website or through Direct TV’s Universal Sports Network, available through their website).
The annual LA Marathon, whose executives were in full support of the Olympic trials bid, have moved their annual race to take place the day following the Olympic trials, in order to create a weekend-long celebration of the sport. Los Angeles hopes the marathon trials will add to their efforts to host the Summer Games in 2024.
“This is great for L.A., great for our economy. It’s great for our sports past and it’s great for our sports future. L.A. is arguably the sporting capital of the world,” said Mayor Eric Garcetti, in an interview with The Times. “I think this will be great for track and field in general in Los Angeles, for our international profile, and for the L.A. Marathon here, locally.”
Not only is the location a new choice, the time standards have also been updated since 2012’s marathons. For many elite runners, the Olympic Trials, not the Olympics themselves are the goal, and this year it will be just a little bit harder to compete. In order to guarantee a paid trip as well as an invitation to the trials, men will have to run a 2:15 or under, and women will have to finish in 2:37 or under. If runners are willing to fly out themselves they can still compete in the trials, as long as they can manage to stay under a 2:18 (men) and 2:43 (women), which is a few seconds lower than the 2:19 and 2:46 qualifications needed to run at the 2012 trials. Half-marathon times will still be acceptable; men can compete with a 1:05 and women with a 1:15. USATF official and director of events, Jim Estes, told Newswire that, “The main thing in revising the standards is to continue to ‘raise the bar.’”
There’s no doubt a large amount of hopefuls will manage to make the times and head toward Los Angeles for either the Olympic Trials, or the Los Angeles Marathon. The most popular courses to yield Olympic Marathon Trials qualifying times are the Boston Marathon in April, and the Bank of America Chicago Marathon in October. The course that sent the most qualifiers, in 2012, however, was the California International Marathon, which had 47 qualifiers.
Elizabeth Eckhart is a news and entertainment writer that was born and bred in Chicago. She began running cross country and track in middle school, and hasn't stopped yet! She can be reached or followed on Twitter at @elizeckhart.