What you need to know ahead of the US Olympic Marathon Trials

The US Olympic Marathon Trials will be held in Orlando, Florida, on Saturday – an opportunity for runners to book a place at the Games in Paris later this year.

The men’s race will get underway at 10:10 a.m. Eastern Time (ET) and the women’s at 10:20 a.m. ET – earlier start times than initially scheduled due to the anticipated hot weather in Orlando.

Conditions are forecast to be warm and sunny for the races, with temperatures reaching afternoon highs in excess of 70 degrees Farenheit (21 degrees Celsius).

Here’s what you need to know ahead of what is regarded as one of the most exciting, unpredictable events on the American running calendar.

How to watch

Live coverage of the trials will be aired on Peacock from 10 a.m. ET, while NBC will air coverage from 12 p.m. ET.

What’s the course?

The 26.2-mile races are being held in downtown Orlando near Lake Eola Park. Runners will complete one 2.2-mile loop and then three eight-mile loops.

The course is flat with few twists and turns, giving a good chance – despite the warm weather – of faster times than at previous trials.

Who is running?

In the men’s race, two-time Olympic medalist Galen Rupp is the most high-profile name in the field and comes off the back of an eighth-place finish at the Tokyo Games three years ago.

He’s not the only veteran competing in Orlando: Abdi Abdirahman is already the oldest American runner to make an Olympic team, and now, at the age of 47, he has a long shot of competing at a sixth Summer Games.

Conner Mantz and Clayton Young are the only two men to run under the Olympic standard time of 2:08:10, both having done so at last year’s Chicago Marathon.

Other contenders include Scott Fauble, who has secured consecutive seventh-place finishes at the Boston Marathon; Zach Panning, the top US man at last year’s world championships in Budapest, Hungary; and Paul Chelimo, an Olympic medalist on the track making his marathon debut.

Olympic bronze medalist Molly Seidel withdrew from the women’s race this week due to a knee injury, but a thrilling battle for a spot on the team is still expected.

Sara Hall is looking to make her first Olympics after seven attempts at the age of 40, and Keira D’Amato – one year Hall’s junior at 39 – is also yet to compete at a Games having taken an extended break from running earlier in her career.

US marathon record holder Emily Sisson enters with the fastest qualifying time of 2:19:12, arguably making her the outright favorite, while Betsy Saina has the third-fastest qualifying time after D’Amato.

Defending trials champion Aliphine Tuliamuk is looking to make back-to-back Olympics having run 2:24:37 in Boston last year.

How do runners qualify?

In previous marathon trials, it was simply the top three men and women who qualified for the US Olympic team.

However, this year, the system is more complicated. Each country can still send a maximum of three men and women to the marathon in Paris, but only if enough athletes have “unlocked” spots based on previous results.

In the men’s trials race, for example, just two men are expected to qualify for the Games given that only Mantz and Young have run under the Olympic standard time of 2:08:10.

To be selected for the Olympic marathon, a man must have run under 2:11:30 on an eligible course within a certain qualifying period (dating back to November 2022), and at the trials, it’s anticipated that the top two finishers will qualify for the Games, provided that they have met this criteria.

The women’s race is more straightforward given that the US has already been guaranteed three spots at the Olympics and that most of the contenders have already run under the necessary time of 2:29:30 within the qualifying period.

This is all to say that, with finishing times potentially having an impact on selection, we can expect some runners to try and push the pace on Saturday.

CNN’s Sara Tonks contributed to reporting.

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