To race in Atlanta on February 29, 2002, men had to run a marathon in 2:19 or faster or a half marathon in 1:04 or faster. For women, the times were 2:45 and 1:13. Translation: 6:17 mile pace for women, faster for men. As it turns out, it’s not that impossible as a cumulative field of 750+ runners managed to meet the standard. CRAZY!
But, to get to Tokyo, ONLY the top 3 male and female finishers will qualify. Let’s break this down based on all the podcasts and articles I’ve read. Some runners have been quiet and others are chatty as they give their perspectives. Here’s what I’ve gathered.
- This is a tactical race. I don’t think we’ll see super fast times. I think the top three women will come in around 2:27/2:28. I think the men will be 2:11 -2:13. I’m predicting a bit slower because of the hills (more than Boston) and it’s a race against Americans, not the Africans.
- I expect to see 2 different packs of runners. The elites who have marathon experience and can cover moves, and then all the others. A 2:40 runner will not be able to hang with a 2:25 runner.
- Weather will be a factor. I simply cannot begin to understand picking Atlanta for late February where weather is unpredictable. It could be icy, or 38 degrees with rain, or it could be close to 60 and humid. Right now, the 15 day forecast has 52 high, 36 low and partly cloudy, which is about as good as one can hope for.
Given the high stakes, here are my picks of who can handle the pressure, the hills, stay on pace, and finish in top 3.
- Sara Hall – I think she can win outright. She’s been putting in a LOT of mileage, running healthy and uninjured, and training in Flagstaff. The altitude will work in her favor for when she finally makes it down to sea level. She had to bail in Chicago due to stomach issues, but as long as her nutrition stays good, I think she’ll lead the pack.
- Lindsay Flanagan – she’s my dark horse pick. She trains in Boulder, CO, runs on hills ALL the time, qualified in Chicago, and has already been to the Olympic Trials in 2016 (finished 14th), but I think that gives her experience. She also has 10k track experience, and with the Atlanta course leveling off the last 2.2, I think a strong kick will be needed to edge out a spot.
- Des Linden. Look, I’m not NOT going to pick her. That’s like me making a NCAA bracket and not putting Duke to win it all. I’m loyal. And, I think Des is seasoned, tactical, and has logged a lot of miles. Plus, she’s back with her old college coach, and you know what he likes? TRACK WORK and so many miles. If she can help pace the pack, it’ll work to her advantage.
If Jordan Hasay can get to the start line healthy, she’ll have a good race. But after losing her coach and coming off of injuries, I think she’s a little shaky right now. Molly Huddle is another to watch as is Stephanie Bruce.
Now, the person who I think may beat Des Linden to claim a spot is Amy Cragg. She’s a Bowerman Track Club runner, trains in Colorado for a good portion of the marathon cycle, and has Olympic experience (4th in 2012 marathon Trials, just missing the team before making it later that year in the 10,000m). I like her: I think she’s very fit (2:21 QT in Tokyo), seasoned, can handle the hills, and can stay mentally strong.
I plan on having fun watching the trials and seeing all the women I follow online run! I’ve never spectated a professional race before, and I’m excited to see the runners multiple times as they run the course loop.