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  • Writer's pictureCarrie McDonald

Predictions for the U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials

Updated: Feb 1

The U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials will be held on Saturday, February 3, 2024, in Orlando, Florida. Here’s what you need to know. 

The U.S. women have already earned the maximum three spots in the Olympic race with 13 women running under the required 2:26:50 to secure a spot for their country. Additionally, eight more women have run under the 2:29:30 qualifying standard, meaning that they, too, are eligible to represent the U.S. in Paris now that the maximum number of spots has been secured. As 21 women already have the standard under their belt and the third-place runner will probably run under the standard anyway, the top three finishers at the trials will likely be the trio to represent the stars and stripes at the Paris Olympic Games. 

Unlike the 2020 trials, the course is very flat and will see the athletes run a 2.2-mile loop before repeating an 8-mile loop three times. The women’s race will begin at 10:20 am and will be broadcast on NBC. USATF had originally scheduled a noon start to the race but moved it back after athletes advocated for an earlier start time due to the high probability of hot and humid conditions. Currently, the temperature for Saturday is forecast to peak in the low 70s. 

Saturday’s field is one of the strongest in history. No less than 173 women qualified for the trials with a marathon time under 2:37:00 or a half marathon time under 1:12:00, but only three can be among the first athletes named to the U.S. Olympic Team. Here are my predictions for who will make it.

First Place: Emily Sisson

All eyes are on Sisson, 32, to run away with Saturday’s contest. Sisson heads into the trials with the fastest qualifying time — the American record of  2:18:29 — set at the 2022 Chicago marathon. Sisson has dominated the scene of American marathoning for the past few years, and she will be coming off of a top American finish at the 2023 Chicago marathon. A former track specialist, Sisson also brings Olympic experience to Saturday’s contest, finishing 10th and the first American in the 10k event in Tokyo.

Sisson (middle) after winning the 10k at the U.S. Olympic Trials for the Tokyo Games. Photo credit to @em_sisson_/Instagram.

Harnessing her prior experience and brute skill, Sisson will seek redemption after DNFing at the Olympic trials four years ago and can force a fast pace from the starting gun. 

Second Place: Molly Seidel

Seidel, 29, is another favorite following her bronze medal performance at the Tokyo Games, which elevated her to one of the most successful American marathoners in history. Since her breakthrough performance, Seidel has been open about her struggles with injury, eating disorders, and mental health. Nevertheless, she has embarked on an impressive comeback with a recent eighth-place performance at the 2023 Chicago marathon in October — her first marathon in 18 months. Seidel seemed to be well on the way to regaining her previous form, finishing as the second American — behind only Sisson — and running a personal best time of 2:23:07. Ultimately, Seidel shocked the country at the trials four years ago with her second-place finish in her debut marathon, so there's truly no telling the limits of what she will be able to accomplish this Saturday. 

From left to right: Seidel after placing second at the 2020 U.S. Olympic Trials, Seidel crossing the finish line at the Tokyo Olympics, Seidel receiving her bronze medal during the closing ceremony of the Tokyo Olympics. Photo credits to @bygolly.molly/Instagram.

Updated Feb. 1 at 10:00 am: Seidel announced this morning that she decided to withdraw from the trials, revealing that she has not made a full recovery since sustaining a broken patella and a partially torn patellar tendon approximately one month ago. 

“I’ve done everything in my power to try to get myself to the line. [...] But ultimately it got to this week and my knee hadn't healed up enough,” Seidel said in an Instagram video 

“I’ve dreamed about making this team and defending my bronze medal at the Paris Olympics since the last Olympics, but I know the team we will be sending is going to be the most incredible, most competitive team it can be and I’m going to be watching and cheering for all of the men and women racing this weekend,” Seidel added. 

Third Place: Sara Hall

Eighth time’s a charm? We’ve all had that “one who got away,” but for Hall, it has been the Olympic Games. Hall, 40, has had a venerated running career, boasting no less than 12 U.S. Championship titles, a former American half marathon record, and a fifth-place finish at the 2022 World Championships marathon. But, she has never made an Olympic team. Saturday’s trials will mark her eighth U.S. Olympic Trials, from competing in the 1500m to the marathon and every distance in between. Her fifth-place performance of 2:22:10 at the 2022 World Championships seeds her as the fourth-fastest athlete on paper. Hall did not finish the 2016 and 2020 marathon trials, but it is safe to say she will not let this opportunity to finally make an Olympic team slip away without one hell of a fight. 

Hall at the 2022 World Championships marathon in Eugene. Photo credit to @sarahall3/Instagram.

The talent of women’s marathon running in 2024 runs deep. Several women have records that demand respect and show that they are more than capable of making the team, and many more could be in for the run of their careers. Here are some honorable mentions who will undoubtedly be in the mix. 

Keira D’Amato:

After taking over a decade away from professional running, D’Amato, 39, has made an extraordinary comeback to become one of the country’s most consistent marathoners. A former American half marathon and marathon record holder, D’Amato’s 2:19:12 at the 2022 Houston Marathon seeds her as the second-fastest runner in the field. But, after earning eighth place at the 2022 World Championships marathon with just two weeks' notice as the U.S. alternate, D’Amato struggled last year with a hip flexor problem and placed 17th place at the 2023 World Championships. However, her Strava feed has documented an impressive buildup, and she seems ready to push the pace with Sisson from the start gun. Expect to see her in the front pack. 

From left to right: D'Amato after setting an American record of 1:06:39 in the Half Marathon at the 2023 Gold Coast Marathon; D'Amato crossing the finish line of the 2022 World Championships Marathon in Eugene; Hall and Emma Bates cheering on D'Amato at the 2022 World Championships Marathon in Eugene. Photo credits to @keiradamato/Instagram and @sarahall3/Instagram.

Betsy Saina:

Saina’s personal best of 2:21:40, set at the 2023 Tokyo Marathon, seeds her as the third-fastest marathoner at the trials. Like Sisson, Saina, 35, brings prior Olympic experience on the track, earning fifth place for Kenya in the 10k at the 2016 Rio Games. Having acquired American citizenship in 2020, she became eligible to represent the U.S. in competitions in June 2021.

Saina won the 2023 Sydney Marathon in a time of 2:26:47. Photo credit to @sydney_marathon/Instagram.

Aliphine Tuliamuk:

Tuliamuk, 34, won the last Olympics trials — underestimating her twice would be a mistake. Since becoming a mother in 2021, Tuliamuk has faced various injuries, but if healthy, she will certainly be in contention. Tuliamuk’s last marathon was a seventh-place finish in New York City in 2022.

From left to right: Seidel and Tuliamuk celebrate after making the Olympic team at the 2020 trials; Seidel (left), Tuliamuk (center), and marathon teammate Sally Kipyego at the Tokyo Games; Tuliamuk at the 2022 New York City Marathon. Photo credits to @bygolly.molly/Instagram and @aliphine/Instagram.

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