US Marathoning

If you’re a fan of running, like me, you were excited to watch the marathon trials last weekend. While I think the future looks bright for American distant running, we still have a ways to go before we can compete consistently on the world stage.

I think the women are a lot closer to the top than the men, and do have a legitimate shot at a medal, any of the 3 qualifiers. The winning time of 2:25 is a world class time, especially considering how slow and tactical it was early (opening mile of 6:11).

This was only the 2nd marathon for Trials winner Shalane Flanagan. She’s won medals on the international stage: bronze in the 10k at the ’08 Olympics, bronze at the ’11 world x-c championships. She has the US records in 3k, 5k & 10k. Among other things, that means that

2nd place finisher Desi Davila ran 2:22 in finishing 2nd at Boston last year. I think it might take a low 2:20s time to win or medal at London.

Kara Goucher, the final qualifier, is still coming back from the birth of her child 9 months ago, and is only going to get faster. She’s shown

On the men’s side, the winning time of 2:09 is not up to what the top marathoners in the world are running. The good news is that they, lead by Ryan Hall, took it out fast, running 4:50 for the first several miles. Ryan Hall said (and I completely agree) that Americans need to get used to going fast from the gun if they’re going to compete with the rest of the world, and I agree. And, this is the first time ever that four Americans have broken 2:10 in the same race. The last time three had done that was 1983 at Boston. However, go beyond the top, and it’s telling that the 17th fastest qualifier going into the trials had the same time as the 40th fastest qualifier in 1984. In a sense, we’re no better than we were three decades ago. At least the depth of talent behind Meb and Ryan is growing, and that can only help to push the Americans forward.

Trials winner Meb Keflezighi has shown he can win – silver at the 2004 Olympic marathon, win at 2009 NY marathon – but hasn’t run faster than 2:09. After Sammy Wanjiru ran a 2:06:32 at the hot and humid Beijing games in 2008, I think this year’s London is more likely to be a fast race rather than slow and tactical.

Although second place finisher Ryan Hall has run 2:06 at London, and 2:04:58 at last year’s wind aided Boston, he seems more interested in time than place (5th at London and 4th at Boston. He hasn’t won a big, international race.

Third place finisher Abdi Abdirahman has made three prior US Olympic teams in track, but has yet to medal in international competition.

I’m looking forward to the Olympics this summer. The Women’s race is Aug. 5, the men’s Aug. 12. I hope I am wrong about the US men’s chances, but will cheer them on anyway.

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