By Elizabeth Eckhart
With all the excitement surrounding the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics, which begins this Friday on Feb. 7, runners like me are in dire need of some marathon news to break up the winter chill. While the Winter Olympics excludes any running competition, we will still be able to watch Olympic track stars Lolo Jones and Lauryn Williams compete in the Bobsled race in Sochi.
For marathon Olympic hopefuls, however, there is news regarding the 2016 trials! In a recent announcement, Los Angeles was named as the location for the 2016 Summer Olympic Marathon Trials. The Olympic Marathon Trials are scheduled to take place Feb. 13, 2016 at the L.A. Memorial Coliseum, just one day prior to the L.A. Marathon. It looks like the entire city is going to make a weekend celebration of the great sport of running and will use the Olympics to help kick-off the highly anticipated L.A. Marathon. It’s many LA officials’ hope that the trials will lend credibility to the city as an excellent race location, and result in boosting their annual marathon to the likes of Boston or Chicago’s.
The Olympic trials will be used to select three men and three women to compete for the U.S. team in the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. The early February date was set to ensure that athletes who compete in the trails will have enough time to recover in the event that, if failing to make the Olympic Marathon team, runners might race for a place on the 10k Olympic team a few months later.
“By securing the Olympic Trials, Los Angeles is now set to deliver this city’s biggest running weekend since that iconic victory,” said Tracy Russell, CEO of L.A. MARATHON LLC. She and fellow marathon leaders are intent on “providing our L.A. Marathon participants and fans with a rare opportunity to be part of an Olympic Trials celebration.”
However, securing the location was not an easy nor drama-free feat. There was heated debate while determining whether Los Angeles or Houston would be the most fitting location for the event, and even accusations that newly implemented USATF’s rules for choosing the site were ignored by both the board and CEO of USA Track & Field. But, in the end, everyone appears happy with the final decision, especially Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti.
“I’m happy and honored USA Track & Field and the U.S. Olympic Committee have chosen Los Angeles as host city for the 2016 Olympic marathon trials,” Mayor Garcetti said in a recent statement. “With its iconic landmarks and decades of experience hosting world class sporting events, Los Angeles is the ideal location for America’s elite marathoners to prepare for the 2016 Olympic Games in Brazil.”
The 2016 L.A. Olympic Marathon Trials will mark the second year where men’s and women’s races will be held together. The first time was during the 2012 trials in Houston for the London Olympics.
“Houston did a phenomenal job hosting the first combined men’s and women’s marathon Olympic Trials in 2012,” USATF CEO Max Siegel said. “In Los Angeles, we will continue to grow that model and help elevate the excitement for the Olympic Trials throughout the country.”
Along with a new location, appended rules and fresh faces, including one of the youngest qualifiers to date, 16-year old Alana Hadley, there are also tougher qualifications for the trials. According to the updated qualifications, to compete in the 2016 trials, men will have to run 2:18 or faster, while women will have to run 2:43 or faster. In 2012, men had to run 2:19 or faster and women 2:46 or faster. The qualifications were made more strict in order to continue to “raise the bar” for Olympic athletes.
So, while we eagerly anticipate the 2016 Marathon Trials in L.A. and the Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, stay updated on where you can watch and participate in races, including the USA Cross Country Championships on Feb. 15 in Boulder, CO (read more here on where to catch the event nationally broadcast). You can also view all of USATF events here and check out Utah Running’s calendar of events.
Elizabeth Eckhart is a news and entertainment writer who grew up in Chicago. She began running track and cross country in middle school and hasn’t stopped yet! She can be followed or reached on Twitter at @elizeckhart.