Olympic medals

The History of Olympic Marathon Trials

How Runners Make Team USA

The Olympic marathon is one of the most prestigious and challenging events in the world of sports. Every four years, the best long-distance runners from different countries compete for the glory of representing their country and winning a medal. How do runners qualify for the Olympic marathon? How do they earn a spot on Team USA?

Olympic “A” Standard

The answer is simple: they have to run fast in the Olympic Marathon Trials. The Olympic Marathon Trials is a one-day race where the top three finishers in each gender secure their tickets to the Olympics, as long as they meet the Olympic “A” standard. Currently, the Olympic “A” standard for the marathon is 2:08:10 for men and 2:26:50 for women. If there are not enough athletes who meet the standard, the remaining spots will be filled by the World Athletics Ranking.

The Olympic Marathon Trials is also a showcase of the depth and diversity of American distance running. Hundreds of runners from different backgrounds, ages, and regions participate in the race.


The trials have a relatively short but rich history, dating back to 1968 for men and 1984 for women. Before that, the U.S. Olympic marathoners were selected based on their performances in several key marathons, which often led to controversies and disputes.


Since then, the Olympic Marathon Trials have been held in different locations and conditions, producing many memorable moments and stories. The selection process for the host city is not publicly disclosed, but it is typically announced several years in advance of the event. The location is determined by the United States Olympic and Paralympic Committee (USOPC) in consultation with USA Track & Field (USATF). The selection process is based on several factors, including the course’s suitability for the event, the availability of facilities, and the city’s ability to accommodate the athletes and spectators.

Until 2008, the men’s and women’s Olympic Marathon Trials were held separately, on different dates and locations. Since then, the trials have been held together on the same day and course. The decision to hold the trials together was made by the USOPC in consultation with the USATF. The change was made to promote gender equality and to provide equal opportunities for both men and women to compete in the trials.

This year

This year’s US Olympic Marathon Trial takes place in Orlando, FL on Saturday, February 3rd. Join the Fort Collins Running Club for a viewing party that morning. We have two local athletes taking part, as well. Tyler McCandless, a member of the Fort Collins Running Club Board of Directors and Sophie Seward from Front Range Elite. We wish them the best of luck.

Previous Trials

Below is a list of Olympic Marathon Trials times from 1968-2020.


Year Men’s Location Men’s Name and Time Women’s Location Women’s Name and Time
1968 Alamosa, CO George Young (2:30:48)

Kenny Moore (2:31:47)

Ron Daws (2:33:09)

1972 Eugene, OR Frank Shorter (2:15:57)

Kenny Moore (2:17:35)

Jack Bacheler (2:20:30)

1976 Eugene, OR Frank Shorter (2:11:51)

Bill Rodgers (2:13:53)

Don Kardong (2:13:54)

1980 Buffalo, NY Tony Sandoval (2:10:19)

Benji Durden (2:10:55)

Kyle Heffner (2:11:10)

1984 Buffalo, NY Pete Pfitzinger (2:11:43)

John Tuttle (2:11:44)

Alberto Salazar (2:11:50)

Olympia, WA Joan Benoit (2:31:04)

Julie Brown (2:31:34)

Julie Isphording (2:32:34)

1988 Jersey City, NJ Mark Conover (2:12:26)

Ed Eyestone (2:12:43)

Pete Pfitzinger (2:13:09)

Pittsburgh, PA Margaret Groos (2:30:17)

Nancy Ditz (2:30:34)

Cathy O’Brien (2:30:37)

1992 Columbus, OH Steve Spence (2:10:41)

Bob Kempainen (2:11:06)

Ed Eyestone (2:12:54)

Houston, TX Janis Klecker (2:21:21)

Lynn Jennings (2:24:40)

Francie Larrieu Smith (2:26:51)

1996 Charlotte, NC Bob Kempainen (2:12:45)

Mark Coogan (2:13:01)

Keith Brantly (2:13:22)

Columbia, SC Anne Marie Lauck (2:26:40)

Jenny Spangler (2:27:03)

Linda Somers (2:28:18)

2000 Pittsburgh, PA Rod DeHaven (2:14:29)

Peter DeLaCerda (2:14:34)

Mark Coogan (2:15:30)

Columbia, SC Christine Clark (2:33:22)

Libbie Hickman (2:33:42)

Elva Dryer (2:34:07)

2004 Birmingham, AL Alan Culpepper (2:11:42)

Meb Keflezighi (2:11:47)

Dan Browne (2:12:01)

St. Louis, MO Deena Kastor (2:21:16)

Colleen De Reuck (2:28:25)

Jen Rhines (2:29:32)

2008 New York, NY Ryan Hall (2:09:02)

Dathan Ritzenhein (2:11:07)

Brian Sell (2:11:40)

Boston, MA Deena Kastor (2:29:35)

Magdalena Lewy Boulet (2:30:19)

Blake Russell (2:32:40)

2012 Houston, TX Meb Keflezighi (2:09:08)

Ryan Hall (2:09:30)

Abdi Abdirahman (2:09:47)

Houston, TX Shalane Flanagan (2:25:38)

Desiree Davila (2:25:55)

Kara Goucher (2:26:06)

2016 Los Angeles, CA Galen Rupp (2:11:12)

Meb Keflezighi (2:12:20)

Jared Ward (2:13:00)

Los Angeles, CA Amy Cragg (2:28:20)

Desiree Linden (2:28:54)

Shalane Flanagan (2:29:19)

2020 Atlanta, GA Galen Rupp (2:09:20)

Jacob Riley (2:10:02)

Abdi Abdirahman (2:10:03)

Atlanta, GA Aliphine Tuliamuk (2:27:23)

Molly Seidel (2:27:31)

Sally Kipyego (2:28:52)


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