Former Stanford All-American Ryan Hall will be among the more than 300 of America's top distance runners who will take to the streets of Houston in an historic edition of the U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials on Saturday. For the first time, the men's and women's teams will be selected on the same day and on the same course.
"For two years, the Houston Marathon Committee has looked forward to Saturday almost as much as the athletes," said Houston Marathon Committee President Brant Kotch. "Our goal from the start has been to treat them like rock stars, and as they begin to arrive in the next few days both they and the city of Houston will quickly discover that we meant it. Hosting the Trials is a huge honor, and along with the 40th anniversary of the Houston Marathon on Sunday -- as well as cheering for our Houston Texans in the playoffs -- it will be a momentous sports weekend for the city."
Both the men's and women's Olympic Trials races will start and finish on Saturday morning in front of the George R. Brown Convention Center, with the men beginning at 8 a.m. and the women at 8:15 a.m. The course begins with a 2.2-mile loop through the heart of downtown, after which the athletes will run three 8-mile loops on a spectator-friendly, flat course that is expected to result in fast times.
The top three finishers in each race, subject to the final approval of the U.S Olympic Committee's board of directors, will represent the United States at the 2012 Olympic Games in London, where the marathon will be run on a similar three-loop course.
Returning to compete in the 2012 Trials are five of the six reigning U.S. Olympians in the marathon: Hall, Dathan Ritzenhein, Deena Kastor, Magdalena Lewy Boulet, and Blake Russell. They will be joined by 2004 marathon team members Meb Keflezighi, Colleen De Reuck, and Jen Rhines, and 1996 Olympic marathoner Linda Somers Smith. Keflezighi and Kastor are both 2004 Olympic medalists, with Keflezighi winning silver and Kastor bringing home the bronze.
On the men's side, Hall leads the field with the three fastest qualifying times, topped by his 2:04:58 -- the fastest qualifying time in Trials history -- from the 2011 Boston Marathon.
Heading into the 2012 Olympic Games, Hall becomes an American favorite for a medal in the marathon after finishing 10th at the 2008 Olympic Games. Hall has numerous American marks already to his credit including the American half-marathon record and Olympic Trials record.
Hall also posted the second-fastest marathon time ever by an American of 2:06.17 with his fifth-place finish at the 2008 London Marathon. Hall ran 2:08:24 in his debut marathon in 2007. It was the fastest ever debut marathon time by an American. He went from prodigy to American recordholder in a span of a few years.
Also running in the men's race will be Stanford grad Brett Gotcher.
For the women, Desiree Davila sets the pace with her 2011 Boston Marathon time of 2:22:38. Second is Kara Goucher in 2:24:52 from Boston 2011, followed by Lewy Boulet (Oakland) in 2:26:22 from the 2010 Fortis Rotterdam Marathon.
Also competing will be former Stanford All-Americans Teresa McWalters and Julia Stamps.
In total, 158 men and 223 women achieved qualifying times allowing them to compete in the Trials.
In addition to a spot on the U.S. Olympic team, athletes will be competing for a prize purse totaling $250,000 in each race, plus bonuses. The men's and women's champion will each take home $50,000.
NBC will broadcast two hours of same-day coverage from noon to 3 PT. The comprehensive coverage will be the first time that both men's and women's Olympic Trials have been televised on the same day.