On Saturday, January 14 the United States will pick their Olympic marathon team for the 2012 Olympics in London. Actually they will allow the picking to be done based on racer's performances in just one race, the 2012 Olympic Trials Marathon held in Houston. For this Olympics the trials will be held for both men and women in the same place on the same day. I rather liked the trials for the Beijing Olympics, the men's trials were held in Central Park the day before the New York City Marathon and the women's trials were held in Boston on the day before the Boston Marathon. What I liked best was that I got to go watch the women's trials and it was such a wonderful setup for spectators, but the Olympic committee felt otherwise this year. The biggest problem I have with this years trials is that there will be no live video of the race. Really? It is 2012 and we can't get a live video feed to show the events as they happen and the "whole" event. Instead NBC will do a 2 hour show on the trials later on Sunday afternoon. That is fantastic, but I know I won't keep away from the computer so I will already know the results; plus a two hour show means that a vast amount of both races probably won't be shown.
It will be an interesting day to say the least and anything can and probably will happen, but I would like to throw out my picks for who may make our Olympic teams. I will divide my picks into 3 categories, from which I will chose 3 top picks for each category, and then I will choose a team.
My first category is for the superstars who have probably earned the top picks in each race
Ryan Hall- Ryan should be a shoe-in unless something unforeseen happens (things do happen- Deena Kastor broke a bone in her foot during the 2008 Olympic Marathon) or he races stupidly. He is that much better and more experienced at the top level than all the other runners.
Meb Keflezighi- He has an Olympic silver medal in the marathon, but he is getting older and he did race the NYC marathon in November. Strangely, he got a foot infection from leaving a breathe-right strip in his shoe during that race and missed 3 weeks of running because of that infection, although the rest could be a good thing). Questionable things like this and signing with Skechers seem to make it look like Meb is losing it, but Skechers seem to work for him as he set a marathon PR in NYC and ditched his orthotics in the process. He may be wily enough to make another marathon team despite a short buildup.
Dathan Ritzenhein - he's got the talent and the 9th place finish in the Beijing Olympic Marathon to be a real favorite, but Dathan is real fragile and has had a slow recovery over the summer from a strange injury that wouldn't heal. He has only run 2 5k road races lately. Is that enough for him to make the team?
The next category is the top level American marathoners. These guys have posted fast time in recent years, but none of them have gone sub 2:10 which means they are barely noticed as international level runners. It would be fun if one or more of these guys has a significant breakthrough on Sunday.
Brett Gotcher ran a 2:10:36 marathon debut in Houston in 2010, but followed that up with a 2:19:30 in Houston last year. Is Houston his city or not!
Jason Hartman ran a 2:11:01 in the 2010 Chicago Marathon and was a high school teammate of Dathan Ritzenheim.
Tim Nelson has a marathon time of 2:15:06from the 2010 New York City Marathon which is less than stellar when compared with many other Trials participants. His build-up races haven't been too fast either, so he doesn't look like the best pick, but he is a quick and experienced runner having a 27:28.19track 10000 meter PR and he did represent the USA at the 2009 World Championship in the same race. He is one of those guys that could have a breakthrough race.
My final category is for debut marathoners. Who can predict what will happen with them?
Mo Trafah has a 1:00:39 1/2 marathon PR. It will be interesting to see what he can pull off at the marathon distance. He tried the London Marathon last year, but went out too hard and dropped out of the race.
Brent Vaughn has a 1:02:04 1/2 marathon PR but I liked the way he looked and ran when he won the National Cross-Country title last year. Can he translate that XC skill and toughness to the marathon?
Brian Olinger is the wildest of all wild cards in the race. He is the only Trials entrant to have never run a 1/2 marathon and full marathon. He gained entry based on his 10000 time. The former steeplechaser was the first American at this years Falmouth Road Race in fourth place with a time that only 3 Americans have ever run faster (Alberto Salazar, Craig Virgin, and Meb Keflizighi. Olinger also won this year 75th annual Manchester Thanksgiving Day race in Connecticut). He just might be the runner with the biggest upswing.
It would be too easy to pick Ryan Hall, Meb, and Dathan as the top 3 picks in these Trials and I would be more than happy with that outcome, but that would be too easy. I will go out on a limb and pick one runner from each category. I am sure my predictions will be way off, but it is fun to play the game.
1st place: Ryan Hall 2:07:19. He should be unbeatable.
2nd place: Brett Gotcher 2:09:30
3rd place: Brent Vaughn 2:10:05
Sure I would like to see faster times. I hope for a real fast race and not a timid one. Whatever happens, I think a lot of guys will be hurting at the end. I just want to see some great racing. I think Meb left things too close to NYC and he doesn't sound too confident in interviews. I don't think Dathan's body will hold up.
I can only hope the finish looks something like this:
What are your thought and predictions?