The U.S. Olympic Trials marathon is shaping up to be an exciting race through the streets of Los Angeles. In addition to a few highly anticipated debuts from half marathon qualifiers, there are a lot of 2:12-men aiming for a breakthrough at the trials, as well as a few experienced threats. Among the top men seeded by qualification time there are two Olympians, one Olympic silver medalist, two U.S. marathon champions, and eight athletes hoping to make their first Olympic team this weekend.
1. Meb Keflezighi
Three-time Olympian and 2004 Olympic silver medalist, Meb Keflezighi (Sketchers) enters the 2016 U.S. Olympic Trials marathon as the defending champion and fastest qualifier. Keflezighi, 40, ran his personal best 2:08:37 en route to win the 2014 Boston Marathon. Most recently, the 2009 New York City Marathon champion returned to the city in 2015 to break the American masters record running 2:13:32 for seventh place overall and first American.
After missing the Olympic team in 2008, Keflezighi returned to win the marathon trials in 2012 and went on to place fourth at the London Games. “Four years ago I didn’t think I would be able to do what I’m doing right now,” Keflezighi said in a media call. “Doing the small things makes a big difference. It’s the discipline and commitment, and also nutrition. The running part is the easy part.”
2. Dathan Ritzenhein
Three-time Olympian Dathan Ritzenhein (Nike) will toe the line at the 2016 U.S. Olympic Trials marathon as the second fastest entrant. With a 2:09:45 from the 2013 Chicago Marathon, Ritzenhein, 33, is the only other runner at the trials to dip under 2:10 during the qualification period. His 2:07:47 from the 2012 Chicago Marathon is the fastest personal record in the field and makes him the third fastest American in history.
At the 2008 Olympics marathon in Beijing, Ritzenhein finished in ninth place overall and top American. The World Half Marathon Championships bronze medalist also made the U.S. Olympic team in the 10,000 meters in 2004 and 2012. With a number of debut marathoners, returning Olympians, and a lot of 2:10-2:12 guys aiming for a breakthrough, Ritzenhein expects the 2016 trials to be more competitive than ever before. “Six months ago a lot of people were telling me how the trials would be weak—it has since changed drastically,” he says. “This race will be amazing and it just shows the talent and depth we have in this country.”
3. Luke Puskedra
In his third ever marathon, Luke Puskedra (Nike) ran a personal best 2:10:24 for fifth place and first American at the 2015 Chicago Marathon. The 25-year-old nearly quit running after his debut at the 2014 New York City marathon when his times stopped improving, but after some time off he returned to racing better than ever before. His performance in Chicago was the fastest American time in 2015 and Track and Field News ranked him number one for American men’s marathon last year.
In 2012, Puskedra competed on the track in the 10,000 meters at the 2012 U.S. Olympic Trials finishing in eighth place. He enters the 2016 U.S. Olympic Trials marathon as the third fastest qualifier.
4. Jeffrey Eggleston
Jeffrey Eggleston (Adidas) ran a personal best 2:10:52 at the 2014 Gold Coast Marathon in Australia, which makes him the fourth fastest qualifier entering the U.S. Trials marathon. In 2013, Eggleston, 31, led the Americans at the World Championships marathon in Moscow placing thirteenth overall. He also represented Team USA at the 2011 and 2015 World Championships, and the 2011 Pan American Games. In 2012, Eggleston qualified for the marathon trials but did not start.
5. Ryan Vail
Ryan Vail (Brooks) earned a spot on the 2016 U.S. Olympic Trials marathon start line running a personal best 2:10:57 at the 2014 London Marathon where he was tenth place overall and the first American. In 2012, Vail, who’s 29, ran his debut marathon at the trials finishing in eleventh place, and then ran the 10,000 meters at the track trials where he finished in sixth.
“I’ve grown a lot as a marathoner,” he said. “More than anything it’s just experience—experience in the training and experience in the in racing aspect of it. Going in there knowing what to expect makes a big difference.”
6. Bobby Curtis
At the 2014 Chicago Marathon, Bobby Curtis (Brooks) ran his marathon personal best 2:11:20 for ninth place overall and first American. The Hansons-Brooks athlete competed at the U.S. Olympic Trials in the 5,000 meters in 2008 and 10,000 meters in 2012.
“The marathon trials could be a changing of the guard,” Curtis said. “Someone will make their third or fourth Olympic team, or there will be a new guy making their first team. There is a lot of talent and experience, and emerging guys, but you can’t get too bogged down thinking about the competition. I plan on just taking care of myself.”
7. Elkanah Kibet
In his debut at the distance, Elkanah Kibet (U.S. Army) ran 2:11:31 at the 2015 Chicago Marathon where he led much of the race and eventually finished in seventh. The Kenyan-born runner gained U.S. citizenship when he joined the Army in 2010. After returning from deployment to Iraq (June 2014 to March 2015) where he served as a financial management technician, Kibet started training for his first marathon.
Since his debut, Kibet was accepted in the Army’s World Class Athlete Program. His base is at Fort Carson, Colorado, but he is currently at a training camp in Tucson, Arizona. “Two things have changed (since running a debut marathon). I used to work full time, but now my work is to run,” Kibet said. “The assignment is to come in and train. Now I have people to train with and time to relax after I run. The training is good. I should be ready.”
8. Fernando Cabada
Fernando Cabada (Newton Running) ran a personal best 2:11:36 at the 2014 Berlin Marathon where he finished eleventh overall and was the top American. Cabada, 33, ran a then-PB at the 2012 U.S. Olympic Trials marathon for seventh place. In 2008, he won the U.S. Marathon Championships. The native-Californian is currently training in the high altitude mountains outside of Mexico City.
9. Nick Arciniaga
At the 2014 Boston Marathon, Nick Arciniaga (Under Armour) ran 2:11:47, which makes him the ninth fastest qualifier for the 2016 U.S. Olympic Trials. The time was just shy of his personal best of 2:11:30 from the 2011 Huston Marathon. Arciniaga, 32, competed at the 2008 and 2012 U.S. Olympic Trials marathon where he finished eighth. In 2013, he won the U.S. Marathon Championships in 2:13:11 at the Twin Cities Marathon. The California native lives and trains full time in Flagstaff, Arizona.
“The competition to make the Olympic team is wide open, “Arciniaga says. “However, to say there are no favorites is disrespectful to both Meb and Dathan, who have established themselves and the guys to beat. Both time wise and performance wise they are a lot better than guys anyone else. Those are the two that I will be racing to beat.”
10. Matt Llano
Matt Llano (Hoka One One) cemented his place among the top ten qualifiers for the 2016 U.S. Olympic Trials marathon by running a personal best 2:12:28 at the 2015 Berlin Marathon. In his third attempt at the distance, Llano, 27, was the first American and thirteenth overall. At the 2014 U.S. Half Marathon Championships in Huston, Llano ran a personal best 1:01:47.
“I plan to approach this race just like any of the other marathons I've run, but with more emphasis on competing,” Llano says. “While I am relatively inexperienced at the marathon distance (the Olympic Trials will be my 4th marathon), I feel that there is a big learning curve for it and I'm confident that I'm honing in on how to be really successful and prepared.”