February 2, 2024. The 2024 Olympic Marathon Trials have arrived. In Orlando, this Saturday morning just after 10 AM, the best marathoners in America will hit the streets of Orlando, FL with the top three women and the top two, or three, men going to the Olympic Marathon in Paris France this summer to compete for Team USA. The men start at 10:10 AM with the Women at 10:20 AM. A few top marathoners have had to withdraw, the most notable being Molly Seidel, the Bronze Medalist from the Tokyo Olympics. But most of the favorites are in. Everyone has their favorites. The weather was a big topic early on with worries about the heat. Once the start time was moved back to 10 AM, the complaints largely stopped and the planning for how to optimize preparation for a warm and humid marathon trials began.
The weather forecast, as of now, calls for sunny skies at the start, 60F with relative humidity in the mid to low 60% range as well. Temperatures should top off at upper 60's to low 70's. The dewpoint should be below 50 for the entire race. No one would call those ideal conditions for a marathon but the worries about the weather being dangerous for the athletes have faded away. Clearly being able to deal with warm conditions will be an advantage. But even more important is having the confidence that you can handle the conditions. The athlete's mindset at the start of this marathon should be essentially the same as at all other marathons. The focus is on how the race unfolds, sticking to your planned pace but be ready to adapt as the race changes and the strategies of significant rivals start to play out. Anyone worried about the weather is at a disadvantage. Most, if not all, of the major training groups are in Florida or Arizona or other warm weather locations at low elevations. Mimicking Trials conditions is considered important. Athletes without substantial sponsors will do the best they can to mimic training in warm conditions.
This blog focuses on Masters LDR so it is natural to find a list of the Masters Marathon Trialists (40 and over) here. Most of the Masters Men who have qualified would be described as journeymen marathoners. The one exception is Elkanah Kibet. It would be no more shocking to see him qualify than it was to see Abdi Abdirahman qualify, as a Masters marathoner, at the 2020 Olympic Marathon Trials in Atlanta. On the Women's side of the Trials there are several Masters women qualifiers who are household names, at least among those who follow LDR: Sara Hall, Des Linden, and Steph Bruce.
A complete set of bios for all qualifiers can be found at:
Sara Hall 40 Flagstaff, AZ; Affiliation-Asics; QT 2:22:10 WA Marathon Championship Eugene OR. Hall, a Stanford graduate, owns one of the most recognizable names in road racing. This is due both to success and longevity. A 2011 Pan American Games Gold medalist in the 3000M Steeplechase, she moved up to the marathon with success many years later. Hall was first American and 2nd overall at the 2020 Virgin Money London Marathon in 2:22:01. Two years later she finished 5th at the WA Marathon Championships in Eugene OR in an almost identical 2:22:10. With Emma Bates and Molly Seidel both having withdrawn from the Trials, Hall, despite her 40 years, is one of the favorites to make the team.
Des Linden 40 Charlevoix, MI; Affiliation - Brooks; QT 2:27:18 Boston 2023. Linden is known as a Marathoner. A huge crowd favorite since her win in the wind and the rain at the 2018 Boston Marathon, Linden will definitely be on the lists of many fans who hope she makes Team USA for the marathon. If it is simply a fast race, that is not a race many would expect Linden to win. Her 2:27:35 at Chicago last October was fast enough to take the Masters marathon record away from Deena Kastor. Her Trials qualifying time is 18th on the list. If there is anything quirky about the race, Linden moves up as a favorite, because of her resiliency and her experience. She is known for her racing savvy, not to mention her views on whiskey. In the late twenty-teens, Linden was a perennial on the podium at Boston and New York. Her 4th place finish at Boston in 2:25:06 in 2017 set the stage for her remarkable win the next year, when she ran almost 14 minutes slower. But if everyone else runs 15 minutes or more slower, 14 minutes slower is good for the win! Linden showed her speed and racing ability again the following year, when she was 5th at Boston in 2:27:00. She ran 2:26:46 at New York that year to finish as first American and 6th overall. If she can hang in the lead pack for much of the race or make a move to pull away from the lead pack, the crowds will be cheering for her!
Steph(anie) Bruce 40 Flagstaff AZ; Affiliation: HOKA Naz Elite QT: 2:28:02 Boston. This will be Bruce's 5th Olympic Trials appearance, either on the track or in the marathon. Bruce was a bronze medalist in the 10,000M at the 2018 USATF National Outdoor TF Championships. She has won national road championships in the 10K and Half Marathon. Bruce finished 6th in 2:29:11 at the 2020 Olympic Marathon Trials in Atlanta. Bruce knows how to compete! After giving birth to her 3rd child 4 months ago, Bruce has worked her way back into condition to compete at the Trials along with her Naz Elite teammates. As a footnote, she competed in the Open field at the 2022 USATF Cross Country Championships in Richmond; her husband, Ben, won the Masters race. Perhaps she will compete in the Masters Race at the Cross Country championships next year.
Andrea Pomaranski 41 Wolverine Lake, MI; Coach and Mom; QT: 2:31:06 Houston 2023. A three-time All American at Miami of Ohio, Pomaranski has found success at distances from the 1 Mile to the 50K. She was the 2023 50K US Champion and finished 2nd in the World 50K Championships. In 2022, she set the Masters record in the 1 Mile at Pittsburgh's Liberty Mile, with a 4:47. She qualified for both the 2012 and the 2020 Olympic Marathon Trials. Her most recent marathon is the 2024 Chevron Houston Marathon where she finished 2nd Masters in 2:36:41. It will be interesting to see if Pomaranski was running that as a workout, as it was less than two months before the Trials, or if it is an accurate gauge of her current fitness.
|Andrea Pomaranski winning her USATF 50K Championship Photo Credit: Meghan Canfield
Roberta Groner 46 Ledgewood, NJ; Registered Nurse [RN] & Coach for Central Park TC; Affiliation: CPTC Tracksmith; QT: 2:31:37 Copenhagen 2023. Groner did not run for ten years after leaving college. After starting up again simply for exercise, Groner's love of the discipline and challenge of the Marathon led her to remarkable accomplishments. Groner first qualified for the Boston Marathon in 2011. By 2017 she finished 16th at Boston. The next year she finished 12th at New York and in 2019 finished 5th at the Rotterdam Marathon in 2:29:06, her PR. Her fame as a distance runner came from the Doha World Championships in 2019. The weather was so hot that they ran the Marathon in the middle of the night, and it was a marathon of attrition. The heat forced many marathoners to withdraw from the race; Groner was the first American to finish, garnering 6th place overall! Groner won the Women's Overall Championship at the 2021 USATF Masters 12 Km Championships in Highlands NJ.
|Roberta Groner takes the win at the 2021 USATF Masters 12 Km Championships in Highlands NJ Photo Credit: Jason Timochko
Meriah Earle 45 Escondido, CA; Assistant Coach, UC-SD; Affiliation: rabbit & San Diego TC; QT: 2:34:19 Grandma's 2022. Earle's 2022 qualifier at Grandma's was a top ten finish. She finished 3rd at CIM in 2019 with a 2:34:34. Earle has competed for her SDTC in USATF Masters Cross Country competitions, winning the overall women's race at the 2019 5 km Cross Country Championships in San Diego and the 2022 Club Cross Country Championships on a wild, wet and windy day at Golden Gate Park in San Francisco. She finished 6th overall on a frigid day at the 2018 Club Cross Country Championships in Spokane WA.
|Meriah Earle Far Left At the Front of the Lead Pack in the Masters Women's Race at the 2018 Club Cross Country Championships in Spokane WA Photo Credit: Michael Scott
Elkanah Kibet 40 Colorado Springs, CO; U.S. Army; Affiliation-ASICS; QT 2:09:07 Boston 2022. Kibet is the Masters athlete with the strongest resume. Originally from Kenya, Kibet ran at Auburn University. After being deployed to Kuwait in 2013, an Army Colonel helped Kibet enter the Army's World Class Athlete program. A few years later, Kibet finished as top American when he claimed 16th at the 2017 World Athletics Marathon Championships in London with a 2:15:14. At the Doha World Championships in 2019, he was 2nd American in hot conditions when the Marathon was held in the middle of the night. He finished 38th in 2:19:38. The second American for Team USA at Eugene, OR in 2022, Kibet finished 24th in 2:11:20. His most recent WA Marathon Championships effort was at Budapest last year. He hit the half marathon mark in 1:05:03, part of a large lead pack of about 30. By 30K he was dropping back and had to withdraw from the race shortly after.
Just a few months later, however, Kibet showed he was back on track; he finished 11th overall and 2nd American, 14 seconds behind Futsum Zienasellassie. Kibet is also a veteran of the 2016 and 2020 Olympic Marathon Trials. Kibet turned 40 last June. Qualifying for Team USA would be considered an upset, but it would be no more shocking, perhaps less, than Abdirahman qualifying in 2020.
|Photo of Elkanah Kibet from orlando2024trials.com
Malcolm Richards 41 Sacramento, CA; K-8 Teacher; Affiliation- West Valley Track Club; QT 2:16:15 Grandma's 2022. Richards is one of the Masters Marathoners who has participated in one or more USATF Masters LDR Championships. Richards finished 2nd, behind Fernando Cabada, at the 2023 Masters Ten Mile Championships in 49:39. He finished 3rd for his West Valley TC team in 2022 in the Masters 40 & up race at the USATF Club Cross Country Championships in San Francisco, CA. The following year, Richards finished first in the Masters 40 and up race at the 2023 USATF Club Cross Country Championships in Tallahassee, FL, leading his West Valley Track club to victory in the team competition as well. A Division III Cross Country All American at St. Olaf's in Minnesota, Richards has now qualified for his 4th Olympic Marathon Trials. His best Trials finish was in 2016, when he finished 18th in 2:18:40, 3 seconds behind Ben Payne (see below) and 90 seconds ahead of Elkanah Kibet. He ran 2:13:28 to finish 6th at the 2017 USATF Marathon Championships, held at the CIM in Sacramento. At his qualifier at Grandma's in 2022, Richards finished 21st, a half minute ahead of Fernando Cabada. He has not run a marathon since then, but he has been logging the miles in Sacramento this past fall and winter.
|Malcolm Richards enjoys a large lead as he surges to victory in the Masters Race at the 2023 USATF Club Cross Country Championships in Tallahassee FL Photo Credit: Michael Scott
Ben Payne 42 Colorado Springs, CO; Pilot-Commercial & National Guard; Affiliation-rabbitELITE; QT 2:17:15 Chicago 2023. A US Air Force Academy graduate and US Air Force Officer for 19 years with multiple overseas deployments. Payne has qualified for the Olympic Trials marathon in 2016 and 2020, finishing in 17th and 31st. In 2016, Payne also competed in the NYC Marathon, finishing 9th overall and 4th American, in 2:15:46, behind Abdi, Shadrack Biwott and Tyler Pennel.
Riley Cook 42 South Weber, UT; Operations Research Analyst; Affiliation-Tracksmith; QT 2:17:23 California International Marathon [CIM] 2022. A runner at Weber State, Cook was burned out after college and did not run again for several years. Over the last ten years he has trained and run well, winning nine marathons. His best finishes in headline marathons, apart from CIM, appears to be Houston in 2018 when he ran 2:23:40 to finish 13th, and Boston the following spring, when he finished 29th in 2:20:43. Like Richards, Cook has competed in the USATF Masters National Grand Prix series, winning the Masters 10 Mile Championships in 2022 in 50:00, finishing a half minute ahead of Sergio Reyes. Cook also bested Ben Bruce that year in the Masters 12 Km Championships, clocking 38:20. Cook's most recent marathon effort was a 6th place finish in the St George Marathon in 2:21:13.
|Riley Cook #335 leads the field out along with Ben Bruce #321 at the 2022 USATF Masters 12 Km Championships Photo Credit: Jason Timochko
Prescott Leach 41 Waltham, MA; Principal Scientist at a therapeutics company; Affiliation-Cambridge Sports Union; QT 2:17:29 CIM 2023. A top 8 finisher for Michigan in the 3000M Steeplechase at the 2003 Big Ten Outdoor Championships, Leach also felt burned out after college. He took time away from running from 2004 until 2017. After resuming training, his racing improved rapidly. In December of 2019 he ran 2:19:34 at the CIM. The following spring as he was approaching his transition to Masters status, Leach ran 2:24:15 to finish in the top 45 at Boston. He was first Masters and among the top 40 men with his 2:19:57 at Chicago. Leach's 2:22:08 at the 2023 NYC marathon allowed him to finish in the top 25, but it was not an Oly Trials qualifying time. He got that one month later at CIM, with 28 seconds to spare. That is quite a turnaround. He has now had over two months to recover from CIM. Who knows what he can do in Orlando?!
Jesse Davis 42 Omaha, NB; Running Shoe Store Training Manager; Affiliation-Indiana Elite Athletics [IEA]-Personal Best Training; QT 2:17:30 Indianapolis Monumental Marathon 2023. Davis competed for Ball State and Southern Indiana and was a 2006 Division II All American at the 800M Indoor. This is Davis's third Olympic Trials. Davis has found greater success at Ultra distances. He finished 5th at the 2015 World 50K Championships, won the 2017 USATF National 100K championships, and finished 24th at the 2018 World 100K Championships. Since he became a Masters athlete, Davis helped his teammates to wins at the 2021 and 2022 Masters team titles at the USATF Club Cross Championships. He also won masters road titles at the 10K and Half Marathon distances while leading IEA to the 2022 Masters National Grand Prix team title, taking the individual 40-44 Grand Prix title as well. From a quick scan, Davis is also the only 2024 Qualifier to choose a quotation from Ahab in Moby Dick as his favorite motivational quote, starting, "Swerve me? ...The path to my fixed purpose is laid with iron rails..."
|Jesse Davis taking the win at the 2022 USATF Masters 10 Km Championships in Dedham MA Photo Credit: Michael Scott
Alex Taylor 44 Lincoln MA; Principal Software Engineer; Affiliation-Boston Tracksmith Hares; QT 2:17:32 Grandma's 2023. In 2019, Taylor finished 11th overall at Grandma's in 2:17:06, qualifying for the 2020 Olympic Marathon Trials. Four years later, he qualified for the 2024 Trials at the same race, finishing 24th in 2:17:32. Although not a major part of his resume, Taylor ran for the Boston Athletic Association's Masters team, finishing 6th overall at the 2022 Club Cross Championships in Tallahassee.
|Alex Taylor finishing sixth in the Masters 40+ Race at the 2021 USATF Club Cross Country Championships in Tallahassee FL Photo Credit: Michael Scott
Notes: A Runners World article says Abdi Abdirahman, 47, is running in the Marathon Trials but he is not among the athletes with bios at orlando2024trials.com. Abdi received an automatic invitation as one of the qualifiers at the Trials in 2020 in Atlanta. If he should run, he would be the oldest competitor and, as a 5-time Olympian, the athlete with the most World Class experience.
Sources: https://www.orlando2024trials.com/' athlinks.com/wikipedia//worldathletics.com/www.runningprof.com