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Final 2012 USATF Olympic Marathon Trials Qualifying Standard Released
But Half-Marathon Times Now Allowed for Qualifying

By David Monti
(c) 2008 Race Results Weekly, all rights reserved

What began as debate amongst delegates attending the 2007 USATF convention in Honolulu last December has ended in a new, tougher set of rules for qualifying for the 2012 U.S. Olympic Trials - Men's Marathon.  According to the new rules, recently made public on the USATF website, there will no longer be "A" and "B" standards for getting into the Trials, but rather three "A" standard marks at the marathon, half-marathon and 10,000m distances:

 Marathon: 2:19:00
 Half-Marathon: 1:05:00
 10,000m: 28:30.00

The marks must be achieved from January 1, 2009, through 30 days prior to the 2012 Trials, or October 5, 2008, and marathon times from course which are severely aided will no longer be accepted.  The date and location for the 2012 Trials has not yet been set by USATF.

To compete in the 2008 Trials, held in New York City in November, 2007, athletes could gain entrance by either running 2:20:00 or better (the "A" standard), or 2:20:01 to 2:22:00 (the "B" standard).  Only "A" standard athletes had their expenses paid to the event by the organizers, the New York Road Runners.  Marks were accepted from all courses, even those with huge elevation drops, as long as the distance was certified.  Athletes could not qualify with a half-marathon time, but track performances at 10,000m (28:45.00) or 5,000m (13:40.00) were acceptable, but only as "B" qualifiers.

The new rules limit course elevation loss to a maximum of 3.25m/km for setting acceptable marks.  That rules out courses like St. George (18.5m/km elevation loss), Top of Utah (7.6m/km), and Steamtown (6.83 m/km).  However, marks achieved on slightly aided course like Boston (3.23m/km) and California International (2.45m/km) are acceptable.  Although not explicitly stated, it appears that half-marathon courses must not exceed the 3.25m/km elevation loss for marks to count towards qualifying.

An intriguing addition to qualifying based on time, athletes may also qualify by performing well in a U.S. Marathon Championship.  Should an athlete make a top-10 finish in either the 2008, 2009, 2010 or 2011 (if held) U.S. Men's Marathon Championship, he will receive an automatic qualification to the 2012 Trials if he runs at least 2:22:00, the former "B" standard.  That means that qualifying for the 2012 Trials will begin this Sunday in Minneapolis at the Medtronic Twin Cities Marathon, which is hosting the U.S. Men's Marathon Championship.

Finally, men may qualify automatically for the Trials should they achieve an exceptional result in a global championship in 2008, 2009, 2010 or 2011.  The specific achievements are:

. Earned an individual medal in an Olympic Games or in an IAAF World Championship marathon
. Won an individual USA Marathon Championship
. Won a U.S. Olympic Team Trials - Men's Marathon event

In addition, automatic qualification into the 2012 U.S. Olympic Team Trials - Men's Marathon will be provided to those athletes who were members of a past U.S. Men's Olympic Marathon Team.

The 2008 Trials had 179 qualifiers (65 "A" and 114 "B"), and 130 athletes made it to the starting line.  The number of total qualifiers will probably be reduced for the next Trials, but it is impossible to say by how much.  The new half-marathon qualifying rule could spur many more qualifying attempts because athletes can run far more half-marathons in a year than marathons.

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