Meet the 10 Men With an Outside Shot at Making the 2024 US Olympic Marathon Team

They're not favorites on paper, but one of these men could be an Olympian with the race of his life on Saturday

The motto of is “Where your dreams become reality” and no race embodies that better than the US Olympic Marathon Trials. There are 214 men’s entrants in Saturday’s race in Orlando and we can guarantee every one of them has dreamed about what it would be like to become an Olympian.

The harsh reality is that for the majority of those runners, Paris is total fantasy. Considering it took 2:18:00 to qualify for the Trials, every runner in the field has still come far closer to the Olympics than the average LetsRun reader. But to make the US team in 2024, you need to finish in the top three in Orlando and have run 2:11:30 or faster during the qualifying window. Only 18 men have done that so far. Add in another dozen or so to account for runners making their debut and those who could run 2:11:30 in Orlando and you have roughly 30 guys who, on their best day, might have a shot at the team.

On Wednesday, we wrote about the eight favorites — the men considers most likely to make the team. But what about the men in the next group? We don’t have time to get to every single one of them, but below we tell you about 10 men who could earn the title of Olympian if everything breaks right on Saturday.

History says that one of these guys has a good chance of actually making the team. Our 2016 version of this article included Jared Ward, who ended up 3rd at the Trials in Los Angeles. In 2020, two of the three Olympians came from the group we described as “underdogs”Jake Riley and 43-year-old Abdi Abdirahman. 2024 is a little different because we have expanded our favorites group to eight men (it was three in 2016 and four in 2020), but that should not stop these men from dreaming.

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Group 1: It wouldn’t be that big of a shock if they made it

CJ Albertson — 30 years old, Brooks, 2:10:23 pb (2022 Boston)

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Albertson has made a name for himself for a serious of insane endurance feats that include a world record for 50k, a 2:09 marathon on his treadmill, and running back-to-back 2:11 marathons on successive weekends in December. He’s also not afraid to do his own thing — you may remember his run at the 2021 Boston Marathon, he led by more than two minutes at the halfway mark and ultimately finished 10th. While 10th is Albertson’s best finish in Boston, he has actually run faster in Boston in each of the successive years: he ran 2:10:23 in 2022 and 2:10:33 in 2023.

Albertson, who was 7th at the 2020 Trials in Atlanta, is very good at running in a specific time range. In the last four years, Albertson has run nine marathons between 2:10:23 and 2:11:49, including three in a five-week span last fall. Can he break through and reach the new level it will likely take to make the team?

Matt McDonald — 30 years old, B.A.A. High Performance Team, 2:09:49 pb (2022 Chicago)

McDonald was in position to make the Olympic team as late as mile 20 at the 2020 Trials before fading to 10th. Since then, he’s only gotten better and has finished in the top 15 in his last four marathons, running 2:10 or better each time: 14th at 2022 Boston, 12th at 2022 Chicago, 10th at 2023 Boston, and 13th at 2023 Chicago. At 2023 Boston, McDonald was the second American behind Scott Fauble and his time of 2:10:17 put him eight seconds ahead of Conner Mantz — though McDonald finished nearly three minutes behind Mantz in Chicago in October.

Zienasellassie at the 2023 NYC Marathon (Kevin Morris photo)

Futsum Zienasellassie — 31 years old, Hoka ONE ONE NAZ Elite, 2:09:40 pb (2023 Rotterdam)

Zienasellassie debuted with a 2:11:01 win at 2022 CIM. He followed that up by running a 2:09:40 pb at Rotterdam last spring before finishing as the top American in New York last fall in 2:12:09 despite battling digestive issues in the final miles. Those three performances put Zienasellassie in the conversation, but like Albertson and McDonald, he’ll need to go up a level to finish in the top three in Orlando.

Elkanah Kibet — 40 years old, Asics, 2:09:07 pb (2022 Boston)

Kibet has come up big in major marathons before. He was 4th in New York in 2021 (albeit against a watered-down field) and 9th in Boston in 2022 in 2:09:07. A financial comptroller in the US Army, Kibet’s momentum was halted by a 10-month deployment to Poland beginning in September 2022, but he still managed to run 2:10:43 in Prague last spring and 2:12:23 in New York last fall to finish just behind Zienasellassie. One issue for Kibet is that he does not consider himself a good heat runner.

Group 2: The super talented enigmas

Teshome Mekonen — 28 years old, On, 2:10:16 pb (2023 Berlin)

Mekonen — who is entered in the Trials under the name Teshome Asfaha — grew up in the Tigray region of Ethiopia and became a US citizen in August 2022. Mekonen has run some seriously impressive half marathons. In 2016, representing Ethiopia, he finished 11th at the World Half Marathon Championships in Cardiff. In 2018, he ran 60:02 in Valencia — a time only four Americans have bettered. And at the 2022 NYC Half, Mekonen ran 60:40 — or exactly one minute faster than Conner Mantz in the same race.

Mekonen’s marathons so far have been a mixed bag — he ran 2:22 and 2:13 in his first two marathons before improving to 2:11:05 in Houston and 2:10:16 in Berlin last year — but he’s one of the most talented athletes in the field and his coach Haron Lagat is a believer in his marathon potential.

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Shadrack Kipchirchir — 34 years old, Puma, 2:13:02 pb (2023 Amsterdam)

Kipchirchir was a fixture on US teams in the 2010s, making the 2016 Olympics and 2015, 2017, and 2019 Worlds teams at 10,000 meters. His pb of 27:07 at that distance ranks him #6 all-time among Americans. He also ran 61:16 at the 2022 NYC Half and beat Mantz in that race.

But Kipchirchir’s first two marathons did not go well — 24th at 2022 NYC in 2:28 and 2:19 at 2023 Rotterdam. He improved to 2:13 in Amsterdam last fall but that’s still a long way from contending at the Trials.

Group 3: Can their half marathon success translate?

Abbabiya Simbassa — 30 years old, Under Armour, 2:10:34 pb (2023 Prague)

There’s usually at least one athlete who emerges as a last-minute contender thanks to a strong half marathon right before the Trials. Simbassa, who is coached by US marathon great Ryan Hall, fits that category as he was the top American at the Houston Half on January 14 in 60:45. But to reduce Simbassa to that performance is selling him short. He has run sub-61 in the half three times in the last 16 months and ran 2:10 in his marathon debut in Prague last year. He was also the top American at the World Half last year, but that only got him 25th place.

Making it to the Olympics would be quite the story for the Ethiopian-born Simbassa as he never even qualified for NCAAs during his two years running at the University of Oklahoma.

Jacob Thomson — 29 years old, Under Armour, 2:11:40 pb (2023 Gold Coast)

Thomson is a man after LetsRun’s heart. Without a sponsor at the end of 2020, Thomson, a Kentucky native, packed his bags and moved across the country to Flagstaff to chase his running dream. Now he has a contract with Under Armour and last year won the US half marathon title in 62:38 (after which he appeared on the LetsRun Track Talk podcast to share his story). He has run 2:11 in his last two marathons (2022 CIM, 2023 Gold Coast in Australia) and will need a breakout race to make the team, but we have to at least mention the reigning US half marathon champ.

Group 4: If they run the race of their life, maybe

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Nico Montanez — 30 years old, Asics, 2:09:55 pb (2022 Chicago)

Montanez, who was 9th at NCAA XC in 2016 as a senior at BYU, ran between 2:13 and 2:16 in his first five marathons between 2017 and 2021. His career began to take off in 2022 when he surprisingly won the US 15K title, and since then he has run a few notable marathons: 2:09:55 for 13th at 2022 Chicago and 2:10:52 for 13th at 2023 Boston. Those are races to be proud of, but he was only the fourth American across the line in Chicago and the fifth in Boston. Only two men can beat him in Orlando if he is to make the team.

Brian Shrader — 32 years old, Saucony, 2:09:46 pb (2023 Chicago)

Shrader is best known for his bold breakaway bid at the 2020 Trials, where he hit halfway on Atlanta’s hilly course in 64:54 to open a 32-second gap on the field. Shrader’s gamble did not pay off — he wound up dropping out — and across his first five marathons, he never ran faster than 2:13. But in October 2023, Shrader’s perseverance was rewarded as he ran a big pb of 2:09:46 in Chicago to finish as the fifth American (11th overall). Shrader will need to be even better to make the team on Saturday, but he is trending in the right direction.

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