Worlds Collide at the US Olympic Trials Marathon

2012 US Olympic Marathon TrialsYou may be asking yourself why the heck iRunFar is talking about the US Olympic Trials Marathon. Well, it’s because it intrigues the hell out of me… and that’s without me giving a darn about the results aside from wanting my friends to run well. What caught my interest is how the trials showcase the overlap of the mainstream endurance running scene (primarily road running) and the mountain/ultra/trail ranks. The overlap is increasingly occurring in both directions.

I first got to thinking about the subject during the long drive from Park City, Utah to the Bay Area to cover The North Face Endurance Challenge 50. Specifically, I was thinking about how Meghan Arbogast, Devon Crosby-Helms, and Caitlin Smith – three women I considered first as trail and/or ultrarunners – had qualified for the trials. That Sunday, Jenn Shelton joined the list with a 2:45:01 at the California International Marathon. A quick note on Twitter after CIM yielded a number of other female qualifiers, including Tyler Stewart who’d just placed fifth at the TNF 50 mile, 2009 IAU 100k world champion Kami Semick, as well as Pikes Peak Ascent and Mount Washington Road Run winner Kim Dobson. Mountain running specialists Megan Lund-Lizotte and Kasie Enman have also qualified for the trials.

Of course, there are a pair of prominent men from trail/ultra ranks who’ll be in Houston this weekend – Max King and Michael Wardian. While Max King is a great runner and a great guy, I’m particularly psyched for Wardian running these Olympic Trials. Why? Because after Wardian led the early miles of the 2008 Olympic Trials Marathon, USATF (not so) coincidentally lowered the qualifying standard. Wardian worked tirelessly for three years before earning his qualifier for this year’s trials last June. You also have guys like trials qualifier Chris Lundstrom who come from a road background and race well on the trails. Although not qualifiers, a bunch of guys from Flagstaff, Arizona would also fall into this category.

You can follow the Olympic Trials Marathon here.

Mountain/Ultra/Trail Women’s Qualifiers (qualifying time in parentheses)

  • Leah Thorvilson (2:39:43 – running) – Winner 2011 Strolling Jim 40
  • Kasie Enman (2:39:55) – 2011 Mountain Running World Champion
  • Wendy Terris (2:40:24) – Two-time winner Sunmart 50k
  • Chris Lundy (2:40:06) – 2009 US Mountain Running Champion
  • Caitlin Smith (2:41:37 – running) – Winner of 2009 The North Face Endurance Challenge 50 mile championships
  • Devon Crosby-Helms (2:42:44 – running) – JFK 50 mile course record holder (pre-race blog entry)
  • Sopenga Eap (2:43:05) – 2010 USATF Trail Half Marathon Champion
  • Susannah Beck (2:43:18) – Second at 2008 The North Face Endurance Challenge 50 mile championships
  • Michele Suszek (2:43:45) – Member 2011 US Mountain Running Team
  • Joanna Zieger (2:43:48 – running) – [would love any specific trail/ultra info] (pre-race blog entry)
  • Heather McNiff née Wood (2:43:53) – Strong ultra finishes in late 2009 and 2010.
  • Jenn Shelton (2:45:01 – running) – Winner of 2007 Rocky Raccoon 100 mile in 14:57:18 (post-qualifier interview)
  • Tyler Stewart (2:45:14 – running) – Fifth at 2011 The North Face Endurance Challenge 50 mile championships
  • Kami Semick (2:45:18 – not racing) – 2009 IAU 100k World Champion
  • Megan Lund-Lizotte (2:45:37 – running) – 2011 Sierre Zinal and USATF Trail Marathon Champ (pre-trials interview)
  • Meghan Arbogast (2:45:48 – running) – 50+ women’s 100k world record holder
  • Kim Dobson (2:45:56 – running) – 2011 Pikes Peak Ascent and Mount Washington Road Run

Mountain/Ultra/Trail Men’s Qualifiers (qualifying time in parentheses)

  • Josh Cox (2:13:51 – running) – US 50k record holder (2:43:45) (pre-race audio interview)
  • Ryan Bak (2:14:17 – running) – Second place team at 2011 GORE-TEX TransRockies Run (with Max King) (pre-trials article)
  • Max King (2:15:34 – running) – 2011 US Mountain Running World Champion (pre-trials interview)
  • Michael Wardian (2:17:49 – running) – 2011 IAU 100k World Championships silver medalist (team gold)
  • Chris Lundstrom (2:18:58 – running) – 3rd 2009 The North Face Endurance Challenge 50 mile championships (pre-race blog entry)

Call for Comments

  • Did we miss any mountain/ultra/trail runners who qualified for the trials?
  • Anyone know if Kasie Enman, Susannah Beck, Heather McNiff, Leah Thorvilson, Chris Lundy, Sopenga Eap, Wendy Terris, Jenn Shelton, or Chris Lundstrom are running?
  • Who are you most excited to follow at the trials – mountain/ultra/trail runner or not?
  • If you’re one of the above qualifiers, please leave a comment for your fans!

1/12/12 – Added Jenn Shelton article (thanks, Jon Allen), Chris Lundstrom blog entry, Heather McNiff Woods (thanks, Jim Holmes), Ryan Bak (thanks, Ian Torrence), Leah Thorvilson (thanks again, Ian), Chris Lundy (thanks, George), Michele Suszek (thanks, Justin Mock), Sopegan Eap (thanks, Scott Dunlap), Joanna Zieger (thanks again, Scott), and (thanks, Sean Meissner. Corrected Heather Wood’s name to McNiff (thanks, Andy G), Tyler Stewart’s status to running (thanks, Devon Crosby-Helms) as well as Leah Thorvilson’s (thanks, Trent), and Ryan Bak’s TransRockies placing (thanks, CJ).

There are 69 comments

  1. Jon Allen

    Bryon- I'm definitely interested, too. Runners World will have live coverage.

    Personally, I'm rooting for all the ultra folks, but primarily for my old training partner, Paul Petersen. Good luck to all of them.

  2. David

    As a long-time Hanson's customer (I remember the first store at Hall & Hayes) – I'll be following Rochester's own Desi Davila. She's gonna show em what a 2:22 marathoner can do.

    1. Bryon Powell

      Great! Thanks for the info. I've really enjoyed chatting with Chris after his runs at the TNF championships( and out at Western States). When I didn't see him out there in December, I figured that he's been concentrating on the trials. I hope he goes back to being at least an occasional participant in the trail and ultra worlds after this weekend.

  3. CraigR

    And there looks to be at least a handful ultrarunners in the mix :)

    Michael Wardian, Kami Semick, Devon-Crosby Helms, Jenn Shelton, Max King, Caitlin Smith, Meghan Arbogast, and Susannah Beck. I may have forgot a few names, but you get the idea.

    Other than Wardian or King, I doubt any have a chance to make the team, but what an honor to be included in this event.

    1. Bryon Powell

      Huh? I think I named all those folks as ultrarunners who qualified. ;-) Of the ultra crowd, Josh Cox probably has the best chance followed by Max King. It's likely got something to do with having an "x" in one's name.

  4. Fred

    Any idea why Dean Karnazes is not present? Isn't he on a specific marathon training plan for next years 50 marathons overs 50 countries or something like that? (think I read something like that in Trail Runner mag.)

    1. Benjamin

      He would have to find quite a bit more speed in his legs to qualify. I believe the standard is 2:19, where he is closer to 3 hrs.

  5. Ian Torrence


    Two more to add to the list:

    Leah Thorvilson, who killed it at Strolling Jim & a 50K in Maine this year ([broken link removed])

    Ryan Bak, who was Max's partner at TransRockies this year.

    Gonna be some great races to watch!



  6. Sarah Lavender Smith

    Let's hear it for Oakland! I'm rooting for Caitlin Smith and Oakland's premier road runner, Magdalena Lewy-Boulet. Also doing the Bay Area proud, of course, is Devon Crosby Helms. What an exciting race it promises to be.

    With regard to Fred's question above re: Dean Karnazes (since I wrote that TR article) — I don't believe Dean ever indicated he'd be at these trials, and he's in more of a non-competitive, ambassador mode now as he works out the logistics of trying to put the running-in-each-country project together. He may be there as a spectator but I don't think he's associated with the Olympic Trials in any official way.

  7. Frenchy

    Wardian should run well considering his road background. Competition will be extremely difficult considering the talent that will be here. Unfortunately, I will not be able to go watch, but maybe somer will make an appearance over the weekend since I am running the marathon on Sunday.

    Wish them all well.

    1. Bryon Powell

      Thanks for the correction. Mike Smith and Jason Wolfe did win TransRockies last year. It's ironic that I missed them given they're part of the fast Flagstaff roadie crowd I was thinking of!

  8. olga

    Either the standards for men are much tighter, or female ultra-world has a mix of faster runners (gals) than male one")

    We plan on heading out to cheer them all on Saturday!

  9. Alex

    While seeing the trail/ultra guys and gals take their shots is interesting, I don't think irunfar needs their entry to justify mentioning the US Olympic trials. Perhaps we forget this, running twice the distance or more, but a marathon is quite a long way. And the pace at which the elites are capable of putting one down is, without a doubt, astonishing. Of course, there are other venues that focus on road racing, and no place else covers ultras like this site. But on some level, running is running, and anyone who does it can appreciate the effort that has gone in to preparing for Saturday, and moreover, the effort still to come.

  10. Carlos

    The only "collision" is going to be in the starting gate. After the gun goes off, the ultra folks will be "colliding" with the elites' road dust. Simply put, the road elites will crush the ultra folks, who mostly appear to consider a "win" getting to the trials; none have a realistic chance to make the team or even place.

  11. jon seiber

    Carlos… our elite road runners will most likely get smoked in London anyways, so I guess that it's all relative… basically, your point about ultra vs. road runners could be applied to the american elite vs. east african elite argument… at any rate, it should be fun to watch… and don't be surprised if max k. or michael w. end up making the team… a small victory is better than no victory at all…

    1. Kevin Fenton

      smoked… since we've had quite a good amount of top-15 finishes and a silver medal in the last few olympic marathons. I realize we're probably not going to win, and could very well be 5min back of the gold medal, but smoked is not quite the right term.

      And huge respect to both Max and Wardian, but the former has a slight slight chance and the latter has zero chance unless the leaders are consumed by the earth. good day!

      1. jon seiber

        i'll stick with smoked… meb's silver was the product of a relatively slow race, by olympic standards… 15th on that stage would put somebody 5-8+ minutes back, which is pretty huge… not to mention the fact that many of the fastest marathon runners from Ethiopia and Kenya would rather try to win a world major, than go to the olympics… $25,000 or so (for Americans) for a gold medal vs. $130,000 for New York or $150,000 for Boston… national pride is one thing but when you are trying to transcend abject poverty, maybe your goals are a bit different… i don't know… at any rate, i'm grateful for roads, trails and movement in general and i have an immense amount of respect for the entire running tribe, regardless of ability or nationality or surface/distance inclination… peace

        1. Alex

          FWIW, every one of the Kenya's fastest marathoners has expressed a desire to run in the Olympics. That only 3 will be selected of such an amazing field is a testament to the depth of the nation's talent – not a lack of monetary incentive. The Olympics are never a shallow field – not compared to Boston, Berlin, or any other race – and won't be in 2012. Kenya will field the world record holder, the reigning world champ, and the Boston/New York course record holder. Which does mean, in all likelihood, that no American will contend for a medal. But let's not pretend this is a JV race.

    2. Carlos

      The topic was our trials. I was stating facts. I have much respect for so-called "elite" trailrunners, but that doesn't give way to fantasy and fantasizing bout their place in the pecking order.

      Your point that our runners will get smoked in the Olympics illustrates my point further — highlighting the enormous delta between our trail runners and world class marathoners.

      1. jon seiber

        i completely agree… but i'd still like to see max pull a rabbit out of his hat… (i know it's not likely, but it would be cool for 'us' trail people…)

      1. Bryon Powell

        Kevin, I try to be extreme welcoming here at iRunFar. Unfortunately, there's been a proliferation of trolling. In Carlos's case, his first comment on iRunFar speaks for itself. It's trolling pure and simple. While that sort of thing is welcome elsewhere, it is not here. Sorry you took offense at me putting Carlos in his place. Hopefully, you can accept that and stick around. Your final paragraph in reply to Jon S. is truthful and respectful and welcome. I hope you can see how you were acceptably presenting an opinion while Carlos presented the same opinion in an unacceptable manner.


    1. Dominic

      If all the elites are destined to win, then why have a race? I bet a favorite or two will choke, and an underdog will turn heads. Last time I checked a dictionary, nearly all Americans love an underdog story.

  12. Tony Mollica

    I'm with you Bryon on being interested in the US Olympic Marathon Trials! (And I'll be out in Oregon for the US Olympic Track Trials this summer.) I'm very interested is seeing who qualifies to represent our country.

    I am also interested in some other runners who probably won't qualify, but are looking to PR at the Trials and finish top ten. I'll especially be pulling for former Ohio University runner Craig Leon! Go Craig!

  13. Alex

    I think it needs to be said that you could, in a sense, be right. It's possible Hall, Ritz, Meb, etc. will smoke the lesser knowns on the road scene – including the ultra guys.

    But you're also desperately missing the point. Getting to the trials is an amazing accomplishment, especially when it's not the focus of your career. And neither is performance in this one race how we should evaluate the merits of a runner.

    Everyone who toes the line has put so much in to getting there, and will leave that much more on the course. This isn't about worlds colliding; it's about the best getting together to run their asses off. And that's something we should all be able to appreciate, whether in the Sierra mountains or the streets of Houston.

    1. Bryon Powell

      Your first paragraph wonderfully sums up what I've been thinking all evening. There are a handful of guys and girls with a chance to make the Olympic team despite 100s of runners from very different backgrounds competing.

      Three cheers for the rest of what you said, as well. No, Max King, Devon Crosby-Helm, or Meghan Arbogast are likely to win the race on Saturday, but given their disparate foci, it's quite the accomplishment for them to be competing at the trials. The same goes for nearly all the folks named in the article.


  14. Sean

    Wendy Terris from Milwaukie, OR. She has run, and won, a fair number of ultras, and is always in the mix in Portland-area trail and xc races. She qualified with a p.r. 2:40:24 (I think it was about a 3 min. p.r.) at Grandma's last June at age 41.

  15. Hthe3rd

    Interesting interview with Max King at the OTs. He talks quite extensively about his training on the trails. [broken link to Flotrack interview removed]

  16. Brad

    I really hope Wardian gets one of the spots to run in London. The dude is an absolute freak. There are very few people that deserve their spot in the Olympics like him. He ran almost 40 races (5k to Badwater) in 2011 with a 1st, 2nd or 3rd in every one except for a few.

  17. Alex

    Carlos, I'm still not sure I completely understand your point. Because King and Wardian (99 times out of 100) won't crack the top 3, we shouldn't entertain the possibility, root for them, or even praise the accomplishment of qualifying? I also don't know what you mean by "so-called elite". King won the world mountain running championships, and Wardian finished third at 100k worlds. These guys are not hobby joggers; they're top level runners competing against other top level runners – many of whom happen to specialize in this distance.

    And because no American – save, possibly, Hall – can run with the top level Kenyans, everyone at the trials is basically a bum anyway? Anyone not named Mutai should basically stick to local 5Ks, because if you're not running sub-2:04, why are you even running?

    No one here is pretending that King is faster over a 26.2 mile stretch of pavement than Ritz, based on anything we've seen. But that's why they run the race. As a Kansas basketball fan, I know all too well that the favorites don't always win.

  18. _rompe_la_red__

    Exactly. Why is there like a 21+ minute gap between trials and making the team on the women's side and only a 10 minute gap on the men's? There's too many "amazing" soccer moms who have no business getting anywhere near the Olympics in Houston this year. Lower the standard by 6 minutes at least, problem solved.

    1. olga

      Ouch, definitely wasn't my intention…I actually meant we have amazing women. But to assume an answer if you're interested in non-fast person's opinion, may be it is a percentage deal? kind of like BQ? And do we have to be bitter on that? Soccer mom has lots of business in everything, IMHO.

  19. Wade

    Mary Coordt from Sacramento (2:45:00) – mostly a marathoner but 2nd at the 2010 50K Worlds in Ireland, several time winner of the Jed Smith 50K and among the top Americans at Comrades in 2006, also Two Oceans 56K in 2010.

    1. Jenny

      Mary Coordt is a super runner – this is her 4th Olympic trials marathon. I was at the trials this morning, and they all looked great. I got pretty good pics of Meghan Arbogast and Michael Wardian.

  20. olga

    It was an incredible honor to watch all the best men and women run their hearts out, some – to represent the country, the rest – to give their best at this once in a lifetime opportunity. The Team USA is going to be awesome, and huge congrats to Devon on a 4 min PR who ran a smart and strong race and placed 36th in this field of best 200, to Meghan who ran in her 4th OT at the tender age of (well, who cares), and to guys Cox, Max (a most versitile runner I had seen) and Wardian (didn't seem to be having the best day out there).

  21. Jonathan

    Congrats to all finishers of the Olympic Trials and the marathon today. I am proud to be part of the 1% of the population to undertake this endeavor. My feet are sore but I am very pleased with my 4:14 in my first marathon. Wardian was my outside pick to make the team due to his road racing background. Awesome job in pulling a double – a true marathon maniac! Big shout out to Devon Crosby Helms with her awesome finish as well. As Dean says, "I love this $hit!" Looking forward to the rest of 2012 with Austin, Hells Hills, and Jemez.

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