- The Washington Times - Sunday, June 25, 2006

Many details about the men’s and women’s 2008 Olympic marathon trials were released Thursday, but much still is being worked out.

USA Track & Field awarded the men’s trials to the New York Road Runners and the women’s trials to the Boston Athletic Association. The men’s trials will be in November 2007 in conjunction with the Nov. 2 New York City Marathon, and the women’s will be April 20, the Sunday before the Boston Marathon on April 21, 2008.

Both events will provide $250,000 in prize money and pay travel and lodging costs for athletes who achieve the Olympic trials “A” qualifying standard of 2:20:00 for men and 2:39:00 for women. Men who run faster than 2:22:00 and women faster than 2:47:00 qualify for the trials but do not receive funding. Men under 13:40 for 5,000 meters or 28:45 for 10,000 meters and women under 33:00 for 10,000 meters also receive an invitation to the trials.

In explaining the choice of New York, USATF men’s long distance running committee chairman Glenn Latimer said: “On the men’s side, we listened very, very carefully to what the top athletes and the top coaches wanted. We actually had five different constituencies: the last three Olympians — Alan [Culpepper] was part of that group — the former Olympians, the coaches, media and the event directors, so 15 people all gave their feedback and then we had a committee of six who actually decided it.

“It was between 85 and 90 percent overwhelmingly in favor of New York on the quality of their bid, and the fact that it was in the call to give our athletes the best possible chance to recover from the marathon trials race to be ready for Beijing. Obviously, there’s some caveats about fitness and all the rest of it and proof of fitness, but we’re absolutely delighted.”

There will be at least ninth months between the men’s trials and the 2008 Beijing Olympics in August, making them one of the earliest ever.

A few things are certain. The trials won’t be on the same day nor on the same course as the New York City Marathon. It will be the reverse of the loop used when NYRR held the USA 8K Championships from 2002 to 2004.

“The bid is for Friday morning on a criterium course which is five miles of the most beautiful urban park in the world, Central Park, finishing at the marathon finish line.” NYRR CEO Mary Wittenberg said. “The course is a fair course. It rolls — for all of you that have been in New York. It’s a strength runner course, but it’s a good solid course, where we think our men will perform incredibly well.

But Wittenberg added: “TV is a priority. It may be that we shift to a Saturday race in order to afford ourselves that opportunity. So we’re working closely with the committee to finalize that in light of our other efforts on the promotion side and we look to be announcing that over the course of the summer.”

The women’s trials in Boston are more concrete. With the race the day before the 112th Boston Marathon, there will be a huge built-in fan base from marathoners already in town.

Starting and finishing at the traditional Boston Marathon finish line on Boylston Street, the race will feature a specially designed course that tours historic Boston with a one-time loop that passes Boston Public Garden, Boston Common, the State House and Beacon Hill.

The flat, fast course then will teature four loops of about six miles each going down Commonwealth Avenue, crossing the Charles River into Cambridge over the Massachusetts Avenue Bridge, running east, then west along Memorial Drive. Runners then return from each of the core loops via Massachusetts Avenue.

It will be the 13th time Boston has played a role in selecting the Olympic marathon team, yet the first since 1960.

Kim Keenan-Kirkpatrick, USATF women’s long distance running committee chairwoman, complimented the BAA on its bid.

“Boston really rose to the top,” she said. “The first [positive] was their incredible enthusiasm and excitement. We just felt their committee from [BAA executive director] Guy Morse down to everyone on the staff did an incredible job, first class, showing off the city and really made us feel the enthusiasm that they felt for this event. The second component is the course. It’s a wonderful course.”

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