No, Let's Not Rerun the Olympic Marathon Trials
6 min read
fairly easy
It's a bad idea for reasons of logistics, timing, and justice.
Some bad ideas initially seem like good ideas. But then you start thinking them through, and some flaws quickly become obvious. In those cases, it's best to set the bad idea aside and move on.

An example: Rerunning the Olympic Marathon Trials next year. The idea here is that, with the Olympics now rescheduled for 2021, the race held in Atlanta last month to pick the marathon team for what was supposed to be this summer's Games should be dismissed. There are three main problems with this idea, each of which on its own is enough to ignore the rerun-the-Trials meme.


Runners should be ambitious realists—we hope and aim for the best, but we know we have finite resources and that we should focus them on what's possible. So the boring practical part of this lifelong runner must first ask any Trials rerun proponents: Where will they be held? Who will manage them? Who will get to run? Oh, and who will pay for them?

The Olympic Marathon Trials are a partnership between USA Track & Field (USATF) and a local organizing committee. In its role as our sport's Olympic governing body, USATF sets the rules of competition. The local organizing committee—for the 2020 event, that was the Atlanta Track Club—does the bulk of the work of hosting the Trials, and it absorbs the cost, which runs to millions of dollars.

And note that's a cost with no real means of recoupment. One industry insider told me that the organizers of the Columbus Marathon needed five years to get past the financial hit they took for hosting the men's Trials in 1992. The Pittsburgh Marathon went on hiatus between 2004 and 2008, in part because of financial hardships from hosting the men's Trials in 2000. Organizers' expenses are even greater now that hosting the men's and women's races on the same day has become the norm. So, again, who would put on a new Trials on such short notice? Organized running is hurting enough, given months of canceled races. It's doubtful the groups with the size, knowledge,…
Scott Douglas
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