Before heading to altitude as part of their respective build-ups, both Meb Keflezighi and Shalane Flanagan paid to a visit Los Angeles to get an up-close look at the Olympic Trials marathon course ahead of the Feb. 13 race.
The spectator-friendly course consists of one 2.2-mile loop through downtown L.A., then four six-mile loops that go south through Exposition Park and the campus of USC. The course is relatively flat but has many turns, including several U-turns.
“I was on it this past weekend,” Flanagan said Thursday on a conference call. “It’s fresh in my memory. I’ve been trying to go through it in my head and re-visit and make sure I don’t forget.
“It’s a fairly simplistic course. The 2.2-mile loop has a lot of turns initially, which will be interesting with a big start.”
The biggest start ever, in fact. As of Thursday, a record 235 women and 200 men have qualified for the race, and 198 women and 155 men have registered. More could qualify this weekend, as races like Rock ‘n’ Roll Arizona, the Houston Marathon and the Naples Daily News Half Marathon will give runners one last shot before the qualifying window closes. Registration for the Trials closes Jan. 31.
After the initial 2.2-mile loop, runners head south on Figueroa Street, the straightest section of the course, before running through the USC campus and south through Exposition Park. There, a lot of turns await runners within Exposition Park as the course winds past the Los Angeles Coliseum, the California Science Center and more before heading back to Figueroa Street and north toward the start-finish area. Then, they do the loop three more times.
“You gotta make those turns smart and effectively,” said Keflezighi, who ran the course in November and is currently training in Mammoth Lakes, Calif.
Both Flanagan and Keflezighi agreed that the toughest turn might be one of the last ones—a 180-degree U-turn in front of Staples Center about 300 meters from the finish line.
“It’s going to be tough to get around that turn (on tired legs),” said Flanagan, who’s currently training in Flagstaff, Ariz. “That’s probably the most technical aspect.”
Added Keflezighi: “It could be very tactical if it comes down to three people or four people at the end.”
Another factor that may be in play is the weather. Southern California is known for its nice conditions almost year-round, but it’s an El Niño year and the possibility of rainy conditions in Los Angeles looms.
Both Flanagan and Keflezighi said the temperatures in the 40s or 50s would be ideal, and surely a rain-free forecast would draw more spectators.
“It’d be nice to have the ideal California weather,” said Keflezighi, who lives in San Diego. “Fifty degrees is perfect so I don’t have to wear gloves or a beanie.
“Let’s hope it will be somewhere in the 40s or 50s and people will come and cheer us on. It’s good to have fair weather.”
The men’s race starts at 10:06 a.m. PT on Feb. 13 and the women go at 10:22 a.m. The top three men and top three women will qualify for the 2016 Olympics in Rio.