Several members of the Hansons-Brooks distance project work together at the 2010 Chicago Marathon in an effort to post an Olympic Marathon Trials qualifying time. Photo:

There are three ways an athlete can qualify for America’s most exclusive marathon.

Written by: Linzay Logan

Running fast enough to qualify is half the battle in making it to the Olympic Marathon Trials, the race that will decide who will represent the United States in the marathon at next summer’s Olympic Games in London. But making the team is not the main goal for each of the 383 runners toeing the line in Houston this Saturday. Sure, the likes of folks like Meb Keflezighi, the 2004 Olympic Marathon silver medalist, and Desi Davila, the runner-up at the 2011 Boston Marathon, have their sights set on making the Olympic team, but for most of the 225 women and 158 men who qualified for the race, getting the chance to run in the celebrated race is their ultimate goal.

To punch their ticket to the Trials, runners had to post a qualifying time at a marathon, half marathon or 10,000-meter track race. Eligible men needed to run 2:19:00 or faster in the full marathon, under 1:05 in the half marathon or sub-28:30 in the 10K during the two-year qualifying window which closed in mid-December. Women had to run 2:46 or faster in the full marathon, under 1:15 in the half marathon or sub-33:00 in the 10,000 between Jan. 1, 2010 and December 11 of this past year. Those runners who met the qualifying standards at the USA Marathon Championships in 2008 (for men) or 2009 (for women) were the first runners granted entry into the race.

According to the data released last week by USA Track and Field, there are a few stand-out courses that yielded several Olympic Marathon Trials qualifying times. Two of the most popular marathons in the U.S–the Boston Marathon in April and the Bank of America Chicago Marathon in October–are also near the top of the list for producing the most Trials qualifying runners. Thirty-nine marathoners qualified at Boston and 43 runners met the standard in Chicago. Topping the list, however, is the California International Marathon with 47 qualifiers, with Grandma’s Marathon totaling the fourth largest amount of Olympic Marathon Trials qualifying runners with 30.