My Final Picks for the Men's Marathon Team


Dear readers, When I got up this morning, I was surprised to find that a weeks' worth of my blogs had disappeared. I assembled the October 29 blog but noticed that nothing went out for Oct.30 and 31. So, we will find those and repost them, hopefully, in the next few days, but today, I will regale you with my final picks for the marathon......

With three days to go, the press conferences in NY are getting more and more fascinating. I read the quotes each night and intereviews with the athletes. This will be one of the best marathons every held in U.S. Olympic Trials history and the die hard fans should be pleased with the course and the challenges.

This is a tough course. I remember running the 20 miler, which was the last event of the Winter race series each year in Central Park and it was a challenging loop. If one had not run the 8k and the 10 miler before, there was some surprises. The year I remember, 1986, I believe, it was snowing and each loop, people dropped out until the snow was coming down pretty strong and there was no one there but the racers and the course.

This race has alot on the line. The top three make the Olympic team, provided that they have hit the mystical A standard, or some interpretation of that rule. With the U.S. success in Athens, there is a lot of pressure for the marathoners to not only performn here but also in Beijing.

Face it. Beijing will be a crap shoot. Choosing a team on a hard course in New York will give the runners a chance to recover, a chance for the U.S. to have a team who can handle hard courses and race on them, but it is, the athletes, in the end, who can and should be the highlight of the day.

In 2004, as I have said before, Alan Culpepper, Meb Keflizighi and Dan Browne were the team.

This is 2008. All are back, along with Ryan Shay, Peter Gilmore, Khalid Khannouchi, Abdi Abdirahman, to name a few. There will be some surprises, most notably some strong performances, I believe, from Brian Sell and his Brooks Hanson teammates.

I am still frustrated that NBC does not get it. The marathon should be a focus point as they build towards Beijing, but no one seems creative enough there to think that way. The start will be seen on NBC morning show, and there will be a half hour highlights show nationally on Saturday afternoon! That is good, and that is progress.

Kudos to NYRR for putting this race on. Putting on Olympic Trials are not something one wants to do with out a strong support group and strong financial support. U.S.O.C. is pretty cautious, to say the least, and Olympic sponsors have not really realized the benefits of reaching out to the running population. This is a labor of love by the NYRR and the BAA this coming spring for the women.

All in all, 134 marathoners will line up on Saturday, and head out on the course. Many will be together through 15 miles or so, then the reality sets in. Watch for serious drop out rates among the elite who realize that they are not making this team.

The race will come down to five or six, with someone coming from the back of the pack after twenty. This time, that will be hard. I believe all of the players will be up front, gutting it out and finding out who will make the team by 23 or so miles.

My picks for Saturday's race are Meb Keflizighi, Ryan Hall and Brian Sell. I think that Alan Culpepper and Khalid Khannouchi are quite capable of making the team, as is Abdi Abdirahman, but I have not seen them race enough on a tough course to make a real decision. Culpepper looks good from his past Boston and Oly Trials performances, but
Meb has the silver, and races well in Championships, Ryan Hall, although i think he is one Olympics away from stardom, should do very well, it is his race to screw up, and Brian Sell is made for this course.

So, in fourth place? I am sticking with Peter Gilmore, and my surprises are Dathan Ritzenhein and Matt Downin.

Think about those for a while and we will see you on the course in 48 hours!

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