2016 U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials Recap – Stats and Figures

Written by: Joe Bosshard

2016 U.S. Olympic Marathon Recap

2016 U.S. Olympic Marathon Recap

The first 6 members of the USA Track & Field team were named this weekend at the Olympic Marathon Trials. The day was hot and the races were intense. I dug into the finishing times and places a bit.  Starting with the women.

You can watch the replay of the race here.

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The women’s race started out fairly conservatively.  Training partners, Shalane Flanagan and Amy Cragg, built up a sizable lead by halfway. Ultimately Amy was the one feeling good and won the race.  Desi Linden stayed off the leaders but was able to reel in Flanagan in the closing miles to secure 2nd place.  Flanagan collapsed over the finish line in 3rd.
Top 3

  1. Amy Cragg 2:28:20
  2. Desi Linden 2:28:54
  3. Shalane Flanagan 2:29:19

What stands out most from the women’s race is the top 5 finishers from 2016 are the same top 5 finishers from 2012.  The finishing order is different but the names are the same.


 1 Shalane Flanagan 2:25:38
 2 Desiree Davila 2:25:55
 3 Kara Goucher 2:26:06
 4 Amy Hastings 2:27:17
 5 Janet Cherobon-Bawcom 2:29:45



  1. Amy Cragg 2:28:20
  2. Desi Linden 2:28:54
  3. Shalane Flanagan 2:29:19
  4. Kara Goucher 2:30:24
  5. Janet Cherobon-Bawcom 2:31:27

This is quite remarkable. After 4 years of training, aging, newcomers, not a whole lot changed at the top.  Amy Hastings and Desi Davila’s last names changed. Cragg (Hastings) went from 4th to 1st between 2012 and 2016. Linden (Davila) was 2nd in 2012 and 2016.  Goucher went from 3rd to 4th.  Flanagan from 1st to 3rd.  And Cherobon-Bawcom was 5th in both races.

Desi Linden was 17 seconds from winning in 2012.  She was 34 seconds from 1st in 2016.  Over the course of 52.4 miles and 4 years, Linden was a total of 51 seconds from winning both races.

The times were much slower in 2016 than 2012.  This was due to the weather.  It was hot.  Before the race I thought it would take a similar effort to 2012 to make the team – something around 2:25.  I believe that was the type of effort we saw on Saturday.  Given that the temperature at the start of the women’s race was 70 degrees and it rose to the mid-upper 70s throughout the race, this was no doubt worth a few minutes faster than the finishing times indicate.  The heat radiating from the asphalt on the course made things significantly warmer than the recorded temperatures.

Cragg made the biggest jump out of the 5 women from 2012 to 2016 and that is why she not only made the team this go around but is also why she won.  Let’s say the heat slowed things down for the top 5 women by 3 minutes on average (which may even be a conservative conversion).

 Converted 3 minutes

  1. Amy Cragg 2:28:20→2:25:20
  2. Desi Linden 2:28:54 →2:25:54
  3. Shalane Flanagan 2:29:19→2:26:19
  4. Kara Goucher 2:30:24→2:27:24
  5. Janet Cherobon-Bawcom 2:31:27→2:28:27

Compare the converted times to the 2012 trials finishing times:

Place 2012 2016 Converted Difference
1st 2:25:38 2:25:20 0:00:18
2nd 2:25:55 2:25:54 0:00:01
3rd 2:26:06 2:26:19 0:00:13
4th 2:27:17 2:27:24 0:00:07
5th 2:29:45 2:28:27 0:01:18

This obviously isn’t a science, I decided 3 minutes based on what I witnessed and on various conversations I had with coaches and spectators during the race. It looks like it might be pretty accurate though.

The converted times are nearly identical between 2012 and 2016.  Desi Linden, 2nd in both races, ran within 1 second of her 2012 time using the converted heat time for 2016.  The top women all stepped up and all ran great races, with Amy Cragg making the significant jump of the group, as her effort on Saturday was likely at least 2 minutes better than in 2012.  Goucher and Flanagan likely ran slightly slower races than 2012.  It’s probably not fair to put a blanket 3 minute conversion on the entire top 5 as everyone reacts differently to the heat, but it likely isn’t far off.

149 women finished the race.

198 women made it to the starting line

49, or just under 25%, of the women who started the race did not finish the race.

4 – the number of women who ran a negative split between the 1st half of the race and 2nd half of the race. 2 of the 4 women (Cragg & Linden) made the Olympic team.

3:51 – the largest negative split of the race run by Katja Goldring from Beverly Hills to finish 10th.  She ran her first half in 1:19:36 and her second half in 1:15:45.  Goldring’s finishing time was 2:35:21, significantly faster than her qualifying time of 2:40:32.

8 seconds – Smallest difference between the first half and second half splits. Kara Goucher wins the most evenly run race with this effort.

24:44 – largest positive split.  Leonora Petrina ran the fist half in 1:21:05 and the 2nd half in 1:45:59.

8:34 – The average positive splits – excluding the 4 negative splits. 7:40 was the median positive split -excluding the 4 negative splits.

2:52:04 Average Finishing Time

2:51:27 Median Finishing Time

2:39:44 Average Marathon Trials Seed Time

2:41:09 Median Marathon Trials Seed Time

12:20 – Difference between average qualifying marathon time and the average finishing time on Saturday.

55:08 – Difference between the 1st finisher and last finisher

Where did they drop out? Taking the last recorded split from the race.

2016 U.S. Olympic Marathon Recap

49 women did not finish the race. The earliest dropout was just past the 2.2 mile marker and the latest dropout was mile 21.  Between miles 14.2-15 and miles 20-21 was a popular area to call it a day with 5 ladies stepping off between both.

The splits in the official results are a mess.  There are a lot missing splits and wrong splits for many athletes.  Take this with some skepticism as it’s not 100% accurate. 


The men’s race was hot (pun) from the gun.  The splits might not seem fast, but given the weather conditions this was a fast, hard race from the first mile.  The men had a large group through halfway before Tyler Pennel broke things up around mile 16-17 with a hard surge and a 4:47 mile.  Rupp and Meb battled most of the late miles before Rupp ultimately claimed a sizable victory.

  1. Galen Rupp 2:11:12
  2. Meb Keflezighi 2:12:20
  3. Jared Ward 2:13:00

2 of the pre-race BIG THREE made the team.  Before the race I thought it was a good probability that 1 of the BIG THREE would not make the team. However, it was Meb I had doubted given his age and quick turnaround from NYC.  Ritz ended up being the one who had a bad day and dropped out just after 20.2 miles with cramping.

I also thought an effort similar to Houston in 2012 would be required to make this team.  In Houston it took a sub 2:09:47 to earn an Olympic spot.  Sticking with 3 minutes as the conversion for the heat the results when compared to 2012 look like this:

Place 2012 2016 Conversion Difference
1 2:09:08 2:08:12 0:00:56
2 2:09:30 2:09:20 0:00:10
3 2:09:47 2:10:00 0:00:13
4 2:09:55 2:11:12 0:01:17
5 2:11:53 2:11:57 0:00:04

A few notes.

Rupp ran a VERY impressive race.  In 2012 the difference between 1st and 2nd was 22 seconds.  On Saturday Rupp won by 1:08.  Again, looking at Houston in 2012, had Meb won by the same margin as Rupp, his time would have been 2:08:22, nearly identical to Rupp’s.  Rupp would have won this thing in all conditions and likely any tactics. No doubt about it.

Rupp can run much faster.  Rupp negative split the race from the first half to the second half by 1 minute and 50 seconds.  Given the weather and how few men negative split (just 3) he has a lot more in the tank.

Meb is mister consistency.  The 41 year old continues to get the job done.  Based on the the heat conversion Meb ran within 12 seconds of the time it took for him to win in 2012.  He knows how to race and how to prepare for a marathon.

Jared Ward nearly PRd to make the team.  Ward entered Saturday with a marathon best of 2:12:56 from the LA Marathon/US Championships nearly a year ago.  On Saturday he ran 2:13:00.  What is interesting is the conditions were very similar for both races. Both races were hot.  It may have been slightly warmer in 2015 when Ward won the US Marathon title.  Ward has run well in the heat and should be knocking on 2:10 when he finally runs a marathon in good weather.  Don’t expect it to happen in Rio, but expect Ward to thrive in the warm conditions.

The US Championships/LA Marathon 2015

I point this race out because this marathon was run in similar conditions to the race on Saturday.  Take a look at how the top 7 finishers from the 2015 race fared at the Trials.

Place in 2015 Time in 2015 Place in 2016 Time in 2016 Difference
Jared Ward 1 2:12:56 3 2:13:00 0:00:04
Matt Llano 2 2:16:13 6 2:15:16 0:00:57
Mike Morgan 3 2:16:56 22 2:20:59 0:04:03
Daniel Tapia 4 2:17:14 28 2:22:30 0:05:16
Max King 5 2:17:32 12 2:17:14 0:00:18
Stephan Shay 6 2:18:08 34 2:23:47 0:05:39
Scott Smith 7 2:19:40 14 2:17:33 0:02:07

Of the top 7 from the 2015 US Championships, 4 finished in the top 15 at the Trials.  All 7 finished in the top 35. I find this more than a coincidence. Maybe it’s just that…a coincidence. But maybe the strong finishes at the Trials had to do with having run a hard marathon in the heat before.  They knew what to expect going into the race.

The Race

105 – # of finishers

164 –#of men on the starting line

59 men did not finish the race, nearly 36%

3 – # of men who negative split the second half of the race.  All three made the Olympic team.

1:50 – The negative split from Galen Rupp, the largest negative split of the day  His first half was run in 1:06:31.  The second half was 1:04:51.

2 seconds – The difference between the first half of Jared Ward’s race and his second (negative split).  The most evenly run race of the day.

57:06 – The difference between Chris Barnicle’s first half and second half.  The biggest positive split on the day.

10:37 – Average positive split for the field from the first half of the race to the second half of the race, removing the 3 men who negative split.

8:55 – Median positive split, excluding the negative splits.


2:28:59 – Average Finishing time

2:27:37 – Median Finishing Time


2:15:45 – Average Marathon Trials Seed Time

2:16:34 – Median Marathon Trials Seed Time


13:14 – Difference between the average finishing time on Saturday and the average qualifying marathon time.

1:34:22 – Difference from first place to last place


Where did they dropout?

2016 U.S. Olympic Marathon Recap

59 men did not finish the race.  The earliest dropout was mile 3.  There are 3 men with 26 mile splits but no finishing time. This likely isn’t correct, but it’s what I have to go with.  Between miles 8.2-9 was a lot of carnage. 9 men called it quits during this section.

The splits in the official results are a mess.  There are a lot missing splits and wrong splits for many athletes.  Take this with some skepticism as it’s not 100% accurate. 

Half Marathon Qualifiers vs Marathon Qualifiers

90 men using half marathon qualifiers started the race.  54 finished.  Nearly 60% completed the marathon.

74 men using marathon qualifying times started the race. 51 finished. 69% completed the race.

In the battle of toughness, the half marathoners and the marathoners were pretty close with the point going to the marathoners.

The average finishing position for half marathon qualifiers was 65.77

The median finishing position for half marathon qualifiers was 70


The average finishing position for marathon qualifiers was 39.47

The median finishing position for marathon qualifiers was 34


The racers that had marathon qualifying times placed significantly higher than the athletes that used half marathon qualifying times.

Want to do well at the 2020 Olympic Marathon Trials?  Run a marathon.

13 of the top 15 finishers had marathon qualifying times.


Marathon Qualifiers Starters 74
Half Marathon Qualifiers Starters 89
Marathon Qualifiers Finishers 51
Half Marathon Qualifiers Finishers 54
% Finishers Marathon Qualifiers 68.92%
% Finishers Half Marathon Qualifiers 60.67%
Avg. Half Marathon Qualifiers Finish 65.77
Median Half Marathon Qualifiers Finish 70
Avg. Marathon Qualifiers Finish 39.47
Median Marathon Qualifiers Finish 34

Take away what you’d like from all of this.  In the end, The US is sending two really good teams.  The runners that qualified all deserved the spot. The conditions will be similar in Rio.  This team will know how to run well in hot and humid conditions.  These were not easy races and no one skated through this one.

Joe is a former University of Colorado runner with a penchant for numbers and filing tax returns. He started run2run as a distraction while studying for CPA exams.

2 Comment

  1. […] Run2Win’s stat recap is really good. Amongst his data: Runners who qualified with half-marathon times and marathon times had similar finishing rates (60% and 69% respectively) but those who came in with the full-distance qualifier place significantly higher (a median of 70th place for half-marathon times versus 34th). Rupp, who ran his marathon debut at the trials, is a notable exception — and he also posted a huge negative split on the day of 1 minute, 50 seconds. […]

  2. Lee Troop says: Reply

    Great stats compiled here Joe. Good work.

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