Jim Walmsley is America’s best ultra runner. Why is he racing the U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials?

Jim Walmsley
Getty Images

The U.S.’ best marathoners race at Saturday’s trials in Atlanta for one of three Olympic spots per gender. Also entered: the U.S.’ best ultra marathoner — Jim Walmsley.

You may have read about Walmsley earlier this month. On Feb. 11, The New York TimesSports Illustrated and Runner’s World all published profiles of one of the most unique of the record 771 qualifiers for the U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials.

Walmsley is at best a long shot to qualify for the Olympics. He owns the Grand Canyon Rim to Rim to Rim record of just under six hours, but he has never raced a marathon. He qualified for trials via the half-marathon route, running the slowest time possible (64 minutes exactly) to eke into Saturday’s field.

So why is Walmsley, one of the few ultra runners able to make a living on sponsorships, taking a break from racing distances up to and beyond 100 miles for the marathon trials?

Three reasons.

  • Walmsley, now that he’s an established ultra runner with a Hoke One One sponsorship and the last four Ultra Runner of the Year titles, said he has “a little bit of a luxury to try fun ideas without much pressure.”
  • To smash stereotypes. “It’s a little bit of an intrigue of, well, I think myself and several of the other top elite ultra runners are really great runners,” he said. “It’s kind of an opportunity to maybe just show that we might not be as slow as they [elite marathoners] think we are.”
  • Training for a major ultra-running goal: South Africa’s Comrades Marathon, a 56-mile race, all on asphalt. “Doing this whole training block for the marathon is basically going back to my roots of reinvigorating my legs, leg speed, and make me competitive at Comrades. I don’t know if I would have gotten out the door for as many workouts if I was just preparing for Comrades.”

Other ultra runners have qualified for and raced a U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials.

Even Ann Trason, the 19990s champion whom Walmlsey called “the biggest, most badass ultra runner, period.” Trason did not respond to interview requests, but she was profiled in The New York Times before the 1996 Olympic Trials. Trason finished 61st in the 1988 Olympic Trials, according to marathonguide.com.

“People think ultra is some kind of spaghetti-eating contest for people with no talent to do anything else,” she said, according to the Times, “but there’s a lot going on.

“An ultra is not about pain — I think a marathon is about pain, about intensity — but it’s about hanging in through tiredness and about staying nutritionally fueled.”

Walmsley succeeded just by making it to the Atlanta start line. His goal in training was to reach the ballpark physical shape of a 2:10 marathoner.

“Which is completely arbitrary to start because I have no idea if I even have the potential to run a 2:10 marathon,” he conceded.

Six men in Saturday’s field have broken 2:10 in a previous marathon. The Atlanta course is hilly, which will slow times.

Walmsley also confirmed in training that his passion remains in ultra trail running. This will likely be his first and last 26.2-mile race.

“I guess I would want it to be my second-to-last marathon,” Walmsley said, correcting himself, “because, yeah, I do have dreams of somehow pulling it off and making the Olympic team.”

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MORE: Galen Rupp, after tumult, finds familiarity before Olympic marathon trials

U.S. men’s gymnastics team named for world championships

Asher Hong
Allison and John Cheng/USA Gymnastics

Asher Hong, Colt Walker and world pommel horse champion Stephen Nedoroscik were named to the last three spots on the U.S. men’s gymnastics team for the world championships that start in three weeks.

Brody Malone and Donnell Whittenburg earned the first spots on the team by placing first and second in the all-around at August’s U.S. Championships.

Hong, Walker and Nedoroscik were chosen by a committee after two days of selection camp competition in Colorado Springs this week. Malone and Whittenburg did not compete at the camp.

Hong, 18, will become the youngest U.S. man to compete at worlds since Danell Leyva in 2009. He nearly earned a spot on the team at the U.S. Championships, but erred on his 12th and final routine of that meet to drop from second to third in the all-around. At this week’s camp, Hong had the lowest all-around total of the four men competing on all six apparatuses, but selectors still chose him over Tokyo Olympians Yul Moldauer and Shane Wiskus.

Walker, a Stanford junior, will make his world championships debut. He would have placed second at nationals in August if a bonus system for attempting difficult skills wasn’t in place. With that bonus system not in place at the selection camp, he had the highest all-around total. The bonus system is not used at international meets such as world championships.

Nedoroscik rebounded from missing the Tokyo Olympic team to become the first American to win a world title on pommel horse last fall. Though he is the lone active U.S. male gymnast with a global gold medal, he was in danger of missing this five-man team because of struggles on the horse at the U.S. Championships. Nedoroscik, who does not compete on the other five apparatuses, put up his best horse routine of the season on the last day of the selection camp Wednesday.

Moldauer, who tweeted that he was sick all last week, was named the traveling alternate for worlds in Liverpool, Great Britain. It would be the first time that Moldauer, who was fourth in the all-around at last fall’s worlds, does not compete at worlds since 2015.

Though the U.S. has not made the team podium at an Olympics or worlds since 2014, it is boosted this year by the absence of Olympic champion Russia, whose athletes are banned indefinitely due to the war in Ukraine. In recent years, the U.S. has been among the nations in the second tier behind China, Japan and Russia, including in Tokyo, where the Americans were fifth.

The U.S. women’s world team of five will be announced after a selection camp in two weeks. Tokyo Olympians Jade Carey and Jordan Chiles are in contention.

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Paris 2024 Olympic marathon route unveiled

Paris 2024 Olympic Marathon
Paris 2024

The 2024 Olympic marathon route will take runners from Paris to Versailles and back.

The route announcement was made on the 233rd anniversary of one of the early, significant events of the French Revolution: the Women’s March on Versailles — “to pay tribute to the thousands of women who started their march at city hall to Versailles to take up their grievances to the king and ask for bread,” Paris 2024 President Tony Estanguet said.

Last December, organizers announced the marathons will start at Hôtel de Ville (city hall, opposite Notre-Dame off the Seine River) and end at Les Invalides, a complex of museums and monuments one mile southeast of the Eiffel Tower.

On Wednesday, the rest of the route was unveiled — traversing the banks of the Seine west to the Palace of Versailles and then back east, passing the Eiffel Tower before the finish.

The men’s and women’s marathons will be on the last two days of the Games at 8 a.m. local time (2 a.m. ET). It will be the first time that the women’s marathon is held on the last day of the Games after the men’s marathon traditionally occupied that slot.

A mass public marathon will also be held on the Olympic marathon route. The date has not been announced.

The full list of highlights among the marathon course:

• Hôtel de ville de Paris (start)
• Bourse de commerce
• Palais Brongniart
• Opéra Garnier
• Place Vendôme
• Jardin des Tuileries
• The Louvre
• Place de la Concorde
• The bridges of Paris
(Pont de l’Alma; Alexandre III;
Iéna; and more)
• Grand Palais
• Palais de Tokyo
• Jardins du Trocadéro
• Maison de la Radio
• Manufacture et Musées
nationaux de Sèvres
• Forêt domaniale
des Fausses-Reposes
• Monuments Pershing –
• Château de Versailles
• Forêt domaniale de Meudon
• Parc André Citroën
• Eiffel Tower
• Musée Rodin
• Esplanade des Invalides (finish)

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