For Sara Hall, Jared Ward and Scott Fauble, the year in marathoning didn’t start as they hoped at February’s Olympic Trials. They can end it on a much better note.
The Marathon Project was “born out of necessity,” organizers said in a September announcement. It becomes reality on Sunday morning, live on USATF.TV+ at 9:45 ET. NBCSN airs coverage from 8-9:30 p.m.
Every major marathon originally scheduled for fall 2020 and spring 2021 has been canceled or postponed, leaving top road runners who didn’t qualify for the Tokyo Olympics with calendars emptier than usual.
Enter HOKA NAZ Elite coach Ben Rosario, agent and former competitive distance runner Josh Cox and Big River Race Management’s Matt Helbig.
“We wanted to look back at 2020 and know that we did everything within our power to help not only the athletes, but also the sport,” Cox said in a release announcing The Marathon Project.
They came up with a race that takes place on a flat, 4.3-mile loop in Chandler, Ariz., with about 50 men and 50 women.
The fields include some of the top Americans who did not make the Tokyo Olympic team at the Feb. 29 trials in Atlanta.
The biggest name is Hall, who dropped out in the 23rd mile of trials. Then on Oct. 4, Hall placed second at the postponed-from-April London Marathon in 2:22:01. a personal best and the eighth-fastest time ever by a U.S. woman.
If conditions are ripe Sunday, and Hall is fit, she could challenge Deena Kastor‘s American record of 2:19:36 from 2006. Kastor and Jordan Hasay (2:20:57) are the only U.S. women to break 2:21 in a marathon.
Hall is joined by Stephanie Bruce, Emma Bates and Kellyn Taylor, who finished six-seven-eight at trials. And Keira D’Amato, who on Nov. 24 broke the women’s-only American record for 10 miles (51:23).
The men’s race features Fauble and Ward, who were arguably the second and third favorites going into the Olympic Trials. Fauble, the third-fastest U.S. marathoner in this Olympic cycle, finished 12th. Ward, sixth at the Rio Olympics, was 27th over the rolling hills of Atlanta.
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