Saturday morning, 150 elite men and women runners will take a preview run of the 2012 U.S. Olympic Team Trials. These athletes aren’t just out for a jog, they are also competing in the U.S. Half Marathon Championship race with a prize purse totaling $59,500 split among the top 10 male and female finishers.
It's all a buildup, test run for January 2012 when Houston becomes the first city to host both the men's and women's Olympic marathon qualifiers in a single year. The Olympic Trials will take place one day before the 2012 Houston Marathon and will determine which athletes will run for the U.S. Olympic team in the London Games.
Among the elite athletes running Saturday, Ryan Hall,comes back to Houston after setting the U.S. half marathon record on the an H-Town course in 2007 with a time of 59:43. That only broke a two-decade-old record. Hall is also the fastest American marathoner out there, having set a time of 2:06:17 in London in 2008. He will be back in London this spring to run again.
“Houston is the land of breakthroughs,” the 28-year-old Hall said Friday. “You never know what will happen, but I’m healthy and confident in my abilities.”
Others to watch for Saturday are Jorge Torres, 30, who has had some slow races but appears poised to compete with the best, and Patrick Smyth, 24, who placed second in the Houston Half Marathon last year.
Among the women, watch for Serena Burla, 28, who placed second in Houston last year, but then had surgery to remove a malignant tumor from her leg last February. She started training again last July and was racing in the New York City Marathon by November.
Magdalena Lewy Boulet, 37, became a U.S. citizen on September 11, 2001 and is one of the older women competing. She has a slew of national titles under her belt. Katie McGregor, 33, is running her first Houston race but she won three U.S. titles for shorter distances in 2010.
The race starts and finishes at the George R. Brown Convention Center and goes along Memorial Drive and Allen Parkway to Shepherd Drive and back.