With just over 100 of the top athletes in North America (and several athletes representing other nations) prepared to race on Sunday on a flat and fast course in Chandler, Ariz., The Marathon Project has the potential to be the best race of 2020. Records could be broken, Canadians could hit Olympic standard and drama could unfold, all of which makes the event mandatory viewing for all fans of the sport. There are many reasons why The Marathon Project could be a top event, but here are just a few if you needed any more convincing.
It’s one of the only races of the year
The Marathon Project could be one of the best races of the year because, well, it’s one of the only races of the year. So far this year, the biggest races we’ve seen have been the U.S. Marathon Trials in February, the Tokyo Marathon in March, the London Marathon in October and the Valencia Marathon in December. Based on its stacked lineup, The Marathon Project will likely join this list as one of the top events of 2020, and if the contenders are firing on all cylinders on Sunday, it could beat out those other events as the top race of this strange year.
Canadians are racing
Six Canadians are set to race in Arizona on Sunday, and we can’t wait to see any of them run. On the men’s side, Cam Levins will look to better his Canadian marathon record of 2:09:25, and he’ll be joined by Rory Linkletter, who has a marathon PB of 2:16:42, and Ben Preisner and Justin Kent, who will be running their debut marathons. (Preisner ran a solo marathon earlier this year, but this will be his first official race over 42.2K.) While Levins is the only one to have ever run under the Olympic qualifying standard of 2:11:30 (although he has yet to do it in the current qualifying window for Tokyo 2021), they’re all certainly capable of hitting this time, and it will be exciting to see how they fare on Sunday.
Natasha Wodak and Kinsey Middleton will represent Canada in the women’s race, and like the runners on the men’s team, they’re both threats to beat the Olympic standard, which is 2:29:30 for women. Wodak has run one marathon before, but that was all the way back in 2013. She ran a 2:35:16 back then, and now, seven years later, she’ll be looking to take a significant chunk off that result. Middleton won the Canadian Marathon Championships in 2018, when she ran her PB of 2:32:09. Two years removed from that result, she’s likely hungry to run even quicker in Arizona.
Records could fall
Sara Hall is the top-seeded runner in the women’s field, and she’s coming off a spectacular PB at the London Marathon, where she ran 2:22:01. If she has a good run, she could be in the hunt for the American record of 2:19:36, which belongs to Deena Kastor. On the men’s side, Levins could challenge his own Canadian record, which he set at the 2018 STWM.
It’s a chance to race
Not being able to race in 2020 has been hard on all runners, but for these elites, this is how they pay their bills. Racing brings prize money and sponsorships, and with so few chances to race this year, it has been extremely tough on these athletes. The Marathon Project is giving runners the opportunity to earn some cash, which is a great gift in time for the winter holidays.
Olympic spots are up for grabs
The Olympic qualifying window was closed for runners throughout the summer, and even if it had been open, there were next to no chances for athletes to run standard at official races. The American Olympic marathon team was decided at the trials in February, but for athletes from other countries, this presents an opportunity to potentially book their tickets to Tokyo next summer. With so much at stake, there will definitely be some thrilling racing on Sunday.