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Elite-only field to compete in The Marathon Project in December

The Marathon Project will feature 50 men and 50 women racing on a flat and fast course in Arizona

Photo by: Andrew Wagstaff

NAZ Elite coach Ben Rosario of Flagstaff, Ariz. recently announced plans for a new elite-only race called The Marathon Project, an invitational event that will take place on December 20 in Chandler, Ariz., just outside of Phoenix. The Marathon Project will feature 100 of the best U.S. and international runners. With 50 men and 50 women on the start line and a course that is “as flat and fast as you could possibly imagine,” the race is bound to be exciting theatre for running fans across the globe. 

The reason behind the race

The purpose is simple enough: it’s a chance for some of the world’s best marathoners to get into a race, which is something many have missed out on in 2020 due to COVID-19. “To keep this sport going, we needed to find a way to give our professional marathoners a chance to race and compete, and that was really the impetus for this whole thing,” Rosario said in a recent interview with Fox 10 Phoenix.

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In order to follow local COVID-19 restrictions, the race course — which will be on a 6.9K loop — will be closed to spectators, and organizers have said they will “adhere to all USATF, World Athletics and State of Arizona” coronavirus testing guidelines for the athletes and everyone else involved. While the race won’t be open to the public, Rosario said they do plan on broadcasting the event live online (although they have yet to iron out those details). 

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Who gets to race? 

Rosario and his team, which includes U.S. Marathon Trials champion Aliphine Tuliamuk, as well as top runners like Scott Fauble, Steph Bruce and Kellyn Taylor, want to see fast results at this race, and they’re hoping for sub-2:10 results from the men and sub-2:24 runs from the women. On the race website, it’s noted that “the top athletes are the priority,” and the fastest runners will be given pacers to help them through the early stages of the marathon. 

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There are several criteria for a guaranteed spot in The Marathon Project’s limited field. First, any runner who finished in the top 25 at the 2020 U.S. Olympic Trials Marathon gets automatic entry. The same goes for U.S. citizens who have run sub-2:28 (for women) or sub-2:13 (for men) marathons anytime since January 1, 2017. U.S. citizens who finished in the top 15 at a World Marathon Major in 2018 or 2019 will also be given automatic entry into the event. Finally, any former winners of World Marathon Majors (regardless of nationality) who are interested in racing will be guaranteed a spot on the start line. After athletes who meet this criteria are all accounted for and entered in the race, the remaining spots will be doled out to other athletes. 

To be considered for (but not guaranteed) a spot in the race, athletes must have met at least one of the following times or results in recent years.

  1. Competed in the 2020 U.S. Olympic Trials Marathon and finished in the top 50.
  2. U.S. citizens who have run under 2:40:00 (for women) or under 2:20:00 (for men) since January 1, 2017 or later.
  3. U.S. citizens who have run a half-marathon under 1:12:00 (for women) or under 1:04:00 (for men) since January 1, 2018 or later.
  4. U.S. citizens who have run under 32:30.00 (for women) or under 28:30.00 (for men) for 10,000m on the track since January 1, 2018 or later.
  5. U.S. citizens who have run under 15:45.00 (for women) or under 13:45.00 (for men) for 5,000m on the track since January 1, 2018 or later.
  6. Finished in the top 5 at a USA Running Circuit/USATF Road Championship (5K to marathon only) in 2018 or 2019.
  7. Recent NCAA graduates (U.S. or international) who finished in the top 10 at the NCAA Cross Country Championships in 2018 or 2019.
  8. International athletes who have run under 2:35:00 (for women) or under 2:15:00 (for men) in the marathon, or under 1:10:00 (for women) or 1:03:00 (for men) in the half-marathon since January 1, 2018 or later.

The full fields have yet to be announced, but with such high standards to even be considered for a spot on the start list, The Marathon Project is bound to be a stacked and fast race. 

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