ATLANTA -- August 29, 2019 -- With record participation expected and after receiving feedback from America's best marathoners and coaches, Atlanta Track Club and USATF announced adjustments to the 2020 U.S. Olympic Team Trials - Marathon course today. The race organizers will replace a previously planned six-mile-loop with an eight-mile-loop which the athletes will run three times. This change will decrease the number of turns and reduce overall elevation gain on the course.
The updated course utilizes an additional mile of Peachtree Street in the heart of Atlanta. Competitors will begin their race in front of Centennial Olympic Park - the crown jewel of the 1996 Atlanta Games - and head down Marietta Street toward Peachtree. They will proceed three miles north on Peachtree until they pass the intersection of Peachtree and West Peachtree, then turn around and head back down Peachtree in the opposite direction, loop through Atlanta's Old Fourth Ward neighborhood and return to downtown. The runners will complete this loop nearly three times before heading on a three mile final loop that runs under the Rings and Torch structure from the 1996 Atlanta Olympics, goes by the Georgia Capitol building and passes by the sports stadiums that house the Atlanta Falcons, Atlanta Hawks and Atlanta United FC. They will then reach the welcome sight of the finish line inside Centennial Olympic Park.
Eliminated was a loop around the Margaret Mitchell House and onto 10th Street, which included four turns on narrow roads in the span of less than one tenth of a mile.
The changes to the course come after a test-race in March and several subsequent course tours with qualified athletes. These opportunities provided race organizers with real-time feedback, examples of potential bottlenecks related to overlap with a field of an estimated 600 qualified athletes. As of August 28, 341 women and 181 men have qualified for the Trials. By comparison, 246 women and 211 men qualified for the 2016 Trials in Los Angeles and 227 women and 160 men qualified for the 2012 Trials in Houston.
"We are excited by how many American distance runners qualified for the chance to chase their Olympic dreams here in Atlanta," said Rich Kenah, Executive Director of Atlanta Track Club which is serving as the Local Organizing Committee for the Trials. "Candidly, we did not anticipate a field this large when we designed the original course and we are adjusting accordingly. We listened to the athletes and will make some changes that we believe will be in their best interest on race day."
Athletes will have access to fluid stations every two miles along the course, with personal fluid stations for all competitors every fourth mile. A static and animated map of the updated course are included in this release. An updated elevation profile will be released soon.
"The changes are in keeping with integrity of the race," said Ed Eyestone, coach of 2016 Olympic Marathoner Jared Ward. "The first priority is safety and these changes show a respect for that with both the men's and women's races."
"This shows that Atlanta Track Club is trying to make a course that is athlete friendly and spectator friendly and leaving no stone unturned," said Ben Rosario, coach of Hoka One One Northern Arizona Elite. "Having run the course, I'd say this change makes it better."
The 2020 U.S. Olympic Team Trials - Marathon will be held in Atlanta on Saturday, February 29, 2020 as part of America's Marathon Weekend. The top three women and top three men will be selected to the team that will compete in Olympic Marathon in Tokyo next August. Spectators are invited to enjoy the race for free along the route. The race will also be broadcast nationally live on NBC.