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Marathon dilemma

Super fast times in the marathon make qualifying for Paris a tricky proposition.

Super fast times in the marathon make qualifying for Paris a tricky proposition.

In the women’s ranks, Australia has five women qualified for Paris, with only three able to be selected. A 2:25 marathoner won’t get a start.

For men, there’s one athlete qualified and the prospects that a 2:08 runner will be borderline to make the cut.

Sure, marathon times have dropped by minutes with the advent of super shoe technology, but the competitiveness of the event is also advancing.

Women

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Last weekend’s Valencia Marathon saw a rewriting of the Australian all-time lists, with Genevieve Gregson (2:23:08) moving to third and Isobel Batt-Doyle (2:23:27) moving to fifth.

Lisa Weightman ran 2:24:18, with Eloise Wellings clocking 2:25:47.

All four were inside the Olympic qualifying standard of 2:26:50.

The performances also show that the marathon is a race of thin margins, with Gregson and Batt-Doyle recording sizeable personal bests, while Weightman was running with COVID and slowed in the closing stages, while Wellings – who was side-by-side with Gregson at the 35km mark, was forced to stop during the final kilometres.

With Australian record holder Sinead Diver also having the qualifying standard for the Olympics, there’s five women qualified for just three spots.

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NameFastest time in qualifying periodOther marathons in qualifying period
Sinead Diver2:21:34 (Valencia ’22, Australian Record)2:31:27 (Sydney ’23)
Genevieve Gregson2:23:08 (Valencia ’23)2:28:33 (Gold Coast ’23, debut)
Lisa Weightman2:23:15 (Osaka ’23)2:24:18 (Valenica 23), 2:30:50 (Budapest 23 World Champs), 2:31:42 (Tokyo ’23)
Isobel Batt-Doyle2:23:27 (Valenica ’23)2:27:54 (Nagoya ’23), 2:37:53 (Budapest ’23 World Champs)
Eloise Wellings2:25:47 (Valenica ’23)2:31:38 (Gold Coast ’23), 2:32:09 (Nagoya ’23), 2:34:50 (New York, ’22)

In head-to-head contests the results follow the same hierachy as the fastest ranked times, with the exception of Batt-Doyle finishing ahead of Weightman in Valencia last week.

Also add in the possibility of qualifying times before the end of the marathon qualifying period on 30 April 2024 by Olympians Ellie Pashley (2:26:21 PB) and Jessica Stenson (2:25:15 PB). It could be a seven way race for the three places.

Men

Things aren’t as rosy for the men’s qualifiers.

Australian record holder Brett Robinson is the lone man with the 2:08:10 qualifying standard, courtesy of his 2:07:31 mark set in Fukuoka last year. He backed it up last week with a solid 2:08:29 last week.

The World Athletics Olympic qualifying process works in two parts, with an 80 person field the maximum. At 30 January 2024 the top 65 athletes on the ‘Road to Paris’ qualifying list are deemed to be qualified. This includes athletes (on a 3 per nation basis) who have met the qualifying standard, or who are next best ranked through World Athletics Rankings.

Currently, Liam Adams is ranked 65th in that list, while Ed Goddard is 79th.

At the end of the qualifying period on 30 April, the remaining 15 spots are allocated (based on either qualifying standards, or less likely, World Rankings).

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Note that Athletics Australia won’t select any athlete at the 30 January milestone, but should Adams remaining in the quota at that time, it secures a second place for Australia (which can be allocated to any athlete who has run under 2:11:30). Adams is the clear second fastest performer behind Robinson, with his 2:08:39 run on the Gold Coast earlier this year.

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