Run an Olympic Marathon Qualifying Time in a Half Marathon

In a little over a year – February 3, 2024 – hundreds of the fastest marathoners in the United States will gather in Orlando, Florida to compete for one of six spots heading to the 2024 Olympic Games in Paris.Three men and three women will earn the chance to represent the U.S. in the 26.2 mile race should they run an Olympic marathon qualifying time.

The 2020 Olympic Games (which actually took place in 2021) was a spectacular showing for United States distance runners. American Molly Seidel brought home a bronze medal. It was a historic run for American women’s marathoning. Her epic third place finish was just the third Olympic medal American women have won in the event. The U.S. men have earned 10 medals throughout Olympic history. But, it should be noted that women were not allowed to compete until 1984.

Seidel joined the legendary ranks of Joan Benoit Samuelson who took gold in 1984 with a marathon time of 2:35:15 and Deena Kastor who won bronze in 2004 with a finishing time of 2:27:20.

Even before her gutsy race in Japan, Seidel stirred up buzz when she made the team in Atlanta in February 2020. She came in second place, behind Aliphine Tuliamuk, running the marathon in 2:27:31. She was the dark horse among the over 500 women competing. An even more surprising feat considering she had never run a full marathon before.

How was that possible? 

Even though there is no half marathon event in the Olympics, runners can use the half marathon distance to gain entry into the Olympic marathon – which is exactly what Seidel did. 

Photo via Flickr

What’s are the Olympic Marathon Qualifying Times?

If you’re running the full marathon, you’ll need a qualified finish in a marathon of 2:37 or faster, or a half marathon time of 1:12 or faster.

For men, the marathon time is 2:18 and the half marathon time is 1:03.

How to Qualify for the Olympic Marathon

The window to qualify for the marathon trials via the half marathon route is open from January 1, 2023 through December 5, 2023. The time  window is smaller  than qualifying during a  full marathon, which opened January 1, 2022 and also closes December 2023. As of this writing 106 men and 96 women have already qualified, none by running a half marathon so far. 

In order to qualify running a half marathon, men have to run 1:03:00 (4:48 per mile), while women have to run the half in 1:12:00 (5:30 per mile). It’s harder to qualify this year. The times have been shaved down by a minute in both fields from 2020.

Seidel qualified for the Olympic marathon in 2020 running a personal best (at the time) of 1:09:35 at the Houston Half Marathon. If she were to replicate that performance again, she’d surely qualify under 2024’s standards, but luckily she won’t have to. The most recent marathon team Olympians are graciously given automatic entry into the 2024 team trials event in Orlando. 

Photo credit ccho/Flickr

For runners who are not already Olympians, it takes a little more than just running really fast times in your neighborhood half marathon. You also have to choose the right course. Runners must complete a qualifying time on a USATF-certified course within the 2023 time window. These courses are certified for distance accuracy by the governing body USA Track and Field. 

2023 Races with Great Qualifying Conditions

Think you have what it takes to be the next Molly Seidel? These are USATF-certified half marathon courses that are primed for fast times within the qualifying window. 

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