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U.S. Olympic Team Hopefuls Face Marathon Trial Races

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Fans of running are looking forward to the U.S. Olympic team marathon trial races, which will be held in Houston on Jan. 14. The top three finishers in the men's and women's races will earn provisional spots on the U.S. Olympic team that will participate in the 2012 London Olympics.

It's the first time the men's and women's trial races have been held in the same city, on the same day, on the same course.

The last American to win an Olympic marathon was Frank Shorter in Munich in 1972, a victory that helped to start the running boom in the United States. But in recent years American runners have had consistently strong showings on the big stage of the Olympics.

Meb Keflezighi won a silver medal in the 2004 Olympics in Athens. Deena Kastor brought home a bronze medal for her third-place finish in the women's race in 2004. Keflezighi and Kastor will both be running in Houston, but they might be hard-pressed to challenge the favorites, Ryan Hall and Desiree Davila.

Hall and Davila are coming off tremendous performances in the 2011 Boston Marathon. Hall didn't win, but he did run the fastest-ever time for an American, finishing in 2:04:58. He is also the defending trials champion, winning in New York in 2007. At the 2008 Beijing Olympics, Hall placed 10th in the marathon. Davila's 2:28:38 finish in Boston this year was the fastest ever by an American woman in Boston.

Both runners are predicting fast times in Houston. "I will say that the top three guys will all be under 2:10," Hall said this week during a conference call hosted by USA Track and Field.

"I'd say on the women's side, you're looking at 2:24 for the win, and I think 2:28 would land you on the team," Davila said about her race.

Davila didn't make the team in 2008, finishing 13th in the trials in only her second marathon. "It's just completely different this time around. That's the team you want to be a part of. If you make the team in Houston, that's the kind of team you want to be a part of," Davila said.

Some of the other runners to keep an eye on in these races include Dathan Ritzenheim and Brett Gothcer on the men's side, and Kara Goucher and Magdalena Lewy Boulet in the women's race. Lewy Boulet earned a spot on the 2008 Olympic team with a second-place finish in the trials race, which was held in Boston. Deena Kastor won that race.

The wildcard in the men's race could be Galen Rupp, who decided to enter just this month. Rupp has never even run a marathon before, but he has the 5th fastest half-marathon in American history (60:30) and he holds the U.S. record for the 10K (26:48.)

This program aired on December 19, 2011. The audio for this program is not available.

Alex Ashlock Twitter Producer, Here & Now
Alex Ashlock has been a producer for Here & Now since 2005. He started his WBUR career as senior producer of Morning Edition in 1998.

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