Your Complete Guide To The 2024 Olympic Marathon Qualification

We discuss the different qualifying standard, the Road to Paris list, and how the US Olympic Trials work

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With the 2024 Paris Olympics just around the corner, many athletes will be lining up at early season races for one final shot at qualifying for the games.

As you’ve been watching races or reading race reports over the last year, you’ve probably heard some confusing terms or phrases surrounding the Olympic qualification process, such as auto-standard, the road to Paris list, and the qualification period.

Let’s unpack the nuances of the qualification process for the Paris 2024 Olympic Games, as well as the at times complex standards and pathways set by World Athletics and the International Olympic Committee (IOC).

Your Complete Guide To The 2024 Olympic Marathon Qualification 1
Photo Credit: Greenwich Photography

Understanding the Dual Pathway Qualification System

The qualification process for Paris 2024 is divided into two pathways, with 50 percent of athletes qualifying by achieving the entry standard and the remaining 50 percent through the World Athletics Ranking.

The qualification period for the marathon spans from Nov. 1, 2022 to April 30, 2024. This means only results from within this window will count towards entry standards or rankings.

Entry Standard

For the 2020 Olympics, World Athletics established entry limits of 80 athletes for both men’s and women’s marathons. 

However, an unexpected surge in athletes meeting the entry standards, fueled by the influence of super shoes and an extended qualifying window due to the COVID-19 pandemic, resulted in 106 men and 88 women starting the marathon at the postponed Tokyo Olympics in 2021.

In a bid to prevent a recurrence of this situation, World Athletics made significant reductions to the marathon entry standards. 

The 2024 standards are now set at 2:08:10 for men, compared to 2:11:30 in 2020, and 2:26:50 for women, compared to 2:29:30 in 2020. 

Athletes also have the opportunity to meet the standard by securing a top-five finish in a Platinum Label Marathon held within the qualification window. 

Noteworthy 2023 Platinum Label Marathons include Xiamen, Osaka (women), Tokyo, Nagoya (women), Seoul, Boston, London, Sydney, Berlin, Chicago, Amsterdam, New York, Shanghai, and Valencia.

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Photo Credit: John Hoey

World Athletics Ranking

Half of the field for the Olympic marathon will come from the World Athletics rankings.

World Athletics released the “Road to Paris” list, which, on January 30, 2024, will have the top 65 athletes who are considered qualified. 

The catch?

The list has a limit of three athletes per country, including athletes who have already run qualifying times. Take Kenya, for example, which has had far more than three athletes run the Olympic standard and will, therefore, not have any athletes on the Road to Paris list.

What this does mean is that someone ranked much lower than 65th can still qualify.

Quota Reallocation System

In June, World Athletics announced a “quota reallocation system” for the Olympic marathon.

The system allows any or all of its qualified athletes with a replacement, so long as the replacement has run a 2:11:30 (men) or 2:29:30 (women).

In simple terms, even if “Athlete A” has run the fastest time of any athlete in their country, their quota spot could be given to “Athlete B,” who may be the fifth fastest but has run under the 2:11:30 or 2:29:30 (depending on if they are male or female).

This reallocation system can make selection interesting in many countries, but especially in the United States, as their marathon selection occurs through an Olympic Trials.

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Photo Credit: Paul Hudson

How Does the U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials Work?

For American athletes, on top of thinking about running the Olympic standard, they also have to keep the Olympic Trials standard in mind.

There were two ways for Americans to qualify for the Olympic Marathon Trials: running either a fast marathon or a fast half marathon.

The standard for men to make the Olympic Trials is 2:18:00 for the marathon and 1:03:00 for the half marathon. For women, the standard to make the Olympic Trials is 2:37:00 for the full and 1:12:00 for the half.

The qualifying window to run the qualifying standard for the Olympic Marathon Trials was January 1, 2022, to December 5, 2023, if using a marathon time, and January 1, 2023, to December 5, 2023, if using a half marathon time. 

This means that the qualifying window has now closed and any times run from now will not be eligible.

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Photo Credit: Chad Veal

USATF has also listed additional opportunities for athletes to qualify to the Trials:

  1. Overall Champions of the 2022 and 2023 USATF Running Circuit will be considered as having met the qualifying standard.
  2. The top six (6) finishers in the 2023 USATF Marathon Championships (site and date TBD) will be considered as having met the standard.
  3. Any athlete that has met the Olympic standard will be considered as having met the Olympic Trials Standard.
  4. An athlete is eligible for “automatic qualification” (USATF Rule 8) if that athlete has accomplished the following:
    1. Placing 1st at either the 2022 USATF Marathon Championship or the 2023 USATF Marathon Championship
    2. Earned an individual medal in the 2022 World Athletics Championships Marathon or 2023 World Athletics Championships Marathon
    3. Was a member of the 2020 U.S. Olympic Marathon Team

At the US Olympic Marathon Trials, the top-placing performers will fill the quota spots.

Currently, this is the top three women (three guaranteed spots) and the top two men (two guaranteed spots).

The American men have only had two men run under the Olympic qualifying standard, Conner Mantz (2:07:47) and Clayton Young (2:08:00), at the Chicago Marathon.

It is still likely that the American team will receive a third spot based on the rankings; however, this will not be confirmed until January 30, 2024.

The US Olympic Marathon Trials will take place on Saturday, February 3, 2024, at 10 a.m. ET in Orlando, Fla.

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Jessy has been active her whole life, competing in cross-country, track running, and soccer throughout her undergrad. She pivoted to road cycling after completing her Bachelor of Kinesiology with Nutrition from Acadia University. Jessy is currently a professional road cyclist living and training in Spain.

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