Olympic Marathon Trials Preview — Men

Galen Rupp has won two Trials marathons; Conner Mantz comes in having bested the vet in Chicago last fall. (KEVIN MORRIS)

PROFESSOR MARATHON’S RUNDOWN on athletes to watch, tactics to look for and top-10 & final time predictions. Enjoy!

• Don’t miss Part 1 of Sean’s 3-Part Preview or his Women’s Rundown here.

The Cast Of Characters

Top Tier

Conner Mantz (27 — 2:07:47 ’23) After dominating NCAA XC, Mantz has quickly become the top U.S. marathoner, and despite a short stint of cross-training after a stress reaction still is the man to beat. Has had a very successful career under 2-time Olympic marathoner Ed Eyestone and should go with any pace, and close well over the final 10K.

Clayton Young (30 — 2:08:00 ’23) After bonking within sight of the finish line in his first two marathons, he nailed his third, running 2:08:00 last fall, separating from Galen Rupp and Sam Chelanga over the final 7K. Also trains under Eyestone with Mantz and recently Chelanga.

Galen Rupp (37 — 2:06:07 ‘18) If the Rio ’16 bronze medalist and 2-time Trials champ arrives at the starting line healthy, he still has the speed and racing savvy to make his fifth team.


Sam Chelanga (38 — 2:08:50 ’23) Rejuvenated by late-career marathon success. Training with Mantz and Young and looks to stick with them and the Kenyan contingent.

Scott Fauble (32 — 2:08:52 ’22) Has run under 2:10 three times at Boston and should stick with the lead group. Finished 12th in the ’20 Trials and is fully capable of running under 2:10 in Orlando. Got burned going out at 2:07 pace in Berlin ’23, but should benefit from the experience.

Paul Chelimo (33 – 62:22 ’23) The true “wild card” making his marathon debut. Track career and training in Kenya suggest that he may well be a 2:06 marathoner. Can he get it right in his maiden voyage?

Leonard Korir (37 – 2:07:56 ’19) Has extensive international marathon experience, 4th in ’20, capable of running under 2:08:10. Can handle a fast pace and knows how to win races.

Biya Simbassa (30 — 2:10:34 ’23) Accomplished half-marathoner with 4 sub-61:05 clockings. Tuned up with a 60:45 effort 3 weeks ago in Houston. Ran marathon debut last May in Prague.

Teshome Mekonen (28 — 2:10:16 ’23) Huge talent with 60:22 HM PR. Went out at 2:08 pace in Berlin, and may well put it together in Orlando.

CJ Albertson (30 — 2:10:23 ’22) Downhill or flat, CJ doesn’t shy from the lead and should stick with the leaders as far as he can manage. Ran three 2:11 races within 5 weeks in November–December ’23.

Zachery Panning (28 — 2:09:28 ’22) Put together a solid 3-race start to marathon career and coming off very good 11th-place finish in the Budapest WC. Might not go with a fast early pace, but should finish strong.

Brian Shrader (32 — 2:09:46 ’23) Led until 16M at Atlanta ’20. Don’t be surprised if he stays in contention deep into the race. Now assistant coach at Harvard which is having a good run.

Futsum Zienasellassie (31 — 2:09:40 ’23) Impressive start to marathon career winning his debut at CIM ’22 in a downhill 2:11:02, then ducked under 2:10 at Rotterdam ’23.

Elkanah Kibet (40 — 2:09:07 ’22) Looks to stick with his fellow Kenyan expats.

Don’t Forget Me

Matt McDonald (30 — 2:09:49 ’23)
Nicolas Montanez (30 — 2:09:55 ’22)
Joel Reichow (30 -2:10:37 ’23)
Reed Fischer (28 — 2:10:54 ’22)
Andrew Colley (32 – 2:11:32 ’23)

Race Tactics

The U.S. having locked down only two guaranteed Olympic spots (see Preview Part 1) has put a crimp on Trials expectations, which might very well lead into some exciting racing. Whether it was Trent Birney in ’04 or Schrader in ’20, the OT has often featured a breakaway early leader. Yep, even if it is an overt advertising blitz as in ’96. This year it might be an all-out jailbreak as a large cohort of capable racers may adopt a 2:08:10-or-bust strategy.

This may well be the tactic of the former-Kenyan contingent. Korir, Kibet, Chelanga and Chelimo are fully capable of a sub-64 for the opening half, and Biya Simbassa, Teshome Mekonen, CJ Albertson and Scott Fauble are also likely to stick with the gambit.

While 2:08:10 is a bit ambitious on a warm day and on a not-so-fast course, a fast pace is expected. But the real question is how will the favorites play it? Chances are that Mantz may go with the pace, while Young and Rupp may go more cautiously.

Getting the win, and the other spot or two is a bit harder to gauge simply because U.S. athletes seldom compete for a win on the major-marathon circuit. Galen Rupp is the exception with his victories in the past two Trials to go along with his ’19 Chicago win. For this reason alone, if Galen’s body is ready for 26.2M, he has the experience in warm weather races to get it done.

Mantz is also a demonstrated winner in cross and on the track and has competed at a high level in all three of his marathon efforts. This will be his fourth and maybe best race. The only question is the foot flareup 2 months back.

As for the rest of the contenders, Korir and Chelimo stand out as knowing how to secure a win. Korir’s 4th-place finish in Atlanta was a bit uncharacteristic for a runner who has won a dozen U.S. road titles over various distances. Chelimo is the perfect wild card with the knack for making American teams, has prepared in Kenya and has all the tools to run a sub-2:08 marathon. Yet it is his debut — so only time and distance will tell.

Most Trials races have been sorted out well before the finish, but the final 3M in Orlando may have a light tailwind, some welcome shade, and a slight uphill at 25M leading into an 800-meter closing straight – ideal for racing in the streets.

Prediction: 1st Connor Mantz, 2nd Paul Chelimo, 3rd Galen Rupp 4th Clayton Young, 5th Leonard Korir, 6th Biya Simbassa, 7th Teshome Mekonen, 8th Sam Chelanga, 9th Scott Fauble, 10th Zach Panning and, pending any scratches, 11th Brian Schrader.

Winning Time: 2:08:34 – faster than Ryan Hall’s 2:09:02 Trials record, but slower than the 2:08:10 Olympic standard.