Houston to host 2012 U.S. Olympic Team Trials for Men's and Women's Marathon


Jill Geer
Chief Public Affairs Officer
USA Track & Field

HOUSTON - The site of some of the most historic American half-marathon performances and host of the 1992 U.S. Olympic Team Trials for the women's marathon, Houston will host the 2012 U.S. Olympic Team Trials - Men's and Women's Marathon, USA Track & Field and the United States Olympic Committee announced Monday.

The 2012 U.S. Olympic Team Trials will be held in Houston January 14, 2012, a day prior to the 40th anniversary of the Houston Marathon. The races will determine the three men and three women who will represent the United States in the marathon at the 2012 Olympic Games in London.

USA Track & Field's site selection committee, comprised of USATF committee chairs, elite athletes and staff, tapped Houston to host both races. Boston and New Yorkhad each bid to host one Olympic Trials race. The USATF Board of Directors approved the decision at its weekend meeting in Albuquerque, N.M. and the USOC has green-lighted the award.

"As we expected, all three bids were remarkable, and all three bids had qualities that made each unique," USATF CEO Doug Logan. "Ultimately, we feel that hosting the Olympic Trials at Houston will afford our athletes the best opportunity to succeed in London. What was most striking about Houston's bid was their ability to integrate the Olympic Trials into their weekend of racing in a way that benefitted all parties, but first and foremost, the athletes."

Utilizing a public-private partnership, with the support of the city of Houston and the Harris County Sports Commission, Houston will invest $1.7 million to host both races. Those funds will go toward event logistics, athlete support, travel and prize money.

The timing of the race offered by Houston also was appealing to the site selection committee. With the London Olympic Games being held in early August, rather than the later dates of recent Games, having the Trials far enough out to allow for proper recovery and preparation for London, yet close enough to be relevant to the Games, was a high priority.

"We are very proud to be chosen as the Olympic Trials host city for the one of the marquee track and field events of the Olympic Games," said Houston Marathon race director Brant Kotch. "Through our involvement with the U.S. Half Marathon Championships, we have developed a strong partnership with USATF, and we are looking forward to having the eyes of the running world focused on Houston in January 2012."

History of success

Houston, and specifically the Aramco Houston Half Marathon, has been the site of several notable American performances in recent years. In 2007, Ryan Hall became the first American to break 1 hour for the half marathon, running 59:43 to break an American record that had stood since 1985. In 2009, Meb Keflezighi began his phenomenal 2009 campaign with a win at the half marathon in 1:01:25. It was the first accomplishment of a year for Meb that included four U.S. titles and a historic win at the ING New York City Marathon.

On January 17 of this year, Shalane Flanagan won the Aramco Houston Half in 1:09:41 to smash the course record take the U.S. national title in her career debut at the distance. In the Houston Marathon the same day, Stanford graduate Brett Gotcher placed seventh in 2:10:35 to post the fourth-fastest American marathon debut in history, behind Hall, Alberto Salazar and Alan Culpepper.

Houston has hosted the USA Men's Half Marathon Championship since 2005 and the women's Championship since 2007, and the race has been a supporter of the USA Distance Project, dedicated to sustaining the long-term development of elite USA distance athletes, enabling them to compete successfully in domestic and international competitions and major championship events.

"I am really excited to know that Houston will be hosting the 2012 Olympic Trials," 2008 Olympic 10,000m bronze medalist Shalane Flanagan said. "The race organizers know how to make elite athletes feel at home and to set the stage for us to compete at our highest levels. I think the timing of the race is perfect, and I have no doubt that Houston will put on an outstanding event."

"Houston is a special place for me," said Keflezighi, the 2004 Olympic silver medalist in the marathon. "Thanks to a great performance there in 2009, I had maybe the best year of my career. I even went back in 2010 to support the race at their expo. I am looking forward to going back and competing in 2012."

Both the men's and women's races will be held on a criterium course in Houston, with final format of the start and other logistics to be determined by the site selection committee in conjunction with race organizers.