Top U.S. Runners Advance to Summer Olympics After Marathon Trials in LA

The nation's best runners hit the pavement in Los Angeles on Saturday at the U.S. Olympic Team Marathon Trials for a chance to bid a spot in the 2016 Summer Games.

Nearly 400 runners braved warm temperatures during the race that began at Gilbert Lindsay Plaza, in front of the Los Angeles Convention Center.

First-time marathoner Galen Rupp took first place, with 40-year-old Meb Keflezighi finishing second, becoming the oldest male U.S. Olympic marathoner and the only one to make three Olympic marathon teams. Jared Ward finished third, also qualifying for the U.S. Olympic team.

In the women's race, Amy Cragg took the top spot. Desiree Linden trailed behind and finished second, while Shalane Flanagan, a three-time Olympian, hung on for third. 

Temperatures were in the low-to-mid-70s at the start of the race and upper-70s to low-80s at its conclusion.

"It's tough and it's going to take its toll, but at the same time, you've just got to monitor," said Keflezighi before the race.

The 26-mile, 385-yard race took runners through downtown Los Angeles and onto Figueroa Street to USC. The runners then toured into Exposition Park, passing the Rose Garden, California Science Center and Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, before returning to Figueroa Street bound for Gilbert Lindsay Plaza, where the race concluded after the loop was completed four times.

This is the first time the U.S. Olympic Team Marathon Trials have been held in Los Angeles, which was awarded the race by USA Track & Field, the sport's national governing body, over Cincinnati and Houston in 2014.

The 2016 Summer Olympic marathons in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, will be run on a course with a loop being run multiple times and "we wanted to create something similar," said Tracey Russell, the CEO of Conqur Endurance Group, the trials' local organizing committee.

The marathons in London's 2012 Summer Olympics and the 2012 U.S. Olympic Team Marathon Trials, held in Houston, were also run on courses with a loop being run multiple times.

The loop course will also mean fewer street closures. Figueroa Street between 11th and 34th streets will be closed from 8:30 a.m. to 2 p.m., with heavy traffic expected in the area of the Convention Center.

Mayor Eric Garcetti stressed the race's economic benefits. "This brings millions of dollars to Los Angeles" with spending by the runners and their families, Garcetti told City News Service. "It also shows us off to the world. It will be on NBC, broadcast for the first time, which means more people will come to Los Angeles, more people will invest in Los Angeles, so it's a net economic gain.

"You have a lot of fans who probably never come out, standing in front of your store or restaurant. Along the route, you're going to see hundreds of new people who will be there who hopefully can become customers for local businesses."

To qualify for the race, men had to complete a marathon in or under 2:19 or a half-marathon in or under 1:05 between Aug. 1, 2013 and Jan. 17, 2016.Women needed to complete a marathon in or under 2:45 or a half-marathon in or under 1:15 in the same time period.

City News Service contributed to this report.

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