The Canadian Marathon Trials, Explained

By September 12, 2019Uncategorised

For the first time in a very long time, Canada is getting proper Olympic Trials marathon race to see who could be going to Tokyo next summer. The 2019 Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon will do double duty, hosting many of the best distance runners in Canada, all vying for a slot. The trials are designed to significantly help Athletics Canada’s National Team Committee (NTC) decide which Canadian marathoners will get to represent the maple leaf in Tokyo next summer.

The key word here is help.

Winning the trials does not necessarily guarantee one’s seat on the plane to Japan. More layers are involved, and we’ll explain them here. Getting on the national team is actually a pretty confusing task, and we’ll do our best to unpack it for you.

Here, we answer the key questions runners and fans might have about the qualification process for the marathon at the 2020 games:

Does the Canadian marathon trials winner get to go to Tokyo?

Short answer:

Not necessarily.

Long answer:

An athlete who wins the Canadian marathon trials AND achieves the Tokyo qualification standard during the period of Jan. 1, 2019 to May 31, 2020 will be named to the team. So, if the winner of the trials does not satisfy the standard set out by the IAAF (the international governing body of the sport), they must wait and see how the next several months unfold for them, and others (more on that in a bit).

What’s the standard?

To obtain standard, an athlete must achieve at least one of these feats:

◦ A marathon time faster than 2:29:30 (women) or 2:11:30 (men)

◦ A top-10 finish at this year’s IAAF World Athletics Championships in Doha

◦ A top-five finish at an IAAF Gold Label marathon (that includes Toronto)

◦ A top-10 finish at a Marathon Major Series Race, which includes:

▪ Tokyo
▪ Boston
▪ London
▪ Berlin
▪ Chicago
▪ New York

So, a runner who wins in Toronto this fall, provided they achieve the qualification standard, will be selected to race in Tokyo. But, winning in Toronto without having achieved the standard is not enough to make the team.

What happens to the other athletes? Who else can qualify?

Up to six Canadian marathoners (three women and three men) may be selected onto Team Canada. The full team is named at the final nomination meeting on July 2, 2020. Here is how athletes who did not win the marathon trials can get chosen:

• An athlete who does not win the Canadian marathon trials but achieves the standard during the aforementioned qualification period will be nominated as an additional athlete. This athlete may eventually be selected to compete in Tokyo.

• Additional athletes are named to the team after the national marathon trials champions are named to the team (provided they have achieved standard).

• In the event that there are more additional athletes than spots available on the team, the NTC will rank the additional athletes in the order they are likely to finish at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games in the Marathon. The following criteria will help guide the NTC’s decision:

◦ Current form and fitness
◦ Proven ability to perform on demand
◦ Finishing position at the 2020 Trials; and
◦ Recent head-to-head record against other athletes under consideration.

Is that all?

Probably, but perhaps not.

The Hail Mary:

The IAAF publishes a full list of athletes who have achieved the qualification standard for Tokyo. They then look at what would happen if each country would select their maximum number of qualified athletes (Canada’s maximum number is three.) If fewer than 80 athletes are on that list, athletes closest to IAAF standard will be added, so that the list reaches 80 names. The Canadian Trials winner will qualify for Tokyo if he or she appears on the extended version of the list, despite not having the qualification standard.