Qualifying for the Rio Olympics 2016 as a British Marathoner

Honesty

I have been putting this post off for a while, and I am still not sure how it is going to turn out. This is definitely a sensitive point for me, as I talked about in my interview with Angie and Trevor at Marathon Training Academy, and I may not be able to go as detailed as I like.

I am honest as you know, but I also have to think about my future of running, and I do not want to do anything that could jeopardize my selection during my lifetime.

A lot of people have asked me about the Rio Olympics 2016. If I was an American citizen, I would have qualified for the marathon Olympic Trials using my sub 1:15 half marathon, and my sub 2:43 marathon. Both my 1:14 and 2:41 are well under those times, so I would have earned my spot in the US Olympic Trials which will be held in LA on Feburary 13th 2016.

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So far, as of May 17th, there are 125 marathoners who have broken 2:43, and another 3 who have qualified by breaking the 1:15 (not double counting marathoners). That is 163 female athletes who have earned their place to race in the Olympic Marathon Trials. Out of the 125 marathon qualifiers, 35 have hit the ‘A’ Standard of 2:37:00, which means their expenses are paid for their trip to the trials.

So surely I have qualified for the Great Britain and Northern Ireland (GB) Olympic Trials also?

Actually no, but let me back up a little here…..

For the Olympics, the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) sets a qualifying standard which all participants must have reached to participate in the 2016 Rio Olympics. For the marathon, this standard is 2:42:00. They have recently changed this to a single entry point, rather than having ‘A’ and ‘B’ standards.

Back to GB

Firstly, there is no such trial for the marathon. For the 2015 World Championships in Beijing, they are selecting based off the elite field of the 2015 London Marathon, in which there were 3 British runners in the event, and Sonia Samuels was the first to cross the line in 2:31:46.

However, for the 2015 World Championships and the 2016 Olympics, at this current time, not even Sonia Samuels will be eligible to compete for GB in the World Championships (or Olympics).

Why?

No runner has hit the British Athletics Standard of 2:31:00 this year.

That is correct. To represent Great Britain and Northern Ireland in a World Championship race, in theory, you need to run a sub 2:31:00, yes, that is 11 minutes faster than the IAAF Standard.

I am not sure what they will do in this situation, in the selection policy guide it states that the marathon team will be announced on April 28, but I cannot find anything about what they are doing. All I can find is some results of previous World Championships and Olympics for how many they took.

2012- London – 3 women

2011 Daegu- 2 women

2009 Berlin- 1 woman

2008 Beijing- 3 women

2007 Osaka- 2 women

Based on this, it looks like they will take at least 1 women to the World Championships this year, and hopefully 3 to the Olympics.

So where does this leave me?

Honestly, I do not know. 11 minutes is a heck of a lot of time to shave off, and especially as I am not racing another marathon for a year, this is simply out of the question for me.

Thank you so much to my dear friend Oli for this photo :)

Thank you so much to my dear friend Oli for this photo 🙂

I wish the selection process was more like the American process; a fair trial for all athletes to compete in, but on the other side of it, the selecting based on previous performances that GB uses means that they can account for superstars who have a bad day at the trials, which is a good idea if you have a podium hopeful.

One thing I can say, is that I am very jealous of all those Americans who did qualify for the Olympic Trials in Houston. I bet it is going to be an incredible experience. When I ran the Great Britain and Northern Ireland Olympic Trials in the 10k, I loved it, but I should not have finished 3rd with a 33:47 that day.

Unfortunately in Great Britain, a lot of the trials are just not taken very seriously, as they make their selections based off performances and experience at other Championships.

It is very frustrating, but at the end of the day, representing Great Britain and Northern Ireland is my number one goal in my running career, and as they make it more difficult, it gives me something to strive for, something I will have to work my whole life to achieve. One day I WILL get there, and it will feel 1 million times better because I will know how far I have had to come to get there.

For now I can say I am 11th in Great Britain and Northern Ireland and be content with that. As for my short term future, I am still on the lookout for my speed, the future will unfold for me the way it was meant to, I just have to let it happen 🙂

So for National Running Day today, why do I run? I think you know the answer to that question 🙂

[bctt tweet=”Interesting to read about how other countries select their Olympic Teams”]

What is your ultimate, number one goal?

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35 Comments. Leave new

  • carla birnberg
    June 3, 2015 5:26 am

    So interesting as I had absolutely no clue how any of this worked. what most resonated ith me too was the I WILL HAVE TO WORK MY WHOLE LIFE TO ACHIEVE. SO HARD, I realize and yet sometimes those are the sweetest victories huh? You inspire me….

  • Obviously there is only one thing for you to do – become and American citizen. We want YOU!! 🙂 Seriously though, you know you deserve to be in the Olympics and I just know your time will come!!! Stay the course, be who you are and know that you’re already a hero to so many of us, Olympics or no… xo

  • You are an inspiration my sweet friend. I love your honesty and candid writing. I agree with Allie. The British qualifications don’t exactly seem achievable for many people. You’ll just have to become a citizen here!

  • Wow–so interesting! You Brits are hard core! I like Allie’s response…get your dual citizenship and go to our trials. Someone as talented as you should have that opportunity! No matter what, you are an amazing runner and we’re thrilled to have you training over here.

  • Erin @ The Almond Eater
    June 3, 2015 6:51 am

    Wow that’s craziness–what a difference! I know what’s meant to be will happen–you deserve to be at the Olympics, so my fingers are crossed for you.

  • Very very interesting. Out of curiosity, what do you think is the fairest method? Time and then trials, or your performance a singular, mass event?

    • Hmm, I think a combination. I would say like 2 from an official trial that you have to compete in, and then one “wildcard” which can either be from the trials or someone else (maybe even requiring that they have competed in the trials). What do you think?

  • Nicola Gorman Bowyer
    June 3, 2015 7:16 am

    You would of qualified in Australia. We all think you are amazing anyway, Olympics or no olympics xx

  • That is really interesting! I am sure that process is really frustrating for you and others in your same situation. I am hoping you can find some loop hole around these rules and a great opportunity will open up for you. I am rooting for you!

  • Very interesting to see the differences in how countries decide! I’m sure it is frustrating and the uncertainty has got to be hard. But you will get there and it will mean more when you do!!!

  • I didn’t realize this! That 11 minutes is pretty crazy… i agree with Allie… run for the US! 🙂

  • Jessica DeGore RD
    June 3, 2015 8:10 am

    I had no idea how the whole selection process worked- doesnt make much sense to me 🙁 You deserve to compete and I hope there is a way for it to happen for you! Everything you’ve achieved already is so much to be proud of 🙂

  • Wow, GB makes it complicated! But, saying that, 11 minutes sounds like a lot, and it is, but you are so young and at the beginning of your marathon racing. I predict great things for you. Good luck in reaching all of your goals. You work so hard, you certainly will accomplish it if you can.

  • Lisa@runningoutofwine
    June 3, 2015 8:38 am

    Very interesting…Its pretty crazy how different it is in different places. As others have said, I would love if you were able to run for the US:)

  • Laura Anderson
    June 3, 2015 8:38 am

    Very interesting to read about the differences- I (naively) assumed most countries just went off the typical qualify-trials-top finishers at trials route for the Olympics. But I can see the pro’s and con’s to both routes- like you said we all have off days, what if that happens at trials? You have improved a ton, and also been making every effort to imrpove even more so- eating healthy, getting stronger, fixing form, etc. etc. those things will pay off Tina and I have no doubt that one day you will meet your goal of representing your home country.

  • Wow fascinating to read. I REALLY hope you can represent GB. You’re such a good role model and really deserve to do well!

  • Interesting that the process is so vastly different from country to country. I know how hard you’ve worked, so it must be frustrating to not have a chance to qualify ( I do think the American way is fair- giving everyone a chance) Isn’t that so American of us? ha!

  • Karla Bruning
    June 3, 2015 8:57 am

    It must be so frustrating, but sadly, not having trials seems to be the norm in much of the world. Keep on striving, Tina! I know you have it in you!

  • Whoa. 2:31? Are you fkn kidding me?!?! Andrew’s parents are from Northern Ireland… maybe I’ll have a talk with them and see what I can do. 😉 No but seriously Tina, that’s FAST. But I mean, if anyone can do it, you can. Go get it.

  • I have to agree with everything that Carla has said below…I had no idea how this work or how complicated it was. I am always routing for you and know that all the hard work will make your dreams come true. You ROCK lady! xoxo

  • Interesting position you find yourself in … Please, keep going!

    I’ve enjoyed learning more about the GB selection process and am glad you’ve shared it with us.

    I come from a sport with a different way of approaching things and have kept one key point in mind:
    Each country wants to field the team that will best represent them at the World and Olympic levels.

    Team members for an event could be chosen in a single trial event. But, are those with the best performances on that day necessarily the ones who will likely have the best performances at the big dance?

    Another way to approach it injects a bit more subjectivity. With the team members chosen from those who have a demonstrated history of excellent performance, experience (and performance) on the world stage, and current capability. Part of such a selection process could also include a trial event, yet there could still be latitude in final team selection. In this way a country might better stack the deck in its favor or even take a more developmental stance – for example, selecting a seasoned and still-viable veteran, a strong contender, and an up-and-comer to be groomed for future stardom.

    I’m not saying there is a best way to handle this; just wanted to offer up some ideas for consideration.

  • I find it so interesting how countries vary in selecting athletes for events such as the Olympics. Like many of the others, I would want you to represent our country because you’re such a talented and inspiring runner, but I also understand how dear nationality and heritage can be. Having running the Olympics for GB is an amazing goal to have, and you will achieve it!

  • Tough standard for GB qualification and hard to believe there’s such a big difference between the two qualification standards. You have so much to offer team GB as a marathon runner and they would be lucky to have you. Keep it up, you deserve to get to the Olympics and you will. Best of luck.

  • Martina Di Marco
    June 3, 2015 3:39 pm

    As far as I know, in Italy they follow a similar system – there are no Olympic Trials. They simply select three women who have run a 2:30 marathon or better. That’s a HUGE difference compared to a 2:43 (although I know 2:43 will just give you the chance to participate to the Olympic Trials, not to the actual Olympics).
    Also, 11th in GB and North Ireland?? That’s NUTS! Wow. Back to the Olympics: you are so young and so talented – 2:41 to <2:31 is a long way to go but, at the same time, it's certainly doable for you. Patience and hard work will take you there if this is what you want!

  • Last year I was able to talk to Lanni Marchant about Canada’s qualifying standards in the marathon. Our standard is even faster than GB at 2:29. She was saying she was hoping they push it back to a 2:35 or 2:33 because that would open the field up to a number of women. While it might be unlikely they’d be chosen, I think the idea that you’re close to the standard could really improve the calibre of Canada’s elite women.

  • Michelle@Running with Attitude
    June 3, 2015 5:25 pm

    I had no idea the British standards were so much tougher – 11 minutes! You’ve worked so hard and I can only imagine how frustrating this all must be. I continue to cheer for you and believe you deserve a shot at the Olympics!

  • We all love you and would love to have you compete in our trials, but I understand the desire to run for your home country.
    You are so dedicated and such a hard worker Tina. If that is what you want, then you’ll get it!! You inspire me! xx

  • Oh dang, I can’t even imagine how frustrating that must be for ya, lady. But I absolutely love your attitude and all the determination you have going in. You’re right — that’ll definitely make the victory that much sweeter 🙂

  • Christine @ Love, Life, Surf
    June 3, 2015 10:13 pm

    This is so fascinating and I had no idea. 11 minutes is a huge chunk of time! You are an amazing athlete Tina and I know that you will achieve your goal. You will get there and most definitely deserve to be there. You inspire all of us!

  • Carly Pizzani
    June 3, 2015 11:33 pm

    As an ex-pat I totally get why you want to run for your home country. But at some point, maybe career-wise it will just make more sense to get dual citizenship and qualifying as a U.S. runner. You deserve to get a chance on the world stage – you work your butt off and you are so talented!!

  • Wow, that is crazy how strict they are!! You need to take the test to become an American Citizen, ASAP!

  • Julie Wunder
    June 4, 2015 10:29 am

    I didn’t know how it worked. I feel this is a huge goal for you… but one that is totally worth it. I have faith that you will find a way!

  • It is frustrating!! I remember back in my swimming days the times to qualify were RIDICULOUS in comparison with other countries. We are so much teenier than the United States! You WILL kick butt and are awesome no matter what!!

  • Ally Dixon just came 11th in Berlin with 2:29:30. That’s the way to stake your claim. But even she was 10 minutes behind the winner. 2:41 is a set standard but a very uncompetitive one. Even if you could run a US style trial it’s unlikely you’d qualify to run in Brazil. You would have to run a massive PB to beat those against you in the trial. Sorry to be harsh but it’s where you are for now. You obviously have ability, the thing now is, do what you have to do, to get under 2:30. I hope you can Tina.

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