Olympic Marathon Preview

By: Ruby Wyles


The Course

Hokkaido Private Adventure 

The Olympic marathon and walking events are set to take place close to 600 miles north of Tokyo, in the city of Sapporo, where temperatures are predicted to be cooler and safer for the distance athletes. Located on the northern Japanese island of Hokkaido, athletes competing in these events will be separated by both land and sea from the rest of the Olympic Games, occurring on Japan’s largest island of Honshu. 

Olympic Committee Tokyo 2020 Olympic Marathon course in Sapporo

The 26.2 miles course starts and finishes in Odori Park, beginning with two loops of the park, followed by a half marathon circuit through the streets of Sapporo, ending with another two smaller loops. With only a small loop to negotiate, alongside more favorable conditions than Tokyo would offer, the 2020 Olympic marathon could be a fast, flat affair, contrary to previous ‘sit-and-kick’ championship races. Watch for the athletes with the faster personal best times (PBs) to shine here.


Japan Guide Odori Park seen from the Sapporo TV Tower

Team USA will send a full team of 6 to compete in the marathon, selected back in February 2020 at the US Olympic Marathon Trials. On that day in Atlanta, Aliphine Tuliamuk won the women’s race, followed by Molly Seidel and Sally Kipyego. Galen Rupp was the men’s Olympic Trials champion, with Jake Riley second and Abdi Abdirahmen in third. 


Kevin C. Cox Tokyo 2020 US Olympic Marathon team 

Breaking down Team USA, in the year since the trials Tuliamuk gave birth to a baby girl, Zoe, in January of 2021. On the comeback from pregnancy, Tuliamuk recently finished 6th in the AJC Peach Tree Road Race on July 4th, in 32:44 for the 10km distance. On the men’s side, Rupp, Riley and Abdirahmen also raced Peach Tree, placing 8th (29:05), 9th (29:07) and 15th (29:46) respectively. None of these three performances showed very much promise for the American men so it will be interesting to see what work and progress has been made in the last month. Molly Seidel and Sally Kipyego have both shown form on the track, running 10,000m times of 32:02:19 and 31:30:25 respectively in May. Regardless, the marathon is arguably the most unpredictable because there has been over a full year lapse since the Olympic Trials. While we have some data points to go off since then, a full 14 month gap between the qualifier and the actual race brings in a significant amount of unpredictability as compared to normal Olympic years.


Kevin C. Cox Tokyo 2020 US Olympic Marathon women’s team

The women’s Olympic marathon is set to take place on Saturdays  7th August. 

The Tokyo 2020 Olympic marathon marks only the 10th anniversary of its inclusion in the women’s Olympic program with the first iteration run in 1984 at the Los Angeles Olympics where Joan Benoit took home the crown in front of a home crowd. Since

World Record: Brigid Kosgei KEN 2:14:04  (2019 Chicago Marathon, USA)

Olympic Record: Tiki Gelana ETH 2:23:07 (London 2012 Olympic Games)

Some top contenders and big names to look out for:

Sally Kipyego USA 2:25:10 (London 2012 Olympics 10,000m 2nd)

Molly Seidel USA 2:25:13

Aliphine Tuliamuk USA 2:26:50

Sinead Diver AUS 2:24:11

Ellie Pashley AUS 2:26:21

Malindi Elmore CAN 2:24:50

Natasha Wodak CAN 2:26:19

Rosa Dereje ETH 2:18:30

Birhane Dibabe ETH 2:18:35 (2x Tokyo Marathon winner)

Tigist Girma ETH 2:19:52

Jess Piasecki GBR 2:25:29.     

Stephanie Twell GBR 2:26:40 (Rio 2016 Olympian)

Melat Yisak Kejeta GER 2:23:57 (2020 World Half Marathon Championships 2nd place)

Lonah Chemtai Salpeter ISR 2:17:45 (2020 Tokyo Marathon Champion; Rio 2016 Olympian)

Sara Dossena ITA 2:24:00

Mao Ichiyama JAP 2:20:29

Honami Maeda JAP 2:23:30 (2019 Tokyo Marathon Champion)

Ayuko Suzuki JAP 2:28:32

Brigid Kosgei KEN 2:14:04 (WR holder; 2x Major Marathon winner)

Ruth Chepngetich KEN 2:17:08 (2019 Marathon World Champion)

Peres Jepchirchir KEN 2:17:16 (2020 Half Marathon World    Champion; WR holder in women-only Half Marathon)

Helalia Johannes NAM 2:19:52 (2019 World Championships 3rd)

Volha Mazuronak ROM 2:23:54

Gerda Steyn RSA 2:25:28 (2019 Comrades Marathon winner)                                                                             

Juliet Chekwel UGA 2:23:13 (Rio 2016 Olympian)


Kevin C. Cox Tokyo 2020 US Olympic Marathon men’s team

The men’s Olympic marathon is set to take place on Sunday 8th August.

World Record: Eliud Kipchoge KEN 2:01:39 (2018 Berlin Marathon, GER)

Olympic Record: Samuel Wanjiru KEN 2:06:32 (Beijing 2008 Olympic Games)

Some top contenders and big names to look out for:

Galen Rupp USA 2:06:07 (Rio 2016 Olympic Marathon 3rd; London 2012 Olympics 10,000m 2nd)

Abdi Abdirahmen USA 2:08:56 (2000, 2004, 2008 & 2012 Olympian)

Jacob Riley USA 2:10:02

Brett Robinson AUS 2:10:52 (Rio 2016 Olympian)

Bashir Abdi BEL 2:04:49 (Rio 2016 Olympian)

Koen Naert BEL 2:07:39 (2018 European Championships winner; Rio 2016 Olympian)

El Hassan El Abbassi BRN 2:04:43 (Asian Record Holder)

Alemu Bekele BRN 2:06:02 (Rio 2016 Olympian)

Cameron Levins CAN 2:09:25

Lelisa Desisa ETH 2:04:45 (2019 Marathon World Champion; 3x Major Marathon winner)

Shura Kitata ETH 2:04:49

Sisay Lemma ETH 2:03:36

Hamid Ben Daoud ESP 2:07:03

Javier Guerra ESP 2:07:27

Callum Hawkins GBR 2:08:14 (2019 & 2017 World Championships 4th place; Rio 2016 Olympian)

Chris Thompson GBR 2:10:52

Haimro Alame ISR 2:07:45

Marhu Teferi ISR 2:08:09 (Rio 2016 Olympian)

Suguru Osako JAP 2:05:29 (Japanese National Record Holder)

Yuma Hattori JAP 2:07:27

Shogo Nakamura JAP 2:08:16

Eliud Kipchoge KEN 2:01:39 (WR Holder; Defending Olympic Marathon Champion, Rio 2016)

Amos Kipruto KEN 2:03:30 (2019 World Championships 3rd)

Lawrence Cherono KEN 2:03:04 (2019 Boston Marathon winner)

Juan Pacheco MEX 2:09:45

Abdi Nageeye NED 2:06:17

Sondre Nordstad Moen NOR 2:05:48 (Rio 2016 Olympian)

Stephen Mokoka RSA 2:07:40 (2019 World Championships 5th)

Tadese Abraham SUI 2:06:40 (Rio 2016 Olympian)

Kaan Kigen Ozbilen TUR 2:04:16 (European Record Holder)

Zane Robertson NZL 2:08:19 (Rio 2016 Olympian)

How to watch:

Women's Marathon: NBC. 5pm CST

Men's Marathon: NBC. 5pm CST