The finish line at the 2019 California International Marathon (CIM) on Sunday was a jubilant place for many runners, especially the women who finished the race right before the qualification cutoff for the 2020 U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials, which will take place on February 29 in Atlanta.
To earn a place on the starting line at the Trials, women have to run at least the “B” standard qualifying time of 2:45 (or 2:19 for men). The “A” standard for women is 2:37 (2:15 for men). At the Trials, the top three men and women are selected to Team U.S.A. for the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo.
But for many runners, making the Olympic Trials is the ultimate dream—and more women than ever, from all kinds of backgrounds, are realizing it. This year the list of women who have earned their place on that Atlanta starting line is approaching 500, almost double the number from 2016, when a total of 244 women qualified.
The window for 2020 is closing though—athletes must run either the marathon times or a half marathon (1:04 for men; 1:13 for women) by January 19, 2020.
Each year, CIM is a popular place for athletes to clock those fast times, but in the pre-Olympic Trials period, many find the point-to-point, net-downhill course attractive, as well as the assurances that many others will show up with similar time goals. Working together can lead to big breakthroughs—and the CIM race officials this year sweetened the pot, awarding $404 to any runner who achieved the “B” standard, while those who ran the “A” standard received $808.
What resulted was dozens of women finishing the race in the 2:44:00 to 2:44:59 range—29 of them (plus one Canadian), to be exact. The hugs, tears, and cheers during those 59 seconds were emotional for everybody. Photographer Luke Webster captured the exhaustion, relief, and camaraderie among a few of the newest 2020 U.S. Olympic Trials qualifiers.