A Spectator’s Guide to the 2016 Olympic Trials Marathon

Guess whose legs...
Guess whose legs…

The 2016 US Olympic Marathon Trials are this weekend, Saturday to be exact, and we here at Salty Running have been giving you the inside scoop on many of the athletes running. You may have plans to watch from the comfort of your home but if you happen to be in Los Angeles on February 13th, you might want to pop on by. Did you know it is free to come out and watch this premier event?

That’s right. Unlike the Super Bowl, the World Series, or heck, even the Olympic Track and Field Trials, the Marathon Trials do not charge admission. Score! In 2012, James and I made a last-minute decision to travel to Houston, TX to watch the Trials and it turned out to be an awesome experience. In doing so, I learned a few quick tips for spectating.

First things first. If you’re planning to spectate at the Trials Marathon, go to the official website and do your research focusing on the spectator information section. Of particular interest are the FAQs, which will provide you with a great baseline knowledge of what to look forward to at the race!

Know the course.

To take your spectating to a new level, you have to know the race course and know it well! The race provides maps for you to study and become familiar with before the race. Study them. Map out a plan and print them off for race day. While you’re studying, check out the video released last week that offers a bird’s eye view of the course. This year’s course is similar to those in years past. It features one six-mile loop the athletes will run four times after completing one shorter loop to kick off the first 2.2 miles of the race. This loop course is designed with you, the spectator, in mind! Thanks, USATF!  (For the athletes, with tight turns and the monotony of four loops, it’s a different story.)

After all of the elites passed, I pretended to be one in 2012. Also, here's a good example of appropriate spectator attire. Two pockets in the vest and one front pocket underneath in the sweatshirt.
Last Trials, after all of the elites passed, I pretended to be one.

Dress for success.

Pro-spectators have to be nimble and comfortable. That means make sure you dress to move and appropriately for the weather. Your best bet? Layer up your running clothes so that you’ll be comfortable standing around or sprinting from point to point to catch the action. This means check the forecast! California has been a bit chilly this winter, so be sure to take that into consideration. Come race day, bring a light backpack that you can run around with, a running belt, or hoodie with lots of pockets to carry snacks, water, phone, maps, and an umbrella just in case.

Arrive early and be prepared to stand for a while if you want a good spot.

No passes, no nothing to get this shot of the great Deena Kastor.
Last time, with no VIP or special access, I was able to nab this shot of the great Deena Kastor.

The best spots for spectating are right along the fences, either along the course or at the finish line. While the deadline to order has passed, there are a limited number of VIP finish line bleacher seats that come at a price. But don’t let that deter you from getting a good spot at the finish! Be sure to keep track of the race clock either on your phone or watch and plan when to head back to the finish line if you want to see the winners cross. In 2012, we arrived back at the finish when the leaders were around the 20-mile mark. Be flexible in your plans and know that the earlier you arrive, the better. Plus, while you’re waiting, be sure to scan the VIP bleacher section as you may see some running celebrities. We saw Frank Shorter in 2012.

Have a little fun in the Olympic Village.
Have a little fun in the Athlete Village.

Plan to party!

The Trials offer both family and adult fun. Before, during, and after the race the Athlete Village is open for your enjoyment, complete with games, giveaways, and Olympic history and information. After the race, most major sponsors host after-parties as well. If you are interested in the party scene but not sure where to go, just venture out to clubs and restaurants near the course and hotels. We were able to party with a bunch of Brooks runners in 2012 and ended up bar hopping with a few athletes. Runners, they’re just like us!

If you can’t make it in person, NBC will be airing the race live starting at 1:00 p.m., Eastern and of course we’ll be bringing you our spicier, more flavorful coverage direct from L.A. too!  Get pumped!

I write about mindfulness, mental health, and the professional sport of running with the occasional poking fun at the sport. When I am not running, I'm either helping people as a counselor or trying to make them laugh as an amateur open mic comedian.

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  1. Thanks, Ginger. This week weather-wise s/b hot in California, maybe a bit cooler for the runners this Saturday (and for the LA Marathoners on Sunday). My son, who lives in LA, is scoping out places for us to watch–maybe near the intersection of the small and larger loops. Great photo of your Houston run!!

  2. Awesome tips, and so excited for you to go to see the trials again!! I’ll be watching from home eagerly but also following along with Salty coverage!!