If you think that this fall in the running world will be a boring waiting period before the 2020 Olympic year, I have news for you: buckle your seat belts, because it’s going to be wild. Actually, it has already been wild, starting this past weekend with the half marathon World Record falling Saturday in Copenhagen to Geoffrey Kamworor in 58:01 (insert “mind blown” emoji), and the Japanese Marathon Grand Championships (read as “Olympic Trials”) producing some intense finishes Sunday in Tokyo.

And that was just the beginning.

With a fall full of exciting races and storylines upon us, from the upcoming IAAF World Champions in Doha to NCAA and high school cross country and the fall marathon season, here is a break down what we are most excited about in the world of running this autumn!

Marathon SZN

While the spring marathon season had a plethora of big time performances, this fall looks to be one for the books over 26.2 miles. From the always fast Berlin Marathon at the end of September to later races like New York and California International, it should be a fascinating year of marathoning both domestically and internationally with the 2020 US Trials and Tokyo Olympics fast approaching.

While not an officially sanctioned race, all eyes will be on the INEOS 1:59 Challenge and Eliud Kipchoge in Vienna on October 12th. Kipchoge is already the undisputed marathon GOAT, with only one loss in 13 marathons, an Olympic Gold, and a nearly unassailable 2:01:39 World Record. However, he still has unfinished business with the 2 hour barrier, which he came just 26 seconds shy of breaking during the 2017 Nike Breaking2 event. While his time, sub-2 hours or not, still won’t count as a new World Record due to rotating pacer makers and a number of other technical factors, it will still be an impressive and mesmerizing event to watch.

One of the most interesting storylines is the fall marathon double of Asics pro Sara Hall, who is planning on racing BOTH Berlin on September 29th and the NYC Marathon on November 3rd. This a potentially do-able double for Hall, as she could take a shot at her 2:26:20 PR on Berlin’s historically fast course and then come back and be competitive at New York, which is usually a more tactical affair. If anyone can pull if off it’s Hall, who in 2017 won the US Champs only 35 days after a 5th place finish at Frankfurt. Joining Hall in Berlin will be a good friend of Trackster, Dawn Grunnagle, who at age 41 will be looking to break her 2:34 PR set at last year’s edition of this race.

On October 13th, the Chicago Marathon should provide a good preview of the US Olympic Trials. On the women’s side, Jordan Hasay returns to Chicago (where she set her 2:20:57 PR in 2017) after a solid 3rd place finish at Boston this spring. Several other contenders for the women’s Olympic Team will be lining up at Chicago, with 2018 US Champ Emma Bates and 2:29 women Stephanie Bruce and Lindsay Flanagan in the field.

On the men’s side, all eyes will be on Galen Rupp, returning to competition after Achilles surgery following the 2018 Chicago marathon, and former training partner and defending champ Mo Farah. Chicago should be a good test for Rupp going into 2020, when he will look to defend his Olympic Trials Title and improve on his bronze medal from Rio 2016. In addition to Rupp and Farah, there will be a strong pack of Americans, including newly minted US 25K Record Holder (and Trackster PRO) Parker Stinson and a host of 2:12-2:13 guys, all looking to put in a good performance before the Trials.

Squeezed in between Chicago and NYC will be the Toronto Marathon, which serves as the Canadian Olympic Trials. Two former NCAA stars in Cam Levins and Rory Linkletter are the biggest attractions in this one. Levins is returning to the site of his 2:09 debut and Canadian Record from last year’s edition, and Linkletter, 23, will be making the bold jump to 26.2 after graduating from BYU this spring. With 3 All Americans in cross country and a 28:12 10K PR, Linkletter, who recently joined one of the best marathon groups in North America in Hoka NAZ Elite, should be well prepared to handle the distance at such a young age.

Finally, the New York City Marathon will have plenty of noteworthy match ups on both the men’s and women’s side this year. The aforementioned Kamworor, who won the 2017 edition of this race, will have a rematch with the two Ethiopians, 2018 winner Lelisa Desisa and 2:04 man Shura Kitata, who beat him in last year’s crazy finish. For the American men, the ageless Abdi Abdirahman, coming off a third place finish in last week’s Philly Half Marathon, will battle newly minted 2:09 man and Rio 2016 6th placer Jared Ward just 17 weeks before the Olympic Trials in February.

On the women’s side, the second and fourth fastest women of all time, Mary Keitany and Worknesh Degefa, will headline the field. Keitany has racked up 7 Marathon Major wins in her career, including last year’s NYC race with an unreal 66:58 last half, and Degefa has been a tear the last few years with wins in Dubai in 2017 and Boston this spring. However, these two will face stiff competition from a good group of Americans headed by 2018 Boston winner Des Linden and 2:24 woman Kellyn Taylor. Linden, coming to the end of her career, put up a solid performance in April at Boston with a 2:27 for 5th place, and Taylor has been on the rise for the past few years and put together a solid track season, with a 5K personal best and a third place finish in the 10,000 at USAs in July.

Cross Country Is Back!

The return of fall means the return of cross country, and at Trackster we could not be more stoked! From the NCAA down through high school, cross country is the “spring time” for distance runners, a time to start a fresh year of training and the first chance to tackle one’s goals. All the base miles and hot runs of the summer begin to pay off when the leaves start to change, the courses get set up, and the spikes come on.

On the NCAA Men’s side, there is one questions everyone will be asking: can Northern Arizona win their fourth title in a row? While they’ve lost three major components of their last three title runs in Tyler Day, Matthew Baxter, and Peter Lomong, the improvements on the track from their returners (Blaise Ferro: 28:22 10K, Geordie Beamish: NCAA Mile Title and a 13:31 5k, Luis Grijalva: 3:39 1500 and 13:37 5K) should set them up to take on a loaded Stanford squad under new coach Ricardo Santos, a reloaded BYU, and a host of other contenders including Washington, Portland, and Iowa State. Looking at the individual title race, with 6 of the top 10 from last year’s meet returning and a host of runners coming off massive improvements during the track season (ie. OK State’s Ryan Smeeton, Stanford’s Thomas Ratcliffe) or redshirts (ie. UCLA’s Robert Brandt, Colorado’s Joe Klecker, Alabama’s Vinent Kiprop and Gilbert Kigen) there looks to be no clear cut favorite at this point.

On the women’s side, defending champs Colorado loose 3 out of their top 5 from last year, including individual champ and all around stud Dani Jones. However, never count out a Mark Wetmore-coached team, as they add back 9:46 steeplechaser Madie Boreman and bring in two high profile transfers in 2018 Mid-Atlantic Regional Winner Rachel McArthur from Villanova and XC All American and 15:45 5k runner Emily Venters from Boise State. They will be fighting to hold off New Mexico, who returns perennial individual title contenders Ednah Kurgat and Weini Kelati, as well as a STACKED Arkansas squad and contenders like BYU, Wisconsin, and NC State.

In high school cross country, all eyes will be on Katelyn Tuohy as the phenom looks to end her high school cross country career on a high note with a third straight NXN title. With numerous high school track records to her name, from her 4:33 mile to her 15:37 5K, and her nearly unassailable Van Cortland Park course record, Tuohy is already the greatest high school runner of all time. However, winning a third straight national title in cross country is not an easy feat, as we saw when Sarah Baxter was beaten by Mary Cain and Elise Cranny in 2013.

On the boy’s side, the preseason favorites Cole Sprout of Colorado and Nico Young of California will look to hold off a slew of up and coming contenders. After their incredible race over 3200 meters at Arcadia this past spring, where Young edged out Sprout with both running an incredible time of 8:40, all eyes will be set on their rematch at NXN. On the team side, look for both Young’s Newbury Park squad and national powerhouse Great Oak to give 2 time defending champs Loudoun Valley of Virginia a run for their money on December 7th in Portland.

World Championship Track..in October!

But before we jump head first into the longer distances of XC/Marathon season, the speed will be on display one last time in 2019 at the IAAF World Championships from September 28-October 6 in Doha, Qatar. Top athletes have had to stay patient throughout the whole summer, but they will finally get the chance to unleash their finalized product for 2019 in a couple weeks.

For starters, all eyes will be on the women’s steeplechase as Emma Coburn looks to defend her 2017 World Title. While Coburn has been in top form the last few years, she will be facing top competition from Kenyan’s Beatrice Chepkoech and Norah Jeruto, and her compatriot and 2017 Silver Medalist Courtney Frerichs.

On the men’s side, the pole vault should be one for the books, with some of the best vaulters of all time in Renaud Lavillenie, Mondo Duplantis, and Sam Kendricks all looking to one up each other, and maybe set a World Record, in what has become one of the most exciting events of the circuit the last few seasons.

Both the women’s and men’s 400m Hurdles should be spectacular this year. On the women’s side, World Record Holder Dalilah Muhammed takes on the only other woman in the field with a PR under 53 seconds in superstar Sydney McLaughlin. Muhammed, who is the reigning Olympic Champion, was overlooked by most of the media going into USAs, but stole the show from McLaughlin in a spectacular final to set the World Record. The rematch should be something special in Doha.

The men’s 400 Hurdles should be stellar as well, with three men on the all time Top 10 list vying not only for the World Title, but also to be the one that breaks Kevin Young’s 27 year old World Record of 46.78. Between Norway’s Karsten Warholm, USA’s Rai Benjamin, and Qatar’s own Abderrahman Samba, all of whom have been flirting with Young’s record the last few years, our money is on a new World Record being set in this meet.

The men’s mid distance races should be a real treat to watch from a US fan’s perspective. In the 800, US Champ Donavan Brazier will look to complete his amazing season that has included a Diamond League Championship last month. His win in Zurich put him at #2 all time in the US, with his 1:42.70 just .1 off the 34 year old record held by the legendary Johnny Gray. Hopefully in a field with several 1:42 guys like Emmanuel Korir and 1:41 stud Nijel Amos, Brazier can both win his first World Title and break one of the longest standing US track records.

In the 1500, the reigning Olympic Champion Matt Centrowitz looks to be healthy, hungry, and ready to go after struggling with injuries the last two years. With his 13:00 5K personal best last week in Portland, Centrowitz is top form and will look to return to the podium in Doha. To do that, he will have to take on studs like Diamond League champ Timothy Cheruiyot and 18 year old prodigy Jakob Ingebrigsten in what should be, as the British soccer announcers say, a “cracking match up.”

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