For some runners, there may be more on the [finish] line in this year’s Bank of America Chicago Marathon.
That’s because American marathoners can use the race to achieve a qualifying time for the US Olympic Trials.
In order to secure an "A" standard qualifying time, men need to run the marathon in at least 2 hours and 15 minutes and women need to run it in 2 hours and 37 minutes. For a "B" standard qualifying time, male runners need to finish in 2 hours and 18 minutes and female runners need to finish in 2 hours and 43 minutes.
Runners must meet the "B" standard to enter the 2016 U.S. Olympic Team Trials, but athletes meeting the "A" standard can receive funding support.
Among those using the marathon as a stepping stone to the Olympics are elite U.S. runners Sara Hall and Tera Moody.
“It will be the perfect place to take another shot at the marathon distance and build confidence and refine my focus going into the Olympic year,” Hall said.
Moody, who is returning from a long break due to an injury, said that she isn’t aiming for a personal record in this year’s event, but hopes to cross the finish line with a qualifying time.
“I may not quite be in PR shape but hoping for an A standard qualifier for the Olympic trials,” she said. “I can’t wait to compete in front of my hometown crowd in the best city in the world. It may not be the fastest I have run here but I doubt it will be the slowest and probably the most fun. I know that after what I’ve been through I won’t take one step for granted.”
Also hoping for a qualifying time is U.S. marathoner Danelle Beeson, who ran cross country and track at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. Beeson said she has puts hours of training and focused all her passion on this race over the last year.
"I am taking running seriously and feel really passionate about it, and so I am excited for what that means for me — endless opportunities," she said. "Once I cross the line, nothing but a smile across my face and ready to move on to the next chapter."
Several elite international runners are also competing with Rio in their sights. Among them, is Mitch Goose, who will make his debut in marathon running.
“With this being my debut marathon, I am venturing into the unknown and hope to learn a lot about the marathon distance to put me in good stead for attempting to represent Great Britain at the 2016 Olympics,” said Goose.
Jessica Draskau Petersson, Mulu Seboka, Fionnuala Britton, Susan Patridge and Rob Watson have also said they're running with Rio in mind.
“Every athlete’s dream is to represent their country at the Olympics and therefore the Rio Qualification standard is my aim in what will be my only marathon race this year,” Patridge said.