US ultramarathon runner Jim Walmsley missed out on his target of qualifying to represent his country in the marathon event at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics on Saturday when he finished a credible 22nd in the trials in Atlanta, Georgia.
Walmsley’s time of two hours, 15 minutes and five seconds was more than five minutes off the pace set by the three eventual qualifiers, Galen Rupp, who finished in 2:09:20, Jacob Riley (2:10:02) and Abdi Abdirahman (2:10:03).
Walmsley, the reigning Western States 100-mile ultramarathon champion, revealed last year that he was switching his focus towards representing the US in Japan, despite never having competed in a regular marathon.
The 30-year-old joined the 771-qualifier field in Atlanta courtesy of a one hour, four minute run in the Houston half-marathon in January 2019, which saw him eke into the field for the trials on the qualification limit.
Realistically, he was considered a long shot to make the US Olympic team running in his debut full marathon, but aimed to bust some misconceptions about ultra runners.
Walmsley had said that attempting to make the Olympics was a “luxury” afforded him because of his successful ultramarathon career and that he was aiming to make a point about the similarities between elite ultra- and marathon runners.
“I think myself and several of the other top elite ultra runners are really great runners,” he told NBC. “It’s kind of an opportunity to maybe just show that we might not be as slow as they [elite marathoners] think we are.”
The four time Ultra Runner of the Year said previously that the Atlanta trial would likely be his first and last 26.2-mile race.
Walmsley also confirmed in training that his passion remains in ultra ultra running.
“I guess I would want it to be my second-to-last marathon, because I do have dreams of somehow pulling it off and making the Olympic team.”
The controversial Nike Alphafly shoe was a feature of the US trials. Perhaps with an eye on avoiding awkward questions over their use in the high-profile event, the American manufacturer awarded every one of the 700-plus competitors in the field a free pair of the hi-tech running shoes.
Walmsley’s next goal is the all-tarmac Comrades Marathon, a 56-mile ultra race in South Africa.