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Opinion Editorial

L.A. Marathon-ageddon: Bring it on

Each year, the city of Los Angeles clears a path through traffic-choked streets from east to west for a marathon that in March drew 24,000 runners. Now, a coalition of civic, business and political leaders wants to add another race on the same weekend in March 2016: the U.S. Olympic marathon trials. The city has put in a bid, and on Sunday a delegation from USA Track and Field, the national governing body, will come to Los Angeles to evaluate it as a site.

If the city's bid is successful, the trials will be held here to determine which U.S. marathoners go to the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.

Yes, that means back-to-back marathons. As a plan, it's ambitious, unpredictable — Marathon-ageddon? — and kind of exciting. We think USA Track and Field should go for it and Angelenos should put aside their fear of traffic for one weekend.

The cities that host the trials traditionally run them the day before their local marathons, so that's not unusual. They are two very different events. The L.A. Marathon will probably have 20,000-plus competitors running from Dodger Stadium to the Pacific Ocean, some straggling to the finish line hours after the winners. The Olympic trials would be held on a closed loop course in neighborhoods not affected by the L.A. Marathon, and would include a few hundred world-class runners who would all finish within minutes of one another. Men's and women's trials might run the same course with staggered start times. The appeal of holding the trials the day before the local marathon is that the city would be full of running enthusiasts, many of whom would presumably go to watch the trials.

So, sure, there would be more traffic. But it is worth the inconvenience. It would cost taxpayers nothing. The funds are privately raised, and the economic boon to businesses could be substantial. Officials estimate the impact on Houston when it hosted the trials in 2012 was $20 million in hotel, restaurant and other expenditures.

Los Angeles, which is so often decried for having no civic identity, does turn out on street corners to cheer its marathoners — and does have a long history with the Olympics. The city hosted the Games in 1932 and 1984 — the year of the first women's Olympic marathon — and hopes to be considered for the 2024 Games. The eve of the 31st L.A. Marathon in 2016 would be a fitting time for the city to host its first Olympic marathon trials.

Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times
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