Deena Kastor remembers the moment. She was 10 years old in 1984 and watching the first-ever women's Olympic marathon finish in the Los Angeles Coliseum. She remembers Joan Benoit Samuelson enter the Coliseum first, she remembers the huge crowd noise, she remembers Samuelson and her white cap.
"At that moment," Kastor said, "I wanted to become a marathon runner."
Kastor did and won a bronze medal in the 2004 Games, and now she's an avid backer of Los Angeles to be the host of the 2016 Olympic marathon trials. It is one of three cities, along with 2012 host Houston and Cincinnati, that are finalists. Track and field officials toured Los Angeles on Monday, scouting out possible courses, most of which would include the Coliseum.
Max Siegel, chief executive of the USA Track and Field Assn, said what his organization looks for is a course that can produce fast times, offers iconic backdrops for television and is a loop course that allows fans to see the racers more than once, as opposed to a point-to-point course such as the Los Angeles Marathon that goes from Dodgers Stadium to Santa Monica and the ocean.
Siegel and his committee have already visited Cincinnati. While he commended Houston on the job it did in hosting the 2012 trials, no city has ever hosted back-to-back trials, he said. He also said it helps to have the race in a city that already has a successful marathon. "You already have people familiar with running the race, dealing with crowds and street closures, it just lessens the learning curve," Siegel said.
Los Angeles has never held the marathon trials but it has twice hosted the Olympics.
Tracey Russell, who took over as CEO of the Los Angeles Marathon only seven weeks ago, said possible courses might also include the LA Live area as well as the Coliseum.
"Joan Benoit becoming the first Olympic women's marathon champion here, that's a strong link to the Olympic movement," said Russell, who also said this move to host the marathon trials is a sign Los Angeles would like to be considered as host to the 2024 Olympics. "It's a nice connection, Joan being a big part of the story of the 1984 Games and part of the story of why we may throw our hat in the ring for 2024," Russell said.