Of the top contenders for a spot on the U.S. Olympic Marathon team in Saturday's Trials in Houston, Mo Trafeh could very well be the most intriguing. Trafeh hasn't finished a marathon -- he dropped out down the stretch in the 2011 London Marathon after keeping up with the elite lead pack through 12 miles -- but beat Ryan Hall the last time the pair met up in Houston at the 2011 USA Half Marathon Championships, and has a half PR of 1:00:39. That's fast enough to go under 2:10 for a full, if Mo has the endurance ability and has trained well. Hall and Dathan Ritzenhein are that fast. We know Meb Keflezighi can go under 2:10. We know Abdi Abdirahman can go under 2:10. But the rest of the field? Probably not.
Mo's pre-race interview with Runner's World sets the stage for where Trafeh is shooting on Saturday:
I'd like it to go out in 1:03-1:04 in the first half. That's the pace I've been training for. That's a pace that I know I can handle for a long time. If no one else wants to run that pace, I might take it myself. Why not? If I'm feeling good and the others are just playing around, I'll throw in some surges. I've got nothing to lose.
Remember, in Hall's blistering 2:09:02 to win the Trials in NYC in 2007, he went 1:06 in the first half. Trafeh, who has never completed a marathon, is talking about beating that by 2-3 minutes and keeping the pace. He's talking about doing the first half in Houston as fast as Hall's blistering second half in NYC.
You can't knock the confidence, and as Mo says, he's got nothing to lose. This could be one helluva (re-)introduction to the marathon distance if he pulls it off.