First Olympic Marathon Trials Marker – Alamosa, Colorado - Atlas Obscura

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First Olympic Marathon Trials Marker

The 7,000-foot finish line of America’s first Olympic Trials marathon. 


When Mexico City was chosen as the site for the 1968 Olympics, it was a notable milestone in more ways than one. For one, it was the first time a country in Latin America would be hosting the games. For another, it was also by far the highest location ever chosen. At over 7,000 feet in elevation, athletic performance can be enhanced or hindered depending on the sport and athlete. For example, less oxygen at higher altitudes favors athletes with better respiratory capabilities.

The US National Olympic Committee had previously chosen athletes for the marathon event by comparing performances at popular marathon events around the country. However, with an upcoming race environment so different from the one most runners were accustomed to, the athletes chosen for this prestigious event had to be selected from an even playing field.

They settled on Alamosa, Colorado, which was not only high, but flat, as the course in Mexico would be. The first Olympic Marathon Trials were open to all aspiring runners, to find the very best that America had to offer. George Young, Kenny Moore, and Ron Daws were the first to finish the course at Adams State College and earn their spot on the Olympic roster. 

Today, a red brick line on the sidewalk marks the finish line of the first Olympic Marathon Trials. The old course was used again in 2018 at the 50th anniversary of the race, attended by Young, Moore, and many other famous distance runners.

Also at the site stands a statue of Coach Joe Vigil, who led Adams State to 19 national championships in track and cross country and coached the US Olympic Team in 1998. 

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