This is the magic number for Canadian and other international women because running under it means that they have run a qualifying time to be considered for their national Olympic team.
This will no doubt be the biggest group, as there will be pacers running even splits all the way until at least 15 miles.
Expect to see the following international athletes in this group:
Kinsey Middleton, Canada
Sarah Inglis, UK
Adriana Nelson, Romania
Ursula Patricia Sanchez Garcia, Mexico
Vianey De La Rosa Rojas, Mexico
Andrea Ramirez Limon, Mexico
Brenda Flores, Mexico
Beverly Ramos, Puerto Rico
Dylan Hassett, Ireland
For Americans, this number will be a point of pride. The American team was already chosen back in February at the Olympic Trials (and none of those athletes are racing The Marathon Project), but many of the athletes in Arizona ran the Trials, and finishing under the Olympic standard would be a powerful statement.
Aliphine Tuliamuk's U.S. Olympic Trials winning time. While no one is doubting her incredible performance, for a pre-Trials favourite like Kellyn Taylor, running solidly faster will be a nice way to cap off 2020.
This is an important number for the two Canadian women in the race: Natasha Wodak and Kinsey Middleton. It's the time that Rachel Cliff ran in 2019 in order to claim the number three Olympic team spot. It's become the new benchmark in women's Canadian marathon running. Wodak told us in a recent podcast that she will be going after this number.
The Marathon Project will be providing a pacer that take them out at 2:26 pace.
The Canadian women's record, set by Malindi Elmore in January at the Houston Marathon. She isn't racing on Sunday, and right now holds the number two spot on the Canadian Olympic team. It's unlikely that either Canadian in the race will challenge this time.
A massive barrier to break in women's marathon running. Only one American woman has ever run under this time (see the next big number on our list for more on that). Running under 2:20 would be a generational achievement for an American woman. It would also no doubt cause a bit of conversation about the method in which American athletes are selected for Olympic teams.
The American women's marathon record. Deena Kastor set it back in 2006 at the Chicago Marathon, and no one has really come close to it in the past 14 years.
Sara Hall will be going after the record on Sunday. She will have pacers to take her until at least 15 miles, so it will be considered a "mixed record," as the pacers will be male (which was also the case for Kastor's record). Race organizer Ben Rosario said that Hall has requested a 69:30 first half pace, meaning there will be a 36-second buffer for Hall to play with in the second half. It is unclear if Hall will have any company at that pace, but doubtful.
The men's Olympic Standard. As with the bulk of the women in the field, many of these guys will recognize each other from the Olympic Trials in Atlanta. And it will be a serious badge of honour to cross the finish line in under this time. For older athletes, it will validate the last four years to some degree, and for younger ones it will reveal a great deal of promise and motivation for the lead up to Paris 2024.
There are currently nine men in the field who are within one minute of this time, on either side of it. There are also nine men with half-marathon qualifying times who would no doubt love to run under 2:11:30.
Keep an eye out for these international athletes, who all need to run under this time in order to achieve their ultimate goal in the desert:
Cameron Levins, Canada
Rory Linkletter, Canada
Benjamin Preisner, Canada
Justin Kent, Canada
Daniel Mesfun, Eritrea
Amanuel Mesel Tikue, Eritrea
Jose Antonio Uribe Marino, Mexico
Igor Olefirenko, Ukraine
Mohamed Hrezi, Libya
Matthew Leach, UK
Luis Fernando Ostos Cruz, Peru
For the four Canadians in the men's race, this is an intriguing time. It's what compatriot Tristan Woodfine ran in October at the London Marathon in order to grab the second spot on the Canadian Olympic marathon team for Tokyo. If two runners dip under this time, Woodfine would no doubt lose his spot and be forced to try to run even faster before the qualification window closes in 2021.
If you talk to any elite male marathon runner, at some point this number comes up. It's like the three-hour barrier for recreational runners. The number has cache, and getting under it is no doubt the "A" goal for many of these athletes.
The Canadian men's marathon record, held by Cameron Levins, who is in this race. He said on our podcast that his goal is to run a new record on Sunday — and to run much faster than 2:09:25. He'll be going out with the lead men's group, which will be paced at 2:09 flat.
The time Galen Rupp ran to win the men's race at the U.S. Olympic Trials. Now, that was an unpaced performance, so arguably harder than the equivalent achievement at The Marathon Project, but it will still be a satisfying time to surpass.
2:08:xx or faster
One of the question marks going into this weekend will be if any athlete dares break away from the lead pack, and attempt to run significantly faster than 2:09. It's unlikely, but there is a good possibility that the winner of this race will be able to muster up enough speed in the second half to crack the 2:09 barrier. Only two men in the field have ever broken 2:09 (Amanuel Mesel Tikue and Jose Antonio Uribe Marino) but neither have run anywhere near that time in years. Americans Scott Fauble (2:09:09) and Jared Ward (2:09:25), the third and fourth fastest runners in the field, have come tantalizingly close. They actually both ran these personal bests in the same race — the 2019 Boston Marathon — finishing seventh and eighth. These two are in Arizona because they were unsatisfied with their respective Olympic Trials performances, so 2:08:xx will be on each of their minds.
Current American top dog Galen Rupp's personal best. No one will come close to this time on Sunday.