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It's Marathon Project Week at The XC. Be sure to follow all of our special coverage of Sunday's big race in Arizona, which will feature some of  North America's best marathoners, including those attempting to qualify for next summer's Olympic Games. We'll be releasing daily podcasts featuring interviews with athletes competing in The Marathon Project, plus we'll be doing an instant reactions podcast immediately following the race. Be sure to subscribe to our newsletter for in-depth coverage delivered right to your inbox, and our Sunday Long Read.

Over the course of the summer, as team sports figured out a way to safely get back playing games, NAZ Elite coach Ben Rosario realized that the distance running community needed to become proactive. With mass participation races being cancelled across the world, Rosario's athletes needed a goal, particularly runners like Scott Fauble and Kellyn Taylor, who missed qualifying for the U.S. Olympic team, but wanted another shot at a marathon before the end of 2020. Another one of Rosario's athletes, Canadian Rory Linkletter, was also in an interesting situation — he needed an opportunity to run a high-quality, sanctioned marathon in the hope that he would qualify for his national Olympic team next summer.

Rosario saw an opportunity to set up a special, elite-only race. It would give his athletes and others something to strive for at the end of one very bad year, and perhaps provide an opportunity for a few international elites to qualify for the Olympics. In a text to friend and agent Josh Cox, The Marathon Project concept was born.

The XC's Michael Doyle talks with Rosario about how the race came together, how big a deal the event has become to both North American elite distance runners and the community as a whole, the importance of making a marathon entertaining, and why he thinks something special is going to happen on Sunday.

Subscribe to The XC Podcast here for more on The Marathon Project all this week:

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