Viewing The Olympic Trials: Best Bargain In Sports

The U.S. Marathon Trials are an inexpensive way to enjoy the sport. Photo: Running

The cost of tickets to see these races? Zero. Nada. Free.

Written by: David Monti

(c) 2011 Race Results Weekly, all rights reserved. Used with permission.

Getting to see a game of baseball’s World Series, the NCAA’s Final Four, or the NHL’s Stanley Cup can cost hundreds of dollars, not counting the travel expense and puffed-up prices of hotel rooms in the cities where those grand sporting events are usually held. For those who go, it’s often a trip of a lifetime, followed by months of painful credit card payments.

But getting to Houston next January to see the Olympic Trials Marathons for men and women–the only binding trials race in the world which will select an Olympic Marathon team–is a relative bargain. Fans have a chance to see two thrilling races on Saturday, January 14, which will select the USA Olympic Marathon teams, then they can watch –or participate in– the Chevron Houston Marathon, Aramco Houston Half Marathon, or El Paso Corporation 5K the next day.

With Houston’s fan-friendly 8-mile criterium course, spectators can watch both the men’s and women’s trials simultaneously for the first time in history, and see the athletes pass them multiple times (see course map attached). The top-3 male and female finishers will be named to the USA Olympic Team for the London 2012 Olympics.

The cost of tickets to see these races?

Zero. Nada. Free.

The races are held on public streets, and although there will likely be ticketed seating along the finish line straight, fans can roam Houston’s downtown to watch much of the race from the sidewalks. Moreover, hotel rates in Houston in the time frame of the Trials are very reasonable.

Utilizing the Chevron Houston Marathon’s hotel booking service (go to, click “Marathon” then “Hotels and Travel”) reveals rates for rooms within walking distance of the course for as little as $149 per night. Hotel discounter shows even lower rates, including a four-star hotel near the city’s famed shopping district, the Galleria, for just $75 per night.

Of the 32 hotels discounted by Hotwire, 22 were priced at $60 per night, or less. Getting to Houston is easy from most places in the United States because of it’s central, southern location. According to the travel site, round-trip air tickets to Houston in mid-January (depart Jan. 13 and return Jan. 15) are priced as low as $260 round-trip from New York (USAir), $319 from Chicago (United), $399 from Los Angeles (USAir), $325 from Denver (United), and $205 from Seattle (Continental).

Houston’s public transit system offers bus service from the main airport, George Bush Intercontinental (IAH), to downtown for $4.50 each way.

Finally, Houston’s January weather is another selling point. While it might rain, like it did for the 2011 Chevron Houston Marathon, it is rarely very cold. According to the website, the average daytime high temperature for Houston on January 14 is 61°F (16°C), with a pre-dawn low of 41°F (5°C). Race-time temperatures should be around 50°F (10°C).

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