By Mark Lamport-Stokes
LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Unseasonably high temperatures will challenge runners at the U.S. Olympic marathon trials on Saturday with the top three finishers in the men's and women's races earning spots on the United States Olympic team.
A record field for the trials, comprising more than 370 athletes, will have to cope with temperatures of up to 82 degrees Fahrenheit (28 Celsius) in downtown Los Angeles where the race will start and end.
"Coming into it, I think it's the training that you do and you just try to prepare yourself as much as possible," Luke Puskedra, the third-fastest men's qualifier, told reporters about the impact of the heat.
"The weather makes it more tactical. You have to be ready for everything. That being said, it's going to take a 2:08:00 effort (to qualify).
"A lot of it (coping with heat) comes with the toughness and some of it will probably be more of a mental head game. I stayed at home training in Eugene, Oregon, and turned the thermostat up to 80. My wife didn't enjoy it as much as I did!"
Puskedra, 26, will be making his debut in the U.S. Olympic marathon trials and will vie for a spot in Rio de Janeiro along with three-time Olympian Meb Keflezighi and Dathan Ritzenhein, who placed ninth in the marathon at the 2008 Beijing Games.
Also competing will be Galen Rupp, the 10,000m silver medalist at the 2012 Olympics who will be making his marathon debut.
Another three-time Olympian, defending trials champion Shalane Flanagan, will head the women's field where her leading challengers are expected to be Desiree Linden, Kara Goucher and Amy Cragg.
"The heat is going to obviously play a part," said Linden, 32, who represented the U.S. at the 2012 London Olympics. "It's handling that last 10km and being able to finish the marathon."
The top three finishers from each race who meet Olympic time standards will be nominated to represent the United States in the Rio Games.
(Editing by Larry Fine)