Portland’s Michelle Lilienthal, the top finisher among Maine women at the 2018 Beach to Beacon, is among eight runners with ties to Maine who will compete Saturday in the U.S. Olympic marathon trials. Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Staff Photographer

In preparation for her fourth U.S. Olympic marathon trials, Michelle Lilienthal carefully studied a map of the three-loop course that starts and ends Saturday at Centennial Olympic Park in Atlanta.

Having become a mother not quite five months ago, Lilienthal has a little different race strategy this time.

“A good place for me to drop out would be Mile 8 or 16,” she said, “because they’re both near the finish.”

Reuniting with husband Marc Halverson and baby Theo is foremost on Lilienthal’s mind, “when my body decides it’s had enough,” although she also wants to see the leading runners striving for one of the coveted top three finishes that will punch their ticket to the Tokyo Games this summer.

“Even if you’re not a fan of running, it is such a die-hard, cut-throat, intense situation,” she said. “The emotions are so raw. These are people at the top of their game trying to get one of these spots.”

A three-time Beach to Beacon champion in the Maine women’s category since she moved to Portland from the Midwest six years ago, Lilienthal, 37, is one of eight runners with connections to the state who plan to run in the trials Saturday.

Qualifiers must meet either an A or B standard, with the former resulting in all expenses paid and the latter resulting in organizers paying for either travel or lodging. Lilienthal, like all the Maine-connected runners, met the B standard, which for women is a 2-hour, 45-minute marathon or a 1:13 half marathon. She ran a 2:44.05 at the Chicago Marathon in 2017, shortly after the qualifying window opened.

Joining her when the women start at 12:20 p.m. will be Sarah Mulcahy, 34, of Fort Kent and South Portland native Amanda Allen Nurse, 32, who now lives in Boston. Mulcahy qualified with a 2:44.35 in California in 2018. Nurse, a former lacrosse player at Waynflete School and Bowdoin College, ran 2:42:15 in Berlin, Germany, in 2018.

At the 2016 U.S. Olympic marathon trials in Los Angeles, Nurse was the top Maine-connected women’s finisher, 63rd overall in 2:49:22. Falmouth native Ethan Shaw was the top Maine man, 21st in 2:20:56.

Among the Olympic favorites in Saturday’s women’s field are Molly Huddle, Emily Sisson, Jordan Hasay, Des Linden and Sara Hall. Galen Rupp, the 2016 bronze medalist, headlines a men’s field that includes Leonard Korir, Scott Fauble, Shadrack Biwott and Jared Ward.

The men will take off first, at 12:08 p.m. The men’s qualifying standards were 2:15 and 2:19 – or a 1:04 half marathon.

Only two of the five men with Maine ties currently live in the state. Cape Elizabeth native Matt Rand, 28, recently moved back to Portland from New York City. Ryan Smith, 24, of Auburn is the 2018 Beach to Beacon Maine men’s champion.

Last year, Rand qualified with a 2:18.42 marathon in Indianapolis, and Smith won the Hartford Marathon in 2:18:25.

Three others qualified at the California International Marathon. Dan Vassallo, 34, is a former Colby College runner and holds the Maine Marathon course record. He qualified with 2:17:30 and lives in Peabody, Mass.

Matt McClintock, 26, is a native of Athens who ran at Madison High and Purdue University. He qualified with 2:18:03 and lives in Blowing Rock, N.C.

Henry Sterling, 28, is a native of South Freeport who ran at North Yarmouth Academy and Dartmouth College. He qualified with 2:18:50 and recently moved to Phoenix.

Lilienthal resumed her running routine six weeks after giving birth and is now up to 70 or 80 miles per week, with a handful of workout runs that include mile repeats. She said she simply doesn’t have sufficient training miles in her legs to run fast and hard Saturday, and does not want to clog the course by meandering through a marathon in excess of three hours.

“It’s super no-stress, no-pressure,” Lilienthal said.

“I’m excited for the race, but I ramped up so slowly because I didn’t want to get injured. So I am starting, but likely not finishing.”

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