Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Marathon Qualifying Times Responses.

In a recent blog I detailed my thoughts on the lowering of the Olympics Marathon Trials Qualifying time. Some people responded in the comments section and others sent me their opinions in an email. I have collected many of them and put their retorts into a message here below.

One good friend was an advocate for raising the time. One of his reasons is as follows:

“Raising the standard, for example to 2:25, will put the dream of making the Trial within the reach of many good but not great marathoners. In 1980, I was good but not great -- my 2:27:25 at Boston 1980 was more than five minutes slower than the 2:21:54 standard. But I had four years, and I could have trained to beat 2:25 -- but by 1984, they lowered the standard to 2:20. That was out of reach, so why bother training for it?”

Many brought up the point that allowing more runners, rather than fewer, to run the Marathon Trials will focus more attention on the event and sell more people on coming out to watch it. The Marathon Trials should get as much interest as the Track & Field Trials and "fill the stadium." In countries like Japan, a major event getting less than a 10% share of televisions ratings would be a huge disappointment. In the US a 1% share is normal (the SuperBowl gets like 40% FYI)

Others brought up the point that a “party-crasher” was not too well-received. By this I mean, Michael Wardian, a 2:21:27 PR, led the race for 35 minutes.

Many feel that the organizers felt this upstart was simply trying to unconventionally grab some fame and did not like him crashing their party. Organizers like well-scripted events and if anything is certain in marathoning, it is that 26.2 miles leaves plenty of time for a script to be written by those who weren’t invited to the writing table. But Wardian’s surge faded and in spite of the relatively slow early pace which worried organizers, Ryan Hall set a Marathon Trials record. So what's the harm?

Not taking away stories like Wardian’s, people have said, increases the probability of an unknown with a slower qualifying time having a breakthrough -- for example, Kyle Heffner in 1980, John Tuttle in 1984, Mark Conover in 1988.

I feel that my friends have very good points. For whatever reason, the same people who will shoot a 96 on the golf links will still go watch 4 hours of Masters coverage in the club house but your typical road racer wouldn’t want to watch coverage of a Marathon on TV. If there were more “everymen” running, would there be greater desire to watch? Obviously the “slower” time did not affect this year’s finish.

Good food for thought.


Scott said...

I have read off an on for about six months as I used to train and run in the DC area for several years and enjoy seeing a different perspective on the areas people and events.
This is the first time I felt something forth posting and it is a defense of Wardian. I see the point of a party crasher, but Wardian was not that, he was the only one in the field that went out at an honest pace. Not a single split was abnormal for himself not to mention for the rest of the field. You have to go back several years for a "party crasher" to be found as there is too much respect within the American elite to use Trials as a platform to get some TV time. Wardian ran a true controlled pace that he had to do to be competitive knowing he does not have the Meb, Hall, etc. second halves.

Dane said...


I know Mike and I agree. I think the point made was that the USATF might not have known who he was so felt as if "Who is this pony-tailed guy and why is he mucking up my pretty little race?"