Thursday, October 8, 2009

Rules, Rules, Rules

Well, the Lakefront Marathon keeps getting unwanted press.

First, Cassie Peller was disqualified as the overall female winner for receiving a water bottle between official aid stations around mile 19 or so. (Seriously?!)

Goebel with the offending iPod (and apparently intricate tattoo work) showing around her midriff.
After initially declaring 2nd place finisher Jennifer Goebel the winner, it was learned that around mile 19 Goebel turned on an iPod to get a little musical boost. Well, while USATF relaxed the rule banning headphones, iPods and MP3 players late in 2008, largely leaving the decision up to race directors, the ban still applies, to the top-end runners competing for USATF championships or prize money. Down goes Goebel! Down Goes Goebel! This leaves Corina Canitz, finishing in third overall in a time of 3:04:20 to actually be declared the winner, for the third straight year, of the Lakefront Marathon.

About the only nice thing about this entire tale is how Canitz donated her winnings to the Jenny Crain Make it Happen Fund. The fund was created to support Crain, a runner who was severely injured when she was struck by a car in August 2007. (Read some of the entries and do your best to maintain a stiff upper lip. I didn't quite make it.)

I seem to be firing on all cylinders lately with my topics. It was just two weeks ago that I wrote about running with headphones. Regardless of my timing, this is an unfortunate set of coincidences. Rules are indeed rules. If you don't like the rules of one race, then you plain and simply do not need to run it. But some rules really are just a tad silly.

First and foremost, not being able to receive aid outside of the designated aid station area (which is what happened to Peller when the water bottle was handed to her away from sanctioned aid stations) is a little silly. While this was the Wisconsin USATF Championship, we must keep things in perspective. Peller's time of 3:02:09 was extremely respectable. But was she in danger of setting the world afire with her blazing speed that day and not being able to test her water bottle for some miraculous substance would cause great harm to the world records? No. She ran a 3:02. Nice time. Not worth the fuss.

How about Goebel? Was she receiving aid via a wireless device that would allow her to sneak up on runners ahead and have an unfair advantage (the original impetus or one there of the headphone ruling)? I doubt it. While her logic may have some merit:

"The rules don’t state that you can’t wear an iPod. I thought it meant you couldn't win any money if you had an iPod on. I’m not asking for prize money. I’m just looking for the time to be registered."

it should not matter. Even if we say the water bottle fiasco was valid, is this really valid as well? And you know I am no proponent of running with headphones so I am definitely not defending her!

The Race Director stated: "These young women were running at an elite level. They really ought to have known what the rules were." First things first. Ignorance of the rules is no defense. If they fouled up and it was against the rules, oh well. But the first sentence speaks of them running at an elite level. Again, the times, all around the 3 hour mark, are very fast and all of these women should be VERY proud of those times. But to be quite frank, they are not "elite". The draconian way in which the rules were enforced is highly unnecessary.

So I guess the moral of the story is that we, as runners, need to follow the rules of the race we are running. And race directors and organizers need to know when shades of gray are necessary and enforcement of those rules should not be so strict in certain cases.

At least, the $500 went to a a very good cause. Here's hoping that not only does Jenny Crain continue to move forward with her progress but that both Peller and Goebel get to taste the victory stand again real soon.

3 comments: said...

I suppose the Race Director equates elite to himself too.

Dane said...

Female Race Director, Waksports. Not sure I know what you mean, though.

Monica Runningwolf said...

Silly rules, but amazing story about the Canitz's donation to Jenny Crain. I work with people who have had recent traumatic brain injuries. TBI and Spinal Cord Injury remains the most costly medical conditions a person can have. Jenny has a long road ahead of her but it appears she's on the right track to gaining some sort of independence, thanks to people like Canitz, her support system, and her healthcare team.