1. Toni:

    Thanks. It’s interesting, but where would it point us if we really had definitive research? What is altitude? 3,000 ft.? 8,000 ft.? Should we handicap races (with head starts, say) based on what altitude the athlete grew up in? There could be a continuum, perhaps 3 seconds per 500 ft. altitude increments. (Ross alluded to the accident-of-birth phenomenon.) It would bring expanded meaning to the concept of a controlled start.

    Mark Heinicke

  2. Ross’s response is very interesting. I especially enjoyed reading your thoughts, too, Craig. I can’t say that I disagree with most of them.

    My brother and I met and spoke with you a few times in Falmouth, Lynchburg, and elsewhere back in the “good old days”. How I miss them, and all of the personalities and rivalries that used to make road racing so exciting.

  3. I have reread this communication by Ross twice…and am still trying to get a conclusion out of it. He is hedging his bets… because he is a published scientist…. but I am not. I am just a veteran of the sport. However, I feel that too damn many male distance runners have run under 2:05 for the marathon in the last 6 years! If you assign a 3%-5% advantage with possible/probable use of EPO …maybe the lesser figure if you are born & raised at altitude to begin with as Ross points out…. and add that back into the finish times….then that would raise most of the approximate 32 sub-2:05 times to much closer to what I might expect the marathon to be running right now…. much more in the 2:06-2:09 range which sounds much more reasonable to me 25 years after I was competing….. very fast…. but still very reasonable. That kind of generational improvement I could believe in!

    On the other hand, maybe all flatlanders below a certain altitude…. should be allowed to take some monitored EPO….if they are to compete in big races with altitude born athletes who would enjoy a significant competitive edge with a higher red blood cell count just by virtue of where they were born and raised.,…to help “level the playing field” in all distance races somewhat. Why should those of us whose families and careers require that we live and train at lower altitude be made to suffer an unfair competitive edge against those athletes whose families and careers are based at a higher altitude location? Anyway, this is simply “food for thought” and the kind of topic that Toni and I could enjoy over several cups of coffee some day…..right up Toni’s alley! Craig Virgin

    1. Provocative, as always, Craig. But coming from one who raced the best (and won), you speak with the imprimatur of your championship pedigree. I have noted how well your fellow Illinois native, Chris Derrick has followed in your footsteps. The sport needs wide-spread competition to survive and thrive. It cannot reduce itself to a dual meet or the world will lose all interest altogether.
      The coffee’s on me.

      1. Since I can’t run fast anymore, Toni, I have to think and talk somewhat provocatively or else I wouldn’t be a very good speaker or color analyst at events! Provocative or not, I’ll eat my old racing flats before I believe that there are 32 men out there running under 2:05 “clean” right now! I’ve waited for 6 years for the Kenyan Athletics investigation to finally get off the ground…. but I doubt it will be as exhaustive and comprehensive as it needs to be due to lack of funding. Also, being a flatlander, myself, I often wondered what it might be like to have a higher RBC count?!? Finally, I am extremely proud of 2 fellow Illinois H.S. alumni… Chris Derrick and Evan Jager… for their professional level running accomplishments and can only hope that Lukas V. recovers from his cycling accident sufficiently to pursue his triathlon potential in full. I’ll hold you to that latte!

    2. While I’ll agree thirty two sub 2:05’s seems out of the realm of possibility for drug free athletes, let’s keep in mind this weekend saw thirty six sub 4:00 miles indoor according to Flo Track. The only way to insure a level playing field would be to have everyone born in the same place time and conditions train the same way and monitored 100% of their lives. Who would watch that. Even NASCAR gave up on that to some degree. David Epstein had a good take on this subject, but the answer will always be train better, hope the other guy gets caught if he’s cheating and if nothing else beat them at another sport that draws our best talent away from running here in the U.S. DO NOT lower the bar so we can compete nor lower our standards in an attempt to make it fair. Somebody will always look for a way to gain an edge, legal or otherwise.

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