USATF MEN’S LDR CHAIR CALLS ON L.A. TO MATCH HOUSTON’S OLYMPIC TRIALS MARATHON PRIZE PACKAGE

On January 29th USA Track & Field, the U.S. Olympic Committee, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, and LA MARATHON LLC announced that Los Angeles had been awarded the bid to host the joint 2016 Men’s and Women’s Olympic Marathon Trials.  Today, the blog received the following statement from USATF Men’s Long Distance Running Committee chairman Edwardo Torres.

Ed Torres, chair of USATF Men's LDR Committee

Ed Torres, chair of USATF Men’s LDR Committee

On behalf of the Men’s LDR committee we would like to congratulate Los Angeles on winning the bid for the 2016 Olympic trials. There was a lot of confusion leading up to this decision. The fact that both Houston and Los Angeles made strong bids made it a tough decision.

As a committee, both men’s and women’s LDR based their decision on what was best for the athlete. At the annual meeting in December 2013 both LDR committees came to the conclusion that Houston had the upper hand, and therefore we suggested to the USATF board that Houston should be awarded the trials. We came to our decision based on two advantages we believe that Houston had.

The first was the date of the race. We believed that holding the race in January would allow people who missed the team to train for the track trials. (Both 2012 4th place finishers made the team in the 10k.) The other major factor for us was the $100k extra in athlete prize money offered in the Houston bid.

In the years since 2012 the earning opportunities for athletes have dried up. It is now harder than ever for an athlete to make it at the elite level. We could not with good conscience allow another $100k in prize money to leave the sport.

Since the annual meeting, Los Angeles changed their race date to be held in February. The request for LA to match athlete prize money was initially declined. With the athlete’s best interest at heart, the committee is still hoping for L.A. to match Houston’s offer. At the end of the day the race is about the athletes, and it’s unfair for them to forfeit $100k in prize money without a say in the decision. The athletes need and deserve that money more than the non-profit we serve does.

Edwardo Torres,
USATF Men’s LDR chair

 

In a follow up conversation Torres spoke highly of both bids — “L.A. will do a great job.” — but he maintained that he was speaking out because “my committee speaks for the athletes, and we knew what the difference in prize money was, and that alone was enough for our choice to be Houston”.

“Why not make all parties happy?” he continued.  “For places 4 through 10 it would mean an extra $5000 in their pocket, which would make a big difference to help keep them in the sport to develop for the next Olympic cycle.”

And so it goes.

 

END

HAVE RUNNERS CHANGED?

     Thirty years ago most avowed distance runners still retained vestiges of the sport’s flinty, outsider’s origins.  We were a congregation of pain seekers bonded by the depth and quality of our gut-wrenched racing performances.  How hard you trained, and fast you ran, were blistered badges of pride held up against society’s more traditional conventions of convenience. Revolutions of the local high school track were regarded with more respect than the arc of one’s career track. Today, those times and that image have long given way to a spirit of tempered inclusion where running serves as a universal bond of health and community involvement.  Or does it?

Running USA staged its annual conference this month in Houston in connection with the U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials.  As a member of the Running USA board of directors, I had occasion to reach out to members of the running community to voice their observations (anonymously, to avoid recriminations) about the state of the sport.  The following perspective comes from a former race director, club organizer, and current running world vendor.

“Here in our little world I have been involved with our running club for over 20 years, and I’ve seen a marked difference in engagement by the runners over time.  New runners don’t know common etiquette.  It used to be that you could call out for help of any kind and lots of runners would raise their hand and say, ‘I can do that’.  Now it feels like there is much more of a ‘so-who’s-going-to-throw-the-next-great-event-for-me’ type of attitude.  

Likewise, I’ve been involved with a local trails organization, a terrific ‘professional’ non-profit with a true working board and paid staff.  It raises millions of dollars, creates both wooded and urban trails, raises non-motorized transportation issues within the community, grooms cross country ski trails, etc. They seem to have a lot of hands-on support from the biking and hiking communities, but they traditionally don’t get a lot of hands-on support from runners.  

I don’t think our area has a lock on selfish runners (sorry for the negative bent here) as I suspect we are just a microcosm of the national scene. My point here is that runners just don’t seem to be as engaged outside of their next run or when they are out of Gu packets, yet any cyclist always seems to know what Lance had for breakfast yesterday. The numbers (and dollars) are with the numbers of runners at races all over this country (a positive), but I don’t think any solution will be found for running’s ills until we find a way to truly engage the masses.  

It starts with a goal and a direction. There are lots of great ideas out there, but as we consider these great ideas every discussion should include the question, ‘how does it engage the masses?’ 

Just some musings for a Tuesday morning. Have a great day.  

Thanks to today’s guest for the observations.  If you’d like to add yours, either respond below, or contact me at toni.reavis@att.net.

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RACING FOR THE PODIUM IN LONDON

2012 U.S. Olympic Marathon Team

Houston, Texas – The U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials are over, and the focus now turns to the Games in London in August.  The American marathon team is strong and experienced – men and women both – as good as any in recent cycles.  And while the road in London will be long and fraught, and by no means a betting probability for the Americans, the self-selected six from Houston, especially the runners-up Ryan Hall and Desi Davila, raced as if Houston was no more than a stepping stone, with the next step up the Olympic podium itself.

The legacy left by reigning Olympic Marathon champion Sammy Wanjiru of Kenya, the sadly departed spiritual leader of the recent Kenyan marathon boom “I AM SAMMY WANJIRU!”, was first seen in Sammy’s seemingly reckless, but gold-medal-winning attack of the Olympic Marathon course on a warm, sunny day in Beijing 2008.  His from-the-gun blitz changed the perception of how a marathon could be run and won, just as Tanzanian Filbert Bayi’s gold medal and world record (3:32.16) at the 1500 meters in 1974 at the Commonwealth Games in Christchurch, New Zealand still quickens the heart as the turning point in that event’s tactical evolution away from a purely sit-and-kick to an early-race surge methodology.

And so while Meb Keflezighi may have won the U.S. men’s Trials race on Saturday in a new PR 2:09:08, Ryan Hall (2nd, 2:09:30) deserves the extra star on his collar for dictating a race tactic that he knows he, Meb, and Abdi Abdirahman (3rd, 2:09:47) will most likely have to answer in London on August 12th.  Ryan predicted it would take a sub-2:10 to earn a place on the London team despite all historic evidence to the contrary – the fastest previous third place finish in an Olympic Trials Marathon was 2:10:55 by Texan Kyle Heffner in 1980.  What we didn’t know at the time was that Hall was going to lay down a 2:06-paced charge through the first 20K (60:02, 4:50/mile), instantly separating the real contenders from the hopefuls, and even putting his top echelon rivals outside their comfort zone.  Only Hall and Abdi Abdirahman had sub-2:09 personal bests coming in – and Abdi’s (2:08:56) was over three years old at that.  So while the last miles slowed as the wind and fatigue rose (31:36 final 10k, 5:03/mile), the early pacing had long since defined the outcome. Continue reading

WRINGING OUT THE OLD

    As 2011 comes to a desultory close, with the race of 2012 shaping up to be the one for the White House in Washington rather than the podium in London, the IAAF’s annual ‘End of the Season’ marathon review by A. Lennart Julin (SWE) and Mirko Jalava (FIN) left the two statisticians with their mouths agape, writing…“what really made 2011 a year that will be considered of historical significance in the sport of marathon running was that it changed our perception of what is really possible. The best illustration is probably the fact that there were new course records set in all the five races making up the “World Marathon Majors.”

DISTANCE RACING HAS HIT THE WALL made a similar case back in November, but more than simply challenging our perceptions of WHAT was really possible, 2011 showed us unequivocally WHO it was possible by.

There were 182 sub-2:10 marathon performances world-wide in 2011, including those on downhill, point-to-point courses like Boston, which, despite its history and renown, is often left off the statistical lists by the Stat-Nazis in the name of purity over common sense. Of that 182, athletes from Kenya ran 110 (61%) led by Geoffrey Mutai’s 2:03:02 Boston masterpiece and Patrick Makau’s “official” world record 2:03:38 in Berlin.   For the rest of the world – including the mighty Ethiopians with 42 sub-2:10s (22%) – 2011 was the year of nolo contendere.  The U.S. was once again led by Ryan Hall (2) and Meb Keflezighi (1) with three sub-2:10s.

As the U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials nears in Houston, Texas January 14th, a look back at where the sport was four years earlier gives us a sobering indication of why the sport of distance running has been transformed into an intra-mural battle among Kenyan camps rather than a world-class competition amongst evenly matched nations.  The tilt has become so severe, that the average jogger/runner has lost all contact with the exploits of their sport’s fastest purveyors as the running industry in the U.S. has settled on participation numbers, economic impact, and charitable contributions as their standards of excellence, speed be damned. Continue reading