One of the most significant pieces of news coming out of the recent USA Track and Field convention in Hawaii was the tightening of the 2012 Men's Olympic Marathon Trails standard from 2:22:00 to 2:19:00. The change in the standard came as a surprise to most in the long distance running community and would likely reduce the event's field to around 70 runners.
DtB noticed in the minutes of the December USATF-Minnesota monthly meeting that treasurer Chris Kartschoke, the former Men's Long Distance Running chairman for the state, was eager to work toward rolling back the new standard.
We traded e-mail with Kartschoke recently to get his take on the situation ...
DtB: Did you know a change to the Men's Olympic Marathon Trials standard was coming?
Kartschoke: I had no idea that a change was even being proposed. From my perspective, it was disappointing that the change was made when the annual convention was in Hawaii, being that many delegates who typically go to the convention did not go because of the prohibitively high cost of travel.
DtB: What was your initial reaction to the changed Trials standard?
Kartschoke: When I found out about the change, I was pretty disappointed. My philosophy is that the association is in place for two purposes: 1. To develop Olympic level athletes 2. To develop the sport. I do not think that this change will have any impact on the association's ability to develop Olympic level athletes, good or bad. I do believe that it will be detrimental to the development of track and field in this country. Two years ago, I spoke with Craig Masback, and I actually suggested lowering the standard to possibly 2:30.
DtB: How did you see a 2:30 standard helping the situation?
Kartschoke: My thought was that a slightly slower standard would encourage more people to actively try to qualify. It would also promote the sport. For example, a guy from Thief River Falls who runs a 2:28 could be portrayed by his local media as being their local "Olympic Hopeful". This would only provide the sport with more positive publicity. Finally, the actual trials race could be more of an event with more participants. Glenn Latimer [USATF National Men's LDR Chairman] wants only ~65 athletes participating in the trials. My thinking is similar to the women's position on the trials which is to encourage participation. The more people that are actually in the race, the more it is an event. I am not advocating that USATF pay for any of these individuals, so the incremental cost would be non-material for the association. On balance, I firmly believe that more participants is better for the event and the sport.
DtB: How do you think the new standard will affect men's distance running in Minnesota?
Kartschoke: I think that the new standard could have a detrimental effect on distance running in MN. It is not a foregone conclusion that it will be negatively impactful, but I would guess that we have a number of individuals who were right on the cusp of qualifying with the standard being 2:22. For those guys, qualifying for the Trials would be a lifelong achievement; it would be their Olympics. That was probably a significant motivator for them to do more in pursuit of that dream. The gap between 2:22 and 2:19 is a large one. I have spoken with a couple of people already who thought that 2:22 was achievable with great preparations followed by a great race, but those same people do not think that they could hit the 2:19 standard under any circumstances.
DtB: Is there anything you and USATF - Minnesota might be able to do change the standards back to what they've been previously?
Kartschoke: USATF MN is beginning the process of exploring how to change the standard. Our entire board believes that the wrong decision was made, in this case. We are lucky to have an attorney (Dave Coyne) on the board who is respected and active at the national level. He should be able to help us weed through the red tape. We also have committed members of the LDR committee, who can help effect a change. I would encourage other associations and individuals who would like to see the standard changed to contact our association. The more support we have for a change, the more effective our efforts can be