Thursday, December 20, 2007

The 2:19 Standard and USATF-Mn's Concerns

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


kirt said...

70. I don't see how that would every happen. I think closer to 25-30 without a B standard. See if you can get a posting on or other national sites for more feedback to reinstate the B standard.

Kirt Goetzke

nate said...

I fully support the move to involve more people in the Olympic trials - not less. I 100% agree with everything you said in the interview, and was very disapointed to hear of the standard being lowered to 2:19. I understand that the US has had a resergance at the marathon distance in the last couple of years, and we want to produce potential medal winners, but runners at every level get pushed by the athletes right behind them, and I think that this decision will decrese the number of runners that will want to commit the time and effort to training knowing that the qualifier may no longer be personally attainable.

Cake Eater said...

I have no problem with 2:19. 69 guys would have qualified in '08 using the new standard. For the other Olympic distance and mid-distance events, only 24 - 32 qualify for the trials. The 29:00 10k "B" standard qualifier time roughly equates to a 2:16 marathon.

dd said...

I was surprised by this change, and I agree that to make such a large change at a meeting venue that is known to be poorly attended is at best poor judgement and at worst coldly machiavelian.

The point about bringing the marathon trials into parity with track events is taken- and if that is what the goal is, fine, can't really argue with that.

However, I don't think there was a downside to having 150-200 participants in the marathon trials, compared to 20-30 on the track. It's not as if they're in the way, the 2:20-2:22 crowd already paid their own transportation/lodging, and I can't imagine you get much in cost savings dropping a race from 200 to 50-80 people.

On the plus side to a larger field- it might keep some post-collegiate runners training harder longer, as something to chase, while the track standards (and now the new 2:19) are probably going to put that thought to rest. Seems like the sport benefits from having more people out training hard, so to get rid of an incentive for no clear reason is strange.

Mercanator said...

I'm sorry, but 2:19 is only one minute slower than the IAAF's 'B' standard of 2:18 for Beijing.

I am in favor of having the marathon trials standard closer to the IAAF's B standard. After all, isn't the purpose of the Olympic Trials to select the Olympic team? In my opinion, the Olympic Marathon Trials is not a development race.

I would, however, be in favor of a "wild card" entry into the marathon trials based on place at the USA national marathon championships (similar to a system in place at the NCAA outdoor track & field championships), irregardless of time. This puts more value on that event, and gives those second-tier athletes incentive.