Friday, October 05, 2007

Opinion: Let's Move TCM Back Two Weeks

The sea ice surrounding the North Pole is shrinking.

A couple from Minnesota just sailed the Northwest Passage.

President Bush now concedes that the global climate is changing.

Al Gore is a rock star.

And, the forecasted start-time temperature for Sunday’s Medtronic Twin Cities Marathon is 74 … with a dew-point of 67 dripping degrees.

October is the new September … or late-August in this year’s case.

Isn’t it time for the Medtronic Twin Cities Marathon to move to a date later in Minnesota’s fast-warming autumn?

Pour yourself a cold drink and consider this: If race-day temperatures turn out as warm as the forecast, 2007 would mark the sixth straight year that race-day high temperatures are hotter than the mean temperature for TCM-Sundays -- 62 degrees. No matter what happens on Sunday, the last five race-days have already made for the hottest five-year string of temperatures in the 26-year history of the event.

The inconvenient truth is that the three hottest TCMs have all come since 2002.

Perhaps more significantly, especially for elite athletes who do most of their TCM racing in the “cool” of the early morning -- three of the four warmest low-of-the-day temperatures for the race have come in the last five years.

Today’s TCM runners start out warm, wind up hot, and end up slowed.

Sure, there’s no reason race-day 2008 couldn’t dawn 32 degrees and crisp, as it did on October 6, 1985 when Phil Coppess set the still-standing men’s course record for the event. I’d bet someone a little bit of money that it won’t, though … and the odds would be with me.

TCM may have hit an especially hot patch in the weather in recent years, but everyone from farmers to fishermen realizes that it's getting warmer. It makes sense that race organizers would want to take climate change into account, too.

A two-week-later race-date -- holding the event on the third week of October instead of the first -- could offer just the buffer from the temperature trend that would warm the hearts and cool the brows of marathoners. Winning times should get faster, PR performances should be more likely, and, as an added bonus “The Most Beautiful Urban Marathon in America” might even be spangled with a bit more fall color than it is now.

Informal conversations with a TCM board members, staff, and committee members suggest that moving the event later into the month is a new idea, but not necessarily an unwelcome one.

The marathoners I tested the notion on loved it.

Moving the marathon later into October doesn’t appear to present obvious, deal-breaking down-sides. Pushing the event into November would play with fire – or, more correctly, snow and ice – a little too dangerously. But mid-October should balance the downsides of late-summer and late-fall in the same fashion that TCM’s originators thought early-October would do so back in cooler times.

When October was still October, that is.

A later date would likely put TCM in conflict with the Chicago Marathon more frequently. (Both races fall on the same sticky Sunday this year, but Chicago is typically a mid/late-October event.) Regular, direct conflicts with Chicago won’t impact TCM’s elite field; Chicago, with a bankroll like the Yankees, competes on a different strata for elites than does TCM. Expo exhibitors might need to choose between the events, but their needs should be the tail rather than the dog when it comes to a decision like this.

TCM’s dates won't change quickly, even if the will to change is strong and immediate. Twin Cities’ expo contract with RiverCentre locks the event into its traditional first-weekend-in-October slot for the next three years. It’s a change that would be slow in coming even if a bold decision was made now.

It’s a change that should come, however. October is likely to get even hotter. But that doesn’t mean the Medtronic Twin Cities Marathon can’t make itself cooler.

What do you think? Let us know on the DtB poll or with a comment below ...


Chad said...

Thanks for writing this Charlie. I couldn't agree more. Frankly I was surprised when you said "moving the event later into the month is a new idea".

I just mentioned to someone yesterday that TCM should move back a week and Grandma's should move up a week. Heck, move them both 2 weeks. Besides the nicer weather, we'd have 2-4 more weeks to recover and train between races.

maxpower2911 said...

Good call, this makes a lot of sense. If this isn't conclusive evidence of climate change, I don't know what is.

bizyah said...

Yeah, what Chad said. Grandmas has been having the same issue as TCM. Move 'em both and they'll only become better events than they already are.

dd said...

I agree with all of the above- I would be even more in favor of moving grandma's to late May- I think the chances of heat and humidity are getting far too good (that is, bad!) in mid-late June. People are going to start avoiding these, especially the sub-elite range that makes a race a good one for people looking for qualifiers, etc.

Bill said...

Gloves, Stocking Hat = Good
No Shirt = Bad
Let's move them to April and November.

Kirk said...

10-4 and amen and all that. I can't believe that this is a new idea to the TCM directors. Move it to 3rd week of October--and Grandma's to early June--I might even run it again if they did so.

Charlie said...

I just chatted with Grandma's Marathon director Scott Keenan about race dates and climate change ...

His race is scheduled out even further than TCM. We only chatted informally, but I wouldn't expect to see Grandma's move its date anytime soon.

Chad said...

I'm not surprised that it'd be tougher to move Grandma's, since I believe it's been the same weekend in June for each of the last 30 years. You know, tradition and all...blah, blah, blah.

As for expo exhibitors having to chose between TCM and Chicago, in the grand scheme of things, I couldn't care less. For all the crappy, hot marathons I've run, I've never said, "But dang, they had a great expo."

Jim from MN said...

Charlie: I wonder if people have to die in our marathon races before this issue is seriously discussed? I thought TCM was supposed to be a "fall" race, not a summer, Hopkins Raspberry Festival II.