Monday, October 19, 2009

E-mail sent to runners on October 15, 2009

LFM 2009 is now history. For 29 years, the Badgerland Striders Running Club’s Milwaukee Lakefront Marathon has welcomed marathon runners to the finish at Veteran’s Park from our start at Grafton High School.

I am sure that by now most of you have heard or read about the events surrounding our female winners. In my ten years as Race Director I have done my best to ensure that you – the runners – have been informed of important race-related events and issues. This year is no different. Hence, this very long e-mail summarizing the events and rules that governed the decisions.

The Lakefront Marathon is a race sanctioned by USA Track & Field (USATF). This sanction has many dimensions for us and for the runners. For example, it is USATF that provides standards for certification of race courses – this ensures that you are running the correct distance and that your performances are accepted as qualifiers for other races, most notably the Boston Marathon. USATF has extensive rules for the conduct of long distance races, many of which apply to our race as the USATF State Championship, one that provides prize money and a sanctioned race. What many people don’t know is that in the case of a championship race or one that involves prize money there are really two races going on at the same time – the one for the Open/prize money or Championship awards and one for what might be termed “citizen” runners. In some cases the rules are different for each race. In general, however, the Rules of Competition were formulated by USATF to ensure a level playing field for each race and to ensure that the race(s) are conducted in a safe manner.

I will briefly summarize the process used for addressing potential rule violations. In our case, it is the responsibility of our race management leadership to bring potential issues to my attention. Potential violations can also be identified by other competitors. It is then my responsibility to bring the issue to the attention of our USATF Official – someone who is an expert in the USATF Rules and their application. Once that official makes a determination, the runner involved has the option of appealing the decision to a Jury of Appeals who makes the ultimate decision. It is important to note that there is no mechanism in road racing to allow a time to stand but to be “qualified” by an asterisk indicating that the competitor was not eligible for awards or a provision to apply a time penalty.

In the case of Cassie Peller, a race official indicated that they had observed a vehicle stop halfway between the (approx) 21 and 23 mile aid stations, a woman got out of the vehicle, and then ran with her for some distance providing fluids to her as she continued running down the course. This appeared to be a clear violation of the rule that prohibits receiving aid outside of the immediate vicinity of an aid station. It is important to emphasize that it is not a violation of the rules to take water from a child or citizen aid station so long as that aid is available to any runner who might run by. In this case the aid was for a specific competitor and by any definition outside of the vicinity of an aid station.

Ms.Peller was informed of the investigation of the potential rule violation and did not dispute it. She was then disqualified by the USATF Official and informed of the decision. As Ms. Peller indicated at that time that she would not appeal the decision, Jennifer Goebel was declared the Female Open winner at that time. Ms. Peller, however, subsequently appealed the decision; and the issue was considered by the Jury of Appeals - who sustained the official’s decision.

The case of Ms. Goebel involved the use of an iPod (portable listening device). Many of you will recall all of the discussion concerning this issue in 2008. At that time their use was prohibited for ALL competitors in USATF sanctioned races. This was a rule that I personally opposed and wrote to USATF to support a change that would allow the race to make the decision. In December, 2008 USATF modified the rule - the race now has the authority to allow runners who are not competing for Open/prize money awards or for USATF championship awards to use them. For 2009, the race committee changed the rules to allow them for “citizen” runners (long before Grandmas and Twin Cities made similar changes). This rule, however, still applies to the elite runners competing in the Open/prize money or Championship race and is well-understood by the people to whom it applies.

Some members of the running community identified a photo of Ms. Goebel at approximately the 24 mile mark showing her to be wearing a “portable listening device”. This photo was reported to me, I was compelled to refer the matter to the USATF Official, and informed her of that referral. Again, the official considered the matter and decided that she should be disqualified. I communicated the decision to her and she appealed it. The Jury of Appeals then considered her appeal and sustained the decision of the Official.

Corina Canitz has been named the female open winner and the results declared official.

As we move forward from the 2009 race, it IS important to emphasize that I have the upmost respect for the talent of both of these young women and respect their decisions to move on. I have told them both that they will always be welcome at our race, should they decide to compete here again. As we move on with our planning for 2010 we understand that every experience in life is a learning experience and will learn from this.

Speaking of 2010, we hope that you will all join us in celebrating our 30th anniversary on Sunday October 3, 2010. We will welcome our 35,000th marathoner to the finish at Veteran’s Park – and it might just be you! We will open registration early next year – and let you know via this e-mail newsletter.

As always, we thank you all for your support of our race.

Kri s & the Race Committee

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