One thing that has always frustrated me is when people make excuses for races. (Or really, when people make excuses for anything.) Okay, so you didn’t run as fast as you wanted because it was hot or because it was hilly – but neither did anyone else who was running that day. You got a stomachache and ended up having to make an unplanned bathroom stop halfway through? Fine – it happens to the most seasoned professional. But that doesn’t mean you get to subtract two minutes from your time. It is what it is, and you can’t retroactively adjust your finish time just because it “wasn’t your day.”
Professional athletes train for years for the Olympics, and if it’s “not their day” on the day of the games, they don’t get a gold medal for what they could have done. There are plenty of athletes who are widely considered the best, but by some stroke of bad luck, they don’t have a great performance on game day and so they don’t win – and that’s just part of the game.
I thought that we all accepted that for what it is, and that all runners understood that you couldn’t just retroactively adjust a race time – the official results are the official results. But what happens if the official results themselves change? That’s what’s now happening with the 2015 Charleston Marathon results, and although it doesn’t affect me personally, I’m annoyed to learn about it.
I’ve run the Charleston Marathon before, finished much faster than I expected, and was generally pretty happy with the course. Unfortunately, this year, it seems there was a mishap with the lead car – tacking on an extra quarter mile to the course. What upsets me isn’t so much the mistake with the misdirection; I had this happen at the 2013 Big D Texas Marathon, except we had 1.5 miles added on. (Yikes!) But what bothers me is the outcome: the race organization has announced that they will be adjusting all runners’ times accordingly and providing that as part of the official results. Most notably, these are the times that will be submitted to the Boston Athletic Association as part of the Boston Marathon qualification process.
I totally understand how much it sucks to train and then have something out of your control mess up the outcome. When you’re trying to qualify for Boston, an extra couple of minutes is a ton of time and could easily make the difference for dozens of people in a race of this size. But I still can’t believe that the new standard is becoming to adjust finish times for mishaps like that. The BAA hasn’t yet officially stated whether it will accept these altered finish times, but in a Runner’s World Q&A last year, BAA President Dave McGillivray noted that the precedent has been set in the past for such adjustments to occur – both for entire race fields and also for individual errors.
What’s your take – is this kind of finish time adjustment legit? (Okay, it’s technically legitimate if the BAA decides it is, but do you think it should be legit?) Where do you draw the line between “let’s subtract a few minutes because the course was long” and “let’s subtract a few minutes because there were high winds” or “let’s rate every course according to its elevation profile and there will be a different BQ time for each?”