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Houston Marathon Trials Analysis: Follow the "Support"

March 2, 2009
Letsrun.com

We talked to Ed Torres, one of the two athlete representatives (the other was Olympic marathoner Magdalena Boulet) on the USATF committee that awarded both the men's and women's 2012 Olympic Marathon Trials to Houston. We wanted to find out more about the process and some of the factors that led to Houston being awarded both of the Trials.

One of the first things that came up in talking to Ed is that he has now retired from the sport as a competitor. (More on that coming soon).

After talking to Ed, while he did not directly say so, it seems apparent the Trials were awarded to Houston over New York primarily because Houston's bid was financially stronger than New York's.

Ed said the Committee first met at the USATF Convention in December. We believe the committee had seven members plus USATF CEO Doug Logan (5 members we can think of are Boulet and Ed Torres, USATF Men's Long Distance Running Chair Glenn Latimer, USATF Women's Long Distance Running Chair Virginia Brophy Achman, and Associate Director, Marketing and LDR, Jim Estes). Bids apparently were from New York (men), Boston (women), and Houston for both. Houston also was willing to only put on one of the races.

After meeting at the USATF Convention in December, Committee members then talked on the phone a couple of times a month and Ed felt pleased with the process that was led by USATF CEO Doug Logan. Ed said they "did a good job of working together." The final decision was reached this past weekend at the USATF Indoor meet according to Houston Marathon director Steven Karpas.

Boston Out of the Running Early
As for how things went down, our conversations with Ed and Houston director Karpas indicate Boston fell out of the running early. One of Ed's main jobs was to solicit athlete feedback and Ed said a drawback with Boston was that it was closer to the Olympics than the other races. Athletes, when polled, said they preferred a winter marathon or a fall marathon to give them more time to recover for the Olympics. The 2012 London marathon will be 2 weeks earlier than the 2008 Beijing marathon, and Boston's date was the latest trials contender by almost three months. New York is in early November, Houston in January and Boston in early April.

So in essence that left Houston and New York. Ed said, "to be quite honest there were a few of us who thought we should separate the men's and women's (races)...and we wanted to award one of them to New York" but others on the committee "wanted to try something new and put them together."


Trials Announcement Gets Mayor's
Attention and TV Coverage in Houston

Ed said, "We looked at the pros and cons of what Houston and what New York were offering in terms of support and this time around in terms of support Houston was the best.  Houston went over the top this time around."

Ed was quick to praise ING New York Marathon Director Mary Witternberg, who led the New York Bid. Ed said, "Mary and the NYRR have given way more support to distance running than any other organization (in the United States)."

However, in terms of the marathon trials bids, Ed said the committee "definitely felt Houston was giving the better support this time around. What Houston came up with was amazing."

What Is "Support" ?
Ed did not want to elaborate on what "support" meant, but did say finances came into the decision.

Ed indicated New York was given the opportunity to solidify its bid, but Houston still came out on top. "Support" was not the only factor in awarding the Trials to Houston as Ed also cited having a pancake flat course that was similar to London's as being a factor.

We believe putting on a trials race in New York is way more expensive than putting one on in Houston. It is our belief that the Houston bid was stronger financially than New York's. Perhaps New York's bid had less in terms of guarantees and left more on the shoulders for USATF and the USOC.

Assuming equal financial bids, we see the Trials being awarded to New York every single time over Houston. Flat courses and excitement from holding the Trials in the same place simultaneously may be extenuating factors, but we say follow the money. Houston had the better bid and deserved to win.

Our biggest concern now is that it appears they are planning on starting the men's and women's races at the same time which in our minds is a mistake as both races will be at critical stages at the same time.

More Coverage from Yesterday: The Inside Story: How Houston Beat Out New York For The Right To Host The 2012 US Olympic Marathon Trials The Chevron Houston Marathon will celebrate its 40th anniversary in grand style by hosting the men's and women's Olympic Marathon Trials. Nine years ago, this once-proud race which had hosted the 1992 Olympic Marathon Trials and had Bill Rodgers as a former champion dropped prize money and seemed to be on its way to exiting the national stage. Now Houston is on top of the US running world. Read how it happened and get some more details on the 2012 Trials.

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