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August 27, 1999


Race director draws fire, praise for marathon

MATT CARPENTER is pouting ("Battling over the peak," The Gazette, Aug. 23). He doesn't get the respect he thinks he deserves. Do we not already have enough whiners, cry babies and prima donnas in our superheated world of sports? He believes amateurism to be quaint and out of date. That very belief by these self-styled elite athletes is a big factor in this never-ending race of greed and money.

Carpenter needs to be reminded that respect is earned and given but never asked for. As father and daughter runners, we applaud Pikes Peak Marathon race director Dave Zehrer's sound decisions. Let's keep the race as is and let the Carpenters, et al, beg for proper respect elsewhere.

- Peter Klaus Reichert, Kimberly Reichert, Lake George

ON SUNDAY, I placed eighth overall in the Pikes Peak Marathon with a time of four hours, 35 minutes, 23 seconds. Prompted by The Gazette's coverage of the race and the debate over the Triple Crown of Running's treatment of elite runners, I did a little research.

Comparing my finish time to available annual race results dating back to 1985, I found that top finishing times have gradually increased, rather than fallen. My eighth-place time Sunday would have equated to placements no higher than ninth last year to 27th in 1990 (with an average 20th place over this 13-year period).

The elite runners who produce record times are simply not at the Pikes Peak Marathon and Ascent as they once were. (Similarly, top finishing times at the annual Garden of the Gods Ten Miler, the other TCR organized race in June, have degraded over the years with only four this year finishing in less than an hour.)

With the increasing popularity of running, and resulting new 10 kilometer and marathon races sprouting up every year, competition to attract elite runners is fierce. The reality is that the majority of these top athletes, who can run only a limited number of races in a year, support themselves through prize winnings and/or paid travel to the events.

Every prestigious marathon that I am aware of (Boston, London, Berlin, Chicago) allow elite runners to enter the race up to the night before, no matter if race registration has "closed" months prior. This makes for an exciting race.

Dave Zehrer should be commended for orchestrating well-organized events Saturday and Sunday (and at the Garden of the Gods).

However, allowing maybe a few thousand dollars in purse money, travel expense reimbursement, and setting aside a minimum of 10 entry slots for elite men and women would not deprive me of equality as a citizen runner as asserted by Zehrer. It would regain this race's prestige as the ultimate challenge and garner it world-class status.

- Paul Sullivan, Green Mountain Falls

I THOUGHT IT was unfortunate The Gazette chose to offer the spotlight of this year's marathon coverage to the disgruntled elite runners who feel slighted because race officials have refused to extend them preferential treatment.

Whether purposely or not, The Gazette gave them a platform they did not deserve at the expense of the 800 adventurous athletes who run not for money, but for love of sport. This is one instance when the squeaky wheel did not deserve the oil.

I commend Race Director Dave Zehrer for his refusal to bend to the pressure of egotistical athletes who feel that fast legs offer them the right to swing the heavy hammer of a bully.

America's ultimate challenge will remain a marvelous marathon without the likes of those whose passion and perseverance is apparently dependent upon pay.

- Paul J. Batura, Colorado Springs

LET ME SEE if I have this straight. Defending champion Matt Carpenter boycotts the Pikes Peak Marathon because he believes race director Dave Zehrer doesn't show enough respect for elite runners.

Carpenter apparently wants the top runners to be paid to run the race, whereas lesser lights would be required to pay their own way.

I see nothing wrong with a monetary prize for, say, the first three male and female finishers. But athletes wanting to be paid to compete says a lot about what's wrong with sports today.

Pikes Peak is a bit like Mount Everest in the sense it will always be a challenge to those wanting to reach the top. If Carpenter wants to be paid, he should quit whining and find himself a few sponsors.

- Jere Joiner, Divide


August 30, 1999


Debate continues on need for elite runners

CONCERNING THE STORY of my non-participation in the Pikes Peak Marathon, I would like to stress that my cause is not to get money but to get competition. Money is just a means to that end.

It has always been my stance that if through my efforts money comes back (see below) to these races and I win it, I will donate it to Friends of the Peak. I love the mountain and I love the race and I will run it for free. However, I will not run it without competition and it is just a modern-day reality that the best competition will not pay to come to the race, pay to enter, pay to stay in a hotel, pay to eat, etc., so they can take home a wooden trophy.

The Triple Crown of Running did offer cash incentives in the Pikes Peak races from 1992-1995 and foreign athletes have been flown in at TCR expense. Further, some top runners were let in as late as the night before the races.

It was during this time that the races were the fastest ever.

Through the mid-'90s two other TCR events - The Garden of the Gods 10-Mile and the Colorado Springs 10K Classic - offered significant prize money to the winners. It was during this time that some of the best in the world (Olympic Gold medal winner Gelindo Bordin, Pat Porter, Lorraine Moller) came to these once-prestigious events.

Given these facts it seems odd that the current organization would stand so high on the amateur athletic soapbox. It seems a crime that while they beat their "citizens only" drum, participation in the TCR has nearly halved. Some conveniently forget that not only is the Garden of the Gods 10 mile in decline but the TCR killed the 10K Classic and the Garden 10K Tune-up. Even worse is that while they claim to protect the recreational runner some would forget that the future runners of our sport were summarily brushed aside when the TCR also killed three kids' fun runs.

When one considers the track record of the current TCR, I question if the recreational runners need protection by the TCR or from the TCR. Just how are the "Curtis Bolts of the community" protected by not having fast runners? Is it that they get to go back to Arizona and say they got 87th instead of 97th? That sounds more like outcome-based marathoning.

It is only through a system of increasingly overbooking the Pikes Peak races that the number of finishers has appeared to remain the same over the years. This year the overbooking of entries was significantly increased so don't be too surprised if you hear that record numbers finished the peak races and therefore these were the most successful races to date. However, a race should be more than a body count. I am simply trying to see that America's ultimate challenge becomes America's ultimate race.

- Matt Carpenter, Course record holder, Pikes Peak Ascent and Marathon, Manitou Springs

I READ WITH interest about Matt Carpenter's decision to boycott the Pikes Peak Marathon ("Battling over the peak'" The Gazette, Aug. 23). It reminded me of a Garden of the Gods 10-mile run several years ago in which I, along with hundreds of other paying participants, waited out a half-hour delay in the start so that a Brazilian elite runner could make up his mind to show up. He did and won the race going away, but it certainly didn't make me feel any more special to be in a race with an elite runner after being treated like that.

Now I know that Matt's a nice guy and is a local icon in the running world, but I have to think that his opinions on the death of amateur sports are disturbing. This kind of thinking gave us the wonderful world of professional sports that we have today - overpaid, greedy athletes who have no allegiance to the home crowd, and teams that hold cities hostage for subsidized or free stadiums.

I've run the Ascent twice and I really didn't care if an elite runner won. Look at it this way - the run will be competitive, and someone's going to win. If the winner is a local amateur, that's great. That provides more encouragement to pack runners like me than knowing that an out-of-town elite runner, who came to town just to win, got free lodging, free admission, won the prize, and left town immediately for the next event.

- Dennis Hendricks, Colorado Springs

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