TCR: Triple Crown of Registration

Archived from Springs Magazine 11/2000

Our we supporting our best?

By Matt Carpenter

Back in the early eighties I did a race called the Azalea Trail Run in Mobile, Alabama. It was the first race I did that had some well known runners in it. Bill Rodgers and Joan Benoit were both there and I still remember working my way to the front of the pack so I could tear up the streets and show Boston Billy who I was.

Reality set in when the gun went off and so many runners went by me I had to look at my feet to make sure that I was actually running. But the image that formed in my mind was set in stone; Here was a sport where a person could plunk down a relatively modest entry fee and take on the best in the world!

To me this makes running the best sport there is. I just can’t imagine getting to shoot some hoops with the Shaq or play a game of tennis with Pete Sampras. Oh sure, it can happen. Back in April, on the auction site, four people shelled out $51,000 each to play a round of golf with Tiger Woods. But unless you have some serious connections or some serious money, this is not quite the same as signing up for a running event and running with world record holders and Olympians. This is the only sport where people of all levels, abilities, weights and ages get to take part in the same event.

I sometimes wonder however if the “openness” nature of our sport also hurts it when silly decisions are justified under the auspices of “fairness to all.” Especially if those decisions result in some of the sport’s best athletes being kept out of the race. Nowhere is this more prevalent than in two races I hold dear to my heart; The Pikes Peak Ascent and Marathon. So high does this organization stand on a “fairness to all” soapbox that the leader of their own Triple Crown of Running series after two legs, Tony Basile, was denied entry to the Ascent on the grounds that it would not be fair to the “everyday” runners who were turned away after the race was filled.

This is a shame! Can you imagine any other sport turning away it’s top athletes? Sure, it effected Tony but it also effected those behind him — one of which may have won the Triple Crown of Running not because they had faster feet but because they were faster at filling out entry forms. True, Tony may not have won but he should have had the chance to try. However, a TCR board vote denied his entry request despite the fact that the race director had already let another runner into the race after it was closed who was not even running the series, let alone winning it!

I feel so lucky that one of the first races I did allowed in top athletes because their accomplishments inspired me to continue with a sport long before I knew I might excel at it. Ironic that in my hometown a runner who could inspire future generations — or for that matter current generations because Tony, at the age of 42, is a masters runner — lost a vote by a board who claims to be serving the running community. If this is the way a local race supports a top local runner is it any wonder we keep reading about the decline of the US distance runner? Is it any wonder the 2000 Pikes Peak Marathon was won in the slowest time since 1966 when only 20 people did the race?

Note: Part II was written two years later. Part III was written almost a year after that.

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