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Doctor Q
Mar 7, 2004, 12:26 PM
link (http://www.lamarathon.com/2004/la_marathon_2004_newsletter.html)Throughout major marathon history the story lines have always been the same, the men's race and the women's race, and never shall they meet. Now, for the first time at the marathon distance, the 2004 Los Angeles Marathon will match the elite women against the elite men in a unique handicap format that will award the first person across the finish line finish line a bonus of $50,000.

Dubbed "The Challenge," this new format will see the elite women begin first, approximately 20 minutes ahead of the men and say "catch us if you can". Once the time differential has passed, the elite men will take off with the rest of the L.A. Marathon field and try to beat "The Challenge" posed by the elite women. The first person to break the finish tape will earn the $50,000 bonus and above the traditional first placed prize of $25,000 and a Honda Accord EX V6 (valued at $24,300).The race is in progress as I write this, at the 22 mile point, with the lead male runner closing on the lead female runner. The marathon organizers wanted to generate excitement and attention for the L.A. marathon with this new gimmic. The headstart was timed accurately. It's not clear whether a man or woman will win this race. (I'll post after it's over for those who are curious.)

Is this a good idea, having men chase women to the finish line? Publicity helps the marathon, but is it detrimental to the runners to arrange the race this way? I don't know and I wonder what others think.

Grimace
Mar 7, 2004, 12:40 PM
Is this a good idea, having men chase women to the finish line? Publicity helps the marathon, but is it detrimental to the runners to arrange the race this way? I don't know and I wonder what others think.

I don't think so; as a former competitive runner and coach, I was always well aware of the physical differences between men and women that exist, and biologically - will never meet. Most pro female athletes acknowledge the physical difference - the timing of the headstart is my main concern. Working out the formulas for that - hopefully - took some time.

Doctor Q
Mar 7, 2004, 01:10 PM
Tatyana Pozdnyakova (Ukraine), looking powerful and in great form at the finish, beat David Kirui (Kenya), who lost speed the last couple of miles. Tatyana said she wasn't thinking about the men, but Kirui clearly saw the women in front of him as he ran. Tatyana won $50,000 extra for beating Kirui. Is this a great victory for women, or just the result of the headstart timing they chose?

Tatyana is to be admired in any case. She is remarkable, having been an Olympic middle distance runner in the 1970s. She won this race at age 49!

"The Challenge" certainly changed the race coverage. The 2nd-place man and 2nd-place woman were virtually ignored as all talk was about whether Kirui would catch Pazdnyakova. As it turned out, other men almost caught Kirui in the last mile. They seemed to come out of nowhere since they hadn't been mentioned over the last miles.

The sports reporters made comments like this: "He's resigned himself to win the men's championship." I cringed when they interviewed Kirui after the race and asked "When did you realize that you would have to settle for first place in the men's race?" (Italics are mine.) So "The Challenge" certainly changed the emphasis away from the battle among the elite runners of each sex and toward a 1-on-1 man-vs-woman race.

It was especially hot in Los Angeles today, and the reporters told viewers that in warm weather woman generally do better than men, despite having 20 more minutes in the heat, because they have better-distributed sweat glands and less mass. I don't know if that's correct, but it clearly makes you wonder how they should determine the proper headstart. It should obviously depend on "the usual" difference in time from previous races, but which times do you use? The winning time or an average of elite runners? From various marathons or only from the L.A. Marathon? Should the temperature affect the timing, to give the best possible statistical chance of a photo finish? It's hard to define "fair" in this circumstance!

gwuMACaddict
Mar 7, 2004, 01:27 PM
CLEARY the timing... gimme a freakin' break... i'm all about equal rights and title 9, but she had a 20 minute or whatever you said it was HEAD START! how is that a RACE!? if the two had taken off at the SAME TIME and she had won, then heck yes- HUGE NEWS and a GREAT victory for women...

personally, i think that LA, by trying to make this more exciting just made women look worse... i wouldn't want a head start... whats the victory in winning with a head start?

Doctor Q
Mar 7, 2004, 01:55 PM
The goal of the headstart is to make the outcome as unpredictable as possible. Having separate men's and women's races, or using a handicap as they did, is the same idea as having an "over-65" race or a wheelchair race: to have competitors try to beat their peer group. Of course, "peer group" could be defined any way at all, e.g., they could have a separate "left-handers" race, so common sense is required. As a point of comparison, consider the way they stagger the starting times in the Olympic decathalon, based on points earned in other events, so that the winner of the final race is the winner of the decathalon. Nobody seems to mind this practice.

I have to admit that, because of the change this year, I especially enjoyed watching the end of the race, even though I didn't care who won. But I don't know whether it's a "guilty pleasure" or not. Maybe the competitors benefit from additional challenges, more ways to win, and the increased publicity that will pad prize amounts. Or maybe it's unfair because a man or woman will win such a race and still be branded a loser.

wdlove
Mar 7, 2004, 07:04 PM
The Boston Marathon 2004 has also made a change for its 108th running. For the first time the women's race will begin at 11:35am. The wheelchair division start time is TBD. The actual Marathon begins as usual at 12n. Previously the women ran along with the men. One thing is that a woman will never be able to beat a man. One comment was that they thought that the women were being interfered with running along the side of men.

http://www.bostonmarathon.org/BostonMarathon/108thMarathon.asp

Doctor Q
Mar 7, 2004, 07:44 PM
How interesting that the men will get a 25:00 headstart in Boston, but only got a 20:05 headstart here in Los Angeles.

Something to keep in mind: Unless you hold the events on separate days, men and women will always be running together, whether or not you stagger the starting times. The elite men may be 20 minutes faster than the elite women, but most runners are in the massive packs behind, and those packs of runners gradually spread out. The average man is faster than the average woman, but that leaves a fair percentage of women in front of a fair percentage of men in an even start. And, with a staggered start, many men will catch the women.

If "interference" occurred before, other than at the starting line, it'll still occur. But a staggered starting time will help with one problem: the logistics of getting so many people packed in behind the starting line!

absolut_mac
Mar 10, 2004, 10:33 PM
CLEARY the timing... gimme a freakin' break... i'm all about equal rights and title 9, but she had a 20 minute or whatever you said it was HEAD START! how is that a RACE!? if the two had taken off at the SAME TIME and she had won, then heck yes- HUGE NEWS and a GREAT victory for women...

personally, i think that LA, by trying to make this more exciting just made women look worse... i wouldn't want a head start... whats the victory in winning with a head start?

In chess women don't need a head start at all.

Check out the world's number 8th ranked player, Judit Plogar

http://www.chesslive.de/scripts/server.dll?getplayer?Polgar&Judit&6

She's beaten all the top rated men players at least once, and never enters women's chess competitions :)

http://www.fide.com/ratings/top.phtml

Doctor Q
Mar 11, 2004, 12:10 AM
In chess women don't need a head start at all.That makes sense, since it's all mental...She's beaten all the top rated men players at least once, and never enters women's chess competitions...so why do they have women's chess competitions at all?

dabern
Mar 11, 2004, 09:28 AM
...at least in the eyes of the organizers/promoters. Look, we're here talking about it in this forum so think they got their PR dollar's worth from doing it that way.

jxyama
Mar 11, 2004, 10:55 AM
i think it's much fairer to start everyone at once. (well, at least have "elite" runners, both men and women, start at once.) being ahead and/or knowing of a definite target up ahead can have some psychological effects.

i think it would have been better to assign the time difference some value per minute. give that 20 min. difference $2,500 per min. value. once the top men finishes, he "earns" $2,500 per min. after 10 min., say. if women finishes within 10 min. of the male winner, she gets all of $50,000. if she finishes 20 min. after the male winner, she gets half the pot, $25,000. if she finishes more than 30 min. after the male winner, she gets none, etc.

that sounds a lot "fairer" than giving one number ("20 min.") all the credibility of accounting for the male/female difference, at least in terms of financial rewards...

meta-ghost
Mar 11, 2004, 12:07 PM
a few years back san francisco's bay to breakers race was won by a fellow named craig virgin. the chronicle newspaper headline?
"virgin outruns 10,000 to win bay to breakers"

MrMacMan
Mar 14, 2004, 06:53 PM
That makes sense, since it's all mental...
...so why do they have women's chess competitions at all?

So why give anyone a head start?

Women and Men Compete against eachother at the same time...

Just because something is physical doesn't mean it can't be overcome.


Tho I will say seperating wheelchair and non-wheelchair persons is a good idea since I have got my feet run over... its a inconvience.

Bah that is just silly... really.

wdlove
Mar 14, 2004, 08:35 PM
So why give anyone a head start?

Women and Men Compete against each other at the same time...

Just because something is physical doesn't mean it can't be overcome.


Tho I will say separating wheelchair and non-wheelchair persons is a good idea since I have got my feet run over... its a inconvenience.

Bah that is just silly... really.

The World will get a chance to see how this new start time works next month. I hope that they are open to making changes, if it doesn't go according to plan. The years that I have watched the Boston Marathon, never really noticed a problem.

Doctor Q
Mar 14, 2004, 10:16 PM
How about this? ;) Start runners off at staggered times, based on the time it took each of them to complete their last few previous marathons. That way, all runners should be expected to finish at the same time. Instead of a crowd at the starting line, it'll be a photo finish, with thousands of runners arriving at the finish line at the same time. What could be more exciting than that? They could use electronic gadgets attached to shoes to detect when each runner crosses the finish line, since visual observation would make it hard to judge.