Lanni Marchant - Challenging the Standards - Interview - Athletics Illustrated

  • Josh Seifarth
    While it would be great to have a female marathon team in the olympics, eleventh-hour rule changes are not what moves the sport forward. As I told someone else on this very topic.. Had "close enough" been the standard to making the olympics the other female athletes would have trained and raced differently over the past two years. From what I can tell their main argument is that they are under 2:37, but 2:37 is a far cry from 2:29. There are others who could have run 2:37, but chose not to because 2:29 is a much longer shot (as we have seen). The rules were set out long ago unfortunately.

    Would it be "fair" to Dylan Wykes to let them run? He had to bust his ass and fly around the world to make standard when he was off by ~1 minute. I can understand why they want to appeal, and believe they should. I admire a "never give in" mentality. I also believe AC would not be wrong to deny that appeal.
  • User
    I agree 100%. I would love to see Canada send as many athletes as possible to the Olympics, but it wouldn't be fair to athletes in other events if AC were to just make an exception here. I remember leading up to the last Olympics, Malindi Elmore had run several 1500m races that were only several hundredths of a second away from the AC standards and well under the IOC standards. She wasn't allowed to attend the Olympics, even though she stood a much better chance of being competitive than our women's marathon team. Reid Coolsaet would be another athlete who ran the IOC standard but wasn't selected for the last Olympics. Rather than be discouraged, he poured his heart and soul into improving and is now in position to realize his dream of competing at the Olympics.I don't think that the women's marathon standards are unfair. 2:29 is 14 minutes off of the WR. 2:11 for the men is only 8 minutes off the WR and 3 men were able to achieve this. Furthermore, in reading an interview with Lanny, it sounds like she was only running 60 miles/week up until the last half a year, when she bumped up to close to 100. Can you imagine any of our men's marathon runners running standard off of that training? I bet that, if she were to continue with her current training for 4 more years, she would see large improvements to her times and would qualify for Rio without much trouble and possibly be in position for a high finish.

    Again, I'm in favor of AC sending as many athletes as possible, but I don't think it's fair in this case to make an exception if they're not going to do so in other cases where athletes make the IOC standard but fall short of the Canadian one.
  • User
    peteq2 Edited
    Exciting news for people like Lanni, not for OGs, but for 2013 WCs, just arrived by email from AC. A 2:15 (men) or 2:35 (ladies) gets you to WCs, thanks to Alan Brookes' group and the Ottawa Race weekend crew, with preference given to A+ qualifiers, and preference given to times from the Ottawa and STWM races.

    Anybody know the dates for the IAAF qualifying period for 2013 Moscow?

    I think thanks are due, to Alan and his crew, John H and his crew, and AC. Thanks guys!

    BTW - I read this fairly quickly. Please let me know if AC has slipped some kind of weasel clauses in here that make this more like dangling a carrot, and less like a real, legitimate possibility for 2:15/2:35 athletes to race in Moscow.

    Let me be the first to predict Rejean Chiasson will make standard and go.


    Athletics Canada, Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon and Ottawa Marathon announce World Championship marathon project

    Version de ce texte en français

    OTTAWA - Athletics Canada (AC) is very excited to announce today a partnership with Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon (STWM) and Tamarack Homes Ottawa Race Weekend which will see funding to help marathoners achieve their goals of participating at the 2013 World Championships in Athletics in Moscow, Russia.

    The project provides resources to facilitate more competition opportunities for Canada's top marathoners, leading to improved performances and ultimately top eight performances at the Olympic Games.

    Click here for the 2013 Moscow Marathon Project selection criteria:

    The 2013 World Championship marathon project follows a similar successful pilot project around the 2009 World Marathon Cup, an event contended within the 2009 World Championships in Berlin, Germany. The international federation has eliminated the Marathon Cup; however countries will still be able to enter up to five athletes in the marathon event at the World Championships.

    Alan Brookes, Director, Canada Running Series, "STWM is delighted to partner in this exciting initiative with AC and Tamarack Homes Race Weekend. It builds on the considerable success we've had from the Berlin World Championship Marathon project from 2009. It is vital for the Canadian distance running community to have ongoing, annual major goals that provide athletes with the incentive to commit, long-term, to the professional training and preparation that is required for success on the international stage." Brookes adds, "We look forward to continue working with our national federation to develop similar projects, building depth as well as internationally-competitive men's and women's marathoning in Canada."

    "As Canada's largest running event, the Ottawa Marathon is committed to growing the sport of running and supporting the development of our Canadian athletes," said John Halvorsen, Chair, Run Ottawa. "This program has already proven itself - the success of today's male marathoners is largely attributable to a previous partnership between our two events and AC. We look forward to repeating this success and to seeing our Canadian marathon team excel at the 2013 Moscow World Championships, and beyond."

    About the Tamarack Homes Ottawa Race Weekend

    The 2011 edition of the Ottawa Race Weekend welcomed 40,000 participants in seven races, including the marathon, the half-marathon, the 10K, 5K, family 2K and Y Kids marathon. The Ottawa Marathon and Ottawa 10K are both designated Silver Label IAAF events by the International Amateur Athletic Federation (IAAF). Run Ottawa, the organization behind the Ottawa Race Weekend, is run by a volunteer Board of Directors, and is dedicated to promoting the sport of running and enhancing the health and well-being of our community by organizing distinctive world-class and local races, and managing an active, membership-based running club.


    Mathieu Gentès
    Director, Corporate Services and Public Relations
    Athletics Canada
    613-260-5580 x.3303
  • User
    Congratulations to Alan B., John H., and Athletics Canada. Today's announcement seems a positive step towards supporting and encouraging our marathoners for 2013 and beyond.
    As for the 2012 situation, I think many of us can see both sides of this issue.
    The criteria should have been challenged when first released, in my opinion. The marathon is the only event without a B standard, and a rising star status. In fact, I would argue that the AC standard is more an A+, than an A, so in reality 2 events, men/women marathons, were put to a much tougher standard than any of the other 44 events. Putting the A+ aside for a moment, an analysis of the standards in every other event, shows that the AC A is usually either exactly the same as the IAAF A, or very close, 1/10 of a second, a couple of centimetres, or a bit more. But none even close to the enormous gap between the 2:29.55 which AC requires, and the 2:37.00 which the IAAF sets as the A standard. That is why I contend that AC offered a near A+ standard for the marathoners, without a real A or B or rising star. Fantastic that Reid, Eric, and Dylan got there, but I think it can be reasonably argued the marathon was singled out for special attention by AC, and not in a good way. I hear clearly the argument that it is now too late, and that be so, but perhaps the discussion will lead to a better future for our marathoners. Best of luck to Lanni and Chris, and their bright future!
  • User
    For what it's worth, I made a table comparing the Canadian B standards (and marathon A standard) with the WRs for men and women.

    event WR B-standard % difference
    100m 10.49 11.38 8.50
    200m 21.34 23.30 9.18
    400m 47.60 52.30 9.87
    800m 1:53.28 2:01.30 7.08
    1500m 3:50.46 4:08.9 8.00
    5000m 14:11.15 15:25 8.68
    10000m 29:31.78 32:10 8.93
    marathon 2:15:25 2:29:55 10.71

    event WR B-standard % difference
    100m 9.58 10.24 6.89
    200m 19.19 20.65 7.61
    400m 43.18 45.70 5.84
    800m 1:41.01 1:46.3 5.24
    1500m 3:26.00 3:38.00 5.83
    5000m 12:37.35 13:27.00 6.56
    10000m 26:17.53 28:10 7.13
    marathon 2:03:38 2:11:29 6.35

    The overall message that I think that this table reveals is that Canada's marathon standard for women is not difficult relative to our other standards, rather the IAAF standard is easy, due to the fact that they want a large field for the event and want to make it accessible to as many women as possible (similar to the U.S. Olympic marathon trials). There also isn't as much depth globally in the women's marathon as other track events. I'd support Canada going with the IAAF standards but I don't buy that Canada needs a B standard or a "rising star" standard for the marathon as the standard is already arguably easier than the standards for most of the other track events.

    Like I said before, in Marchant's interview, she states that, until 6 months ago, she never ran more than 60 miles a week and has since built up to around 100 miles/week. This is very encouraging for her future potential but it also is more evidence that the women's standard is soft. As I said previously, Coolsaet, Gillis and Wykes would not have hit their standards off of that kind of mileage. Hopefully Duchene and Marchant will continue to work hard and progress and run at the World Championships, which is a great opportunity for them and a stepping-stone that several of the men on the team took to reaching their goals. I'm of the mindset that the Olympics should be something that you work towards over a period of years, not just decide that you're going to go for it 6 months before the qualification deadline. It isn't really fair to the athletes in other events, who train their whole lives and often don't make the difficult standards.
  • User
    peteq2 Edited
    Very interesting analysis.

    I think you need to be fairly careful with an analysis like this, however, as there are many different statistical measures you could use for comparison, each telling a different story. You've cosen to compare the standards against WRs, which is fine, but you need to remember that WRs are not static, nor do they have a fixed relationship with the distribution of all other performances. We might expect the distribution of, say, marathon times around the world to fit some standard distribution, and we could make some reasonable estimates of central tendency (mean, median, mode etc). But from such theoretical distributions we can rarely develop strong estimates for the extreme values (like WRs for example). The values at the top of the scale might be nicely grouped and well behaved (think about the cluster of best men's marathon times), or they could have strange outliers (think Bolt or Radcliffe).

    For the comparison you've presented, I'd be tempted to make the comparison with, say, the average of the top ten performances in each event, instead of WR alone, as that would give a more stable measure of "top level world class" and would minimize the effect of outliers like Radcliffe's 2:15.

    The other factor to consider is that we would expect the top X-th performance to be a different proportion slower than the WR dependng on competitive depth. If, in an extreme example, there were only 100 lady marathoners worldwide, the 12th best performance all time might be, say, 15% slower than the WR. By cntrast, where you have hundreds of thousands of male marathoners, including a world class elite subset of several hundred, the 12th best performance all time is only marginally slower than the WR.

    So you can't really compare the percentages you've given directly, without also acknowledging that some events have better competitive depth than others, and in those you need a criterion closer to the WR to be confident of a top 12 finish (or the like).

    I always like looking at numbers, and I'm glad you posted these, I just thought I'd add some context.
  • User

    I agree with pretty much all that you wrote, although it doesn't change my overall view. I "acknowledge" that there is some leeway to look beyond simply the numbers at things such as competitive depth, distribution, whether the WRs were clean... etc, thus making the comparison imperfect, but I think still relevant for the purpose of discussion. Radcliffe's time is an outlier, but I honestly think that, as we see more and more African women turning to the marathon, it will be challenged. Many of the other WRs are tainted by drug allegations and suspicious wind readings (in FloJo's case) and have not been approached recently. Many of the women's WRs, in fact, date all the way back to the 1980s and may last longer than Radcliffe's mark.

    With all that said, I think that it's hard, looking at the data, to support the notion that the women's marathon standard is equivalent to an A+ standard. I think, if anything, it's softer than a lot of the B-standards that other athletes have to hit.
  • User
    I agree with you that if we are making a direct comparison, the ladies' marathon standard is "softer" than the men's.

    But I don't think a direct comparison is particularly meaningful, for reasons including the ones I've given.

    I think if you are trying to seek roughly equivalent levels of probable competitiveness (e.g. good possibility of competing for top 12 at OGs), the ladies' and men's marathon standards are pretty close. Close enough, anyway.

    I guess I'm saying I agree with you, but I disagree with you. I can be schizophrenic that way.
  • User
    For the record, I posted the men's marks more for interest's sake than for direct comparison with the women. I know that there is more variation in women's performances, for a variety of reasons. I thought it was more relevant to compare the women's standards across all events and the men's standards across all events, but not so much men against women.

    I agree that the Canadian men's and women's standards in the marathon are roughly equivalent in terms of overall competitiveness, which is why I agreed with Seifarth? that it wouldn't be fair to Wykes if AC allowed the two women to compete after forcing him to fly all over the World and find a marathon to hit standard.

    At any rate, all of this speculation could be avoided if the COC would just relent and take all qualified athletes. I would support this, but if a line is going to be drawn, it should be fair for everyone.
  • User
    (1) I thought it was more relevant to compare the women's standards across all events and the men's standards across all events, but not so much men against women.

    (2) ... it wouldn't be fair to Wykes if AC allowed the two women to compete after forcing him to fly all over the World and find a marathon to hit standard.

    (3) ... if a line is going to be drawn, it should be fair for everyone.


    (1) Good point, and the marathon mark does stand out as being weaker than all the other ladies' marks, which would be in part due to less competitive depth in the event, but also strongly influenced by Radcliffe's outrageous WR. Knock off her WR and the percentage drops closer to the others.

    (2) Ummmmm.... Lanni flew all around the world to the same place as Dylan, no?

    (3) Agreed. Although "fair" is a pretty fuzzy word... hardly black and white, anyway.
  • User
    "(2) Ummmmm.... Lanni flew all around the world to the same place as Dylan, no?"

    The difference with Wykes was that he already had the IAAF 'A' standard for the marathon and was only racing to satisfy AC's requirements. He also flew out to Japan a couple of weeks earlier. Neither woman had run the IAAF 'A' standard (I'm not sure that either had the 'B' standard either and, if they did, they would have still had to race each other for top spot if AC were willing to send them). Either way, Wykes was substantially closer and probably could have better prepared for the Olympic marathon by focusing his energy on training and shorter events, like Coolsaet, rather than racing a full marathon all-out. I think that all of our athletes would benefit from going with the IAAF standards by being able to train through the Spring season, rather than peak twice (at least in events where domestic competition isn't overly strong).
  • User
    Many good discussion points, guys!
    Just to counter the thought that every event/athlete must be treated exactly the same, we already know that the relay runners have their own set of criteria, which is probably as it should be, if we want to build solid, competitive relay teams.
    I think it has been noted that the marathon standards may be a bit softer, simply because of the unique nature of the event. Neither the IOC or the IAAF want to see 20-25 runners on the start line at the Olympics or Worlds, nor do any of us really want to see that. Without getting too fuzzy on this point, we need to realize that road-running is now a giant sport around the World, with major marathons, tens of thousands of participants and spectators, millions of dollars in sponsorships, and this is as true in Canada as anywhere else.
    Personally, I believe the International standards should be good enough for Canadians in all events, but even more so in the marathon, for the reasons stated above. Some will argue that setting very high standards will automatically produce higher levels of achievement. My perspective is that we need to develop and encourage 6 or 8 or 10 very solid runners in each event, and make being in the top 3 in Canada very difficult. That is the way to build the sport over the longer term, imho.