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Boston Marathon will honor adjusted Big Wild Life times

  • Author: Beth Bragg
  • Updated: July 7, 2016
  • Published August 19, 2015

Update, 11:45 a.m. Thursday: Organizers of the Big Wild Life marathon, which featured a shortened course Sunday in Anchorage, say Boston Marathon officials have informed them pro-rated times from Sunday's race will be considered for qualifying purposes for the 2016 Boston Marathon.

The adjusted chip times will be acceptable for qualifying, according to an email Thursday from Tryg Larsen of the Boston Athletic Association's Registration Team to Sharron Fisherman, director of the Big Wild Life Runs. The BAA organizes the Boston Marathon.

Original story: Runners hoping to use their performances in Sunday's Big Wild Life marathon to qualify for the Boston Marathon are in wait-and-see mode.

The race was .96 mile short of the official marathon distance of 26.2 miles, creating a big wild mess for runners who entered with the goal of recording a qualifying time for the Boston race.

Though the course had been certified as 26.2 miles in advance of the race, volunteer flaggers who directed runners at a turnaround spot on the Coastal Trail stood in the wrong place, race director Sharron Fisherman said Wednesday. They were about half a mile ahead of the actual turnaround spot, she said.

Fisherman said she has been in daily contact with the Boston Athletic Association, organizers of the Boston Marathon.

"They've been absolutely fantastic, so I'm feeling very positive," Fisherman said Wednesday. "They basically said 'Send in as much information as you can.' "

The times of all 310 finishers were impacted by the mistake. On Sunday evening, race officials believed the mistake had been corrected during the race but that was not the case, Fisherman said.

"All of the times need to be adjusted," she said.

The marathon was one of four races held Sunday that make up the Big Wild Life Runs. The other three races – a 49-kilometer ultramarathon, a 13.1-mile half marathon and a 5-K – didn't use the turnaround.

There is no plan to refund entry fees or offer free entries to next year's marathon, Fisherman said.

She said she hopes to have a report ready for Boston Marathon officials by Thursday. It will include time adjustments based on each runner's per-mile average for the actual distance covered, as well as gun times and chip times for each runner (a gun time begins when the official starting gun is fired. A chip time begins when a runner crosses the start line).

Fisherman said she doesn't know how many of Sunday's runners were shooting for Boston qualifying times, which vary by gender and age group. She estimates about 30 to 35 runners were attempting to earn entry to the Boston race.

Big Wild Life officials are also in contact with the 50 States Marathon Club and the Marathon Maniacs, two national groups for runners whose goal is to run an official marathon in every state. The Big Wild Life marathon typically draws dozens of out-of-state runners, some who come so they can check Alaska off their list.

Chris Warren, a co-founder of Marathon Maniacs who ran in Sunday's race, told Fisherman that his group will give runners credit for Alaska.

"I was a participant in the marathon as well," Warren wrote, "and you have a first class event. Loved everything about it, minus the short course. This must be a race directors worst nightmare come true!

"… We won't penalize Marathon Maniacs members and (will) allow them to count the race, as the mistake wasn't their fault. I am witness to what actually happened."

Fisherman said she hasn't heard back from the 50 States club yet.

Sunday's race was held on a course that had been rerouted from the previous year – something that probably contributed to the mistake at the turnaround point, located at about Mile 8 on the marathon course.

Officials reduced the distance run on downtown streets by adding distance on the Coastal Trail. The volunteer flaggers were standing at the old turnaround spot instead of the new one, said Fisherman, who is in her fourth year as race director.

The Facebook page for the Big Wild Life Runs has drawn dozens of comments. Some offered thanks for the efforts to work with Boston organizers and to deal with the issue openly; some asked for refunds or free entry into next year's race.

This isn't the first time an Anchorage marathon has been beset by such problems.

During the years when the city of Anchorage organized the Mayor's Marathon, there were a number of snafus, including one that nearly robbed a runner of the state marathon record.

The night before the 2000 race, someone moved a course barrier at University Lake, blocking the right route and sending runners the wrong way.

An out-of-state runner was in the lead when the race reached the spot and took the path without the barrier, which put him on the wrong route. A chase pack of local runners recognized that the course was mismarked, moved the barrier and ran the right way. The leader wound up running an extra 600 to 800 meters and ultimately finished fourth.

In the 1987 race, a timing mistake threatened to deny Michael Friess the state marathon record.

Friess' watch and the watches of three bikers who followed Friess all read 2:24:44, but he was given an unofficial time of 2:22:04, which raised suspicion that something was amiss.

It took the city a full week to release official times, and when it did, it assigned Friess a time of 2:25:15. After at first denying a mistake had been made, city officials eventually changed the results and recognized 2:24:44 as Friess' official time.

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