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Why not Houston or another established race?

Why USA Track and Field (USATF) did not choose an established marathon event to host the 2024 USATF Paris Olympic Trials is a mystery. If Houston or another established marathon event was not approached, why not? The Houston race is scheduled to take place on Sunday, January 14. The current location of the USATF Trials is Orlando, FLA is scheduled for Saturday, February 3, just three weeks later.

Athletes have raised concerns about the venue and its start time. The issues are centred around potential high temperatures during the race. The USATF and NBC asked to move it to earlier in the day. Unfortunately, the local organizing committee (LOC) was initially told by USATF that the noon start time was non-negotiable. The LOC has now said “no” to an apparent proposed change in start time. This is apparently due to the idea that a different start time would interfere with marketing plans.

Feb. 3, in a marathon runner’s mind, is “soon” — changing the race date and venue is too late. The USATF and the LOC better get their act together and find an equitable start time or location.

Apparently, no contract was signed, therefore leaving both parties with the ability to back out.

Some of the top marathon runners met with USATF CEO Max Siegel in October in hopes of changing the noon start time over concerns about the heat at midday in Orlando.

Nearly 100 runners signed a Sept. 15-dated letter to the USATF that illustrated their concerns for the “increased risk to athlete’s health prompted by a noon start time.” The athletes are negotiating for more favourable conditions to run faster Olympic qualifying times in a safe environment. Houston, for example, is very well established and offers a fast course.

Orlando is warm, but so is Paris in July and August.

Orlando is warm

The letter states, “This past February, there was not a single day with a recorded high temperature lower than 70 degrees, and all had high humidity. In 2023, the average daily high temperature was 78 degrees with many days reaching the high 80s.”

Seventy degrees Fahrenheit is 22 Celsius. The mean high for February is 25C (77F). The average high is 24C or 75F. The average high in Paris during July and August is around 25C, which matches Orlando, however, the athletes want the opportunity to race at their best for the Trials. Houston is cooler with a high of 16C or 61F as typical. The race is scheduled to start in the morning.

Siegel signs contract extension

The USATF has announced a five-year contract renewal for Siegel. The contract starts on Jan. 1, 2024.

It would have behooved the USATF board to hold the pen on the contract until a marathon venue and start time for the Trials were set and established and the athletes’ concerns were alleviated.

Max Siegel, “head shot,” USATF

According to the USATF press release, “The USATF Board of Directors undertook a comprehensive and inclusive CEO evaluation process, including performance analysis and engagement with internal and external stakeholders to share feedback on Siegel’s leadership and provide their insights in achieving USATF’s mission and shared goals. In November 2022, the Board and Compensation Committee Chair and Independent Board Member Dolf Berle also engaged FW COOK, a leading executive compensation firm, to conduct an independent CEO compensation evaluation.”  


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