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Andy Schachat's On the Run: NH running aficionado presents 'You make the call'

August 10. 2013 6:56PM

FOOTBALL fans of a certain age may recall the old IBM commercials inviting viewers to play game official during telecasts of NFL games. Featuring voice-over by NFL Films legend John Facenda, the ads began with a clip of an unusual play requiring an informed decision, then issued the instruction that became a part of the American vernacular: "You make the call." After a few dozen words about the wonders of IBM, the audience saw the play again and learned what the game official actually ruled.

The rules that regulate road races and triathlons aren't nearly as complicated as those enforced in the NFL, but on occasion things go awry and race officials have to make a decision. So, this week I present scenarios that happened at New Hampshire road races or triathlons, and ... You make the call.

I'll present the options then tell you what actually happened.

Who won?

The scenario: On the final loop of a hilly, three-loop course, the lead woman passes the final turn and heads off course and up a parallel hill. At the peak, she returns to the course and crosses the finish line still in first place.

Because she did not run the full course, the woman could have been disqualified. She ran most of the course, however, and the off-course section she ran was not only similar to the actual course but even a bit longer.

The options: Follow the letter of the law or the spirit of the law?

The ruling: The second place female was consulted and declined to have the first woman disqualified. "I don't want to win that way," the runner-up said. Race officials abided by her wishes.

In the money?

The scenario: During a race offering prize money to the top three finishers, the two leading runners are way out in front when they miss a turn to the finish. They get back on course but wind up finishing outside the top three.

The options: Place the two off-course runners in the top three, or let the results stand but come up with a way to distribute the prize money in a manner that includes the wrong-way duo?

The ruling: Determining that the two who ran off course deserved to have finished 1-2 but wanting to reward the men who managed to stay on course and be the first three to cross the finish line, the race director dug into the event's coffers to present the actual top three with their prize money and present the same first- and second-place money to the duo who should have been the top two.

Better late than never?

The scenario: A man recognized as one of the state's top runners arrives at a big race moments before the start, too late to register. He runs the race anyway, finishes first, then presents his entry fee and form to the director.

The options: Accept the entry fee and form, and declare the runner the winner, or disqualify him?

The ruling: The race director did not accept the entry and did not allow the runner to be entered into the results.

Record incentive?

The scenario: A race offers a $500 bonus for a course record. But due to a terrible storm that has left downed trees and power lines in its wake, the course has to be altered hours before the start of the race. Upon learning this, a runner asks the race director whether the bonus remains in play.

The options: It's a new course so you will give the bonus to the winner or you tell the runner that the unfortunate circumstances means no course record this year.

The ruling: Because the altered course could not be accurately measured before the start, the race director said, there would be no $500 bonus. Instead, he offered $100 for beating the official course record. The inquiring runner missed the mark by three seconds.

Assumed identity

The scenario: A runner signs up for a marathon, decides not to run, and gives his bib number to a friend. The friend runs a time that qualifies him for the Boston Marathon, but the time is logged under the registered runner's name. The runner who actually ran the race asks to have the registration changed to his name so he can use it for Boston entry.

The options: Replace the registered runner's name with the actual runner's in the results or remind the runner that giving away bib numbers is against race policy and therefore prohibits changing registration and results.

The ruling: As far as most race directors are concerned, running with a bib number assigned to someone else is strictly forbidden. This director was no exception. Request denied.

The race director was not in a giving mood and the runner did not get to use the race for a Boston number. This race director, and many others, do not take kindly to bib switching.

Gender neutral?

The scenario: This time, it's personal. I was announcing at a 5K and getting ready for the awards ceremony. The race director, new to the sport, did not know that most races give out awards in male and female categories. She thought age-division awards went to the top three finishers within the division, regardless of gender. I told her she could do that if she wanted but would be severely criticized by the runners if she didn't divide the divisions. She said she had only enough awards for three in each age group.

The options: Stick with the plan or come up with a way to award the top three men and top three women in each age division.

The ruling: The director and I agreed I would announce there had been a mistake, present the top three women with the age-division awards and inform the men their awards would be mailed.

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RUNNING SHORTS: Two weeks ago in this space, I told you about Craig Fram of Plaistow, 54, and Elizabeth Danis of Nottingham, 15, being the winners of the Hugh Holt 5-Miler in Raymond on July 14. I challenged you to find me a bigger age gap between male and female winners of a race. On Aug. 3, Janet Parkinson of Portsmouth, 60, and D.J. Ayotte of East Kingston, 19, won the Kingston Firemen's 5-Miler ... One day after Parkinson's win, Bruce Butterworth of Seabrook, also 60, won the Marshmellow Man Triathlon in Laconia. That means that on the same weekend, New Hampshire saw two Granite State 60-year-olds win races outright ... A great running tradition will be renewed this Thursday, Aug. 15, when the Saunders at Rye Harbor10K takes place for the 37th time ... A bit farther down the road, the 25th running of the Fred Brown Lake Winnipesaukee Relay, comprising eight legs over 65.1 miles beginning and ending at Weirs Beach, is set for Sept. 7. The following day, the second Heads Up Half Marathon takes place in Concord, with a start and finish at White Park.

"Andy on the Run" is published every other week in the New Hampshire Sunday News. Email Andy Schachat at

Andy Schachat On the Run