Marathon organizers have enough to worry about with participants bent on taking life-saving precautions in extreme heat. But none of those factors led to the disqualification of Jennifer Goebel from last weekend's Lakefront Marathon in Milwaukee. Goebel's offense? She used an iPod to lend a little kick to her stretch run. Goebel, the second woman to cross the finish line, wasn't the first DQ in Milwaukee on Oct. 4 (Cassie Peller, the apparent winner, was stripped of her title for taking water from a friend outside an official aid station). And hers wasn't the only apparatus to come under marathon organizers' scrutiny that day. During mile 21 of the Twin Cities Marathon in Minnesota, 81-year-old Jerry Johncock benefited from the bladder-unburdoning powers of a bystander's spare catheter (you can't make this stuff up), only to learn that his successful defense of last year's age-group victory (in which Johncock became the first octogenarian American to cover the 26-plus miles in less than four hours) was facing potential review by USA Track and Field. Johncock called the possibility of being disqualified "a crazy idea" (he was later cleared of any wrongdoing by race organizers - to his ultimate relief), while posts on a runners' forum in Milwaukee termed the rules enforcement that took place there "draconian." According to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, USATF has relaxed rules against the use of iPods and similar music devices except in cases involving top contenders and when prize money is at stake. Third-place finisher and eventual Lakefront women's champion Corina Canitz donated her $500 prize to charity, while Johncock pocketed $225 for besting the Twin Cities 80-84 field.
You could tell me Springsteen was about to stage a private concert on a mountain of purse money and I still couldn't finish a 5K. So I turned to AB's resident repeat triathlete, creative director Cathy Liewen (who completed the Ford Ironman Madison in September), for some rules perspective. "Ironman events and triathlons in general are even stricter than marathons. You can't have spectators pace you or give you anything," Liewen says (in fact, "outside assistance" is listed third among USA Triathlon's 2009 Most Commonly Violated Rules & Penalties; headphones eighth). "I have run a few marathons and seen people wear iPods, and the officials didn't enforce the rules. In my opinion, they should be banned and it should be enforced. The point of such an endurance event is to accomplish it on your own, without help from others. That is the challenge of the event. Plus, there are safety issues associated with blaring music in your ears!" Less than thrilled with the controversy surround this year's outcome, Lakefront Marathon organizers nonetheless turned a deaf ear to pleas of rules ignorance by Peller and Goebel, whose respective times of 3:02:09 and 3:02:50 have been scrubbed from the record. Hopefully, the runners got the message loud and clear. "I've told both women that I was sick at the thought they put themselves in the position of being disqualified," race director Kris Hinrichs told the Journal Sentinel. "It is about their conduct." Adds Liewen, "Whether you are a pro competing for prize money or an age-grouper competing for personal glory, it's your responsibility to know the rules and abide by them."