Readers Roundtable: Who Cares About USATF?

Dani Miller at the 2016 Olympic Trials
Runners sweating it out at the Olympic Marathon Trials sure cared about USATF. Do you?

Each year runners, race walkers, field athletes, coaches, volunteers, and officials convene for the USATF annual meeting. The 2016 USATF annual meeting closed yesterday. Highlights include establishing the 2020 Olympic Trials Marathon standards and qualifying window (more info after the jump), the election of a new President, Vin Lananna, as well as the election of out-spoken USATF critic Lauren Fleshman as one of the athlete representatives on the USATF Board.

There is a lot of good news coming out of the meeting, certainly, but as you’ve likely heard, this progress is dwarfed by reports that Max Seigel’s compensation includes regular flights on private jets and stays in five-star hotels, that whole Rule 40 thing, and other bad-press. At this year’s annual meeting alone, renewed criticisms about the 2016 Olympic Trials Marathon and controversy swirling over the treatment of members of the Youth Executive Committee who were banned by USATF CEO Max Siegel last May.

A few months ago we explained what USATF is and how it affects the sport, but does it affect you?

Do you care about the USATF? Are you an active member? Why or why not?  Are you alarmed by the scandals and controversies? If so, tell us what your beef is. 

And join us every Monday night at 7:00 p.m. Eastern on Twitter for #SaltyChat where we’ll discuss the Roundtable topic and so much more!

2020 U.S. Olympic Trials Marathon Standards

“A” Standard

  • 2:37:00 marathon; or
  • Top-6 finish at 2018 or 2019 U.S. Marathon Championship

“B” Standard

  • 2:45:00 marathon; or
  • 1:13:00 half marathon

***2020 U.S. Olympic Trials Qulifying Window Opens on September 1, 2017!***

Salty Running boss and mother of 3 little ones with PRs of 3:10:15 (26.2), 1:25:59 (13.1) and 18:15 (5k). I love to write about running culture, mental training, and fitting in a serious running habit with the rest of a busy life.

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        1. I’d think it’d be way easier to come in top 6 at championship marathon than run a < 1:13 half! I thought < 1:15 was hard. Holy sh*t that's nuts!

  1. I am a USATF member, but admit it’s more because I need to be for my local team that I run for when I race. I haven’t seen much from it besides that, and the 10% discount on USATF gear. I have gotten more interested in it particularly the last 2-3 years though as 1) I become more invested in the sport and approach that sub-elite status and 2) as more comes to light about the behind the scenes situations at the USATF that are bothersome.

    I definitely would love to take a more active role, and feel that will be a personal goal of mine for next fall or when I return to running/racing again. Obviously would love to help more in the mean time but I think I might have a better opportunity as an active member/racing runner. I know a few people involved in our local chapter so I would love to reach out and see what i can do. I also really love the thought of attending the national meeting, even just as a bystander to watch. I think that would be a great way to learn how things work and get the lay of the land a bit.

    From what I have seen about the meeting this year, I was happy to see some of the athlete rep appointments. But like many, still struggle with the Max issues. Because of that, the Oly trials marathon was in LA….and one could only assume it’s because they had a better landing strip for Max’s private Jet than Houston did.

    1. That’s about my personal level of involvement, too. I’d love to be more involved, but I hate that my state is split into two sections. It annoys me we don’t have Ohio championships and whatnot and that my friends involved are all in the other state section. Silly maybe …

      1. Agreed! There are technically 4 associations in NY which would make for awesome state champs. Besides NY and OH there are a few other weird states like us with multiple associations. 1/2 of Missouri is by itself while the other half is paired with all of KS, Texas has FIVE (I know it’s huge), Dakotas are paired, LA/MS are paired, Part of Washington is with part of Montana, part of Nevada is with part of one of Cali’s 4 associations. Sorry, definitely went on a research black hole there… But I think that only makes it more confusing or hard for people to get on board if they aren’t even sure who they “belong” to, or they are separate from those who aren’t geographically that far from them.

  2. OK I’m not US-based, but I do still think USATF matters simply because it sets a precedent for the rest of the athletics world. That being said, I’m not particularly bothered by UK/England Athletics because I don’t really feel that they have much of an effect on me as a recreational runner!

  3. I’m going to admit it – as a thoroughly average runner I haven’t really given much thought to the USATF or even national or international-level competitive running. The OTQ standard is so far removed from my daily experience that it literally has no relevance to my own running life. (I’m sure that’s the experience of many faithful SR readers, tbh!)

    And yet. I can’t shake the feeling that perhaps I should. Not because the OTQ time for a given cycle will ever be relevant to me personally. But because I can talk a big game about the importance of sport in my life and in my kid’s life, and because organisations like the USATF and IAAF are part of the ecosystem – they connect the dots between wider participation in sport and the actual development, care, and feeding of athletes, which then enables athletes to hit the world stage, which in turn is a feel-good fillip for national pride. If an athlete succeeds OR fails, that reflects in some way on the support structures their country has provided. If they succeed DESPITE a lack of support, well, that really tells me something about the country.

  4. USATF does very little to engage the throngs of recreational runners out there, even us non-elite competitive runners who think of running as a sport more than an activity. But as participants in the sport, we should care. We should want official USATF races that are accurately measured and come with a well-policed set of rules. We should want well-organized races and competition for our levels. It’s frustrating. I think a lot of the problem is that USATF governs so many sub-sects of a broad sport – track and field. It’s resources are spread out over all these disciplines and it often seems like there are internal conflicts vying for limited resources for each of those sub-sects – most road runners don’t care about hurdles or race-walking, etc. There are many other reasons to care, but I’ll save those for someone else to articulate or for #saltychat 🙂

    1. What I’m hearing here is that the important stuff is what comes out of the technical council: measurement standards and technical rules that set the standard of accuracy and uniformity to races….. and the rest of it is just a 26 year empire.

  5. I was a member for a couple of years when I was getting faster, and they had club cross champs in Kentucky (coming back in 2017!). But other than the championships, I didn’t feel like my membership benefited me in any way. Our state chapter only has a trail half and full championship that I know of (and even that one was a surprise that nobody knew about, I don’t even know if they had any members run to win the cash). And I didn’t feel like me being a member gave me any way to influence or better the sport. I guess they never made their case for me as a competitive but not elite runner. And now, I think their finances are shady and I’m not willing to give them money. (Unless I race a USATF championship race next year — damnit.) Looking forward to discussing on Salty Chat!

    1. Yeah, I get jealous when my friend talks about her state masters mile record and stuff. We don’t have that and I think it would be awesome to promote USATF and the sport in general. Stuff like that makes it so much more accessible!

  6. I am a USATF member and certified coach. I have won prize money and awards in USATF championship races; I have also finished beyond DFL in a USATF championship race. I am far, far, far from elite or sub-elite. And, I care about USATF.

    Having spent nearly all of my life involved with and (eventually) as an official for the national governing body of another sport, USATF is on my radar.
    I am particularly interested in athlete & sport development – how USATF both fosters and impedes it.
    I am quite concerned about the ties with Nike.

    A political person, I am not; so, I can’t say that I’m interested in becoming “involved” with USATF. Still, I do have a coaching issue on my agenda to pursue with them …

  7. I’m Canadian, so USATF has no relevance for me except for as a fan of elite distance running. That being said, I come from another sport originally where everyone playing the sport outside of a scholastic environment has to be a member of the governing body – from little kids playing minis, adult rec and competitive club teams and provincial / national team members. As coaches, we all needed to be trained and registered with the national body. Though they aren’t always perfect – this means that the national body does work for all the sport’s athletes, in way that – in the US or in Canada – athletics governing bodies do not.

  8. Wow I feel like I have so much to contribute to Salty conversations today!

    As of a few months ago, I am the USATF Women’s LDR Chair for the Gulf Association.

    What does that mean? Not a lot – yet.

    Every association is very, very different with how it approaches allocation of funds and a lot of this is simply a supply and demand thing. I’m from Massachusetts, and in the New England association (which oddly does not include Maine or CT – ?!?!?!) there is a HUGE emphasis on open and masters LDR, XC, and even MUT. This makes a lot of sense, given the rich history of distance running there and the density of post collegiate athletes in the area. As someone who didn’t run competitively in high school or college, USATF made a huge difference in my running as I stepped away from competitive skiing after college. There are tons of super active clubs in New England, and there is a road grand prix, a cross country series, and all sorts of other USATF-organized scored series that you can (and people do) participate in. There is serious competition from the front of the back all the way to the back of the pack, and racing against the same people over the months and years gives excellent incentive to push harder and catch those people who used to be faster. Not to mention the team scoring component, which gives you something greater than yourself to work for (a huge benefit for those of us who may be in a mental slump).

    When I moved to Houston, that impression of USATF was replaced by one that is run by youth track coaches. Again, it makes sense. They crank out fast kids here like none other, and distance runners tend to favor climates that don’t necessitate the weatherman to report a “hair cast”. Regardless, I think there is a lot to be gained by organizing a series, and so I’ve gotten in with the USATF folks here and along with two other friends have put together a series for 2017, with prize money put up by USATF. The association gets money for hosting championship events, they will get money if we are successful in increasing membership, and so they’re fully on board. And for those of us who really want the extra push of regular competition, hopefully this will provide it.

    If nothing else, USATF has the resources that can be used to build a community. In places where that already exists, there are opportunities to support the community with some funds and do cool things like travel with your best run pals to USATF club XC nationals – how cool is that?!

    1. Interesting … I have no idea what my local “association” may be up to. I didn’t even know there were “associations” until this Salty post today. I’m only vaguely aware that there is some sort of USATF person in my area to whom I had to supply proof of age or something (IIRC) when I joined USATF years ago. Heh.

        1. TOTALLY agree, and the website is pretty awful. I had to email about 5 people I found on the Gulf Association’s website before coming across someone with a pulse, but since I’ve connected in-person, they’ve been really supportive! There are a lot of things that can be frustrating about the USATF, but I’ve found that if you get involved you can also make it work for you.