Monday, April 20, 2015

Marathon Fever - and Why Race Rules Matter

The Boston Marathon takes place today, and you can follow along to track the race leaders along the course.

Two stories from the marathon world highlight the importance of race rules. First, the St. Louis Marathon has suffered from a young lady cutting the course and placing or winning two years in a row. Kendall Schler has twice been unable to prove through race photos or otherwise that she began and completed the entire marathon under USATF rules. It appears Ms. Schler violated at least two USATF rules in particular:
Runner's identification shall consist of running numbers pinned securely on the front of each runner's uniform and displayed throughout the race. The registration list will contain each runner's name and running number.

Any competitor who has been found by the Referee and/or Jury of Appeal to have gained an unfair advantage by intentionally shortening the route of the race ("cutting the course") shall be immediately disqualified from the competition. See also Rule 163.6.
In less nefarious race news, "Four out of five members of the Snyder family—Steven, age 39, Gabriel, age 12, Elizabeth, age 11, and Belle, age 9—[ran] their first marathon together at the Athens Ohio Marathon on Sunday." Were the three children too young to compete per race rules? According to the race director, "the race does have a minimum age requirement, but a glitch in their system must have allowed the children of the Snyder family to register." How'd the Snyder kids do? Each completed the race around 5:43 beating their dad who finished around 5:54.

What does this have to do with the law? Industry standards, norms, or rules may be critical in torts cases to prove the standard of care or in contracts cases to prove the ordinary course of business practices in the event terms are missing from an alleged breached contract. (Perhaps even sexier than marathon rules is the wild world of dog breeding. When I clerked, we heard a case disputing ownership of a litter of puppies where the breeding contract was unclear and AKC rules were the only objective guidance the court had available.)

Don't think it doesn't matter, either. The first-place finishers of the Boston Marathon received $150,000 and endorsement opportunities in the millions. The 5K winners this year (each of whom set American records) also took home prize money. The winners each took home $7,500 for their victories plus an additional $5,000 bonus each for setting event records.