Boston would consider changes to lure marathon trials

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    Associated Press

    BOSTON (AP) _ Boston Marathon organizers are interested in hosting the 2008 Olympic trials, a move that would return the top American runners to the distance’s most prestigious race.

    But bringing the trials to Boston could require major changes to the course and character of the tradition-laden event, which will be run for the 108th time on Monday.

    “We haven’t really ruled anything out,” race director Dave McGillivray said Friday. “We’re thinking of what might work for us that would be something that USA Track and Field would be interested in.”

    Among the possibilities that the Boston Athletic Association, which runs the Boston Marathon, has discussed:

    _Separate men’s and women’s races for the Americans over the weekend and the traditional Patriots Day race on Monday.

    _A different course than the Hopkinton to Boston route that has been used with only minor changes since 1924.

    “The BAA has been talking about it, for sure,” McGillivray said. “But there’s been no decisions made, no proposals sent. If you want to be serious about doing it, you have to think about logistically how it would work.”

    For now, Boston is just one city among many that has “expressed an interest,” according to Craig Masback, the head of USATF.

    “That mere expression of interest has our long-distance running community excited,” Masback said. “Having a U.S. championship or Olympic trials in association with a major marathon like Boston would do a lot for both events.”

    But first, USATF has to decide what it’s looking for. The 2008 criteria won’t necessarily be the same as those used to pick this year’s team for Athens.

    “If we said it has to be a race with no hills in it, that would rule out the traditional course,” Masback said. “If your top priority was to go to the most visible marathon in America in order to gain exposure for the sport, they might choose Boston or New York.”

    This year the trials were held at separate, specially scheduled events _ the men’s in Birmingham, Ala., on Feb. 7 and the women’s in St. Louis on April 3.

    With all the top Americans running there, that left the field bare for Boston. At Friday’s regular pre-marathon news conference with the elite runners, the U.S. tables were occupied by past winners Joan Benoit Samuelson, Bill Rodgers, Johnny Kelley and Bob Hall; there wasn’t a single active contender.

    There hasn’t been an American winner in Boston since Lisa Larsen-Weidenbach in 1985 and Greg Meyer on the men’s side in 1983.

    BAA officials take pride in the international nature of their field, and they certainly don’t resent the runners who ran in the trials instead of Boston.

    “I don’t think that not having Americans in an Olympic year is a disappointment because it’s a reality. We understand,” McGillivray said. “You can’t expect something that you know is an impossibility.”

    But Americans have been passing on Boston’s hilly course and slow times for years. The country’s top runners _ Deena Drossin Kastor and naturalized citizen Khalid Khannouchi _ have never run Boston.

    “The Boston Marathon doesn’t need any country or any individual runner,” Masback said. “Because of its tradition and its strength as a competitive event, it is successful and it will continue to be successful.

    “But an Olympic trials in Boston … would be an even bigger event.”

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