- The Washington Times - Saturday, July 19, 2003

Relief pitchers are used to getting short notice before coming into a game to perform at their best.

Elite marathon runners are not.

That’s why Reston resident Keith Dowling has been a bit unnerved for the past week, since he was selected as the fifth and final marathoner to represent the United States at the IAAF World Championships in Paris next month.

“I’m out here in Boulder right now trying to get into shape with a short amount of time since I just found out that I was on the team officially this past week,” Dowling said on Friday.

“A fall marathon was never in the plans, as the Olympic Trials marathon is in February,” he added. “I wanted to do Worlds for two reasons: If you finish in the top 20 at Paris, you are given the Olympic ‘A’ standard, which equals a sub-2:12 marathon. I don’t have that time so finishing in the top 20 is important to a lot of runners in Paris. The second reason is [wife] Michele and I are expecting our first baby in September so the timing is great. I can run Paris then take a break and welcome the new addition to our household.”

But until last week, Dowling had been sitting in the bullpen waiting for the call from USA Track & Field for months.

According to USATF Road Running Information Center’s Ryan Lamppa, the selection process for U.S. marathoners to make the World team was as follows:

• The top three finishers at the 2003 USA Marathon Championship in Birmingham, Ala., on Feb.8 received automatic spots — Ryan Shay, Kevin Collins and Clint Verran;

• The top finisher from the 2002 USA Marathon Championship (Twin Cities) also received an automatic berth: Dan Browne; and

• The fifth member — and any other needed due to injury — was to be selected from the top times run from Jan.1, 2002 through April21, 2003.

But the process wasn’t that simple, making for a hectic summer for Dowling.

“This World Team has been quite a debacle,” he said. “I was told by Ryan Lamppa of USATF that the finalization of the team would start right after the Boston Marathon. Boston was the last qualifying race in which an athlete could post a time for making Worlds. I knew I had a shot based on my Boston ‘02 time of 2:13.28. That put me seventh on the time list. The other team members were selected from the top three finishers from the USATF National Marathon Champs.

“The fourth spot was supposed to be the National Champ from ‘02, which was Dan Browne. He declined his spot. So to fill the fourth and fifth spots, USATF has to go down the time list. [World record holder Khalid] Khannouchi declined, [2000 10,000-meter Olympian Alan] Culpepper declined, [2000 marathon Olympian Rod] Dehaven declined, which left Jimmy Hearld and Meb Keflezki ahead of me.

“Jimmy wavered but finally chose to take his spot in June. Then Meb said he was running both the marathon and 10,000 meters at Worlds. Then he said he wasn’t. Then he said he was. Then back to saying he wasn’t running the marathon, but just the 10,000 meters. So you see how my summer has been one big question mark.”

So there’s no question in Dowling’s mind that the process needs to be modified to give U.S. marathoners more time to prepare.

“Obviously the protocol needs to be changed and we need to have our team finalized in May, not July,” he said. “That’s another story.”

The marathon at the Worlds, to be contested on Aug.30 at 2:20p.m. Paris time, could be part of Dowling’s farewell tour.

“I’m 34 and making this World team is a great way to close out my career, as I don’t envision myself training for 2008 Olympics,” he said.

It also will give Dowling and his wife some time to rest up before the baby arrives in September.

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