Who, what, when, where:

While the USATF NE bylaws do not require the LDR Committee to involve the membership in decision making in regard to any event or activity it oversees, the Committee has chosen to invite input and voting from the LDR community in regard to the Road Race Grand Prix. The slate selection meeting for the 2014 USATF NE Grand Prix Road Race series date and time was announced at the bid presentation meeting on November 13, 2013 where over 60 people were in attendance. In addition, an ongoing LDR Committee of about 12 people meets sporadically through the year and had been meeting/emailing during the preceding months in regard to the bid solicitation process. At the presentation meeting, names were collected of those interested in attending the slate meeting. Those names combined with available LDR Committee members met on November 23rd in Waltham to review the bids and put together the slates for voting. A total of 11 people were present at the meeting. Clubs represented were: the BAA, CSU, GBTC, NSS, SISU Project, SRR, WRT, and WMDP. Transparency of the process includes: all meetings are open to all USATF members; voting privileges are extended to all club representatives (one vote per club); committee decisions are by consensus; bid and voting process guidelines are posted on the USATFNE website; and contact information including email addresses for the LDR Chairs is posted on the website. The road race Grand Prix is the only series that involves member input at USATF NE, all others such as Mountain, Track, and Cross Country are decided by Committees only.

High Street Mile:

After reviewing the bids and the Grand Prix survey results that had been collected after the bid presentation meeting and before the slate selections, the first topic was the High Street Mile. Ranked high in the survey and of interest to Committee members, we discussed our concerns about the High Street Mile event: 1) the USATF rule of scoring by gun time only and High Street’s use of chip timing to determine winners; 2) road-width start area and its effect on gun time; and 3) multiple heats/races at High Street and how we could score teams. We decided to offer a Showcase status to High Street in 2014 where we would promote the race, offer some incentive to USATF members to participate other than with points and see how an increased field in size and in top competitors would affect the race before making a decision for inclusion as a Grand Prix event if they bid in future years.

The Slates:

Putting together the slates, we listed the most popular races as determined by the survey results. Our immediate goals were to give the runners what they told us they wanted, avoid conflicts with religious holidays and local major races/nearby USATF national championships that would detract runners from Grand Prix races and make the schedule doable in regard to the typical training regimes of participants. There were several races that polled so strongly (or had a competing bid of the same distance which had time conflicts) it was clear they could be a core group and appear on all slates. We first organized a slate where races grouped themselves with a few early in the year, had a couple month gap and then resumed later in the year. We were able to get geographic diversity with the slate (another goal) and also switch out a couple of the distances/races and keep the format. We gave them a working title of 1a and b. We could also put in more bidding races that were popular and have them fall on an almost monthly basis. This format’s working title was 2 a and b. Representatives liked 1 a and b as the gap time off could support a spring marathon or rest time and liked 2 a and b as it spread out the races (and paying entry fees) over the year more consistently. The LDR Committee always wants every slate to be an effective Grand Prix so it does not ultimately matter to the Committee which one is elected, they are equally good.

At the slate selection meeting, we discussed offering just two slates: 1 a and 2 a with the b options as pull down menus within the slate. This presentation of the information would highlight the format as the primary element to vote on and the dominate slate in the pair would determine the final line up. We wanted to avoid a situation which came up a couple of years ago when a slate that had garnered 26% of votes was declared the winner. The Committee received criticism of that decision as over 70% of the respondents made it clear they had voted against the line-up. After the meeting, putting the slates in Survey Monkey (cheap version) proved a challenge as mixing question types (pull down within multiple choice) could not be managed and in the case of 1 a and b, if one did a pull down of the 5 mi for a choice between Carver and Ribfest and chose Ribfest, then An Ras Mor would be the only 5km choice because the Hollis 5km is three days before Ribfest. The Committee member putting the slates into Survey Monkey decided to list the slates in their entirety and informed the Committee. Since using numbers and “a” and “b” can imply value, the slates were named in honor of LDR pioneers: 1a became DeMar; 1b, Kelly; 2a, Kuscsik; and 2b, Gibb. We hoped that one slate/format would resonate with voters and a clear preference would emerge.

Voting cycle 1:

While the listing of the four slates appeared equally online, many representatives who attended the meeting urged their club mates to consider DeMar and Kelly (or Kuscsik and Gibb) a pair and vote for one or the other indiscriminately as discussed at the meeting prior to implementation. They championed the idea of format 1 or 2, and the dominate slate within the pair format becoming the Grand Prix lineup. Voting was nearly a week long to accommodate the Thanksgiving holiday break and a blast email went out to USATF members noting LDR on their membership forms to open voting on Nov 26. Many participants commented on the formats and hundreds of votes were logged in just a few days.

At the conclusion of the first election cycle on December 9, a record 487 legitimate votes were cast. Names and USATF numbers were checked against the national database names of current members to determine legitimacy. Results: 2a: Kuscsik: 181 votes (37%); 1a: DeMar: 160 votes (32%), 1b: Kelly: 96 votes (20%); 2b: Gibb: 50 votes (11%). While Kuscsik (37%) had the most votes by 5% as an individual slate, going by format, slates 1a and 1b had 52% and slates 2 a and b 48%. The Committee split on whether to go with the format winner, DeMar or the popular vote winner, Kuscsik. Going with Kuscsik still meant that 63% of the respondents voted against it (and 68% against DeMar). The two dominate slates were close in percentage of the votes and declaring Kuscsik the individual winner was not fair to the groups who had been advised to vote for the 1 a or b or 2 a or b indiscriminately. Since the format vote was nearly same difference apart as the popular vote, essentially a tie between the two ways to view results, the Committee felt the best way to proceed was to put the dominate slate from both formats online for a run-off election based on the popular vote with a planned tiebreaker action if necessary. The slate selection process posted on the website stated “..Results will be announced at the conclusion of voting…” so no established rules were violated by the decision. Our political democratic process includes elections after a primary with two candidates emerging for final voting and the Committee thought the membership would understand this similarity and the close nature of the first vote.

The political analogy went way deeper than imagined. Inviting the membership to vote in the run-off was read by some people that there was something suspicious with the first vote and it spawned unfounded allegations of conspiracies, favoritism, and kickbacks to committee members as well as personal attacks on social media. Regardless, another voting participation record was set, nearly 500 people responded to the run-off vote invitation.

Run Off Vote:

The blast email to the membership went out December 12th and was voting was open for three days. The second round of voting had a definitive selection of the DeMar slate with 278 votes (57%) and Kuscsik received 213 votes (43%) for a total of 491 legitimate votes cast. It was easy to declare DeMar the winner and gratifying that it had a large margin of support.

The 2014 Grand Prix races:
D. H. Jones 10 miler, Amherst, MA, Feb. 23, 11 a.m.
New Bedford Half Marathon, New Bedford, MA Mar. 16, 11 a.m.
An Ras Mor 5 km, Cambridge, MA, Mar. 30, 10 a.m.
Ribfest 5 Miler, Merrimack, NH, Jun 15, 9:15 a.m.
GMAA Labor Day 15 km, South Burlington, VT, Aug. 31, 9 a.m.
Lone Gull 10 km, Gloucester, MA, Sept. 14, 9 a.m.
Manchester City Marathon, Manchester, NH, Nov 2, 8:50 a.m.

Join the LDR Committee:

While the membership is free to second guess the Committee, the meetings are open and those who attend try to make decisions that are fair to potential participants and the bidding races. We know we cannot please all members and the race directors that bid but we ask for respect for the volunteers who put in the time and energy to bring bids to the Grand Prix, make hard decisions and shepherd the process of voting to bring the best line up of races possible to those who want to compete. If you want your voice truly heard, join the LDR Committee.

Thank you to all who participated in the bid process and for attending meetings, voting and for putting these great races and the High Street Mile on your calendars to run them in 2014.