SAN DIEGO — The Athletics Congress has sanctioned marathons for San Diego on Dec. 5 and Dec. 12, but city and police officials will have the final say on whether the events will be run on consecutive weekends.
On Thursday, TAC approved the San Diego Holiday Bowl Marathon for Dec. 12 after having sanctioned the San Diego Track Club-San Diego Heart Assn. event for Dec. 5.
Backers of the Heart Assn. event tried to gain what might be called "geographical exclusivity" for a 30-day period, but Alvin Chriss, special assistant to TAC National Director Ollan Cassell, said Thursday that the Amateur Sports Act of 1978 stipulates that events meeting TAC criteria must be sanctioned. Thus, the San Diego Holiday Bowl Marathon was also approved.
But TAC's decision will not be the bottom line in this dispute.
"From my position, having two marathons within one week would not be beneficial to the city or police department manpower," said Sgt. Jeff Fellows, the San Diego Police Department's special events coordinator.
Fellows, who estimated that the most recent Holiday Bowl Heart of San Diego Marathon cost the city $20,000, said 186 officers were used to staff traffic positions at that event last December. He said that many were unpaid reserve officers from five area cities.
"I don't want to go to these cities and ask them to work for two consecutive weekends," Fellows said. "That would be ludicrous."
Fellows said that the San Diego Police Department could decide against allowing both marathons, but that the ultimate decision likely will be made by City Manager John Lockwood.
"If it comes down to two groups having a marathon, the decision would be made at a high level. I'd be very surprised to see both (marathons)," Fellows said.
Lockwood said Thursday night that he has not been contacted by the police or supporters of either marathon, but that the matter probably would have to be considered closely.
"Any time we have a marathon on a public street we have an inconvenience," he said. "Obviously, the closer they are the more difficult it is."
The players in this marathon battle have been the Holiday Bowl, the San Diego Track Club, the San Diego Heart Assn. and In-Motion, a race management group.
The San Diego Heart Assn. had teamed with the Holiday Bowl group the past two years, but has switched to co-sponsoring a race with the San Diego Track Club, the Mission Bay Marathon's sponsor for 23 years. The Heart Assn. reportedly made the switch because of disagreements with the Holiday Bowl group over the financial arrangements with In-Motion.
Chriss said that he plans to meet with both groups in San Diego in the next 10 days. He also said that the fact that San Diego is a possible site for a future TAC world-class marathon could be an underlying factor in the dispute.
"We think the situation is unhealthy because people who should care about unifying the sport are perhaps operating under another motivation," Chriss said. "We can't rule out the possibility people are asking TAC to issue one sanction because the one person who has that sanction could build that one world-class event in San Diego."
If the marathons run on consecutive weekends, then the ultimate decision as to which marathon will be the winner will probably not come from the different entities involved in the turmoil.
"The runners of San Diego will choose and if it comes down to it, the corporate sponsors will choose," Chriss said.