SAN DIEGO — The last time Doug Nelson ran a marathon--last April at Seattle--he finished third in a time of 2 hours 19 minutes 37 seconds. That was 23 seconds faster than the qualifying time for the U.S. Olympic marathon trials.
So, Nelson, 26, of Colorado Springs, Colo., figured he would be running in the trials next April at Jersey City, N.J.
At least he did until three weeks ago when a friend informed him that the Seattle course had not been certified by The Athletics Congress, the U.S. governing body for track and field. He would not receive an invitation to compete at the trials after all.
"Incredible," Nelson said as he shook his head. "That did not make me happy at all."
Sunday, running in a field of 800, Nelson made sure he qualified by winning the San Diego Marathon in 2:18:52. It was the second marathon Nelson had finished since 1982.
Women's winner Debbi Waldear had also hoped to qualify for the trials. But her time of 2:50:49 was 50 seconds too slow in what, she said was her last chance to qualify.
Waldear said she will not have time to run another marathon because she has to begin training to compete in the U.S. Olympic cross-country skiing trials in January.
"I just thought it would be kind of fun to go to the Olympic trials in two events," said Waldear, a 37-year-old from Kirkwood, Calif. near Lake Tahoe. "I haven't run a marathon in six years. I concentrate on my skiing, mostly."
The temperature was 59 degrees at the race's start but rising temperatures became a problem. Nelson was on pace to run about 2:15, and he passed the 24-mile mark at 2:05:33.
"From 24 on, I was hurting pretty good," Nelson said. "It was just a matter of hanging in there. I just blew up in the last few miles."
The heat probably kept a few other runners from qualifying for the trials. Dr. Geoff Moore of Dallas was running faster than a 2:20 pace when he came by the 18-mile mark at 1:36:09. But Moore also slowed and finished second at 2:22:55.
Jeff Woodland of La Jolla, a race favorite who had hoped to qualify, was forced to drop out after 15 miles because of dehydration and heat prostration, according to an ambulance attendant.
"I felt good and I was exactly on the pace I wanted to be," Woodland said. "But at 11 miles, I started to feel bad, and it felt like someone sucked all the energy out of me. I drank water during the race and plenty before the race . . . but I felt real dizzy at 15 miles and I dropped to my knees and (became ill). I've never had that happen to me before."
Nelson said he had difficulty running alone most of the race. Ron Tabb of Pacific Beach and Kevin McCarey of San Diego ran with Nelson for the first part of the race, but both dropped out before the 11-mile mark because they were part of relay teams that were also running in the marathon.
"You have to have excellent concentration when you are running by yourself," Nelson said. "I was listening to my splits and I knew I was on qualifying pace. But it would have been easier if there was a better pack up front. I'll have to learn to run my own race . . . if I am going to be competitive."
Nelson has done a lot of learning in the last year and a half. He had run two marathons when he was a student at the University of Northern Iowa, but concentrated on 10-kilometer road races. After he ran a 3:03 in 1982, he said he would never run another marathon.
Four years later, he decided to return to the sport.
"Qualifying for the Olympics is a dream of mine," Nelson said.
To help realize that dream, Nelson moved from Boone, Iowa to Colorado Springs. There, he could benefit from the altitude (6,035 feet), the U.S. Olympic Training Center facilities and training with Marty Froelick, who has run 2:10:59, and coach Graeme Badger.
Since moving to Colorado Springs last year, Nelson has improved his personal best in the marathon by 39 minutes.
"I still don't really know what my potential is in the sport," Nelson said. "I still have a lot to learn. The key for me is to get in more good races."
Waldear, who was the U.S. Ski Assn. national 50-kilometer cross-country champion during the 1985-86 season, has to start training for the trials.
Waldear said she got held up at the start and didn't take the lead until the 23-mile mark, where she passed second-place finisher Jeanne Lassee-Johnson of Chula Vista, who finished in 2:52:05.