Weather is an added entry in marathon trials today Southern snow puts chill on what could be hot race

February 17, 1996|By Don Markus | Don Markus,SUN STAFF

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Joseph Karnes spent the past year living in a remote part of Alaska, working as a clerk for a judge and, when the weather permitted, training for the U.S. Olympic men's marathon trials.

"The coldest it ever got when I ran was about 30 below," recalled Karnes, who since has returned to a more moderate climate in Monterey, Calif.

So it should be downright balmy for Karnes today. The temperature here for the 9 a.m. start of the marathon trials is expected to be around 18 degrees, with the wind-chill factor dipping down into the single digits. The high should be around 35.

There also was the possibility of icy rain overnight, which could make the footing a little tricky. It snowed yesterday, and though there was no accumulation, it certainly added to the apprehension.

Karnes, who isn't supposed to be a factor, is looking forward to bad weather. "The gnarlier the better," he said.

The ability to cope in less-than-favorable conditions, as well as the choice in clothing, could factor into the outcome of a race where the top three finishers will go on to Atlanta this summer and the winner will receive a check for $100,000.

Of the pre-race favorites, No. 1-ranked Keith Brantley is a warm-weather guy from Fort Lauderdale, Fla., and No. 3 Bob Kempainen is from Minnetonka, Minn. Then there's dark horse and 1992 trials champion Steve Spence, who lives in Chambersburg, Pa., but trains in the mountains of western North Carolina.

"I don't think it's a difficult adjustment," said Brantley, 33, who had to leave the Brevard, N.C., training camp last fall because the cool mountain air bothered his exercise-induced asthma. "The Kenyans did pretty good one year in some snow and ice at the Boston Marathon running barefoot. Maybe I'll have a little bit of that."

Said Kempainen, 29, who took a year's leave from the University of Minnesota medical school to train near Palo Alto, Calif.: "The people coming from a warm-weather climate might have a different point of view, but I'd rather go from training in cold weather to running in cold weather."

At last year's Columbus, Ohio, marathon, Spence showed up at the start dressed not to chill in the 27-degree morning air. He had the usual assortment of cold-weather clothing -- gloves, hat, long-sleeve running shirt. He also wore a pair of tights under his shorts.

"People were laughing at me on the starting line, saying things like, 'Spence isn't taking this seriously,' " said Spence, 35, the only U.S. men's marathoner in the past 20 years to earn a medal in a world championship or Olympic marathon. "At the 15-mile mark, they all wanted my tights."

The situation is amusing because the talk among marathoners for the past couple of years has all focused on how hot it was going to be in Atlanta this summer and whether the IAAF, the world's governing body for track and field, would move the early evening start for the men's Olympic marathon up to the same early morning start as the women's event.

When Chris Fox of Hagerstown looked outside his hotel room yesterday to see the swirling snow, it only added to his confidence. At 37, Fox is competing in his fifth Olympic trials overall, his second as a marathoner. He finished "a very disappointing seventh" in Columbus four years ago.

"There are no negatives for me," said Fox, who trains in Boulder, Colo., and loves to run in the cold. "My preparation has gone well. The weather is falling into place."

The temperature is just falling.

NOTE: Steve Kartalia, a 30-year-old biologist from Baltimore, has withdrawn from the field after an ankle injury prevented him from training properly. He plans to run in the 10,000-meter Olympic qualifying event at the U.S. Track and Field trials in Atlanta in June.

Marathon data

What: U.S. Olympic men's marathon trials

When: Today, 9 a.m.

Where: Charlotte, N.C.

Who: A field of approximately 130 runners, including top-ranked Keith Brantley, former 10,000-meter world record holder Arturo Barrios, two-time Olympian Ed Eyestone and 1992 Olympic Trials winner Steve Spence.

Prize money: $259,500, with $100,000 going to the winner. The top three finishers qualify for 1996 Olympics.

TV: Highlights on Chs. 11, 4, beginning at 3:30 p.m.

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