Update: According to Nate Carlson, a physical therapist and orthopedic surgeon from Hawaii who was a vocal critic of SB 2413, the bill died on the floor after the public meeting on Monday. "So proud of the Hawaii kids... the thousands of written testimonies and petitioning told them enough and [they] were going to kill it on the spot. Victory for runners," Carlson told FloTrack. Gabriel Tom, a junior at Kaiser High in Honolulu, said the public outcry on the proposed bill did its job: "It brought awareness to the idea that the bill was proposing, and the public response was amazing as so many people banded together to go against SB 2413. Just wanted to let you know that after attending the public hearing today, we now know with confidence that the bill will not be passing!
A contingent of runners and advocates for long distance running in Hawaii are expected to meet during a public hearing in Honolulu at the State Capitol on Monday.
They have very clear bullet points.
A little over two weeks ago, Senators William Espero and Glenn Wakai introduced Senate Bill 2413 into the state legislature on behalf of a children's advocacy group that outlined the desire for an age limit cap be placed upon all young runners entering road races in the state above the half marathon distance up through the marathon and beyond.
"No organizer shall allow a minor to register for a long distance running (sic) held in the State and organized by that organizer unless the minor will be at least eighteen years of age on the schedule date of the long distance running event."
It posed that no teenagers or children under 18 should be allowed to race above a certain threshold on the road, and race directors and organizers would have the right to deny runners under that age the ability to enter into those competitions.
And yet, the bill, like thousands of others that are introduced into the Hawaii state legislature every year, will ultimately have to pass through a variety of committees before passing in the House of Representatives. For the record, Espero said, he didn't find the bill especially strong at first glance.
"I personally don't think the bill, as its currently written and drafted, will pass," he said. "But if there's a talk or an amendment to lower that age, I'm open to discussion."
It wasn't long after the bill was introduced that Gabriel Tom was making cursory glances through Facebook. A 16-year-old junior at Kaiser High in Honolulu, he had run his first marathon at the age of 12.
Read the full bill here:
This past fall, Tom had scored a PR of 18:16.65 in the 5K and had gone 16:43.40 for 3 miles. He also owned solid times in the 1500m (4:24.98) and 3000m (9:46.99).
In his mind, the thrill he gained from that first marathon would forever live in his mind. And he had run five marathons since, earning a PR of 3:14.47.
"When you run the marathon," he said, "you learn about how strong your mind is, which is reflected in other things. My work ethic in school, when I'm doing a job as a photographer or videographer, just the character it gives me."
There was no doubt he wanted more marathons in his future. Some of his friends did too, including another junior from Kaiser who had run a best of 3:09 and a sophomore who ran his first race this year, saying to Tom that he was "driven this year to run again."
But this bill told him he would have to wait. And so Tom felt compelled to reach out to Espero, tailoring a thoughtful and exhaustive email about his history in the marathon and his beliefs on why it was fulfilling.
Espero replied, though not in the way Tom expected.
"This measure was introduced because child advocates asked me to introduce it," Espero wrote in a terse follow-up email. "I thought it was worth the discussion. If a hearing is held, I'm open to lowering the age if needed."
Tom thought that was odd, considering Wakai was essentially the spokesperson for this bill and controlled the discussion on it. He thought it was a little cold, too. It may be one reason why the high school junior reached out to local media outlets in Hawaii and running sites like FloTrack and MileSplit. Only one local television station got back to him.
"I just think this is really limiting toward the athletes," he said. "As runners, we're bound to push ourselves and the marathon is another step in that journey of learning where we can go, both mentally and physically. It made me think about how this would effect people in Hawaii who want that ability to push themselves and no longer be able to do that because of these new stakes."
On January 22, SN 2413 passed its first reading, then was referred to and re-referred to two committees, including the Human Services Committee and Consumer Protection Committee, before a public hearing was scheduled on February 5.
Espero did say there were solid points in the bill. He said a study was cited by the Journal of Athletic Training that found that "children do not absorb the impact of running as well as adults and less absorption can lead to greater impact to bones, joints, and soft tissue that can result in overuse injuries."
But, Espero said, "Personally, pre-teens may be more of a group to look at. That's why we have the legislative process to have discussion.
"If this bill is heard and has any traction and there's a decision to lower the age, personally I'm more than happy to do that. We'll see."
Tom isn't so sure that's the answer, though.
"In the end, it's up to each individual," he said. "Some people can handle the races. If an individual feels ready, from my personal experience I think you can do it. I ran it when I was 12. I'm still fast enough to compete in competitive 5Ks. I'm fine now. I'm not overdoing it."
The bill is up for public discussion on Monday at 3:45 UTC.
What are your thoughts? Do you think the bills has valid points? Do you believe there should be an age cap at race distances over the half marathon? Let us know in the comments.
- - -
Contact MileSplit National Content Producer Cory Mull at email@example.com or on Twitter @bycorymull