One question we’ve never asked ourselves, because, honestly, it’s never come up, is “what happens when an elite distance runner gets called to jury duty when he’s supposed to be out of the country for one of his biggest paydays of the year, and court officials just aren’t buying his excuse?”
It’s probably happened before, though, and it’s happening right now to Ryan Vail, who was the top American in the 2013 New York City Marathon at 2:13:23.
Vail, who ran a career best of 2:11:45 in Fukuoka in 2012, is an elite entrant in April 13 London Marathon. He’ll be leaving for Europe and will be leaving for Europe on April 3, heading first to the home of his wife's family in Prague and then moving on to London.
Problem is, Oregon’s Multnomah County, which includes the city of Portland, wants him to appear for jury duty on April 10.
Vail Tweeted on March 10 that “the excuse that I’ll be out of the country for the London Marathon was denied for jury duty … guess they’ll have to arrest me when I return.”
Well, it probably won’t come to that, but Vail is not atypical of itinerant professional runners who make a living journeying to faraway places for racing and training.
“They asked me a few times in the past and I’ve always gotten it deferred,” Vail says of the county court system. “Either I’ve been out of town or had training to do.
“They attach a form to it [the summons] which you can fill out. I filled it out with 'I’ll be in Europe for the London Marathon,'” Vail told Runner’s World Newswire. "You have a box to check that says ‘this will cause me financial hardship,’ and I explained ‘this will be a big percentage of my yearly income, so I can’t afford to miss this.’
“So I requested deferral, and I got a letter back a few days ago in the mail saying they were going to deny my request and I had to show up on my original date.”
Vail, who defeated Abdi Abdirahman in the Gasparilla Distance Classic half marathon in Tampa on February 23, called the county court office on March 10.
“They’re open pretty limited hours. I got through and they said I needed to send in a second letter, basically with the same information from the first, I suppose, and documentation supporting it.’ And then ten specific dates from when I return from Europe when I can do jury duty. They’re really trying to lock me into it.
“I’m not worried about it. At this point, it’s out of my hands. I’m not stressed about it,” says Vail. “I’m just surprised they’ve put me through as much trouble as they have already.
Even if he serves in May or June, “it’s hard,” says Vail, “because you have to go in at 8 in the morning and it could be an all-day thing. I’ll probably be training at the time. I’ll still probably do my best to keep deferring it at that time if I can, to be honest, just for that reason – and also the possibility of getting locked into a trial that last more than two days they require you to be there.”
Whatever the case, Vail figures, “I’m going to do my best to keep getting out of it.”