MEB ENTERS MASTER’S DIVISION AT ROCK `N` ROLL SAN DIEGO

Meb hanging with young fans

Master Meb hanging with young fans

It happens fast. One day it’s “Hey, kid!” Next thing you know it’s “Hey, buddy!” Then one unsuspecting day it’s “Excuse me, Sir. Can I get a picture?”

There aren’t many athletes in any sport who can say, “I couldn’t have done it any better. I left nothing on the table.” U.S. distance runner Meb Keflezighi is among the small cadre who can.

With his 2004 Olympic Marathon silver medal, wins at the 2009 New York City and 2014 Boston Marathons — and more American road, cross country and track titles than he has fingers and toes — Meb enters the over-40 master’s division in perfect harmony, neither pressing or stressing, yet still pushing ahead for more.

This Sunday Meb — Sir, in the above request — will compete in his hometown at the Rock `n` Roll Half Marathon in San Diego, part of the weekend long Suja Rock `n` Roll Marathon & Half-Marathon, the birthing event of the Rock `n` Roll series, which has now spread world-wide. It will mark Meb’s debut in the master’s division having turned 40 on the 5th of May.

Appropriately, Sunday’s half marathon doubles as the USATF National Masters Championship, the first national title designation RnR San Diego has garnered in its 18 year history. Continue reading

LEVELING ON FIELD DAY

Sticky Pitcher

Sticky Pitcher

As Tom Brady waits to appeal a four-game suspension for his part in the NFL’s Deflate-Gate scandal, and Milwaukee Brewer’s pitcher Will Smith gets tossed for having a foreign substance on his forearm, I’m reminded of a gentler time when a young boy dreams big, then goes out does what needs to be done.

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As the school year neared completion, Henry lived for Field Day, that sporting carnival where prize ribbons were up for grabs, and the atmosphere filled the air around the school grounds with the smells of burgers and hot dogs sizzling on over-sized grilles.

Mary Janes

Mary Jane

Notwithstanding “God has given you one face, and you make yourself another,” (Shakespeare) grade school is often where identities are formed.  If you were considered X in grade school: smart–dumb, fast–slow, fat–skinny, good lookin’ or otherwise, the designation tended to stick.

In grade school Henry was considered skinny, smart and quick, traits he used against school bullies.

“Forget about him,” they’d huff, “he’s too hard to catch.”

Thank God. Continue reading

SURFSIDE MARATHON IN VENTURA

imageAs I sit in my Dodge Charger rental outside the Bombay Bar in Ventura, California, marathon runners from the 5th Cliff Bar Mountains 2 Beach Marathon come limping by on their way to a post-race meal or to collect their cars for the drive home. Months of preparation went into their efforts, and not an inconsiderable few were gunning for a Boston Marathon qualifier, as M2B is ranked third most-likely-to-qualify-for-Boston by Marathonguide.com.

But the marathon, by any guide, is a tough hustle. And though the day was as California cool as any Beach Boy harmony could sing it, the road was just as long and measured as anywhere.

Coach T with marathon PR Mo Jabbari

Coach T with marathon PR man Mo Jabbari

All seven Team Toya M2B runners set PRs today, ranging from Chris Wenger’s 1:33:29 in the half to Mo Jabbari’s 3:34:51 in the marathon, an hour improvement from his previous best. Yet Boston remained elusive. Notwithstanding, a good day all around. Continue reading

LETTERMAN & DEMERIT CARDS

So long, Dave.

So long, Dave.

MOCKING FOR MILLIONS

David Letterman retired last night after a run of 33 years behind talk show desks at NBC and CBS. In hosting the last of his 6028 shows Dave and his World Wide Pants team proved their mettle once again.  What we got was exactly the Dave we had come to know and love these last three-plus decades.  But, man, doesn’t it seem like just yesterday we were wishing Johnny well as he signed off after 30 years hosting the Tonight Show? Time can rip like that, you know, except for when we race. Then, the clock always seems to stall out for a bit.

Anyway, I haven’t stayed up to watch late night TV in years, having become a morning person after moving west from Boston to San Diego. But I still felt a real pang of loss watching Dave sign off. Continue reading

MELODY FAIRCHILD – YOUTH STAR TURNS MASTER MOTIVATOR

Efraimson finishing 2:01 in Portland

Efraimson finishing 2:01 in Portland

Cleveland, Oh. — Young Alexa Efraimson put her abundant talent on display last night in Portland, Oregon, clocking 2:01:13 for 800 meters at the Portland Twilight meet, a time which slots her # 3 on the all-time U.S. list for high school aged girls behind Mary Cain and the late Kim Gallagher. It was a fine piece of running by the Camus, Washington native who turned pro last year in lieu of exploring a collegiate running career, a decision that Cain had also made the year before.

But even as Alexa showed her stuff, we are reminded that Mary Cain has come off the boil. After two years of blistering performances, including a spate of records from 800 to 5000 meters, reaching the finals in the 1500 meters 2013 IAAF World Championships in Moscow, and a win at the World Juniors 3000 meter champs in Eugene last summer, the Bronxville, New York native has come into 2015 under performing.  Her indoor season was lackluster, and in her three outdoor 1500s to date she has yet to break 4:15.  Last Thursday she finished 11th in a 12-person 1500 at the Hoka One One Middle Distance Classic at Occidental College in L.A.

Efraimson and Cain are just the latest two high school aged phenoms who matured early and were capable of national and even international caliber performances. But there is nothing automatic about youthful talent, and the road ahead holds no guarantees of future success.

This past weekend I was in Cleveland for the 38th Rite Aid Cleveland Marathon and 10Km, races I have covered since 1978.  Racing in Cleveland this year was another prodigious young talent with high hopes, and another former youth superstar who serves as a cautionary tale for all who follow. Continue reading

WITTENBERG TO LEAVE NYRR

NYRR Pres. & CEO Mary Wittenberg

NYRR PresIdent & CEO Mary Wittenberg

The New York Road Runners announced today (12 May 2015) that its long serving President and CEO Mary Wittenberg will step down next week to take on the job of Global CEO at Virgin Sport, a new enterprise created by British tycoon Richard Branson that will focus on participatory fitness events and programs, particularly running and cycling.  NYRR board chairman George Hirsch further announced that two of Ms. Wittenberg’s top assistants, Michael Capiraso and Peter Ciaccia, would replace her, dividing her duties into separate business and sport positions.

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The announcement came as a surprise to many, as Wittenberg had become the face of running in New York City during her 10-year tenure as CEO and race director of the New York City Marathon.  In fact, some industry insiders jokingly referred to the 50,000 person November race as the New York City Mary-thon, so prominent and vibrant was Ms. Wittenberg throughout race week.

In Mary Virgin has hired one of the most recognizable faces in the sport, a Buffalo-native who first made a name winning the Marine Corps Marathon in 1987.  After graduating from Notre Dame law school Wittenberg spent several years with a firm specializing in international trade deals for U.S. banks. Then in 1998 she joined NYRR as she sought to combine avocation with vocation. Two years later she became NYRR’s first Chief Operating Officer before taking over from Allan Steinfeld as President and CEO in 2005.

With a supportive board, enterprising staff, and the NYRR portfolio in hand, Wittenberg quickly began to build on the legacy established by Fred Lebow and Allan Steinfeld.  During her tenure the organization and its many events (and charities) flourished – though there were rumblings from some local club members who bridled at increased race entry fees and Mary’s focus on building a more national and international profile for the club. Yet the NYRR’s crown jewel, the New York City Marathon, grew by over 60% in Wittenberg’s time, making it the largest marathon in the world.  In all over 400,000 people participate annually in NYRR activities, including tens of thousands of children via the club’s robust programs for kids.

Wittenberg was also a leader in the creation and development of the Abbott World Marathon Majors, the million dollar series formed in 2006 by six of the world’s preeminent international marathons. Only the fumbled cancellation of the 2012 New York City Marathon in the wake of Hurricane Sandy — after most of the runners had already flown into town — shows up as a glitch.  And that was mostly on New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

In early 2007 Mary was scheduled to give the keynote address at the annual Running USA conference. During that time she and I exchanged a number of messages about the state of the sport and the direction it was taking. As we wish her well on her move to her new post with Virgin Sport, I thought we might gain from some hard won understanding of the sport she has helped lead through the first decade and a half of the 21st century.

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