HURDLES CHAMP ARIES MERRITT OUT AT SATURDAY’S INDOOR MEET IN BOSTON

Oly champ Aries Merritt

Oly champ Aries Merritt

Merritt, 2012 Olympic hurdles champion and world record holder, has withdrawn from this Saturday’s New Balance Indoor Grand Prix at Boston’s Reggie Lewis Center. The news was released by meet organizers late this afternoon.

“At the beginning of yesterday’s workout, I experienced a cramp as I went over a hurdle during one of my drills,” said Merritt in a prepared statement.  “I hate to disappoint Boston area track and field fans, but my physio think it is best if I withdraw to ensure I stay healthy for the rest of this World Championship year.  I hope everyone understands.” 

Merritt was one of the first athletes to commit to the 18th NBIGP, and is a big loss.  He’d run the meet twice before, taking seventh in the 60m hurdles in 2010, then second last year.  That still leaves Olympic champions Tirunesh Dibaba (10,000m) and Jenn Suhr (pole vault) as meet headliners, along with Olympic silver medalists Galen Rupp (10,000m) and Dejen Gebremeskel (5000m) who will meet in the 3000m on Saturday.   Dibaba opens her season on the way to a highly anticipated debut marathon in London in April.  She’s broken the 5000m indoor record twice in Boston (2005 & 2007).

END

YES, BUT IS IT A REAL TOUR?

13BBTMtourLogo     Having just passed its first year anniversary the Bring Back the Mile campaign just announced its Bring Back the Mile Tour 2013 which will include 13 stops and an end-of-the-year gala celebrating a Mile legend and the year in the Mile.

Knowing how loosely strung most running “tours” have been in the past,  I emailed BBTM founder Ryan Lamppa the following query:  “Is this simply linking all these mile races up on paper, but not actually creating a specific tour with a prize purse attached at the end?  Now that would be news. Not that this isn’t.”

Here’s Ryan’s response:

“The BBTM Tour 2013 is about the Big Tent, and our main Tour objective in year one is about promotion – promotion of the Mile, Tour events and the athletes, and our broader vision is to have a national Mile grand prix series in 2014 (only top prize money races). In short, we are scaling this. Call the BBTM Tour 2013 lap 2 of the Bring Back the Mile campaign.”

Makes sense, Ryan. Like the mile race itself, it’s important to have a strategy to execute. You’ve had a good first lap, I’d say. Now it’s on to the second.

_____________________________________________________________

NBIGP2013
The first tour site is this Saturday night’s New Balance Indoor Grand Prix in Boston’s Reggie Lewis Center.  I’m fortunate to be the house announcer for the meet.

In the featured men’s mile, 2011 World Championship bronze medalist Matthew Centrowitz, Jr. heads the field. There will also be both boy’s and girl’s junior miles, events which always light up the raucous New England fans.  The meet sold-out early, but you can watch it live on ESPN3 Feb. 2nd, and again on tape-delay on ESPN2 Sunday, Feb. 3, from 2-4 p.m. Eastern standard time.

Of course, the race that has everyone on the edge of their seats is the match up between Olympic 10,000m silver medalist Galen Rupp and his Olympic 5000 counterpart Dejen Gebremeskel of Ethiopia. These two battled three years ago at the Reggie over 5000m with both losing out to Bernard Lagat’s American record 13:11.50.  Gebremeskel took 2nd, Rupp a close fourth in what was his inaugural pro season.

But now they each hold Olympic hardware, and Rupp is coming off the fifth fastest indoor mile in history last week at the B.U. Invitational (3:50.92).  Gebremeskel will have to run something similar to his memorable one-shoe 3000 at the 2011 NBIGP meet where he bested now double Olympic champion Mo Farah in a final lap thriller.

This meet is not one to miss.

END

Run 2013 Virgin London Marathon in Support of Team Entoto

londonmarathonOrganizers of the sold out 2013 Virgin London Marathon have generously donated TWO entries to the Entoto Foundation.  Run one of the world’s most prestigious marathons and help a great cause!  The entries will go to the 2 highest “bidders” (people who commit to raise the largest amount of funds for Entoto.)  Funds can be raised by making a personal donation, receiving donations from friends and family in support of your run, or a combination of both.

Entoto will support you with a personal fundraising page that will be posted on our website and on Facebook.  Bidders must commit to raising funds of $2000 or more per entry.  Remember, this marathon is currently sold out!

And what a field London will have this year:  course record holders from all five World Marathon Majors, plus the 2012 Olympic Marathon champion Stephen Kiprotich of Uganda, and the world record holder Patrick Makau of Kenya.  In the women’s race you will see the highly anticipated marathon debut of the Ethiopia’s Tirunesh Dibaba, the triple Olympic gold medalist on the track and nine-time world champion who will take on four sub-2:20 performers from last year!

Be a part of history while helping ensure that someone without the same fortune of birth can better create a history of their own.

CLICK HERE to make a bid. It’s a win-win situation.

—————————————————————————————————–

Haile-Geb Marathon
And don’t forget that the Entoto Foundation has been named the official charity partner of the inaugural Haile Gebrselassie Marathon, coming this October 20th to Hawassa, Ethiopia. Experience a marathon hosted by history’s greatest runner.

END

(Disclaimer:  I am a board member of the Entoto Foundation)

MY CARD IS ME

ID Photo

My card is me,
rough-edged, numbered,
dated, stamped, required,
revoked, disputed,
reclaimed, smiling,
addressed, pictured,
heat-sealed and ruled.

Without my card,
you can’t see me.
Make all appointments
with Emma.

END

REMEMBERING THE CHALLENGER

28 January 1986

28 January 1986

The Challenger space shuttle exploded on this day 27 years ago. For those too young to remember, people immediately began comparing it to the Kennedy assassination.  Everyone remembers where they were when they first heard the news. The feelings were of an ecumenical loss.

The day after however the stories quickly turned to coping.  This was pre-9/11, pre-periodic shooting sprees like in Tucson, Aurora and Newtown.  There had been a long span between national tragedies when the Challenger suddenly exploded just 73-seconds after takeoff against a cobalt blue Florida sky.  As such why it had happened (an O-ring seal in its right solid rocket booster failed at liftoff) wasn’t really the issue. Only that it did happen.

Millions viewed the Challenger launch live because of the presence of crew member Christa McAuliffe, who was the first member of the Teacher in Space Project and the (planned) first female teacher in space. Media coverage of the accident was extensive: one study reported that 85 percent of Americans surveyed had heard the news within an hour of the accident. Accordingly, the media quickly centered on ‘how are the children taking this?’

As sad experience has since shown, this is almost always the way we’ve addressed such monumental loss, even more so today. Yet the sense then, as it remains today, is the more we ask, ‘how do you feel’ to the children, the more we question how it is we feel ourselves. Continue reading

A GRANDFATHER’S PRIDE

Sabrina Benavides & Grandad Alberto Bazan

Sabrina Benavides & Grandad Alberto Bazan (behind in the straw hat)

With rich dreams being brought to life yesterday in New York, Boston, and Glasgow by Mary Cain, Galen Rupp and Duane Solomon, each heralding a fruitful beginning to the 2016 Rio Olympic cycle, it was at a small all-comers meet in Chula Vista, California that I was again reminded of track’s enduring draw.  On a dreary Saturday morning at the San Diego Track Club’s Mid-Winter Track Classic I witnessed track’s profound but timeless connection to effort, exhaustion, joy and frustration, the likes of which transcend the fanciful vogues of the moment while linking generations in a manner that the tastes of the day never can.

Toya taking the 1000m

Toya Taking the 1000m

As wife Toya completed a finely paced victory in the 1000-meter run at Montgomery High School’s Al Prazak Stadium, my eye was drawn to a young competitor focused on her upcoming race as she was being advised by portly man many years her senior.

A seventh-grader at El Centro Junior High, 13 year-old Sabrina Benavides was running in just the second 3000 meter track race of her life. She had debuted at this very meet one year ago, notching a 12:07 time.  Since then she had run a 20:27 5K at the Cougar Invitational, the cross country meet staged by Cal State San Marcos head coach Steve Scott, the former American record holder in the mile. Holding court with Sabrina before the start of her race yesterday was Alberto Bazan, 61, of Imperial, California, her grandfather. Continue reading

DUBAI CHARGES INTO NEW YEAR, BUT WHAT’S THE NEXT STEP?

Ethiopia's Lelisa Desisa win Dubai

Ethiopia’s Lelisa Desisa wins Dubai

Yesterday’s 14th Standard Charter Dubai Marathon came out, on paper, as one of the most thrilling and historic in marathon history. In a final 800 meter flurry five men, led by debutante Lelisa Desisa, 23, of Ethiopia, crossed the line sub-2:05:00, one better than the record set in Dubai 2012. Four of the top five finishers were also debs at the distance, cementing the understanding that the sport has fundamentally changed from an experienced-based test of endurance to a youth-based examination of speed over distance.

Yet, as scintillating as it may look in today’s news accounts, to actually watch the 2013 Dubai Marathon unfold was like watching a benighted hunting party running headlong through the mists of a post-apocalyptic cityscape with “eyes dead white and sightless as the eggs of spiders”, as Cormac McCarthy so luridly wrote in The Road. Except for the celebrating crowd of flag-waving Ethiopians at the finish, the rest of early morning Dubai was as empty as a ghost-town, not a soul out along the dead-flat palm-lined course.

And though a pack stretching 17-deep or more ran together past half-way, there wasn’t one graphic on the computer screen listing who was who, not one split, not one close up shot of any individual in the pack. Meaning, if you didn’t have an already highly developed interest in the game, there would be no discernible reason whatsoever to invest your time. But somehow as long as the thousands come and pay their entry fees, and fast times are created, all is well.

This morning I had a long conversation with British sports agent Ricky Simms of Pace Sports Management. Among others, Simms represents Olympic kings Usain Bolt and Mo Farah. Continue reading

RACING WITH THE STARS?

The field lists for the winter and spring racing seasons are flooding out now as the sport begins to emerge from its turn-of-the-year hibernation. The Dubai Marathon goes off  tonight at 10 pm ET, while the Boston Marathon, London Marathon along with the New Balance Indoor Grand PrixMillrose Games and USATF National Cross Country Championships have recently released their talent-laden casts.  And just today Competitor Group announced double Olympic champion Mo Farah for their New Orleans Rock `n` Roll Half (with more top names to come, according to athlete coordinator Matt Turnbull.) Running afficionados are anxiously circling calendars and planning their travel and internet viewing accordingly.

At the same time, Entertainment Weekly posted an EXCLUSIVE story today informing us that the ABC reality series Dancing With the Stars has offered Lance Armstrong a spot on its upcoming spring season.  According to the EW story, Armstrong has declined the offer. That news comes on the heels of a similar story about troubled actress Lindsay Lohan who also turned down an appearance on DWTS (reportedly rejecting $550,000 in the process).

So, what’s the lesson here?

I had an email exchange with Millrose meet director Ray Flynn last week regarding the excellent fields that he’s put together for not only the showcase Wannamaker Mile, but for the Two Mile event, as well.  What I wanted to know was, “what needs to be done to gather interest beyond the athletics’ world bubble?  In other words, what are the stakes these athletes are racing for? Isn’t that the missing element when we try to engage the general public? Ok, a wonderful field has been assembled, but what’s the purpose of the race other than winning it? What’s the hook for those outside the sport?”

Ray replied: “The Millrose Games is in its 106th year. Having run it on six occasions, I am a big believer.  I think these kids like the idea of the big stage, we’ll set up a great race, and it’s good timing for them.  You may think I’m deflecting and that athletes only race for money. I don’t think so. They want to know that they will be part of something great! This will be a great race. The first time I got to race in Oslo, I would have slept on the floor.  All that mattered was that I had arrived on the big stage! It’s a show in the end.”

The key to that exchange was that Ray was still looking at his races through the eyes of an athlete; it’s what the races meant to them that counts. What I was wondering was what the races might mean to the public; why would they want to watch?
Continue reading

DEENA KASTOR RETURNS TO RACING WITH FULL SPRING SCHEDULE

Deena    American marathon record holder and 2004 Olympic bronze medalist Deena Kastor roared back into the news today.  Not only has Deena joined the Twitter Nation @DeenaKastor, but the St. Louis Sports Commission announced her participation in the USATF National Cross Country Championships on February 2nd – an event she has won eight times -  and the Los Angeles Marathon has also announced that they’ve signed Deena for its March 17th marathon. It’s arguably the biggest “get” in L.A.’s 28-year history.

“Deena is the most accomplished female American distance runner in history,” said LA Marathon Race Director Nick Curl in announcing Kastor’s participation.  “And to have her on the start line of the 2013 LA Marathon is tremendous. We believe that having an outstanding field of runners is part of creating a world-class race and delivering a top-tier experience for all participants.”

A number of factors worked in conjunction to lure Deena back to cross country and then to her first start at the marathon in LA.  First, LA is her hometown race.  She grew up in nearby Agoura Hills out along the Ventura Freeway.  Secondly, Deena has at least rudimentary experience on the Stadium-to-the-Sea LA course, as she ran as a mid-pack field reporter for the KTLA-TV5 coverage of the marathon last year. Also, her husband Andrew is the head of the LA RoadRunner’s Training program.  And finally, her shoe sponsor, Asics, is now the title sponsor of the Asics LA Marathon.

“With Andrew coaching the LA Marathon distance program, I got to know the whole team over the last year,” Deena told me from her home in Mammoth Lakes, California.  “The event has changed so much in the last few years. When I was growing up in Southern California, I remember watching the LA Marathon on TV, and seeing what a big deal it was. Mercedes was a sponsor, and my dad said, ‘maybe you can win me a car one day.’ But that was even before I started running.  So it will be fun to be able to run it now, though my mom and dad will be on a cruise that weekend, which is killing them now that they know I’ll be running.

“But last year I was involved with the TV coverage, and there was so much energy along the course, and I remember running down Hollywood Boulevard thinking, ‘I’d like to run this competitively sometime. The event really celebrates the city. And then Asics came in, too, and brought excitement and the level of involvement like in the New York City Marathon.”

But this won’t simply be a stroll down memory lane.  Kastor is in it to win it. That’s where the national cross country championship comes into play. Continue reading

PASSING OF A HERO

John Thomas

John Thomas

An ArmoryTrack.com news release has informed us that two-time Olympic high jump medalist John Thomas of Brockton, Massachusetts passed away Tuesday, January 15, 2013 at the age of 71.

A soft-spoken gentleman, Thomas was revered – especially in his native New England – as one of his sport’s most enduring icons.  He was also among a small cadre of personal boyhood heroes of mine, along with former mile record holder Jim Ryun, St. Louis Cardinals baseball star Stan Musial, and St. Louis Hawks basketball All-Star Bob Pettit.  With great fortune I got to know “JT” during my quarter-century living in Boston.  Meeting your heroes later in life and finding that they embody all the qualities you’d  imagined of them as a young fan is one of the pleasures life can offer.  Think of that legacy, alone, in today’s world of Lance Armstrong and Tiger Woods.

The following is from last March 25th’s High Jump Heroes which speaks to the seeds of a life long passion planted in a young boy’s heart by heroes like John Thomas and his great Russian rival Valery Brumel. Continue reading