TOMMY LEONARD CELEBRATES 81ST BIRTHDAY

Tommy Leonard with Pittsfield, Ma. Hi School girls cross country team

Tommy Leonard with Pittsfield, Ma. Hi School girls cross country team

 

Falmouth, Ma. — Last year a multitude of fans and friends celebrated Falmouth Road Race founder Tommy Leonard‘s 80th birthday with a big surprise party at the Sea Crest Beach Hotel.  This year it was back to business as usual.  Last night Tommy was in his element hard along the bar at the Quarterdeck Restaurant on Main Street as old friends and new acolytes alike helped him toast his 81st birthday. As people wandered in to sign up for his 24th annual Falmouth Walk Saturday morning, like the pope of Falmouth Tommy sat atop his bar stool greeting visitors from far and wide.

“I cant’ hear anymore, and I can’t see,” said Tommy amidst sips from a savory brew. “But I can still laugh.”

Among those on hand were the girls of the Pittsfield, Mass. High School cross country team, led by their coach Theresa Apple. As the bar clogged and laughter rose, you could hear many a tall tale being told about the lovable guru of the Falmouth Road Race, and ex-barman of the legendary Eliot Lounge in Boston. But through it all Coach Apple’s story came as close to explaining the quality that has made T.L. such a rare paragon of the sport. Continue reading

FERGUSON, MO. – THE GAP BETWEEN LIVING AND STAYING

Unrest in Ferguson, Mo.

Unrest in Ferguson, Mo.

As civil unrest continues to tear apart my hometown of St. Louis, Missouri in the aftermath of last Saturday’s shooting of unarmed black teenager Michael Brown by a white police officer, I ran across a story I wrote, but never published, in 1996 back before personal blogs were around for just these kind of closely-held thoughts.

(Note:  this is not a running related post, so you may bail out here with that information in hand)

Back in the mid-1990s the country was in the opposing throes of the Rodney King and O.J. Simpson verdicts while trying to digest the meaning and value of the Million Man March.  In the ensuing years many other challenges and difficulties, both domestic and international, have arisen on the track of public consciousness.  But through it all, and here again with the suddenness of a piercing bullet, the issue of race has erupted to remind us how it  remains the central hurdle in America’s path toward the fulfillment of her founding charter.

Continue reading

IN THE BEGINNING

Arriving in Boston August 10, 1974

Arriving in Boston August 10, 1974

40 years ago today I arrived in Boston in a white, right-hand drive post office van as Richard Nixon was departing Washington in a green Chinook Marine helicopter. At age 26 I was escaping a failed marriage while at age 61 Nixon was fleeing a disgraced presidency.

Like Nixon I hadn’t a plan or a job to speak of, and held no prospects.  Unlike the dishonored ex-president I had nothing beyond the unalloyed confidence of youth and the unbounded belief of my generation that ours was a crossroads cohort, fated to a new set of values fostering brotherhood, unity and integrity.

It had taken me two days to drive the 1178 miles from my hometown of St. Louis, and as I pulled up in front of 61 Empire Street in the Allston section of Boston, the Allman Brothers hit Ramblin’ Man poured from my stereo like an ally of the warm summer sun.

My new home lay about a mile north of Harvard Square just a block off the Mass Turnpike.  Up on the corner at North Harvard Street sat the Merit Gas station where I had worked part-time the previous fall to make ends meet while on a five-month visit.  But this time I was here to stay, so no gas station work for me.  Besides, the Arab oil embargo was in full swing, and the lines out the station sometimes stretched for block after block.

Now, as I turned off the sturdy slant-six motor of my reconverted van, my new roommate, Patrick, bounded down the stoop with a joint fired up.

“Hey, Reavis!” he said, extending the sweet-scented memory cleanser to me from behind a wide grin. “Welcome to Boston.” Continue reading

2014 MAINE TRAVELS

It is back to Southern California today after our annual week in Maine for the TD Beach to Beacon 10K.  On our final day in the Pinetree state Toya and I joined our hosts Bill & Linda Nickerson on a day trip to New Harbor, Bristol, Brunswick and Christmas Cove in South Bristol.  Here are some of the sights.

 

Pemaquid Lighthouse

Pemaquid Lighthouse

Pemaquid Lighthouse

Pemaquid Lighthouse

Entrance to Pemaquid Lighthouse

Entrance

Spiraling up Pemaquid Lighthouse

Spiraling up

1000-watt lamp in Pemaquid Lighthouse

1000-watt lamp in Pemaquid Lighthouse

View from Pemaquid Light

View out to Pemaquid Point

Old life preserver

Old life preserver

New Harbor dock

New Harbor dock

Lobster boat

Lobster boat

Maine coast cottage

Maine coast cottage

Phonetics

Phonetics

Clams, anyone?

Clams, anyone?

Lobster Roll?

Lobster Roll and Chowdah?

Christmas Cove, South Bristol

Christmas Cove, South Bristol

Toya, Bill & Linda

Toya, Bill & Linda… See you next year.

REMEMBERING JOANIE, LOS ANGELES 1984

A Win for the Ages

A Win for the Ages

There is no champion like time itself.  Nothing moves as swiftly, nor as relentlessly.  It will outrun us all one day.  Yet it is hard to believe it has been thirty years since Joan Benoit won the inaugural Women’s OIympic Marathon in Los Angeles, California August 5, 1984. But calendars are rather dispassionate, not in the habit of subjective reckoning.

In the dark ages before the internet, or wide spread coverage of running, when Joan raced to a 2:22:43 win at the 1983 Boston Marathon — nearly three minutes faster than Norwegian great Grete Waitz’s world record set the day before in London at 2:25:29 — there were many who chose to believe there were other factors in play beyond the steely-eyed drive and talent of the Cape Elizabeth, Maine native.

This past week as Joanie welcomed thousands of runners to her 17th TD Beach to Beacon 10K, the hometown race she founded that traverses one of her old training loops, it is particularly timely to look back to where we stood those 30 years ago when women were about to first express their talents over the classic Olympic running distance. Continue reading

FAMILY AFFAIR AT TD BEACH TO BEACON 10K

Cape Elizabeth, ME. — The sport of road racing, especially here in New England where the tradition is so deeply-seated, has always been much more than simply a competition from Point A to Point B.  In the olden days before money and sponsors came into the sport at current levels road trips and shared housing was the standard.  Thus one of the throwback pleasures of Joanie Samuelson’s TD Beach to Beacon 10K in her hometown of Cape Elizabeth, Maine is the tradition of housing invited athletes and guests with local families. This was the 14th  year that we have been lucky enough to return to the home of Bill and Linda Nickerson, who have become dear friends over those years, as have their children Julie and Geoff.   That feeling is universal among the professional athletes who cherish an invitation to this most quintessential of New England races.  Throughout the weekend the pre and post-race activities are a reflection of the family atmosphere Joanie has engendered.   The pictures below give a taste of the quality of what has made the New England running community so special through the years, and why an invite to the TD B2B is so highly prized.

Our hosts Bill & Linda Nickerson

Our hosts Bill & Linda Nickerson

Toya with Hawi Keflezighi and brother Meb's host family Bill & Deena DeSena at Lobster Bake

Toya with Meb’s brother Hawi Keflezighi and host family Bill & Dena DeSena at the post-race Lobster Bake

Boston Marathon champion Meb Keflezghi with Julie Nickerson

Boston Marathon champion Meb Keflezghi (wearing his Boston Strong scarf) with Julie Nickerson

Ethiopian star Markos Geneti with his family who he hadn't seen since April

Ethiopian star Markos Geneti made B2B a reunion as he hadn’t been with his family since April.  He finished 8th on Saturday

Joanie's coach from back in the day, Bob Sevene, with race director par excellence Dave McGillivray

“Uh-huh,” thinks race director par excellence Dave McGillivray as he reminisces with Joanie’s coach from back in the day Bob Sevene

The main course

The main course clinging to the cob

B2B legacy runner Jeff Berman (he's run all 17) with Ethiopia's Patrick Makau, 4th in 2014 B2B and former marathon world record holder who ran his first B2B

B2B legacy runner Jeff Berman (he’s run all 17) hosted Kenya’s Patrick Makau, the former marathon world record holder who ran 4th in his first B2B 10K

Top end bean bag competition at Jeff an Kerri Berman's party

Top notch bean bag competition at Jeff and Kerri Berman’s post-race party

Hanging on the wall at "Beach to Bacon", the annual gathering at Kirk and Nancy Pond's place

Hanging on the wall at “Beach to Bacon”, Kirk and Nancy Pond’s annual race day gathering as the ice cream truck draws a crowd along the lane

B2B's oldest finisher Dotti Gray, 89, of Kirkwood, Missouri with daughter Mary (left) and daughter-in-law Karen Bauer both of whom live in Cape Elizabeth

Beneath the Pond’s party tent at Beach to Bacon, B2B 10K’s oldest finisher Dottie Gray, 89, of Kirkwood, Missouri  — multiple time Johnny Kelley Award winner — flanked by daughter Mary (left) and daughter-in-law Karen Bauer both of whom live in Cape Elizabeth

Beach to Bacon treats

Beach to Bacon treats are a sweet but sticky hit

The boys found their way to the ice ream truck, too

The boys found their way to the ice ream truck and face painter, too

Such faces

Such faces!

BAA executive director Tom Grilk with board member Gloria Ratti, wife Nancy, and Joanie at Candace Karu's host family party

Boston Athletic Association executive director Tom Grilk with BAA board member Gloria Ratti, wife Nancy, and Joanie at Candace Karu’s host family welcome party

Bob Barnaby (left) with hostess Candace Karu and Paul Daley

Bob Barnaby (left) with Spring Cove hostess Candace Karu listening to another tall tale from Paul “The Ghost” Daley

Close neighbors at Bill and Linda Nickerson's place

Close neighbors chatting us up at Bill and Linda Nickerson’s place off Shore Road along mile 4 of the race course

The source of unending entertainment who take so little room, Mini Nickerson

The source of unending entertainment who takes up so little room, Mini Nickerson

Big tent at post-race Lobster Bake

Big tent at post-race Lobster Bake

Another wonderful year at the TD Beach to Beacon. Thanks to Cape Elizabeth for being such gracious hosts.  Till 2015...

Another wonderful year at the TD Beach to Beacon 10K. Thanks to Joanie and Cape Elizabeth for being such gracious hosts. Till 2015…

END

 

2014 TD BEACH TO BEACON 10K VIEWS FROM THE LEAD TRUCK

Cape Elizabeth, ME. —  The 17th TD Beach to Beacon 10K produced gut churning races and personal bests galore despite humidity that was as thick as a Downeast Mainers accent  in the hometown to race founder Joan Benoit Samuelson.

While calling the race from the men’s lead vehicle I had my trusty Sony camera in hand, and though I’m no Victah in terms of photog excellence, the pics below at least capture some of the intensity on display.  With the Lobster Bake still on the evening docket, I’ll have to wait till the morrow to write a more complete appraisal of the day’s events. Till then…

 

Ready to Roll near Crescent Beach State Park

Ready to Roll near Crescent Beach State Park

 

The goal, Portland Head Light at Fort Williams Park, oldest commissioned light house in America

The goal, Portland Head Light at Fort Williams Park, oldest commissioned light house in America

Race Founder Joan Benoit Samuelson addresses the field.

Race Founder Joan Benoit Samuelson addresses the field.

Kenya's Bedan Karoki leads them out, 4:20 first mile.

Kenya’s Bedan Karoki leads them out, 4:20 first mile.

North Yarmouth, Maine native Ben True hangs with the pack.

North Yarmouth, Maine native Ben True hangs with the pack.  Training partner Sam Chelanga up front #7.

Pack well formed

Pack well formed with Karoki stating his case early

 

Two miles 8:49, 4:29 split.  Bedan Karoki,

Two miles 8:49, 4:29 split. #6 Bedan Karoki, #14 Stephen Kibet, #7 Sam Chelanga, #1 defending champion Micah Kogo, stiped shirt Patrick Makau, hidden behind Kogo is Emmanuel Bett with Ben True holding strong.

Two year 4th placer Stephen Kibet, #14, moves into front row.

Two year 4th placer Stephen Kibet, #14, moves into front row.

Kibet and Karoki pull away on Old Ocean House Road after 13:43 5K, Ben True and Patrick Makau behind

Kibet and Karoki pull away on return to Rte. 77 after 13:43 5K split on Old Ocean House Road, Ben True and Patrick Makau behind

 

5K in 13:43

Kibet pressuring Karoki with True and Patrick Makau in 3rd and 4th.  Kibet was 4th in 2013 and 2012, 2nd in 2010.  Karoki has Pr’d at 5000, 10,000, and half marathon in 2014, winning World’s Best 10k and Lisbon Half among others.

Heading toward 4 miles

Heading toward 4 miles

Strung out along Shore Road

Strung out along Shore Road, Kibet on the accelerator

Joanie's likeness adorns the Portland Head Light, two of the most famous icons in Maine.

Joanie’s likeness adorns the Portland Head Light, two of the most famous icons in Maine.

Ben True in 3rd

Ben True in 3rd

4 miles passes in 17:38, 4:23 4th mile. Ben True now into third place along Shore Road.

4 miles passes in 17:38, 4:23 4th mile. Ben True hanging tought along Shore Road. Kibet trying like mad to put some distance on Karoki.

The battle joined

The battle joined

An intense battle for the lead between Karoki and Kibet.

The intensity of full out racing rages between Karoki and Kibet.

Toya and our host family, Bill and Linda Nickerson await at the finish with Meb's wife Yordanos just behind with daughters Sara and Fiyori.

Toya and our host family, Bill and Linda Nickerson await at the finish with Meb’s wife Yordanos just behind with daughters Sara and Fiyori and Yohana.

After a 4:18 5th mile set him free Bedan Karoki continues his hot streak winning 2014 B2B in 27:37, third fastest in race history.

After a 4:18 5th mile set him free Bedan Karoki continues his hot streak winning 2014 B2B in 27:37, third fastest in race history.

Stephen Kibet done in by his effort, second place for the second time at B2B 27:43 a new PR.

Stephen Kibet done in by his effort, second place for the second time at B2B 27:43 a new PR.

Dartmouth grad Ben True powers home in 3rd in 27:50, continuing his ascent toward the top.

Dartmouth grad Ben True powers home in 3rd in 27:50, continuing his ascent toward the top. It’s the fastest 10K by an American since Mark Nenow in the 1980s

How hard is the effort, you might wonder?  This picture tells the tale.  Joanie remembers the feeling well.

How hard is the effort, you might wonder? This picture tells the tale. Places  1,2,and 4 laid out while Ben True, 3rd, staggers to remain upright as Joanie remembers the feeling well

Last year's runner up Gemma Steel of England one-steps New England's own Shalane Flanagan for the women's title. Both are timed in 31:27.

Last year’s runner up Gemma Steel of England one-steps New England’s own Shalane Flanagan for the women’s title. Both are timed in 31:27.

The coast of Maine greets the 6000+ finishers at Fort Williams Park at one of road running's most iconic finishes.

The coast of Maine greets the 6000+ finishers at Fort Williams Park at one of road running’s most iconic finishes.

2014 TD BEACH TO BEACON 10K PREVIEW

11B2Blogo

The 2014 TD Beach to Beacon 10K professional fields gathered at the elegant Inn by the Sea in Cape Elizabeth, Maine this morning to be introduced to the media one day before the 17th running of the classic road race founded by local girl made good Joan Benoit Samuelson. Three times in its first 16 years the rolling B2B 10K has produced the fastest road 10K of the year, including in 2003 when Gilbert Okari of Kenya established the standing course record of 27:28. This year the best mark for the distance is held by Wilson Kiprono Too of Kenya while winning the Laredo 10K in Spain March 22nd in 27:39.

With defending champion and 2008 Olympic 10,000m bronze medalist Micah Kogo (28:02) leading another strong east African contingent, depending on how aggressive the field is, that world-leading time may again come under pressure on the rolling, but net downhill layout. Continue reading

BIX 7 CELEBRATES 40TH WITH U.S. CHAMPIONSHIP

Bix14 signDavenport, IA. — The 40th Quad City Times Bix 7 Road Race crowned USA 7 Mile Road Champions today as it doubled as the national 7 Mile championship for the fourth time.  Under overcast skies but high humidity Boulder, Colorado’s Sean Quigley and Providence, Rhode Island’s Molly Huddle emerged as champions, taking home $12,500 first place checks.  Quigley’s winning time of 33:28 was the slowest since Bill Rodgers first visit to the Quad Cities in 1980 (33:58), while Molly Huddle’s 36:14 represented the fastest American time ever run on the undulating, out-and-back Bix course, and fourth fastest in event history.

Christo Landry (l) & Sean Quigley (r) battle down Brady Street in final mile

Christo Landry (l) & Sean Quigley (r) battle stride for stride down Brady Street in final mile

Sean Quigley’s margin over runner up Christo Landry of Ann Arbor, Michigan was just four seconds as the two battled down Brady Street onto Third Street for the final three block sprint to the tape.  Former University of Wisconsin Badger Maverick Darling finished a surprising third in his first major road race (33:43).

Molly Huddle’s margin over California’s Sara Hall was 1:07, as the race was for second place, not first.  For Molly it was a second Bix title to go along with her 2009 win.  She had a ten second lead after the first mile, and never was challenged.  Of course, Molly arrived in the Quad Cities after breaking her own American record for 5000 meters Friday before last in Monaco (14:42.64), so the odds were long that anyone could match her, especially on a course where she had already had success.

Two-time Bix champion Meb Keflezighi made his first return to serious racing since his memorable win at the Boston Marathon this spring.  Meb, understandably, has been on an extended victory tour since his historic Patriots’ Day race, and hasn’t been able to hunker down and do the training he normally would for an event like the Bix 7.

Notwithstanding, Meb led the men’s pack through five miles until a balky hamstring began to tighten up on one of Kirkwood Boulevard’s stiff hills.  Meb soon got dropped as Quigley, Landry, Stephen Pifer and Maverick Darling began to pull away. By six miles Meb was by the side of the road retching.  So much for what have you done for me lately, huh.

“I’m a realistic guy,’’ Meb told QC Times sports editor Don Doxsie after his 12th place finish. “I knew I wasn’t in peak, peak form.’’

None of that seemed to bother any of the hordes of runners coming to ask for his autograph at the finish line party, though, as Meb has inherited the mantle of America’s favorite runner from Boston and Bix Billy Rodgers who has been coming to Davenport every year since 1980, and helped put the race on the map.  Joan Benoit Samuelson ran one minute faster this year than last to win her 13th master’s title at the Bix to go along with her four open titles.  At age 57 Joan ran 43:38, 6:13 pace for the seven hilly miles!

Thousands climb Brady Street Hill

Thousands climb Brady Street Hill in the opening mile

Meb will be heading east to Joanie’s popular Beach to Beacon 10K next weekend in Cape Elizabeth, Maine, and then down to Cape Cod for the Falmouth Road Race two weeks later. But there is another accolade heading his way on August 5th when he and wife Yordanos will fly down to Washington D.C. to be guests of President Obama at a White House dinner for the U.S. – Africa Leaders Summit.  It will be an historic gathering representing the first time a sitting U.S. president will host all the leaders of Africa to a single event to discuss issues of interest to the continent and the U.S.

*

With retiring KWQC Sports Director T.C. Cornelis broadcasting his 35th straight Bix 7

With retiring KWQC Sports Director T.C. Cornelis (r) broadcasting his 35th straight Bix 7

As I prepared to host the award’s ceremony with Thom Cornelis after our KWQC-TV6 live broadcast, I checked through the top ten finishers to make a note beside each name to announce to the crowd gathered outside the Quad City Times building.  All the names, save one, were familiar.  In 10th place in the women’s category was a 29 year-old runner from Evanston, Illinois wearing bib #423 named Laura Batterink.

#423 finishes top ten in a national championship?  Though she was rail thin, and elite looking, I had never seen this woman before, nor did I recognize her name.  So I had to go find out who she was.

No wonder I didn’t know her.

“I never ran in high school or college,” she told me behind the stage.  “I began running for recreation about ten years ago two or three times a week for a half-hour. Then when I moved to Evanston I joined the Evanston Running Club to meet people, and they told me I was pretty fast.”

10th place finisher Laura Batterink

10th place finisher Laura Batterink

You think?  Laura is a post-doctoral student in cognitive neuroscience at Northwestern.  Originally from outside Toronto she took her undergrad degree from Middlebury College in Vermont, then did her graduate work at the University of Oregon.

So with a brain like that, and background at a place like Eugene, Oregon, otherwise known as Track Town USA, you never considered you might be good at a sport that has you finishing top ten in a national championship?

“I played soccer a little growing up, and my dad might have been a good runner, if he ran,” Laura admitted with a smile. “But I feel now like maybe I can compete against and maybe get to these ladies’ level.  I’m doing around 70-75 miles a week. 80 is the highest I have ever done.  I didn’t push too hard at the beginning. I’m not used to hills.  At some point somebody told me I was in 10th or 11th, so I just pushed it trying not to get passed at the end.”

Laura finished 12-seconds behind Clara Santucci, the 2014 Pittsburgh Marathon champion.  She will take on the Big Sur Half Marathon in November after running the Canadian 10K Championship in October.

“I’m not thinking about the marathon yet, but I am enthused about running one eventually.  Yeah, I guess this is the biggest achievement of my career, though I really haven’t really had one yet.”

Laura did compete in the Canadian Half Marathon Championship in April in Montreal.  She finished fourth in 1:16.  She has two more years of study at Northwestern before looking for a faculty job.  Who knows what kind of running career she will have assembled by then?

The Bix 7 began with just 84 runners in 1975. Since then more than half-million participants have beat their feet along the seven miles climbing off the banks of the Mississippi River in Davenport, Iowa. Truly, it is one of the classics of the American road revolution.

END