TRACK COMES TO U.S. NAVAL BASE SAN DIEGO

FullSizeRender(48)San Diego, CA. — Even as the world celebrates the pinnacle of the art form in Beijing at the 15th IAAF World Track & Field Championships, we are reminded that each and every one of the athletes representing their nation’s colors in China began their journey on an anonymous oval where the top prize arrived upon the smile of Mom or a “Well done” from Dad, and where personal goals created podiums of pride long before the world at large ever took notice.

Last night those smiles, “well dones” and personal satisfactions returned to the old U.S. Navy Base San Diego track for the first time in a generation as San Diego Track Club coach Paul Greer and his merry band of tracksters organized the first competitive track and field meeting in over 25 years at the home port of the Pacific Fleet since 1920. Continue reading

MEB GETS NIPPED AT THE LINE, BUT COLLECTS TWO AMERICAN RECORDS AT ROCK `n’ ROLL

18th Suja Rock `n` Roll San Diego

18th Suja Rock `n` Roll San Diego

San Diego, CA. — A minor controversy attended Meb Keflezighi’s introduction to the master’s category today at the 18th Suja Rock `n Roll Marathon & Half-Marathon. Though Meb won the USATF Master’s Half-Marathon championship, and established two U.S. road records along the way, he was out-kicked in the final 100 meters by 27 year-old Zambian native Jordan Chipangama who trains out of Flagstaff, Arizona, 62:27 to 62:29.

The controversy centered on Chipangama, who was brought in to pace the efforts of Matt Llano (4th), Shadrack Biwott (3rd) and Josphat Boit (6th), all clients of manager Josh Cox. Meb, however, was not privvy to Chipangama’s role as pacer, and raced as if the Northern Arizona University grad was a regular competitor.

After breaking away from the small pack at two miles and building as much as a 12-second advantage through eight, Meb got caught between miles 9 and 10, and then lost to Chipangama in the final sprint. Continue reading

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

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