ONE YEAR LATER: COMPETITION BACK AT COMPETITOR GROUP / ATHLETE BIZ SHOWS JETER THE WAY

One year ago the big story in the sport was Competitor Group Inc.’s decision to significantly cut its elite athlete program just weeks before the Rock ‘n’ Roll Philadelphia Half Marathon. Ex-CGI CEO Scott Dickey wrote in this blog at that time: “We will always welcome the elites, we are just not going to spend in excess of 7-figures annually to simply have them show up. It represents a disconnect from the brand and the very promise of participating in a RnR event. We’re going to reinvest those dollars into entertainment, the experience, more staff to execute more flawlessly, and in our continued efforts to increase participation.”

A major backlash arose in the wake of that decision, and by year’s end Mr. Dickey had left Competitor Group while former golf executive David Abales quietly took the reins in early 2014.  Now, in the fall of 2014 CGI has not only reversed its direction of a year ago, it has ramped up its overall support for the professional end of the game significantly, returning it to the ranks of major players in the game. Continue reading

ATLANTA 10 Miler INTRODUCES UNIQUE CHALLENGE

Rich Kenah, Ex. Dir. Atlanta Track Club

Rich Kenah, Ex. Dir. Atlanta Track Club

There was good evidence to believe that the Atlanta Track Club’s hiring of Rich Kenah as its executive director this past February would pay dividends — just as the Asics Los Angeles Marathon’s hiring of former ATC Executive Director Tracey Russell to its newly created position of CEO has pumped new life into that organization as well.

As a two-time 800-meter bronze medalist at the World Championships (once indoors, once outdoors), the former Georgetown track star and long-time partner at Global Athletics, the Boston-based firm that stages top flight indoor and outdoor track meets and represents a stable of world-class athletes, brought a wealth of presentational experience and new perspectives to Atlanta. And it has been clear that Kenah hit the job running, as in his short tenure the ATC brand has noticeably broadened. Now, another innovation has been created which challenges both top class and average speed runners alike. Continue reading

STATUE DEDICATION FOR JOHN J. KELLEY

John "The Younger Kelley

John J. “The Younger” Kelley

He didn’t finish his first Boston Marathon in 1949, but over the next two decades Connecticut’s John J. Kelley would become the face of American marathoning in another era — like our own — when international athletes dominated the Boston winner’s circle. What’s more, this two-time Olympian remains the only member of the Boston Athletic Association to win the club’s most famous race, though he would finish second five times, only two less than his namesake, but not relative, John A. Kelley, the man known as “Old Kel” to differentiate him from “Young John”.

But racing wasn’t John’s sole legacy to the sport. When his competitive days were over the man many believe to be the father of modern American distance running became a mentor to dozens if not hundreds of dedicated acolytes. Thus, since John’s death three years ago at age 80, friends and admirers have worked tirelessly to commemorate the life and legacy of this special man. This Sunday September 21st, a bronze statue of Young John (and his dog Brutus) will be unveiled at 56 West Main Street, Mystic, Connecticut, right next to Mystic Pizza.

Six former winners of the Boston Marathon are expected to join in the unveiling and dedication, including 1968 Boston Marathon champion Amby Burfoot, who was coached and taught by Kelley; Bill Rodgers, Amby’s college roommate at Wesleyan who won Boston four times between 1975 and 1980; Geoff Smith, 1984 & `85 Boston champion; and Jack Fultz, the 1976 winner. On the women’s side, three-time winner Sara Mae Berman (1969-71) and Nina Kuscsik the 1972 winner will attend. Local TV station WTNH had the story.

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SOUTH AFRICA TO STAGE FIRST EVER GLOBAL ATHLETICS CONFERENCE

 SouthAfrica Conference logo
Yesterday (3 Sept. 2014) KwaZulu-Natal Athletics announced that it will stage a world first annual international athletics conference in Durban, RSA to up-skill and equip athletics stakeholders as South Africa contemplates bidding for mega global events such as the Commonwealth and Olympic Games.

The Global Athletics Conference (@GAC_2014), which will be an annual event, and will take place on 14 and 15 November 2014, bringing some of the foremost athletics and sports business professionals to Durban to engage with delegates from across Africa.

Among the key note speakers secured are four-time Olympic medallist Mr Ato Boldon; double Olympic Gold medallist Dame Kelly Holmes; award-winning American running commentator Mr Toni Reavis; Marketing Director of Adidas International Mr Spencer Nel, Chairman of Repucom Mr Kelvin Watt and Head of Sponsorship at SABMiller, Mr Errol Madlala.   Additional speakers and panelists will be announced in the run-up to the event, which will be held at the Sibaya Conference Centre outside Umhlanga, Durban. Continue reading

HOW IMPORTANT ARE HEROES?

jim-ryunSI   There will be an interesting test this Thursday evening in San Diego as the running community gathers to celebrate and commemorate the 50th anniversary of Jim Ryun’s first high school sub-4:00 mile.  Local leaders Paul Greer, Tracy Sundlun and Josh Cox joined with Jim Ryun to stage the celebration at the former Balboa Stadium – now home to the San Diego High School Cavers – where Jim ran one of his most iconic races as a high school senior.

It was at the 1965 AAU National Track & Field Championships where the lanky senior from Wichita East High School in Kansas lined up against a truly world-class field in front of 20,000 fans (when track could draw that kind of crowd outside the confines of Hayward Field in Eugene, Oregon.)

On the heels of Dr. Roger Bannister‘s celebrated first sub-4:00 mile in 1954, Ryun became the twelfth member of the exclusive sub-4 club as a high school junior on June 5, 1964.  Running 3:59.0 while finishing eighth at the Compton Invitational just six weeks after his 17th birthday Ryun became a national sensation.  The following year in San Diego Ryun not only notched another sub-4:00 mile, he WON the national championship in an American record 3:55.3!  And he did it by out-gunning the reigning Olympic gold and silver medalists from Tokyo 1964, Peter Snell of New Zealand and Josef Odlozil of Czechoslovakia, and then American record holder Jim Grelle!  It was the performance of a generation, and still resonates a half-century later.

“Imagine an American high school kid doing that today,” marveled Marty Liquori, himself a member of the five-man U.S. high school sub-4:00 club. “An American  record in the national championship against the Olympic champion?  It would be impossible.” Continue reading

STUDENTS RUN LA CELEBRATES 25th IN STYLE

SRLA in Griffith Park training for 2014 Asics LA Marathon

SRLA in Griffith Park training for 2014 Asics LA Marathon

Much of life is self-fulfilling prophecy.  If you don’t think you can do something, you tend to be correct 100% of the time.  But if you do believe, Ah!, then no horizon seems beyond your reach.  In many ways, and in many lives, the marathon has been the perfect metaphor to illustrate this point.

Last night one of the most notable programs in the marathon world celebrated its 25th anniversary with a gala dinner at the posh Intercontinental Hotel in L.A.’s Century City.  Amidst a crowd of several hundred that included city leaders, school officials, program graduates, L.A. Marathon staffers, and long-time supporters, Students Run L.A. (SRLA) recognized the fruits of its first quarter century while seeding the next generation to follow.

The gala could not have been farther from the hard streets of L.A. on which over 54,000 at-risk secondary school students have trained for and completed the Asics L.A. Marathon as part of the SRLA program.   But the distance between the two worlds has now been shown to be illusory, as well, as thousands of SRLA program graduates today move easily between who they once were and what they have now become. Continue reading

NUMBERING UP BEKELE’S MARATHON DEBUT

2014 Paris Marathon champion Keninisa Bekele

2014 Paris Marathon champion Keninisa Bekele

After 31 year-old track and cross country champion Keninisa Bekele’s superb marathon debut in Paris today, 2:05:03 — course record, sixth fastest debut in history, fastest first-time marathon ever by a man over 30 — I thought it would be interesting to look ahead by looking back.  After all, records are the lattice upon which the sport of athletics grow, while giving fans a chance to compare and contrast athletes of different eras in much the same way baseball fans compare stats across time (at least until the steroid era kind of ruined that).

Before we glance back, however, let us look into the very near future as we await another highly anticipated debut, that of England’s own double Olympic track champion Mo Farah.   Also 31,, the 2012 5000 & 10,000m Olympic gold medalist will hope to thrill the home crowd at the Virgin Money London Marathon. And he will know how high the Bekele standard has been set.   But while Paris was a showcase for Bekele with a very good, but not great field, and his manager Jos Hermens riding alongside on a motorbike, Mo will have to negotiate a field of steely-eyed killers, record holders, and Olympic medalists in London.

So while Keninisa was able to pull free of his competition after 25k on his way to victory in Paris, one can expect Mo to be challenged much later into London’s 42 kilometer soiree next Sunday. At the same time, London is historically a faster layout than Paris, so it will be difficult to make a direct apples-to-apples comparison between the two.  But why should that stop us from having some fun with numbers?

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