I WANT A NEW DRUG – CHICAGO DROPS PACERS

Bannister on his way to history's first sub-4:00 mile

Bannister on his way to history’s first sub-4:00 mile

After a decade long assault, the sport of athletics hit the sweet spot with its dopamine release on 6 May 1954 at Iffley Road track in Oxford, England. It was on that steel gray day that Roger Bannister broke the 4:00 barrier in the mile. Paced by Chris Chataway and Chris Brasher, Bannister’s Everestian effort hooked the sport on sweet time, and it has been dependent on its pace suppliers ever since.

At each IAAF Diamond League meeting, every event over 400 meters is a paced affair as time is the primary goal. Yet come the World Championships or Olympics, where pacing is removed and rounds are conducted to earn a place in the medal round, we tend to see wildly imbalanced racing efforts.  In part, because the pressure is different. It isn’t can or can’t you, rather what and when you.  No just raw horsepower, but tactical control of that power. We all know how to run.  But we have to learn how to race.

Today, we learn that the B.A. Chicago Marathon has decided to end its dependence on pacers, joining Boston and New York City among the Abbott World Marathon Majors in the non-paced category.

Carey Pinkowski, Chicago Marathon

Carey Pinkowski, Chicago Marathon

“The thing with this is we try to set up a world record every year,” said long-time race director Carey Pinkowski, “but we never get close. It (pacing) is like a prop. So get rid of the prop. It’s a race. So if they go out at six minute pace, so what?” Continue reading

DEFLATED IN COURT?

DeflateGateThough the Symmonds Matter has managed to leak into the public sphere, let there be no doubt as to which sport’s legal case the population is riveted.  Deflate-Gate hit federal court today in Manhattan where the long unraveling of each side’s case began before Judge Richard M. Berman.

The judge had requested that the NFL and NFL Player’s Association meet prior to today’s hearing to discuss or even come to a settlement.  That didn’t happen. So Judge Berman conducted an open court hearing followed by a closed-door session in an attempt to get the two sides closer to doing for themselves what he will eventually do for them if they can’t work it out for themselves. Continue reading

SOUTH CAROLINA COACH EXPANDING YOUTH RUNNING OPPORTUNITIES

Emanuel A.M.E. Church

Emanuel A.M.E. Church

Both the state of South Carolina and the sport of athletics (track and field) are going through a particularly trying patch right now, though hardly on a par with one another.

In the Palmetto State the issue at hand has been the status of the Confederate Battle Flag, a polarizing symbol that has come under renewed scrutiny in the wake of the tragic shooting of nine at Charleston’s Emanuel A.M.E. Church by racist provocateur Dylann Roof.

In athletics the sides-divider it isn’t nearly as important, which is not to say that the allegations of rules bending, substance manipulation, and counter charges that continue to circle the Nike Oregon Project and its coach Alberto Salazar at the USATF Nationals is inconsequential within the realm of its own limits.

Through it all, opposing sides have been divided, opinions cemented, and reputations tarnished. Of course, due to the already significant loss of interest in the sport over the last 25 years, the mainstream press has yet to shine its blinding light beneath our particular little rock. No, there are way too many worms wriggling beneath Tom Brady’s Deflate-gate appeal and analyzing who did well or ill at the recent NBA draft. Continue reading

A FRIEND IN NEED

Even as the running world goes all sideways with allegations of wrongdoing and such, the “real world” continues to spin, though often uncontrollably.  Got a message from Charlie Rodgers yesterday, brother of marathon legend Bill, telling of an old friend Leo Lashock who lost his house, belongings, and three of his dogs to a fire in Willow, Alaska last Sunday.  The irony is that Leo, who used to work at the old Bill Rodgers Running Center in Boston, is a captain at the local fire department in Willow, and the house he lived in burned down while he was fighting the Sockeye wildfire as it rapidly spread in the Susitna Valley.
Below are the particulars.  Help is needed.
We are just getting started here – Anything you can give will be a great help to Leo & his dogs!  His neighbors were able to save 17 of Leo’s dogs.  

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RON CLARKE DEAD AT 78

Ron Clarke

Ron Clarke

Like so many other athletics fans world-wide, I note with sadness the passing of Australian great Ron Clarke, who died earlier today of kidney failure at a private hospital on the Gold Coast, where Clarke had served as mayor from 2004 — 2012. He was 78.

In memoriam I re-post a column from November 2013 that featured Mr. Clarke.

“DON’T TRAIN TOO HARD, DON’T MAKE IT TOO EASY”

END

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

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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