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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RUNNING VS BOXING: CONNECTING WITH THE SPORTING PUBLIC

Foot racing and boxing are two of the world’s most ancient and primal forms of athletic competition. Over the last 24 hours we have witnessed two great sporting contests, one in each of those sports, both pitting titans of their respective disciplines against one another. But only one registered outside its own arena and industry.

Mayweather remains undefeated, whips Alvarez

Mayweather remains undefeated, whips Alvarez

Last night boxer Floyd “Money” Mayweather lived up to that moniker as he took home a guaranteed $41.5 million — with the potential payoff of $100m – winning a majority 12-round decision over 23 year-old Mexican superstar Saul Canello Alvarez at the MGM Grand Hotel in Las Vegas.  Though one judge inexplicably saw the bout as a draw, the other two judges — and the viewing public — saw a clear win for the 36 year-old Mayweather.  The fight was the pinnacle of a lavish three –month long build-up that developed the bout into one of, if not THE, richest fights in history.

2013 Great North podium, Mo Farah, Keninise Bekele, Haile G.

2013 Great North podium,, (l-r) Mo Farah, Kenenise Bekele, Haile G.

The foot race, the Bupa Great North Run, was staged in Newcastle, England where veteran Ethiopian track and cross country superstar Kenenise Bekele halted England’s favorite son Mo Farah from wresting the title ‘undisputed greatest runner in the world’ by holding off the reigning double Olympic and World Champion over the final 800 meters of the half-marathon distance.  For spice, the man renown as the Greatest Runner of All Time, 40 year-old master Haile Gebrselassie of Ethiopia more than held his head high, finishing a respectable third after leading the contest for much of the way while establishing a new master’s world best for the distance (60:41).

But while Mayweather vs Alvarez was watched by millions on pay-per-view TV at $65 (standard definition) and $75 (high def), the contest between three of the world’s greatest runners was seen on BBC domestically in England, but was unavailable for viewing in the USA other than through a hacker website.  Continue reading

STEP BY STEP

     In the classic Three Stooges episode, Slowly I Turned, first Mo – then Larry - smashes, hits, punches, and tears poor Curly’s clothing before knocking him to the ground, all for reminding him of his confrontation with Larry (then vice versa) in Niagra Falls over a woman.   After Curly innocently utters the offending city’s name, triggering the attacks, Mo and Larry’s refrain goes, “Niagra Falls! Slowly I turned, and step by step, inch by Inch…”  (Of course, all men can recite Stooges episodes by heart. Women think they are dumb. Men agree, but then remind them, “stupidity is the point. It’s purposeful stupidity, a whole different animal than the unintentional kind most often voiced by candidates running for President).

Well, Galen Rupp might not wear his hair in a bowler like Mo or a frizzed out ‘fro like Larry, but step by step, inch by inch the 25 year-old from Portland, Oregon is proving the American distance running equivalent the Stooges’ classic set piece.

Yes, I questioned the London 2012 Olympic medal chances of Mr. Rupp upon his seventh place finish in Daegu at the World Championships 5000 meters (RUPP‘S DILEMMA), but today at the final Samsung Diamond League meeting of the year in Brussels Rupp took another stride in his step-by-step, inch-by-inch approach to the London Olympic podium in the 10,000 meters. Continue reading