THE NEED FOR WHITE HATS V. BLACK HATS

Tesfaye Abera wins in Dubai

Tesfaye Abera wins in Dubai over defender Birhanu

Last night’s Standard Charter Dubai Marathon showed in microcosm all the strengths as well as all the weaknesses confronting foot racing as public spectacle. From a purely athletic standpoint it was a terrific show with 23 year-old unknown Tesfaye Abera of Ethiopia coming back in the final 500 meters to sling shot past defending champion Hayle Lemi Berhanu by nine seconds in 2:04:24 to notch a five-minute PR!

But except for a small, but enthusiastic gathering of Ethiopian ex-pats at the finish, the dead flat, three-turned Dubai course layout was as empty as the Revlon makeup counter at the local mosque.

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"Money" Mayweather bling

“Money” Mayweather bling

Say what you will about Floyd ‘Money’ Mayweather, the recently retired-now unretired boxing champion (and richest sportsman in the world in 2015), the guy could sell the be-jeezus out of his fights. People just hated the guy with a passion for his swaggering, make-it-rain lifestyle, his pimped up, iced-out persona. And boy, did the people want to see him get his ass handed to him. The fact that none of his opponents could knock his block off just made his next fight sell all the more pay-per-view buys. The guy could sell the sh*t out of his fights.

But the fact is, however you chose to see Mayweather – and his numerous trips to court to defend his treatment of women gave validity to the charge he wasn’t putting on that much of a show, he might actually have been a bit of a d*ck after all – a sport needs its Black Hats to gin up interest going up against the good guy White Hats to promote the game. Continue reading

RYAN HALL ANNOUNCES RETIREMENT

Ryan Hall, Meb, Abdi at the point

Ryan Hall, Meb, Abdi at the point

The end of an era is upon us.  And it is hard to believe, really. Ryan Hall announced his retirement from competitive athletics today at the still tender age of 33, leaving all who followed his career, whether as fans or reporters, feeling a little bit emptier upon hearing the news.

It seems like only yesterday that Ryan flew into our consciousness as one of the avatars of a new era of American running excellence. Along with Class of 2000 mates Alan Webb and Dathan Ritzenhein, Ryan Hall took on the world, giving as good as he got, inserting himself at the front of the pack while exciting American distance running to a pitch not felt in years. There were times — Houston `07, Olympic Trials/New York ’07, Boston `11 — when his flowing stride produced results that were downright breathtaking.

Now, at age 33, the Big Bear, California native has announced he is retiring from professional running as chronically low testosterone levels have hollowed out his legendary endurance and stripped away his most elegant speed. 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

FRIDAY IN THE PARK WITH MEB

San Diego, Ca. — It’s been a busy week on top of a busy year for 2014 Boston Marathon champion Meb Keflezighi.  After accepting two awards this past week, one last Friday night at the TRIpalooza Awards Gala where he was recognized as the Endurance Athlete of the Year, and the other on Monday night when he was honored as a 2015 Star of the Year at the 69th Annual Salute to the Champions event hosted by the San Diego Hall of Champions, Meb was once again the center of attention this morning as the countdown to the April 20th Boston Marathon gains momentum.

Photog Emily Maye taking aim at Meb doing post-run drills

Photog Emily Maye taking aim at Meb doing post-run drills

Today it was just a quiet photo shoot for Meter Magazine, the literate broadsheet and digital offering brought out by Tracksmith, the premium performance apparel company started by my friend Matt Taylor in Boston that celebrates the style and culture of running.

In the next issue of Meter Meb will be featured in a story I penned, so photog extraordinaire Emily Maye drove down from her home in Santa Barbara last night for the morning shoot in Balboa Park. Emily spends much of her time in Europe covering the cycling circuit, but is also responsible for most of the excellent photography featured in Meter.

As is almost always the case, even when pressed from this side and that, Meb was generous with his time and patience. This morning’s run was a no frills 10-mile recovery run as he looks ahead to the United New York City Half Marathon on March 15th, his sole test before he defends his title in Boston a month later. But I can tell you from a simple eyeball test, Meb looks to be in fine form. Continue reading

MARATHON YEAR 2014

Dennis Kimetto, marathon world record holder

Dennis Kimetto, marathon world record holder

There were highs (American Meb Keflezighi‘s magnificent win in Boston) and lows (Kenyan Rita Jeptoo testing positive for EPO), but some things ran along a well worn path in the world of marathoning in 2014. Chief among those was the utter domination of Kenya and Ethiopia in the ranks of the men’s marathon.

Fully 95 of the top 100 times posted this past year hailed from those two nations (57/38), led by Kenyan Dennis Kimetto’s 2:02:57 world record in Berlin in September. By comparison, last year 89 of the top 100 marathon times came from Kenya (55) and Ethiopia (34), led by Kenyan Wilson Kipsang‘s 2:03:23 world record, also in Berlin.

This year presumptive world number one Kipsang had to console himself with major wins in London (2:04:27 course record) and New York City (2:10:59 in chilled and windy conditions). Those two wins sewed up the $500,000 bonus for winning the 2013-2014 World Marathon Majors series.  Nice consolation.

Wislon Kipsang battles Lelisa Desisa for New York title.

Wilson Kipsang battles Lelisa Desisa for New York title in November.

However, revelations out of Kenya late this year pointing  to a growing drug scandal and corruption charges have left the more cynical among us wondering how pure that dominance may be, or if we truly are in a golden age of the sport or simply an increasingly deceptive one. However, until further evidence surfaces we take what has been presented at face value. Continue reading

2014 TCS NEW YORK CITY MARATHON REVIEW

On the bridge before the start

Starched flags fly on the bridge before the start

New York City Marathon Logo TCSNew York, New York — A cold, blustery day welcomed the 50,0000 runners at the 2014 TCS New York City Marathon.  Once again I was aboard the lead men’s motorcycle camera bike providing commentary for the ESPN2 television coverage. Here is how the men’s race played out from that close vantage point.

My misery index had been set the day before during a frigid, rain-drenched TV rehearsal, and I wasn’t going to be caught cold again.  In the 43 degree Fahrenheit conditions with NNW winds blowing at a steady 20 – 25 mph, gusting even higher, I wore so many layers on Sunday morning I must have resembled a Russian nesting doll.

From the racer’s standpoint such conditions are the functional equivalent of adding distance to the event. Last year the 48 degree temps and 15-19 mph headwinds tacked about one kilometer onto the standard 42.2K in terms of finishing time, as 2011 course record holder Geoffrey Mutai won his second title in 2:08:24.  Same guy, same course, same effort, but three minutes slower than his course record 2:05:06.  And since A-level male marathoners race at or near 3:00/km, conditions on November 2, 2014 might mean a full mile extra effort would be added to the already testing course. Continue reading