2014 TD BEACH TO BEACON 10K PREVIEW

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The 2014 TD Beach to Beacon 10K professional fields gathered at the elegant Inn by the Sea in Cape Elizabeth, Maine this morning to be introduced to the media one day before the 17th running of the classic road race founded by local girl made good Joan Benoit Samuelson. Three times in its first 16 years the rolling B2B 10K has produced the fastest road 10K of the year, including in 2003 when Gilbert Okari of Kenya established the standing course record of 27:28. This year the best mark for the distance is held by Wilson Kiprono Too of Kenya while winning the Laredo 10K in Spain March 22nd in 27:39.

With defending champion and 2008 Olympic 10,000m bronze medalist Micah Kogo (28:02) leading another strong east African contingent, depending on how aggressive the field is, that world-leading time may again come under pressure on the rolling, but net downhill layout. Continue reading

BIX 7 CELEBRATES 40TH WITH U.S. CHAMPIONSHIP

Bix14 signDavenport, IA. — The 40th Quad City Times Bix 7 Road Race crowned USA 7 Mile Road Champions today as it doubled as the national 7 Mile championship for the fourth time.  Under overcast skies but high humidity Boulder, Colorado’s Sean Quigley and Providence, Rhode Island’s Molly Huddle emerged as champions, taking home $12,500 first place checks.  Quigley’s winning time of 33:28 was the slowest since Bill Rodgers first visit to the Quad Cities in 1980 (33:58), while Molly Huddle’s 36:14 represented the fastest American time ever run on the undulating, out-and-back Bix course, and fourth fastest in event history.

Christo Landry (l) & Sean Quigley (r) battle down Brady Street in final mile

Christo Landry (l) & Sean Quigley (r) battle stride for stride down Brady Street in final mile

Sean Quigley’s margin over runner up Christo Landry of Ann Arbor, Michigan was just four seconds as the two battled down Brady Street onto Third Street for the final three block sprint to the tape.  Former University of Wisconsin Badger Maverick Darling finished a surprising third in his first major road race (33:43).

Molly Huddle’s margin over California’s Sara Hall was 1:07, as the race was for second place, not first.  For Molly it was a second Bix title to go along with her 2009 win.  She had a ten second lead after the first mile, and never was challenged.  Of course, Molly arrived in the Quad Cities after breaking her own American record for 5000 meters Friday before last in Monaco (14:42.64), so the odds were long that anyone could match her, especially on a course where she had already had success.

Two-time Bix champion Meb Keflezighi made his first return to serious racing since his memorable win at the Boston Marathon this spring.  Meb, understandably, has been on an extended victory tour since his historic Patriots’ Day race, and hasn’t been able to hunker down and do the training he normally would for an event like the Bix 7.

Notwithstanding, Meb led the men’s pack through five miles until a balky hamstring began to tighten up on one of Kirkwood Boulevard’s stiff hills.  Meb soon got dropped as Quigley, Landry, Stephen Pifer and Maverick Darling began to pull away. By six miles Meb was by the side of the road retching.  So much for what have you done for me lately, huh.

“I’m a realistic guy,’’ Meb told QC Times sports editor Don Doxsie after his 12th place finish. “I knew I wasn’t in peak, peak form.’’

None of that seemed to bother any of the hordes of runners coming to ask for his autograph at the finish line party, though, as Meb has inherited the mantle of America’s favorite runner from Boston and Bix Billy Rodgers who has been coming to Davenport every year since 1980, and helped put the race on the map.  Joan Benoit Samuelson ran one minute faster this year than last to win her 13th master’s title at the Bix to go along with her four open titles.  At age 57 Joan ran 43:38, 6:13 pace for the seven hilly miles!

Thousands climb Brady Street Hill

Thousands climb Brady Street Hill in the opening mile

Meb will be heading east to Joanie’s popular Beach to Beacon 10K next weekend in Cape Elizabeth, Maine, and then down to Cape Cod for the Falmouth Road Race two weeks later. But there is another accolade heading his way on August 5th when he and wife Yordanos will fly down to Washington D.C. to be guests of President Obama at a White House dinner for the U.S. – Africa Leaders Summit.  It will be an historic gathering representing the first time a sitting U.S. president will host all the leaders of Africa to a single event to discuss issues of interest to the continent and the U.S.

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With retiring KWQC Sports Director T.C. Cornelis broadcasting his 35th straight Bix 7

With retiring KWQC Sports Director T.C. Cornelis (r) broadcasting his 35th straight Bix 7

As I prepared to host the award’s ceremony with Thom Cornelis after our KWQC-TV6 live broadcast, I checked through the top ten finishers to make a note beside each name to announce to the crowd gathered outside the Quad City Times building.  All the names, save one, were familiar.  In 10th place in the women’s category was a 29 year-old runner from Evanston, Illinois wearing bib #423 named Laura Batterink.

#423 finishes top ten in a national championship?  Though she was rail thin, and elite looking, I had never seen this woman before, nor did I recognize her name.  So I had to go find out who she was.

No wonder I didn’t know her.

“I never ran in high school or college,” she told me behind the stage.  “I began running for recreation about ten years ago two or three times a week for a half-hour. Then when I moved to Evanston I joined the Evanston Running Club to meet people, and they told me I was pretty fast.”

10th place finisher Laura Batterink

10th place finisher Laura Batterink

You think?  Laura is a post-doctoral student in cognitive neuroscience at Northwestern.  Originally from outside Toronto she took her undergrad degree from Middlebury College in Vermont, then did her graduate work at the University of Oregon.

So with a brain like that, and background at a place like Eugene, Oregon, otherwise known as Track Town USA, you never considered you might be good at a sport that has you finishing top ten in a national championship?

“I played soccer a little growing up, and my dad might have been a good runner, if he ran,” Laura admitted with a smile. “But I feel now like maybe I can compete against and maybe get to these ladies’ level.  I’m doing around 70-75 miles a week. 80 is the highest I have ever done.  I didn’t push too hard at the beginning. I’m not used to hills.  At some point somebody told me I was in 10th or 11th, so I just pushed it trying not to get passed at the end.”

Laura finished 12-seconds behind Clara Santucci, the 2014 Pittsburgh Marathon champion.  She will take on the Big Sur Half Marathon in November after running the Canadian 10K Championship in October.

“I’m not thinking about the marathon yet, but I am enthused about running one eventually.  Yeah, I guess this is the biggest achievement of my career, though I really haven’t really had one yet.”

Laura did compete in the Canadian Half Marathon Championship in April in Montreal.  She finished fourth in 1:16.  She has two more years of study at Northwestern before looking for a faculty job.  Who knows what kind of running career she will have assembled by then?

The Bix 7 began with just 84 runners in 1975. Since then more than half-million participants have beat their feet along the seven miles climbing off the banks of the Mississippi River in Davenport, Iowa. Truly, it is one of the classics of the American road revolution.

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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

ROCK `n` ROLL HISTORY

Who knew what lie ahead in the wild open spaces of the first Suzuki Rock `n` Roll Marathon? Some even questioned the concept of rock bands strung along the marathon course. What does rock `n` roll have to do with San Diego much less the marathon, they asked?

Well, on June 21st 1998 the world heard loud and clear what rock `n` roll had to do with San Diego and marathoning.  With a resounding P-A-R-T-Y! the second running boom announced its arrival.

P-A-R-T-Y!

P-A-R-T-Y!

No longer a simple feat of speed and endurance, the marathon had been turned into a 26-mile block party by Elite Racing’s Tim Murphy, who could be rightfully called the father of the post-modern running boom. Even before its first steps were run there was the feel of a major marathon about it as Tim brought on high profile Hollywood investors and celebrity ambassadors to help generate funding and interest.  Runner’s World also helped turn out 6000 Team In Training runners for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society.

Yes, there was a disconcerting 35-minute delay at the Balboa Park start due to parked cars on the course, leading many a  bladder challenged runner to anoint Sixth Avenue before the gun.  Then after they were set free, runners overwhelmed the first water stop in the subsequent heat, causing back of the packers to come up dry.  Yet the music rocking the sidelines for 26.2 miles caused an immediate sensation.  Afterwards the nearly 20,000 entrants from 30 countries and all 50 states passed the word, ‘You gotta try this one!” And that was before they got to the post-race concert that night featuring Huey Lewis and the News, Pat Benatar, and the Lovin’ Spoonful!

Late, great Mike Long, Elite Racing's legendary athlete recruiter with early RnR winners Irina Bogacheva and Philip Tarus

Late, great Mike Long, Elite Racing’s legendary athlete recruiter with early RnR winners Irina Bogacheva and Philip Tarus

 

So, too, was year one’s field a group of intrepid explorers, 55% of which were women, the largest such percentage of any marathon to date. The course, much around Mission Bay, had a new-car smell about it, or was that newly cut wood?  City business owners balked when the course design closed traffic on Harbor Island Drive, the main access to Lindbergh Field, San Diego’s major international airport.  The last-minute compromise was a temporary plywood bridge that took the runners up and over the traffic, but whose steep cost set Elite Racing back tens of thousands to build, and tested tired runners more than they might have hoped at 23 miles. 

Nobody knew how fast the route would be until young Kenyan Philip Tarus busted a 2:10 opener for the men, with Russian women Nadezhda Ilyina and Irina Bogacheva battling just nine seconds apart at the finish for the women in 2:34. That told the athletes of the world, ‘This one is worth having a go,” especially after all the Suzuki prizes and prize money checks were handed out.

No marathon had ever come on the calendar with such dramatic impact: the largest first-time marathon in history, the most ingenious show along the sidelines ever conceived, $15 million raised for charity – the largest amount ever for a single-day sporting event — and to cap it off world-class performances by its champions. Thus was the foundation set for what has become a global phenomenon. Continue reading

BOSTON 2014 – SMALL WORLD, WONDERFUL WORLD

John & Karen Odom, Boston Strong

John & Karen Odom, Forever Boston Strong

It’s a small world. And, as we saw last Monday in Boston, even amidst the cruelty, suffering, and heartlessness that sometimes arrives with shocking suddenness, it can be a wonderful world, too.

The emotions of the Boston Marathon may never, and for all the obvious reasons, hopefully never will, reach such heights as 2014 again.  It took 371 days for the emotions of Boston 2013 to find their full release on Patriot’s Day 2014. And the support, camaraderie, and unity of purpose that was on display throughout the year, and that came to such a dramatic and cathartic climax with Meb Keflezighi’s win in the 118th Boston Marathon, will stand as a symbol of Boston Strong and Running Strong for ages to come, a reminder of the power of love and community.

In that sense, then, one final story on this year’s marathon. Continue reading

2014 BOSTON ANALYSIS

Meb Boston 2014     How could the professional women in Boston produce a nearly two minute, 2:18:57, course record this past Monday at the 118th Boston Marathon, while the equally powerful men’s pro field only manage a 2:08:37, some five and a half minutes off the 2011 course record? It’s the mystery of racing, and the reason that pure, un-paced competition is so much more compelling than time-trialing — where everyone knows what’s ahead, the only question being whether the time can be attained or not. If ever there was a case for competition, Boston 2014 was it.

But let’s look deeper into the 2014 Boston Marathon, and explore how the tactics and personalities of each sex’s race contributed to the outcome that brought Meb Keflezighi to the finish as the first American male champion in 31 years, even as Rita Jeptoo of Kenya zoomed home with the first sub-2:20 women’s performance in Boston history — Buzu Deba joined her with a 2:19:59 in second place. Continue reading

RECORD RUN HIGHLIGHTS ROCK `N` ROLL SAN DIEGO

RnR 2013 Running Elvi

RnR 2013 Running Elvi

San Diego, Ca. — Road racing is a people-moving retail business. To keep your current customers happy while attracting new ones event organizers around the world search for that ephemeral quality referred to as “the runner’s experience”.  Yet the need for enough space to corral all the starters then re-gather all the finishers ultimately determines the parameters of the miles between.  Understandably, when race fields begin to exceed 20,000, the choices become quite small, and compromise between the runners’ experience and city inconvenience often redounds on the side of the non-running population.  Accordingly, locking in an ideal layout that meets the needs of both constituencies is a tricky business which may take years to engineer, if ever.

Today, in its 16th running, the founding Rock `n` Roll Marathon (& Half Marathon) in Competitor Group, Inc.’s hometown of San Diego, California may well have settled onto the courses which will define their future success.  Continue reading