BACK TO PACING AS USUAL

Running fast behind pacers is a thoughtless act. You know what’s coming — in fact, it’s been negotiated — and you can either do it or you can’t. But there is no thought required as there is in a pure racing format like the Olympic Games.

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Matthew Centrowitz and Nick Willis celebrate Olympic glory

One of the many highlights of the Rio Games was Matthew Centrowitz’s stirring front-running win in the men’s 1500 meter final. Yet, historic as it was — first American to take that title since 1908– there are some who question the standard of that gold medal run, because the 3:50 winning time was the slowest since the 1932 final.

Notwithstanding the Olympic motto, “Faster, Higher, Stronger”, such time-based considerations miss the entire point of the endeavor, and help define what’s missing in the staging and presentation of the sport in general. Continue reading

FALMOUTH CHAMPS NUKURI & SAINA READY TO ROLL AFTER RIO

Falmouth, MA. — In the early days of road racing it was not unusual for track athletes to come back from the European circuit to run the Falmouth Road race in August as a season-end topper.  The first man to do so was Marty Liquori, the great 1500 meter/5000 runner who was invited by his brother Steve through race founder Tommy Leonard to come run the second Falmouth Road race in 1974 as somewhat of a mini vacation on his way home to New Jersey from the continent.

Little did he know that rising local hero Bill Rodgers was trolling area shores ready to meet him head on over the seven-mile Cape layout. It was the Liquori scalp that elevated Rodgers (and the Falmouth Road Race) to stardom in the local media, and began Rodger’s final ascent to international recognition that culminated the following April when he won his first of four Boston Marathon titles in an American record time.

Over the years track men like Frank Shorter (1975 & `76 Falmouth champion); Craig Virgin (1979 champ); Rod Dixon of New Zealand (1980 winner); Mike McLeod of Great Britain (silver medalist in the 10,000 in L.A. `84 & 2nd to Al Salazar in Falmouth 1981), and more, came to race along the outer elbow of the Cape at the end of their track seasons.

As the sport developed, however, we saw the sport divide into distinctly parallel camps of road and track specialists with not much overlap between. This year, however, the 44th New Balance Falmouth Road Race will showcase a number of athletes returning from their Olympic experiences in Rio de Janeiro, including its last two female champions. Continue reading

OLYMPICS: OUR COMMON BOND

The divisions in this world are profound and long standing. And the hope to surmount them, whether through politics or force of arms, is quixotic at best given both historical precedence and human nature. Yet that very hope is what makes the Olympics unique, notwithstanding its own human frailties and organizational disappointments.

On its fields of play we are witness to a society of strivers quilted of many colors sewn together with a common thread, the quest for excellence and an originating creed espousing the importance of being over winning.

Though it is a patchwork that is in constant need of mending, it has survived for more than a century building on a frame of inclusion, which is no mean feat in itself. Continue reading

YOU GOTTA BELIEVE!

Sport, like life, is a series of self-fulfilling prophecies, for what you think you can do sets the stage for the reenactment of the belief in performance. As such, championships are first won in the mind before coming to life via blood, breath, and bone.

It’s not like 2016 Olympic Women’s Marathon champion Jemima Sumgong of Kenya hadn’t been a winner before. In fact, she began her marathon career with the win at the Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon in Las Vegas in 2006 (2:35:22). But though she also took victories in Castellon, Spain in 2011 and again in Rotterdam 2013, her Abbott World Marathon Majors record was that of a solid contender, but not a champion. Not until the spring of this year did she mark herself as a medal favorite for Rio when she stood atop the podium at the Virgin London Marathon, the de facto Olympic prelim. Continue reading

DO YOU BELIEVE IN MAGIC?

So far in this first week of the 2016 Rio Olympics they’ve raised the red, white and blue of the American flag more than any other. But by the end of the Games it may well be that the red flag of WHAT!??! could flutter most high and most often.

It’s getting harder and harder trying to keep track of the Olympic eye rolls. The minute you try to wrap your head around one thing another one pops up to replace it. Just when the focus was on the Kenyan official attempting to peddle advanced warnings on drug testing, we learn he got a row mate on the flight back to Nairobi when another Kenyan coach got booted for taking a random drug test under the name of 800 meter man Ferguson Rotich.

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But that was all off the field, along with the dirty green water in the Olympic diving pool. Now we’ve got Almaz Ayana of Ethiopia smashing the women’s world record in the 10,000 meters by 14 seconds (29:17.45) on day one in the Olympic stadium without as much as a furrowed brow or reliance on a turtle-based concoction of any sort.

The 10,000 world record, we recall, was set in 1993 by the Chinese runner Wang Junxia, a member of Coach Ma Junren’s Army who claimed his runners were fueled by turtle blood and caterpillar fungus until Wang later copped to being doped.

John Sebastian of the Lovin’ Spoonful asked in the bright summer of 1965, “Do You Believe in Magic?” Well, actually I did then, but I don’t now. And how could you? Continue reading

JUST THE LATEST POLITICAL PILEUP

(Sorry, it’s politics again, but that’s the most interesting race going.)

It was just a throwaway line from a throwaway candidate. But for what seemed the umpteenth time in this 2016 presidential campaign Republican Party nominee Donald Trump allowed his undisciplined mouth to run his candidacy into the ditch of controversy just when his opponent was opening another diamond-lane opportunity for him to zoom ahead in this critical, post-convention run up to the November election. Continue reading

OLYMPICS REFLECTING LARGER FISSURES

“Let’s get to the root cause, and fix it.”

This is both the message and plea we are hearing from far and wide, whether in talking about the drug and corruption issues splitting the Olympic movement, or in dealing with the civil strife and terrorist strikes rumbling through this fateful U.S. presidential season.

While issues like performance-enhancing drugs and the corruption of officials overseeing sport are deeply troubling in their own sphere, they are only cracks along the larger, more serious fault lines unsettling the world’s political stability. Today, it seems as if the bonds of civil union have fully given way to the economic and political forces of anger and impersonal retribution. Continue reading