Not too snappy a game in Chicago last night as the NFL’s “nobody-plays-preseason-games-anymore-and-it-shows” 100th season kicked off with a 10-3 snoozer between the league’s oldest rivals, Da Bears (3) and the Green Bay Packers (10). Hopefully, there will be more action in six weeks when the Bank of America Chicago Marathon starts its 43rd running.
When it was first announced that Kenya’s remarkable Eliud Kipchoge would forego another Abbott World Marathon Majors season to make a second attempt at a solo sub-2 hour run over 42.2 kilometers – staged as an exhibition under non-record eligible conditions – I expected that the AWMM men might be less than thrilled. After all, Kipchoge already tried this gimmick two years ago in Monza, Italy rather than defending his London Marathon title from the year before. And of course he got close at 2:00:25.
At the same time, the six Abbott events are trying to build a brand. And so far they have done a pretty good job of it. But when the unquestioned top athlete in their field decides to take his talents off their grid and perform in a pure exhibition instead — Like if Serena Williams decided not to play the U.S. Open in order to stage a Billy Jean King-Bobby Riggs type exhibition, how would the WTA feel about it?
So when I called and asked Chicago Marathon executive director Carey Pinkowski what he thought about the possibility of having Eliud Kipchoge make his 1:59 attemptnear the same date as his Marathon, I expected some pushback. Instead, the kid that still exists deep in the DNA of the onetime sub-9:00 high school two miler out of Hammond, Indiana and Villanova All-American came through.(more…)
Falmouth, MA. – Pictures from the lead man’s vehicle at the 47th New Balance Falmouth Road Race on old Cape Cod. U.S. Army’s Leonard Korir (32:11) wins his first Falmouth after finishing second twice and third two other times. Four time champion Stephen Sambu of Kenya takes 2nd (32:29) with fellow Kenyan Edward Cheserek in his his first Falmouth taking third (32:30) and former NCAA steeplechase champ Mason Ferlic out of Michigan in 4th (32:54) on a warm, muggy morning.
Falmouth, MA. – Tomorrow’s 47th New Balance Falmouth Road Race men’s competition will have a throwback look to it as the top three seeds are all Kenyan-born, but American schooled athletes. Since Joe Nzau of the University of Wyoming became the first Kenyan champion at Falmouth in 1983, that’s how we became acquainted with the first generation of great Kenyan runners who emerged in the late 1970s and early ‘80s.
Four-time Falmouth champion Stephen Sambu (2013–2017) was a nine-time All-American at the University of Arizona. Twice runner up to Sambu in Falmouth and also twice third, including last year, Leonard Korir was a two-time NCAA champion at Iona in 2011. And Falmouth debutante Edward Cheserek was a record-breaking 17-time NCAA titleist at the University of Oregon.
Defending champion Ben Flanagan of Canada out of the University of Michigan is back in town this year but injured so we won’t be running just doing personal appearances at the expo.
Just got word that Clayton Young, BYU’s NCAA 10,000 meter champ in Austin this June has been added to the start list. That’s the same position Ben Flanagan held coming into Falmouth 2018 out of Ann Arbor.
So far in 2019 Sambu has not been the athlete he has been in the past. Rather than winning, he’s been taking thirds (BAA10 K), fourths (Bix 7), and sevenths (Peachtree).But at age 31, he’s transitioning to the marathon heading toward the New York City Marathon in November. That transition is often attended by a slowing in speed as distance in training piles up.(more…)
Kenyans Joyciline Jepkosgei and Alex Korio broke free early and cruised home to easy wins today at the 22nd TD Beach to Beacon 10K. Joyciline finished and 31:05, a fine, but not spectacular time on an ideal day with start temperatures under 70°F no breeze and low humidity. The victory is equal to her win last week at the Quad City Times Bix 7 Road Race in Davenport, Iowa.
In the men’s race, Alex Korio took control of the race from the airhorn start and within the first half–mile the competition had been whittled to four with Korio fronting fellow Kenyan Jarius Birech, Belgian Bashar Abdi, and Australian Brett Robinson.
They hustled through the opening mile in 4:24. Last year under heavy humidity New Zealand’s Jake Robertson blitzed a 4:15 opener on his way to a runaway 27:37 win, the third fastest time in race history. But the opening mile has fallen as fast as 4:08 in the past when going out very hard with the tactic of the day. It has also gone out as slow as 4:51 when the heat was on.
Today, Korio opened his winning margin as the course turned right off Route 77 onto Old Ocean House Road. Mile 2 tumbled in 4:30 (8:54) with the third mile evaporating in 4:21 (13:15).
Korio was a late entrant into the race, only arriving last night at 7 PM from Kenya. Several Kenyan athletes who had been okayed for travel visas six weeks ago did not receive them until yesterday, while 2016 third-place finisher William Sitonic was involved in a minor car accident on his way to the Nairobi airport. Though the accident was not serious, it was enough to keep him off the flight and at home.
Korio’s leads swelled to 14 seconds as he passed 5K in 14:43. And now it was a matter of time
The 4th mile fell in 4:24 and five in 4:22, and suddenly the course record was at least within sniffing distance. But though he pushed, Alex could only notch the second fastest time in Beach to Beacon history, winning in 27:34, six seconds shy of Gilbert Okari’s 2003 course record.
But his winning margin of 54 seconds over runner up Jairus Birech (27:34 to 28:28) was an event record, beating last year’s 50-second margin by Jake Robertson over Stephen Sambu. Bashir Abdi finished third in 28:35, and Brett Robinson fourth in 28:43, coming home just as they started out in the first mile.
World record holder at 10K Joyciline Jepkosgei (29:43) made quick work of the other women, winning over defending champion Sandrafelis Chebet 31:05 to 31:37. Charlotte “Charley” Purdue of the UK took third and 32:17.
In the American male division, a real battle was fought until the final mile when Scott Fauble of Northern Arizona Elite (28:58) of Flagstaff bested Bowerman TC standouts Andrew Bumbalough (29:00)and Chris Derrick (29:02) with Saucony-sponsored Noah Droddy of Boulder, Colorado finishing 4th in the American division. Overall the Americans finished in sixth, seventh, eighth, and ninth overall.
In the women’s American division, 2015 bronze medalist in the world championships in 10,000m Emily Infeld took fourth overall and top American. Second-place went to Becky Wade of Colorado who was seventh overall. Third-place to Katie Newton of the BAA out of Belmont, Massachusetts in ninth place.
Skies turned gray as the awards were handed out, but the spirit of the day and that of race founder Joan Benoit Samuelson provided plenty of cheer to the 8000 competitors in Maine’s largest road race and one of the world’s most prestigious.
Cape Elizabeth, ME. – Like many a natural born American, I had one parent who was not.
In the waning gray days of World War II, Eastern Europe was a place of devastation and dislocation. In that tumult, my parents – he an American army officer who had escaped from German POW camp, and she a member of the Polish Home Army – met and married in February 1945 after a courtship of only ten days.
“In wartime,“ Pop once told me, “you don’t analyze, you act.“
Ten days later Mom and Pop were forced to split up, he heading east in search of an American mission, she remaining behind with only a handwritten note identifying her as the wife of an American soldier while asking anyone who could to help.
It took the better part of 1945 for Momto escape Russian occupied Poland and make her way to Nuremberg, Germany where she found refuge with General George Patton’s Third Army.It was in late 1945, then, that she finally sailed for America hoping she would recognize the man she had married nearly a year before. Such are the rippling effects of war and its many deprivations and dislocations.
Mom finally arrived in St. Louis, Missouri in January 1946 and by June 1951 was a mother of three native-born American kids living in a newly built suburban home. But she did not become an American citizen until 1972 some 26 years later. Though she loved America and all it had given her, she was forever a proud Pole, too.
“How do you renounce who you are?” she once said when I asked why it had taken her so long to apply for citizenship, as renouncing former allegiances was one of the requirements of American citizenship.
This is a long way around to recognizing that America still remains the most unique country in the world, the only nation born of an idea rather than of blood or soil. But it is also an acknowledgment that America is not alone in generating patriotic feelings in the hearts of its people, especially those forced leave because circumstances beyond their control had given them no choice but to go.
So when the American president – whose mother was born in Scotland and grandfather in Bavaria – fomented a chant of “send her back“ from xenophobic followers against a Somali-born U.S. Congress person, it flew in the face that America has shown the world throughout its history.
Representative Ilhan Omar (D-MN) came to the United States from Somalia with her family as a ten year-old in 1992. She is the Somali-born U.S. Congress person President Trump’s followers want to “send back” after she made comments they found critical of Israel and America.
Four-time U.S. Olympic distance runner Abdi Abdirahman also fled war-torn Somalia with his family when he was only three years old. After existing in a Kenyan refugee camp for five years, the family found asylum in the USA in 1985.
Today, Abdi is working toward bringing the sport that has defined his adult years back to his homeland, because though he is a proud American, and eager capitalist, he remains a loving son of Somalia, too. (more…)
Davenport, IA. – The Quad City Times Bix 7 Road Race is one of the American Road Race classics. Now it is 45th year, the Bix 7 is celebrating the final year under the leadership of Ed Froelich who is in his 40th year at the helm as race director.
In his term, Ed transformed the BIX from a local/regional fun run to a national and internationally celebrated event while helping transform the sport of road racing from its amateur past to its professional present.
With the invitation of Marathon superstar Bill Rodgers in 1980 after the USA announced its Olympic boycott, the BIX field doubled in size. Olympic marathon champion Frank Shorter also was an early contestant during the Froelich years, and when women’s marathon world record holder Joan Benoit Samuelson began her annual trek to Iowa in 1983, the legacy of excellence was set. International stars just kept on coming.
With the aid of his long time and beyond-able assistant Ellen Hermiston and a cadre of committee heads that Ed tasks then lets alone to do their jobs, the Bix has become a well-oiled machine and the pride of the Quad Cities.
I have been fortunate to be part of the broadcast team on KWQC-TV6 for 27 years, working alongside local legend Thom “TC” Cornelis who will be hosting his 40th and final Bix tomorrow morning.
Part of what makes the Bix special is its race course. Here’s a preview.
Mile one is dominated by the iconic Brady Street hill, a quarter mile beast with a 7% – 9% degree grade, similar to climbs Tour de France riders face in the Pyrenees and the Alps.
Mile two descends along tree-lined Kirkwood Boulevard, a blazing downhill that is a Siren’s call to speed. But beware, because mile three is a roller coaster, the first half after you turn off Kirkwood going uphill – and it’s a pretty severe little uphill at about 2 1/2 miles – before the next half of mile 3 is downhill as you approach the Mississippi River on McClellan Street.
Then we turn around just before McClellan intersects at State Street running along the river.Now we go back uphill heading toward mile 4 passing many beautiful homes perched atop their well-groomed lawns.
But the climbing is far from over. Now there’s another hump requiring serious attention. No time to peruse the blossoming gardens. And I wouldn’t like to have to mow the lawns on these slopes, either.
Yep, the 4th mile is definitely back up again and then just after the fourth mile sign hanging over the road, you take a right hand turn back up onto Kirkwood where that second mile that you blitzed down is now a wall to climb in mile five.
The course finally flattens out as you pass 5 1/2 miles approaching the end of Kirkwood and the left turn back onto Brady Street. But there is no cruising ahead. Instead, it’s a screaming downhill after all the uphill running. And that steep a drop just pounds your quads as the thick crowds urge you on.
You blow by the start line before turning hard left on Third Street for the final half-mile to the finish line. But don’t be deceived by the huge Bix 7 sign hanging off the train trestle. That’s not the finish. You still have several blocks to go.
Yes, sir, the Bix 7 is a real race course, a real challenge, befitting one of the American road race classics. Congratulations, Ed, you’ve done yourself and your community proud.
San Diego, CA – With the IAAF World Championships scheduled for October this year in Doha, Qatar, everyone’s schedule has been thrown back a month and you never know who’s going to show up where on any given night in the world of track and field.
Last night at San Diego’s Mesa College, two world-class runners joined tracksters young and old at the 8th Summer Nights Track & Field Series meet as they sought to re-find the form that had previously brought them to the very heights of their sport.
Two-time Olympic 1500-meter medalist Nick Willis and three-time sprint medalist Tori Bowie feel the clock ticking and know it waits on no one.
Nick is now 36 years old, yet the University of Michigan grad and New Zealand legend is still on the hunt for that elusive fitness that produced a silver medal in Beijing ‘08 and then a bronze in Rio in 2016.
Last night we found Nick at Mesa College testing himself in the 800 meters just one night after running 1500 meters at the Sunset Series up north at Azusa Pacific. There he fashioned a 3:37.8, good for fourth place. Not a usual position for Nick, but better than what 2019 has shown so far.
“I’ve been last in my last two races,” Nick told me after his 1:49.23 win over stubborn Daniel Herrera’s 1:49.27 and Eric Avila‘s 1:50.51. “I ran here because I need to get my confidence back.”
You wouldn’t think a two-time Olympic medalist would be short on confidence, but as we all know, foot racing is a humbling game and a what-have-you-done-for-me-lately one, too.
Yes, we’re only as good as our last race, or in Nick’s case, his last two.And when they don’t go well, even a glittering past doesn’t mean too much or offer much consolation, especially as we grow older.
In his last Diamond League outing, Nick barely broke 4:00 at the Bowerman Mile at the Pre Classic at Stanford on June 30 as things just haven’t snapped into place in 2019 like they once did. He finished 14th out of 14 starters.
“When I was younger my 5 km and cross country strength would automatically transfer to track speed,“ Nick explained. “But my muscles don’t come around so easily anymore. So this is my Tiger Woods’ season to make a comeback. Thing is, I feel healthier than ever but that doesn’t mean the elasticity transfers as quickly as it once did. But tonight I came out and ran 52 seconds for the first 400 (paced by former 2x NCAA 1500m champ for Oregon and local University High School star Mac Fleet) and I think it’s starting to come around.”
Nick will head back home to Ann Arbor, Michigan today before flying back to Europe for a 1500 meters in Heusden in 10 days in the Netherlands. The very next day he will run a mile in London as he looks to find that fugitive form before the World Championships in Doha.
Several hundred people were on hand for last night’s Summer Series meet, now in its 10th season under the guidance of local running guru, Coach Paul Greer. The other world-classer the crowd was fortunate to see testing her fitness before the U.S. Nationals in Des Moines, Iowa (July 25-28) was sprinter Tori Bowie, the three-time Olympic medalist from Rio 2016 (gold in the 4 X 100, silver in the 100m, and bronze in the 200m), then two-time World Champion in 2017 (open 100m & the 4 X 100m.)
2018 ended early for Tori when she tore a quad muscle at the Pre Classic in late May (5th, 11.03). It’s been a year of battling back from injury and off-track issues, as well, including changing home bases and coaches. She hasn’t gone sub-11 since 2017. At the Pre Classic this June 30th, she finished 7th in 11.30.
Last night at Mesa, Tori ran the 100 again in 11.50, which she said “was pathetic.”But her new coach Craig Poole, former head women’s coach at BYU for 30 years and then director and head coach at the Olympic Training Center in Chula Vista just south of San Diego said, “she achieved all the goals she was looking for. Time was not the goal here, she was just working on some technical stuff.”
Working back into form is the kind of thing local meets like the Summer Nights Series can offer a top athlete that big-time meets can’t. At the same time, having Olympic athletes perform on the same track inspires the youngsters on hand.
Nick remarked how New Zealand had this kind of local meet all around through their summer months, but he never finds them here in the U. S.
Before taking off, Nick addressed the crowd of track enthusiasts on another ideal San Diego summer night.
“Get off the concrete and find some beautiful trails and enjoy your body to the best of your ability.”
Yes, do it while you can, kids, cause gravity is not a user-friendly force field and it will exact a toll. Just ask Nick and Tori.
The sun slowly dipped beneath the west grandstands, the light faded as the final events were contested. Then the small crowd dispersed knowing many will meet up again for the 9th Summer Nights meet on July 17th.
It had been a good evening. Pleasantly fatigued was the feeling left behind, which is how famed New Zealand distance coach Arthur Lydiard used to explain the feeling of being in full training mode.
And so it goes.
P.S. Nick Willis was named to the 2019 University of Michigan Hall of Honor the next day. Congrats, Nick. Best of luck ahead.