FROM A GRATEFUL NATION

On this Memorial Day 2011 two wars draw our young service men and women into harms way, even as we remember those who have fallen in all our previous conflicts.  Today, it is  an all-volunteer force which fights on our behalf in Iraq and Afghanistan, all but separated from the vast majority of Americans in whose name they are willing to make the ultimate sacrifice.  A generation ago it was a drafted army that connected Americans of all socio-economic strata, which ultimately caused the country to come to political terms with its aims in Vietnam.  I am the son of two World War II veterans, one from Poland, the other from America.  In their time there was no separation of purpose, nor a coming to political terms with the conflict before them.  How unified was the nation, how willing America’s sons were to march into battle, and why, is captured movingly in the following letter my father wrote to his mother as he shipped out to the battlefields of Europe 67 years ago.  Continue reading

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A RUNNING USA RACING INITIATIVE?

     A year and a half after conducting a Town Hall meeting at their 2010 industry conference focused on the obesity epidemic, Running USA has yet to put in place a children’s initiative that would either compliment or coordinate with First Lady Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move, NFL’s Play 60, or NBA’s Get Fit initiatives.  Though a memorandum of understanding (MOU) has been floated to create a joint RUSA, USATF Foundation, RRCA initiative, to date, no consensus has been reached on implementing that, or any other such program. 

     It is classic running world paralysis, underscoring the deep divisions inherent in this most individual and turf-oriented of sports.  As RUSA President Virginia Brophy Achman of Minnesota has said, “While it is great that we all have thoughts and opinions, and I do embrace diverse perspectives, at some point we have to build consensus and move forward. “

     She is absolutely right.  Yet the passions in the sport run strong. And while that is a good thing, the existential division between road running and its default national governing body, USATF – which, given the state of that organization, shows no signs of changing – has led to a deeply rooted local event orientation, which in turn has made cross-event promotion and consensus an elusive target.

     This coming Tuesday another teleconference among RUSA board members will again broach the subject in an attempt to kick start a process which is quickly moving away from a sport whose mission and structure, at least on the surface, is perhaps best suited to address the growing national problem.  Continue reading

BRILLIANT CONCEPT – KIDS RACING

     There is an event going on today at Lindbergh Schweitzer Elementary School here in San Diego which is taking a throwback approach to kids running.  The 2nd Annual Chelsea King Invitational Mile benefiting Chelsea’s Light Foundation is staging a series of one-mile races open to boys and girls in San Diego County. And here’s the wrinkle – somebody is going to win!  There are even qualifying times of 7 min/mile for boys, 8 min/mile for girls!  Qualifying times, not the inert “everyone’s a winner and no times are recorded” format which has mirrored the general decline in adult running performance this past decade.

     Kids from third to sixth grade will participate, and they must have teacher approval, i.e. homework up to date, and good citizenship.  Digital timing is provided by the San Diego Triathlon Club, and each race will have “rabbits” to ensure fast times.  Imagine, rabbits for kids’ races.  A brave new world, indeed.

The purpose of this event is to honor the memory of Poway High School runner Chelsea King who was killed February 2010 while out running near her home, and to promote the ideals she exemplified: athletic excellence, academic achievement, sportsmanship, and community outreach.  Although this event is intended to benefit Chelsea’s Light Foundation, organizers underscore that the event is not being produced by Chelsea’s Light Foundation.

Awards will go five deep with overall champions receiving pure silver commemorative medals, along with the title of “fastest elementary miler in San Diego County.”

We salute P.E. teacher Ms. Mary Lou Baranowski for organizing this event, and hope others will follow her lead and bring back healthy competition to our nation’s youth.
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TOO LATE

“And it’s too late, baby, now it’s too late
Though we really did try to make it,”  –  Carol King, 1971

Really, does it make any difference anymore?  After our nearly 30 years in the wilderness under Ollan Cassell ( he was Executive Director of the AAU 1970–1980, then Executive Director of USA Track and Field 1980–1997), the following ten years of triage under Craig Masback, and the recently completed two-year sideshow of Doug Logan, unless we discover that Dick Ebersol announced his resignation as head of NBC on May 19th in order to take the post as USATF CEO, would anyone outside Indianapolis even lift an ear bud for news of who’s next on the USATF Gong Show stage?

Honest, this sport is so far outside the mainstream of the American sporting consciousness, and USATF has its own head so far twisted up its bureaucratic ass, that to think anyone, even Mr. Ebersol, would be anything but insignificant as leader would be to believe Harold Camping’s five-month margin of error excuse for his May 21st rapture miscall.                   Continue reading

OPEN LETTER TO GOD

     I don’t know whether to be happy or sad that the End Times failed to materialize yesterday.  For all those expectant souls counting on Harold Camping’s mulligan from 1994 to be right, you’re heart goes out to them.  It’s gotta be rough having to get refocused and all.  I mean, end of the world isn’t like spring cleaning, it does take some major preparation.  And he seemed so sure of his calculations this time, didn’t he?  Though, having blown the call before, you had to wonder why such an important message would be trusted to someone with such a poor track record.  But “the Bible promised,” he said, and folks did want to believe.  You gotta give `em that.

Sure, I hadn’t quite made it to my three score and ten, but I’d come close enough not to feel cheated if the Rapture had indeed filtered out the deserving from the not.  And based on all the evidence, it would seem I still had about five more months coming, though suffering would have consumed most of that.

But here we are, again, in the aftermath, wondering how literally to take Your musings as transcribed by Matty, Mark, Luke, and John.  I mean, you can make any kind of hash you want depending on how you choose from all that’s in there.  In fact, that’s the problem.  It’s open to interpretation, and we’re not good with that.  For heaven sakes, we can’t agree on tonight’s side dish for dinner.  How we gonna get together on the metaphysical stuff? Continue reading

BLAME ENOUGH TO GO AROUND

     On Friday October 9, 2009 I awoke in Chicago to the news that President Barrack Obama had been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.  Though he had only been in office nine months, so enamored was the Nobel committee with his diplomatic efforts to reintegrate the U.S. into the international community that they conferred the prize more to refute George W. Bush’s eight years of cowboy swagger than as a salute to any particular Obama achievement.

     The story buzzed through the Chicago Hilton that morning as we assembled for the 10:30 a.m. pre-race press conference for Sunday’s 32nd Bank of America Chicago Marathon.  Presiding over the presser was friend and British broadcaster Tim Hutchings, who would interview two panels of athletes on stage.  To his left sat the women, to his right the men.  The panel included 2008 Olympic Marathon champion Sammy Wanjiru of Kenya who would be making his much anticipated American racing debut that Sunday morning in Chicago.

2009 Chicago Press Conference

     As Tim was interviewing the athletes, I noticed that Wanjiru was sitting slumped in his chair in a posture of utter disinterest, paying no attention whatsoever to what anyone else was saying.  Some may have viewed it as relaxed, but I recall thinking at the time, “we’re building the sport around guys like this, and this is how he presents himself?  He’s not even trying to mask his feelings.” Continue reading