FLANAGAN & GOUCHER IN FINAL BOSTON TUNE UPS

After London Olympic Marathon 2012

Kara & Shalane after London Olympic Marathon 2012

They battled valiantly to 10th and 11th places at the 2012 Women’s Olympic Marathon in London last summer, finishing just 16-seconds apart.  Last night training mates Shalane Flanagan and Kara Goucher tuned their racing engines for the April 15th Boston Marathon at the Cardinal Invitational in Palo Alto, California.

Racing over 10,000 meters, Flanagan soloed to an evenly paced 31:04.85 win, ripping off consistent 75-second quarters before capping the night with a 69-second final 400. Kara, exceeding expectations, produced a negative split 31:46.64 to take second place, just missing the World Championship “A” standard 31:45 with a cracking 68-second last lap.

There are 17 days left till Boston.  Marblehead, Mass. native Flanagan will be making her hometown debut, while Ms. Goucher will be starting her third Patriot’s Day 26-miler.  Each hopes to break the U.S. string of futility at Boston marked from Lisa Larsen Weidenbach’s 1985 victory.  It’s understandable having grown up on Boston’s North Shore that Shalane would have proprietary feelings for the race and the area, but Kara isn’t to be discounted in that sphere, either, writing “I have a crush on Boston….”

While training and racing fashions come and go in the insulated world of distance running, in recent times marathoners have been sticking to the half-marathon as their sole prep race for the full distance, even as many East Africans simply forego any tune up race what so ever.  Yet there is precedent for both 10k road and 10,000 track racing (and longer) as a useful Patriot’s Day precursor. Continue reading

FIVE BOOMER CHAMPIONS RETURN TO BOSTON

When Running was KIng

Boston Billy after 1978 at the center of the whirlwind

Man isn’t just a pattern-seeking animal, he is a goal-setting beast.  From breaking the four-minute mile to putting a man on the moon and returning him safely to earth, we have constantly striven to outdo our forefathers.  Accordingly, we have seen the standards of excellence mount with an almost linear progression through the course of time.

Today, the marathon performances of the Running Boom champions seem almost quaint by today’s standards, as far from world class as the exploits of their own predecessors seemed during their time in the sun.  At this year’s 117th Boston Marathon, five of its greatest champions from the Boom era will return to celebrate the anniversaries of their winning moments. Continue reading

WORLD CROSS COUNTRY – NO MARCH MADNESS

Competition is an examining tool, a measuring stick.  It is an auger to uncover the known from the proposed.  Unfortunately, in the world of distance running the answers are no longer in question; which is one reason why the public has lost interest in the outcome of the sport’s competitions.  What’s to uncover, which anonymous individual from East Africa will be today’s champion?  We already know who is going to win before the starter’s pistol is ever fired.  Which is why if running ever hopes to reengage the public at large, it must find a way to reframe its competitions.

While the U.S. senior men’s team won a hard-earned silver medal at yesterday’s IAAF World Cross Country Championships in Bydgoszcz, Poland behind Ethiopia’s gold and in front of Kenya’s bronze, given that the Kenyan team was “the weakest in 20 years” according to BBC commentators, the results only underscored their dominance.

World Cross Champion Japhet Korir

World Cross Champion Japhet Korir

Not only did unknown Japhet Korir become the youngest man ever to take the individual men’s gold medal for Kenya, even as the top five places all went to fellow East Africans, the fact that the Kenyan squads — junior and senior, men and women — still won the majority of the day’s other medals over a course which was decidedly not African friendly, testified to the lack of competition offered by the rest of the world.

In fact, many of the old-world cross country powers no longer even sent teams to compete. Germany, Norway, Russia, and France all remained at home rather than make the short trip to neighboring Poland.  When its own member federations lose interest, how exactly does the IAAF propose to woo sponsors and attract sports fans? Continue reading

WHEN WORLD CROSS FIRST CAME TO POLAND

Bydgoszcz, Poland

Bydgoszcz, Poland

Tomorrow, Poland will host the IAAF World Cross Country Championships for a third time, the second in four years in the city of Bydgoszcz.  But in 1987 the Polish capital of Warsaw held the honor, and I attended as a radio and newspaper reporter from Boston.

Since it would be my first visit to Poland, I also brought along my mother from St. Louis, as she was a native Pole whose extended family still lived in the homeland. And though Perestroika had begun to unravel the Soviet apparatus to the east under Gorbachev, Poland remained locked in the long winter of Soviet domination, a full two years before spring revolutions would loosen the Communist grip once and for all.

The following is just one memory from my first trip to the a country long savaged by war, then demeaned by its outcome. Continue reading

NEW GRAND PRIX ANNOUNCED BY COMPETITOR GROUP – A CONVERSATION

HalfMarathon Grand Prix     San Diego-based Competitor Group, Inc. (CGI) announced a new half marathon grand prix yesterday the scope of which would traverse their entire 30 Rock `n` Roll Half Marathon event landscape and also include the EDP Lisbon Half Marathon March 24th.  The GP will include both professional and age-group divisions which will award prizes in excess of $250,000.

The professionals will compete over a two-year calendar for a minimum championship prize purse of $240,000, while 13 men’s and women’s age groups (spanning ages 18 to 80+) will compete over a year-long Grand Prix with each of the 26 Grand Prix Champions winning merchandise prizes valued at a minimum of $1,000.

I spoke with CGI Senior Vice President of Events Tracy Sundlun about the new series late yesterday. Continue reading

OLD FRIEND TEACHING ME NEW WAYS

Larry Rosenblatt in Boston 2011

Larry Rosenblatt in Boston 2011

     I’m a racing purist, clinging to sport as the road to salvation.  Yet even I am susceptible to a good story from the back of the pack.  Last weekend at the Asics L.A. Marathon an old friend from the shoe wars days of the 1970s and `80s ran the L.A. Marathon as the first leg of a four marathons in nine weeks effort to raise funds and awareness for a family back east who lost both its parents during the devastation of Hurricane Sandy. Continue reading