Month: September 2013

TERRENCE MAHON JOINS BAA AS HIGH PERFORMANCE COACH

Coach Terrence Mahon
Coach Terrence Mahon

The Boston Athletic Association announced today that Terrence Mahon, former head coach of the Mammoth Track Club and for the last year the head endurance coach for British Athletics, has been hired to lead and coach a high performance distance running initiative for the organization.

“This has been in the works for a while,” BAA executive director Tom Grilk told me this afternoon.  “We have wanted to get a high performance coach; we’ve been looking around for good people to work with around several fronts.  But we got slowed down by what happened at the marathon this year (the terrorist bombings). Terrence was one of the people we asked if he was interested.”

“Since I got here (January 2011) we’ve talked about the mission of the BAA going back to its beginnings. The mission has always been to promote health and fitness by 1) putting on events, which is what everyone sees; 2) developing community support for kids and adults alike; and 3) the development of excellent athletes.

“Remember, the majority of the 1896 U.S. Olympic team was BAA guys.  So this is just another way of us getting back to the original mission.  We got lost a little along the way, but this (hiring) is a good way to hit the third part of our mission.” (more…)

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TEAM-BASED COMPETITIONS RATHER THAN INDIVIDUALS

In a response to my latest post, PRO RUNNER DAVID TORRENCE – “Don’t Blame Elite Athletes for State of the Sport”, journalist Parker Morse wrote, “Kudos to Mr. Torrence, not just for his effort, but for the wide variety of efforts he’s involved in. The real key to all this is not a dogged hunt for who is to blame, but a broad search for new solutions and new ways forward.  Being willing to try anything and everything is a big part of that. Toni, I’ve seen you throw out a few ideas here and there as well.”
Parker Morse, M34, at Moscow WC Media Race
Parker Morse, M34, at 2013 Moscow WC Media Race with UK’s Jon Mulkeen (M35)

“A broad search for new solutions and new ways forward” is absolutely the answer, Parker.  But considering the number of years that the sport has been dealing with this issue, the solution remains elusive, especially without a U.S. superstar at the forefront.  Imagine if Usain Bolt was from Louisville? That’s what any new solution has to overcome.

And yet, USATF always touts Team USA as the “greatest track & field team in the world”.  And it is.  But then USATF never constructs any Ryder Cup or President’s Cup-like competitions against other T&F teams to prove the point on the field of play.  That only happens unofficially with the Olympic medal count once every four years. (more…)

PRO RUNNER DAVID TORRENCE – “Don’t Blame Elite Athletes for State of the Sport”

Reaction to the Competitor Group’s decision to discontinue much of their elite athlete program at their Rock `n` Roll Series events in the United States continues to come in. Even now, nearly four weeks after the decision became public, pro athlete David Torrence has reacted to a quote in the comments’ section of my post “Dumbing Down, Slowing Down” by Competitor Group maven, John “The Penquin” Bingham.  In the following column posted on LetsRun.com today, Torrence fires back at Bingham’s assertion that pro runners don’t show sufficient interest in the back-of-the-pack masses, thereby maintaining the distance between them.  A 1998 grad of U.C. Berkeley, David has won four National Championships, one indoors at 3000 meters, and three straight Road Mile Championships (2009-2011).

*****

3:52 miler David Torrence
3:52 miler David Torrence

My name is David Torrence. I am a Professional Track Athlete and Road Racer.  I’ve run in front of packed sold-out stadiums, and in front of empty bleachers. I’ve run in Road races with 10,000 participants, and some with 10 total.

Upon reading the recent discussion on Competitor/RnR events, the value of elites, popularity of the sport, etc…something has struck a chord with me. Specifically with what John Bingham said in the comments section of Toni Reavis’ blog “Dumbing Down, Slowing Down”

Bingham wrote, “I invite ANY winner of ANY race to join me (cheering on finishers) instead of rushing back to their hotel after the awards ceremony. I guarantee that the first ‘elite’ to show even a LITTLE interest in the rest of the pack will become a hero overnight.” (bold my emphasis)

Well John, that comment… how can I put this politely… really frustrated me. (more…)

DOUGLAS WAKIIHURI TURNS 50 – The Marathon is like a Rose

Douglas Wakiihuri
Douglas Wakiihuri

(With an addendum by Brian Sheriff, an old racing friend of Douglas’s)

Today is the 50th birthday of Douglas Wakiihuri, who remains one of the favorite sons of Kenyan running.  Born September 26, 1963 in the seaside city of Mombasa, the Japanese-trained runner won Kenya’s first-ever World Championships gold medal in the Marathon in Rome 1987. Not until Luke Kibet won the world title in Osaka, Japan in 2007, did Douglas have company in that exclusive club.  Abel Kirui then claimed entry with wins in Berlin 2009 and Daegu, South Korea in 2011.

Following his own World Championship in `87, Douglas earned the silver medal at the 1988 Summer Olympics in Seoul, finishing 15-seconds behind Italy’s Gelindo Bordin.  The next year he won the London Marathon, and then took home the Commonwealth Games Marathon gold medal from Auckland, New Zealand in February 1990.

In this excerpt from Runners Digest Radio we listen to Douglas Wakiihuri on the eve of his win at the 1990 New York City Marathon.  In this contemplative moment Douglas describes the marathon as ole Will Shakespeare might well have, if the bard had ever explored the depths of the distance as had Douglas.

(more…)

GETTING FIRED LAUNCHES RODGERS

In this excerpt from the archives of my old Runners Digest Radio show in Boston, we go on-the-run with marathon legend Bill Rodgers, four-time Boston and New York City Marathon champion of the mid-to-late 1970s. During our run Bill talks about his transition from ex-college runner to resurrected marathon runner.

Runner's Digest
Runner’s Digest
Bill Rodgers, 2:09:55 American Record, Boston 1975
Bill Rodgers, 2:09:55 American Record, Boston 1975

END

In my previous post, THE FESTIVALIZATION OF SPORT, I suggested today’s young seem, on the whole, less rigorously competitive than previous generations. There are far more options these days, but perhaps part of it has to do with the stresses today’s youth are under as a matter of every day experience — not to mention how the expectations of yesteryear and those of today do not nearly match up with one another either.

HOW DOES IT FEEL?

In the aftermath of World War II many nations had to dig out of devastation, left with the psychic remains of shattered lives.  My mother was one who saw her world destroyed, but was fortunate to find refuge in America, which sat alone and free. This gave her Baby Boom children the freedom to dedicate themselves to youthful ways well into their adult years.  While the youth of today remain at home much longer , Boomers had the luxury to remain more infantile longer.

When I moved from St. Louis to Boston in August of 1973, I shared a two-bedroom, one bath apartment with three friends.  We paid $160/month, $40 each.  I had just left Washington University in St. Louis, a well-regarded liberty arts institution. In looking through some old papers in the attic of my parent’s house 40 years later I found a receipt for my final semester from the early 1970s, $1250.

Today, the same apartment that we paid $160 for in Boston is now $1525/month, while a semester at Wash. U. in St. Louis is $22,420 and rising.

Could this be why American kids in the 21st century seek less strident forms of release?

END

69TH AZTEC CROSS COUNTRY INVITATIONAL

Aztec Invitational Men's 8K start
Aztec Invitational Men’s 8K start

Growing up along the western bank of the Mississippi River in St. Louis, Missouri, one of the most frequent boasts one heard was that something or other was “the oldest (whatever) west of the Mississippi”.   While obviously true of many things, that designation never held for the sport of cross country.  In fact, today, not a mile off the eastern shore of the Pacific Ocean, San Diego’s Balboa Park hosted the oldest continuously run cross country invitational west of the Mississippi at the 69th Aztec Invitational. (more…)

THE FESTIVALIZATION OF SPORT — Respite from the competition of life

“Charming, smiling fellow”

In our center-right, celebrity-saturated society it is all but apostacy to say, as Yale University Sterling Professor of Humanities Harold Bloom did in a C-SPAN interview in 2000, “The country was almost destroyed by Ronald Reagan, that charming, smiling fellow.  He assured us we could all emancipate ourselves from our selfishness, which we proceeded to do on a national scale.”

Bloom’s biting assessment arrived on the heels of the dot-com bubble, but a full eight years before the housing bubble burst, a collapse that plummeted the country into the worst recession since the Great Depression of the 1930s.  Today, we are still on the long climb back to full recovery, if such a thing even exists.

In our modest running world, a similar emancipation has taken place.  Over the last generation, running has witnessed its own emancipation from effort, better known as the “Everyone’s a Winner” phase of the second running boom.  Runner’s World’s Mark Remy wrote about it this past January – OK, Time to Retire the Finisher’s Medal, and just yesterday the Wall Street Journal took up the issue – A lack of competitiveness in younger runners is turning some races into parades.

In June 1982, the late president of the New York Road Runners and race director of the New York City Marathon Fred Lebow told me, “You talk of a running boom, but we haven’t seen a boom yet.  This has only been a boom-let.  The one area that is completely behind the times is women running.  Most races see 15-25% women, yet the population is over 50% women.”

As with most things, Lebow was a seer.  Today, mass marathons in the U.S. are generally over 50% women with some tilting over 60%. Even registration for next April’s Boston Marathon, the oldest continuously run marathon in the world, has skewed heavily female.  Much of that is the consequence of last year’s tragic bombings at the Boston finish line, but some of it is Lebow’s prophecy coming true.

Though the 2014 Boston Marathon registration will skew slower and more female than usual with addition of the 4700 entrants from 2013, predominantly women, who were unable to complete the distance due to the finish line bombings, it is still a long way from 1979 when only 520 women entered Boston compared to 7357 men. (more…)