Month: January 2014

BELIEVING IS THE FIRST STEP

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie gestures during a news conference Thursday at the Statehouse in Trenton, N.J. Governor Christie has fired a top aide who arranged traffic jams to punish a mayor who didn't endorse Christie for re-election. Mel Evans/AP
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie gestures during a news conference Thursday at the Statehouse in Trenton, N.J.  (Mel Evans/AP)

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie staged a marathon press conference Thursday as he attempted to stem the political tide rising from Bridgegate, the George Washington Bridge traffic scandal ostensibly engineered by close Christie aides last September as payback against Ft. Lee, N.J.’s democratic mayor Mike Sokolich for his refusal to endorse Christie’s reelection bid.

“I’m shocked, shocked to find that gambling is going on in here!”

Telling a packed Statehouse audience in Trenton that he had no knowledge of the incident, Christie apologized then said he was “embarrassed and humiliated by the conduct of some of the people on my team…This is not the tone that I’ve set over the last four years in this building.”

While it may not be the tone he thought he was setting, all evidence suggests the opposite, because look at the results.  Would the Big Gov’s closest staff have undertaken any such action without what they considered to be, at the minimum, the implicit approval of their boss?

What does this have to do with running?  Well, nothing specifically, but everything in terms of tone and belief.  Governor Gastric Band’s staff believed in the in-your-face style of leadership their boss practiced, then simply acted in accordance with that belief.

In his book Elite Minds, Creating the Competitive Advantage Dr. Stan Beecham discusses how the belief in an outcome is predictive of same.  As he writes, “your brain is the software; your body the hardware… the mind is in control of the body”. Life, in that sense, is a series of self-fulfilling prophecies, both positive and negative. If you don’t think you can do something, you are right 100% of the time. (more…)

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ATHLETEBIZ HOPING TO START ATHLETE BUZZ

     It was a long slow erosion that saw athletics (track & field) and road running slide from their once-vaulted standings in American sport to their current niche rankings. For those of a certain age the descent has been particularly wistful as they recall the days when runners, jumpers, and throwers were household names that filled arenas and whose exploits were celebrated in national sporting publications.

Eamon Coghlan makes SI cover off Jack-in-the-Box record in San Diego 1979
Eamonn Coghlan makes SI cover off Jack-in-the-Box record in San Diego 1979

“After the Ben Johnson drug thing (Seoul 1988) USATF didn’t know how to convince the public that most athletes weren’t on drugs,” said Don Franken who, with his father Al, put on a series of major track meets on the west coast for over 40 years.  “We had 21,000 in Edwards Stadium in (Berkeley, Ca.) 1984, and averaged 12,000 — 13,000 at Sunkist, Jack-in-the-Box, Pepsi and Kinney (meets). But after Seoul we went from four meets to three to two, then ended altogether in the early 200s.  That was it.  And sponsors still think we are an amateur sport.”

Despite Franken’s assessment, there are any number of people and organizations that haven’t accepted as final the current situation, and who are taking steps to turn the trend around with an emphasis on professionalizing the sport.

New elite track clubs (see 2014 BEGINS FAST AND FURIOUS), the Paul Doyle created American Track League and Collegiate Running Association are several such harbingers of change. At the same time USATF, the national governing body for all things track and running, has also become a more productive steward.  But there are others for whom the frustrations of the past have been distilled into fuel used to light the way ahead. (more…)

2014 BEGINS FAST AND FURIOUS

Though it’s an arbitrary beginning, the calendar turn does give structure to what’s ahead.  As 2013 morphed to 2014 a number of significant moves have been witnessed throughout the sport of running and track.

With the success of the Nike Oregon Project and OTC Elite out west, the recent move toward elite team building continues at pace.  It was announced today that 1996 Olympian and Dartmouth women’s cross country coach Mark Coogan has taken a position with New Balance in Boston — joining coach Terrence Mahon in Beantown, who signed on with the Boston Athletic Association late last year to develop an elite group for the venerable purveyors of the Boston Marathon.

Simultaneously, another elite team has been started in Flagstaff, Arizona by Ben Rosario, the young running entrepreneur from St. Louis for whom, it seems, no challenge should go unmet.  The one-time specialty running store owner, Olympic Trials qualifier, track meet founder, cross country championships meet director, and running fan shop developer has, along with wife Jen, gone all-in to create Northern Arizona Elite. (more…)

ONCE A COMPETITOR…OLYMPIC MARATHON CHAMP ANXIOUS TO ANSWER CRITICS

Stephen Kiprotich, 2012 Olympic Champion
Stephen Kiprotich, 2012 Olympic Champion

Reigning World and Olympic Marathon champion Stephen Kiprotich of Uganda begins 2014 with his knickers in a knot —  which is not a bad thing by this reading.  As he embarks on the long training slog toward the highly anticipated Virgin London Marathon this April 13th, the soon to be 25 year-old (Feb. 27, 1989) has been stung by unnamed critics who suggest he has been more fortunate than good in winning his two gold medals.  Kiprotich took issue with the charge, snapping back in a story published by Uganda’s Daily Mirror that was then picked up as Quote of the Day by our friends at Letsrun.com.

“I know I haven’t run a very fast marathon in my career so far, but what people forget is that I am still learning. You can’t judge someone who hasn’t run more than 10 marathons. I have competed against very experienced marathoners and defeated them.”

There is no denying Kiprotich’s excellence as a championship runner. Only Ethiopia’s Gezahenge Abera has similarly worn Olympic and World Championship Marathon gold simultaneously (2000 Sydney & 2001 Edmonton).  But in his seven career marathons to date Kiprotich has only registered a modest PR (by today’s standards) of 2:07:20 from his debut at the 2011 Enschede Marathon in the Netherlands. As a side note, Enschede was also the only other marathon besides the World Champs and Olympics that he’s won (see full career record below).

“On a good day, I am sure I can run 2:05,” Kiprotich told the Daily Mirror, adding, “I can even attempt the world record (2:03:23). It’s very possible. It all depends on the course and how the body reacts.”

Date

Competition

Country

 

 

 

Result

 

 

Apr. 17, 2011 Enschede Marathon NED 1st 2:07:20
Feb. 26,  2012 Tokyo Marathon JPN 3rd 2:07:50
Aug. 12, 2012 London Olympic Games GBR 1st 2:08:01
Apr. 21, 2013 London Marathon GBR 6th 2:08:05
Aug. 17, 2013 Moskva IAAF World Championships RUS 1st 2:09:51
Sep. 04, .2011 Daegu IAAF World Championships KOR 9th 2:12:57
Nov.03, 2013 New York City Marathon USA 12th 2:13:05

One always likes to see an athlete rise to the bait, even if it’s hard to figure who set the hook.  But a ghost challenge is as good as a flesh and blood one, I say, if it gets the blood up.  At the same time, immediately upon reading the Kiprotich quote I was struck by the number 10.  “You can’t judge someone who hasn’t run ten marathons?”

Yes you can.  I do it all the time. (more…)

BABY, IT’S COLD OUTSIDE

Winter Map    As the Hercules storm mounts the eastern seaboard, I am reminded that there once was a time when I loved running in the cold.  No, not the piercing cold many around the country are currently experiencing.  Rather, anything right around freezing when, after about ten minutes to get the blood flowing and system up to speed,  the feeling of well-being begins to spread like a juicy rumor in a closed-minded crowd.  Yes, that experience had a very specific charm about it. Even better, with so many other primates remaining indoors to avoid the cold, more of this pristine real estate was left for me to explore at pace.

But like New Year’s Eve drinking, you had to know when to say when, because a sudden change in conditions could lead to real difficulties, as I learned one unfortunate winter’s morn when I took off on an ill-conceived out-and-back twelve miler from my Boston apartment. (more…)