Month: February 2014

WHEN THE SHOE DOESN’T FIT ANYMORE

I was in Tampa last weekend to help announce the Publix Gasparilla Distance Classic as the old-line road race was reintroducing prize money after an absence of 17-years. After the race I drove north to visit old friends in Gainesville where I’d spent 10 winters in the 1990s. And what happened while I was away?  The track world falls apart in Albuquerque, New Mexico at the U.S. Indoor Nationals.

I tell you, I’ve been trying my best to embrace USATF as a changing, responsive national governing body, what with Max Siegel taking over in an appreciably quiet, yet focused way as CEO.  And though there were momentary echoes of some benighted AAU or TAC ghost hovering near the 2016 Olympic Marathon Trials selection process that chose L.A. over Houston, a closer inspection revealed both sides on firm ground with no hidden agendas, and a fair argument to bolster its case.  Just sad one of the cities had to lose.  And with combined trials, the sport loses inventory, too, as there is one less national exposure available.

Brooks athlete Gabby Grunewald passes Nike Athlete Jordan Hasay in women's 3000.
Brooks athlete Gabby Grunewald about to pass Nike Athlete Jordan Hasay in women’s 3000.

But now again at the indoor nationals in Albuquerque we see yet another shit storm erupt in the controversy surrounding the no, no,yes, no again disqualification of Gabby Grunewald in the women’s 3000 meters.  Certainly, given the evidence available to anyone who watched that race, or has ever spent any time racing or watching indoor meets over the years, while there was minor contact, (in my opinion) there was nothing suggesting disqualification.  Indoor track has long been a contact sport as bodies fatigue, wits wither, and space narrows. Yet due to the current organizational structure and sponsorship arrangements of USATF, once again we saw the fuse of unrest only needing a minor spark to ignite a major controversy. (more…)

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RYAN VAIL & LINDSEY SCHERF WIN GASPARILLA HALF-MARATHON

Ryan Vail takes lead in Tampa at mile 12.
Ryan Vail takes lead in Tampa at mile 12.

Tampa, FL. — The excitement of pro racing returned to the streets of Tampa today, as the once legendary Publix Gasparilla Distance Classic saw spirited competitions mark both the pro men’s and women’s races at the 37th running of Tampa’s premier distance events.  It was the first time since 1997 that pro prize money was on offer, and Portland, Oregon’s Ryan Vail and Chapel Hill, North Carolina’s Lindsey Scherf came out on top to claim the $80000 first place checks out of a total purse of $40,000. In the 68 degree, 97% humidity conditions Vail’s winning time was 64:06, while Scherf proved her fitness for the March 9th Los Angeles Marathon with a controlled 1:13:07 win. (more…)

GASPARILLA 2014 KICKS OFF NEW PRIZE MONEY ERA

GasparillaTampa, Fl. — A temperate 70 degree air temperature was blanketed by 100% humidity today as thousands of runners from the region, state, and nation took part in the 37th running of the Publix Gasparilla Distance Classic 15K and 5K along Bayshore Boulevard. Tomorrow, the half-marathon and 8K take center stage.

In the local 15K showcase, in which $10,000 was split between the men’s and women’s divisions, Tampa’s own Jon Mott and Sara Petrick took home the $2000 first prize purses for their respective wins.  Both had finished second in 2013.  This year Mott’s unofficial time was 48:43, some 53-seconds slower than in 2013, while Petrick posted a 34-second improvement over last year with her unofficial time of 55:47. Mott was challenged early by 19 year-old Polish native Rafal Matuszcak, but pulled away just after the six mile mark, and could cruise home unchallenged, saving himself for a go at the half-marathon tomorrow where he is the defending champ. (more…)

COMING AROUND AGAIN

GasparillaTampa, FL. — Certainly, I’ve been a critic over the years of the sport’s de-emphasis on competition in favor of fun-running and charity fund-raising, likening that trend to America’s de-emphasis on education in favor of grade-inflation and child buttering.  Jerry Seinfeld did a great bit Tuesday night on Jimmy Fallon’s second night as Tonight Show host on this topic, saying, “when we were young our parents didn’t give a damn about us.  They didn’t even know our names!”

But history isn’t linear, and pendulums have a habit of sweeping back in the other direction.  Thus, a quick survey of recent moves in the sport lead to a conclusion that competition is once again being noticed, even appreciated, and highlighted.

This weekend I am here in Tampa for the return of the Gasparilla Distance Classic to the ranks of pro racing. It’s the first time Gasparilla has invited a pro field to the streets of Tampa since 1997. And its a welcome return to what traditionally had been the best field of the year during the 1980s and `90s when Gasparilla was the first race of the year and everyone was anxious to get out of the cold and into Florida for a blistering 15K burnout. This year it will be a pro half-marathon with an American based field, which I will break down after talking with the athletes as they assemble. (more…)

PEGASUS SPORTS PERFORMANCE SEEKING FINAL BETA TESTERS

pegasus-logo     Over the last several years I’ve been following the development of a sensor-based technology that I thought held great promise for running, but that has had its share of missteps on the long road to market.   Pegasus Sports Performance licensed a technology first developed by engineers at the UCLA Wireless Health Institute to analyze the abnormal gait of Parkinson’s and stroke victims, then adapted that technology for performance athletics.

Over the last two years Pegasus has worked with former Mammoth Track Club and now Boston Athletic Association coach Terrence Mahon as well as athletes ranging from the everyday to world class to hone its software and sensor design. Now, in a final beta test before market launch, Pegasus is looking for a group of runners to try out the new design and give their feedback.

Pegasus sensor, charger, Iphone and smart watch
Pegasus sensor, charger, Iphone and smart watch

If you are interested in being part of this beta test, go to the Pegasus website, www.pegasussp.com  where you can take a survey and join up! (more…)

NEW SHOES

shoe pile     Every new pair of running shoes smells faintly of hope. It’s part of the bargain, I guess. Put your money down, make your dreams come true. But after a while you stop noticing.  Hope simply becomes your partner, your mate, your significant other, part of what drives you.  Stop running, however, and those same shoes begin to give off a whiff of despair, staring back from cold desolation of the closet or jumbled together in that useless pile by the front door. It’s an odd transformation, but it holds. That’s about as much wisdom as I can offer after thirty-plus years in the game.

We live with that hope sewn into our hearts.  It’s always there, in the next run, the next race, the next text or phone call.  Do people even make phone calls anymore? These days the phone is too tedious, too involving.   Like letter writing, I can’t be bothered. Or when long distance was only for births, deaths, engagements, and holidays. Go figure.

They ask why we do it, and what’s to say? It’s the best I can do with what I’ve got?  How about that?  Because not doing it is a calcification of whatever spirit I have left?  That work for you?  I mean, what is losing after all, but the probable outcome of trying?  So we try, then try again. Because the more we try the less value we accord loss, and greater the satisfaction if it works out otherwise.  But don’t think too long that it will.  You’ll just be setting yourself up. (more…)

BAA ANOUNCES PLANS FOR MARATHON TRIBUTE

BostonStrong     Everyone knows it will be a special year at the 2014 Boston Marathon, as the grand old race and its host city commemorate last year’s tragic bombings.  There is no getting around the centrality of that tragedy, nor will there be for years to come, though I suspect everyone is of two minds about it, as well.  Truly, it is a no-win situation.  Too much emphasis just validates the cruel act in the first place, too little attention and we fail to honor the injured and fallen, or to show proper resolve in the face of the cowardly attack.

Of course the marathon world is a bottomless pit of resolve, and today the BAA announced its plan for an official tribute to mark the one year anniversary.  But due to the constantly moving third Monday of April Patriot’s Day race date, there will be a nearly one week cushion between the actual anniversary of the bombing and the 2014 race.

“I think we’ve caught a huge break with the race being so late this year,” said one media partner.  “There will be an Anniversary observance on the 15th, and then hopefully we can move into race mode leading up to the 21st.   Clearly, the topic can’t be avoided — but the goal is to focus on that race and that day.   Hopefully the events of the prior week will make it easier to do that.”

The event’s official (magazine) program will also reflect the unique nature of this year’s event, and “the BAA is changing its content somewhat for this year’s program,”  said its editor. Below is today’s BAA announcement in full. (more…)