MARATHON YEAR 2014

Dennis Kimetto, marathon world record holder

Dennis Kimetto, marathon world record holder

There were highs (American Meb Keflezighi‘s magnificent win in Boston) and lows (Kenyan Rita Jeptoo testing positive for EPO), but some things ran along a well worn path in the world of marathoning in 2014. Chief among those was the utter domination of Kenya and Ethiopia in the ranks of the men’s marathon.

Fully 95 of the top 100 times posted this past year hailed from those two nations (57/38), led by Kenyan Dennis Kimetto’s 2:02:57 world record in Berlin in September. By comparison, last year 89 of the top 100 marathon times came from Kenya (55) and Ethiopia (34), led by Kenyan Wilson Kipsang‘s 2:03:23 world record, also in Berlin.

This year presumptive world number one Kipsang had to console himself with major wins in London (2:04:27 course record) and New York City (2:10:59 in chilled and windy conditions). Those two wins sewed up the $500,000 bonus for winning the 2013-2014 World Marathon Majors series.  Nice consolation.

Wislon Kipsang battles Lelisa Desisa for New York title.

Wilson Kipsang battles Lelisa Desisa for New York title in November.

However, revelations out of Kenya late this year pointing  to a growing drug scandal and corruption charges have left the more cynical among us wondering how pure that dominance may be, or if we truly are in a golden age of the sport or simply an increasingly deceptive one. However, until further evidence surfaces we take what has been presented at face value. Continue reading

ON THE ROAD 1994: LAMINGTON NATIONAL PARK

surfers-paradise       Friday 15 July 1994 – Surfer’s Paradise, Australia

      Following a 10 a.m. press conference at the Hyatt Hotel for the weekend’s Gold Coast Marathon, the entire crew loaded up for the ninety minute drive to Lamington National Park along the border of New South Wales.

Passing inland south from the Gold Coast of Queensland the countryside beyond became a tufted brown patchwork as rolling hills lifted the land with each passing mile.  All along the way idly grazing cattle dotted the properties around corrugated-roofed ranch houses outlined by shaded verandas. With little more than a squint one could easily imagine being back in the American Southwest at the turn of the 20th century.

Our destination was O’Reilly’s Rainforest Retreat at the top of the park, a three-generation business which anchored the area’s tourist economy. After a concluding thirty-six kilometer switchback ascent to O’Reilly’s, we arrived high atop the rainforest at an altitude of 7,000 feet.

Overhead the sun hung glazed amongst a formation of cumulus clouds with not a mote of pollution to filter the rays. Yet within the shade of the forest the air reminded us of the season at hand.

Rope bridgeRope ladder    We bounded along Indiana Jones-like bridges stretched 50 feet above the brush. Through mesh-encircled ladders we climbed another twenty meters into the treetops, gazing over branches to a lawn of trees stretching to the Richmond Mountain range fifty kilometers to the horizon.

Birds of exploding blues, reds and greens passed close by as winter’s sun began to relinquish its hold, pushed by a rising moon covetous of the cool evening sky. Told of a lovely waterfall by a family of locals, we hustled to the van for the one kilometer drive down the road leading to it before the sun fully set. Once at the trail head American mile record holder Steve Scott and I lit out down the winding path.

The dense tree cover further chilled the light. Our pace met it head on, maintaining an even warmth as we wound down and through the arch of quadruple canopy. Behind came our crew: producer Rich Jayne, along with cameramen Dale Wong, Tom Wall, and Jim ?, equipment in tow, but falling behind the strong pace Steve was setting.  Like a shade being drawn, the darkness descended with each passing curve as fewer and fewer swatches of light managed to evade the enveloping cover.

After fifteen minutes we began to make out the slightest whisper of moving water in the distance to our left. Continue reading

HONOLULU 2014 RECAP

Honolulu, Hi. —  Monday dawned sunny and bright the day after the 2014 Honolulu Marathon.  Such is the game of chance in the marathon world.  For yesterday’s 42nd Honolulu Marathon a deep roll of clouds lingered over Oahu, bringing spells of lashing trade winds and screeds of warm rain in the pre-dawn darkness along the mid-section of the out-and-back course.

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Yet the conditions didn’t chill the Aloha spirit offered or received by the thousands who embraced the warm but wild conditions — though fully 4000 of the 30,000 entrants who picked up their bib numbers at the Honolulu Convention Center failed to arrive at the Ala Moana Blvd. start line at 5 a.m.  That number, however, is more a reflection of the spirit of the Honolulu Marathon as a destination event more so than, say, a Boston qualifier.  Yet, the thousands who took up the challenge remained stalwart.  The final finishers didn’t arrive at the Kapiolani Park finish line until nearly 15 hours into the race.   Continue reading

2014 HONOLULU MARATHON PREVIEW

Honolulu 2014 logo Honolulu, HI. — The sport of marathoning  has gone gaga for fast times. Since 2011’s 2:03:38 by Patrick Makau in Berlin the record has tumbled  two more times, with the current clocking, 2:02:57, coming this September in Berlin by fellow Kenyan Dennis Kimetto.  The 100th fastest time of 2014, 2:08:25, is nine seconds faster than Aussie Derek Clayton’s 1969 world best in Antwerp that lasted a dozen years.

But Sunday’s 42nd Honolulu Marathon will not be won in anything approaching a world’s best, or for that matter, even what might be considered a normally fast, world-class time. No, Honolulu is a throw-back, built for competition, not for speed. The fact that six-time champion Jimmy Muindi’s course record, 2:11:12, has stood since 2004 — and before that Ibrahim Hussein’s 2:11:43 lasted 20 years — testifies to the difficulty presented by 26.2 miles (42.2Km) of tropical heat and humidity over a course that requires two climbs over iconic Diamond Head before the finish in Kapiolani Park. Now add a tempestuous NE wind that may clock in at 30 mph or more Sunday morning, and this 42Km may run more like 50!

Notwithstanding the challenges, this year’s Honolulu Marathon has what many are calling its strongest field ever, a well-matched compilation of veterans and eager newcomers anxious to show their wares and earn berth in a 2015 Abbot World Marathon Major.

Last year under 72F temps and calm winds the main nine-man pack loitered through a 1:11:38 first half, some three minutes behind front-runner Saeki Makino of Japan, a training partner of Japan’s famed citizen runner Yuki Kawauchi. It took till mile 22 before Kenyans Gilbert Chepkwony and 2011 champion Nicholas Chelimo reeled him in. Chepkwony then put Chelimo away with back-to-back 4:36 miles at 22 and 23 on his way to a modest 2:18:47 finish. Chepkwony and Chelimo have returned in 2014, but will be hard-pressed to maintain their positions atop the podium. It has always been said that the best way to honor your champion is to invite a field that’s worthy of his best efforts. You could say that race director Jon Cross is honoring the bejeesus out of Mr. Chepkwony this year.

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ATHLETICS: A HOUSE ON FIRE

IMG_440106424Honolulu, Hi. —   It is easy to get lolled into a complacent repose here on the magical isle of Oahu. The rolling surf and easy trade winds loosen even the stiffest resolve, and one can forget, for the moment, the sulfurous zeitgeist wafting over the sport of athletics of late.

From the doping positives and allegations of wide-spread cheating and corruption coming out of the distance Eden of Kenya, to the hardened realpolitik of alleged payoffs to cover failed drug tests in Russia — or to secure championship site selection by the IAAF —  from the overturning of a mandate-level membership vote by a know-better USATF Board of Directors, to the potential loss of root and branch events like the 10,000, shot put, triple jump, and 200 meters on the track at the Olympics, there seems to be a sense of a house on fire on all fronts of athletics.

Maybe this is the entropy toward which any old and failed model eventuates. Maybe this is how the culture of greed and corruption loops back on itself in an ironic twist of Shakespearean delight.   In any regard, it is clear that the sport has completely lost its way.

Those in charge seem less passionate about the game than about the easy rewards that come from positions within extra-national oligarchies that lack adequate oversight and deal in the murky world of international banking.  It is why this sport is so attractive to so many of the wrong people as well as to so many great athletes and well-meaning supporters.

But there has always been the sense that the problem cannot be solved by simply rejiggering the NGB model or by replacing fallen men with more upstanding counterparts.  Though every sport has its difficulties and foibles, other successful sports have long since separated the necessary duties of governance, grass roots development and national team selection from the very different requirements of a truly professional sport.   Continue reading

HONOLULU MARATHON PREZ JIM BARAHAL: WHY ELITES?

IMG_439943180Honolulu, HI. — With its clement trade winds and Aloha spirit, the Honolulu Marathon has long been one of the world’s most alluring marathons.  Now entering its 42nd year, America’s fourth largest marathon has hosted more 680,000 finishers, including many of the great runners of their era.  Another 30,000-plus have signed up for this Sunday morning’s sunrise run up over Diamond Head and into Kapiolani Park.

But this hard-earned legacy of hospitality and excellence isn’t a laurel that can be rested on lightly. Like any athlete training for the race itself, the Honolulu Marathon Association continues to seek a level of perfection that both challenges and eludes us all.  And that includes in the realm of elite performance. Continue reading

GLOBAL ATHLETICS CONFERENCE 2014: KEYNOTE ADDRESS

The political season of athletics is upon us. This weekend in Anaheim, California USA Track & Field (USATF), the National Governing Body for track and field, long-distance running and race walking in the United States, convened for its annual meeting. While this family gathering has degenerated in past years into internecine squabbles, last night USATF CEO Max Siegel gave an encouraging State of the Sport address in which he presented several new initiatives across the USATF platform, while announcing two new sponsor partnerships with Hoka One One and Rosetta Stone.

Also, today we heard 1980s Olympic middle-distance champion Sebastian Coe of England announce his candidacy to replace retiring IAAF president Lamine Diack of Senegal in 2015.  Lord Coe released a Manifesto in conjunction with his announcement,  ‘Growing Athletics in a New Age’.  Coe’s primary opponent for the IAAF top job will be another athletics icon of the 20th century, pole vaulter Sergey Bubka of Ukraine who also currently serves as an IAAF Vice President .

In light of these tidings, I thought I would release the contents of the keynote address I made to the Global Athletics Conference in Durban, South Africa in November as it speaks to many of the same issues which confront the leaders of this age-old sport. Titled “Media Matters”, these are subjects which I have written about in the past on this site.

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GAC 2014 - Toni Reavis - Media Matters Powerpoint
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