CARLSBAD 5000 SETS A NEW COURSE

Carlsbad Logo 2015Beyond pure competition the beauty of racing lies in the absolute of distance in relation to the inarguable measure of time.  This weekend marks the 31st running of the Carlsbad 5000, billed, as always, as the World’s Fastest 5K.  And while that subtitle still holds true, as 16 world records, 8 U.S. records, and a laundry list of age-group marks have been set on the tranquil seaside course, it is true mostly in regard to potential for national and age-group marks, rather than the world bests.

Since Kenya’s Sammy Kipketer reeled off his two 13:00 wins in 2000 and 2001 — both years featuring sub-4:00 opening miles — no one has come within a javelin throw of his mark.  Last year on a newly designed layout Tucson-based Kenyan Lawi Lalang took the title in 13:32, equal fourth slowest winning time in Carlsbad history, and same as Steve Scott’s inaugural year win in 1986. U.S. master phenom Bernard Lagat finished third overall in a new world master’s record 13:40 (behind little known Wilson Too of Kenya, 13:35).

Lawi Lalang on his way to victory at CBAD 2015

Lawi Lalang on his way to victory at CBAD 2015 (courtesy, Betancourt Photography)

Lalang, an eight-time NCAA champion while at the University of Arizona, is back to defend in 2016, again taking on his training mate Lagat.  The two will test their mettle against American mile standout Will Leer (fourth in 2013, 13:36), two-time Australian Olympian Collis Birmingham, and Great Britain’s Andy Vernon who set his road 5K PR in Carlsbad in 2012 at 13:40.

On the women’s side, 5K road world record holder and three-time Carlsbad champion Meseret Defar of Ethiopia returns to Carlsbad for the sixth time overall, and first since her 15:04 win in 2010. Mezzy, now 32, is coming off a solid silver medal performance over 3000 meters (behind Genzebe Dibaba) at the recent IAAF World Indoor Championships in Portland, Oregon.  The two-time Olympic 5000 meter champion will be inducted into the Carlsbad 5000 Hall of Fame this weekend, along with six-time women’s wheelchair champion DeAnna Sodoma. Continue reading

ODDS & ENDS

drive_chip_putt_LogoI was watching Oregon v Oklahoma at the NCAA West Regional Final on CBS over the weekend. One of the promotions on the broadcast was for the USGA & PGA’s Drive, Chip & Putt National Finals. Staged for ages 7-15, viewers were prompted to “find a local qualifier near you to register.”

Run, Jump, and Throw LogoYou wonder how sports promote themselves to the next generation? Well, that’s one way.  Plus, the DCP National Finals were featured on the Golf Channel, too.  Imagine how that might draw new converts as tour pros and Bush 43 Secretary of State Condi Rice were on hand as enthusiastic supporters.

USATF does partner with Hershey for its own Run Jump & Throw national program, “a hands-on learning program that gets kids excited about physical activity by introducing them to the basic running, jumping and throwing skills through track and field”.  But the RJT doesn’t have a competition component, nor does it have a professional wing like the PGA to help drive participation and help pay for such broad promotions as advertising on the NCAA basketball tournament telecast.

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Funny how closely sport mirrors society at large. On Sunday the New York Times quoted ex-WADA head Dick Pound on the precarious position the sport of athletics has put itself in over the last generation:

“The public is getting pretty inured to the fact that competitions are fixed, and they will stop watching and then sponsors will stop sponsoring and it could all go down the tubes.”

Jeez, you think?

But isn’t that exactly the same cynicism that is fueling Donald Trump’s march to the Republican nomination, and that is keeping Bernie Sanders competitive in the Dem race against Hillary Clinton?  The public believes we live in an age of fraud, be it in the realm of government, religion, business, or sport.  Until a level of trust is reestablished, no institution will be immune from the hand-washing cynicism that threatens to unsettle life and society in the 21st century.

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The sport of tennis found itself embroiled in a volley of sexism charges last week after controversial comments were made by a prominent tournament director in California and then world’s top men’s player.  The issue centered on the commercial value of women vis-à-vis men in the sport.

As the tennis story played out, leading to the resignation of Indian Wells tournament director Raymond Moore, and some serious back-pedaling by world No. 1 Novak Djokovic, into the controversy strode women’s marathon world record holder Paula Radcliffe of England.  According to Paula “other sports could learn from track in providing equal pay for men and women.”

Talk about diamonds and rust.  Yes, athletics pays equal for men and women, equal sh*t.  You don’t think both genders in athletics wouldn’t swap their equal pay for the short stick in tennis?  Any day of the week, and twice on Sunday.  And don’t forget, while $6 billion is raised through the Olympic Games, the athletes perform for shiny objects.  Perhaps there is something inherently unfair with that arrangement, too.

Indian Wells logo INDIAN WELLS, CA–MARCH 7-20, 2016

Winner $1,028,300
Finalist $501,815
Semi-finalist $251,500
Quarter-finalist $128,215

 

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HEALING BEGINS

World Indoor Champs logo 2016Last week’s IAAF World Indoor Championships in Portland, Oregon has been praised for its innovations in track & field presentation, things like NBA-style player introductions, music during competitions, and medal ceremonies in Portland’s Courthouse Square.  And while there were many performances to laud and races that stretched emotions taut, it must also be noted that there was an uneven quality to a meet billed as a “World Championships”.

Though 148 nations sent at least one representative to Portland — up from the 135 in Sopot, Poland in 2014, but down from the 168 in Istanbul, Turkey in 2012 — there was a shortage of top-flight fields in many events. One reason may well be the specter of the Rio Games this summer. Continue reading

THE CHARMIN SUPREMACY

imageFor decades the U.S. wrestled the Soviet bear for international primacy in a long and bitter Cold War. Finally, the bear and its Communist system succumbed, driven into the deep freeze of insolvency in 1989.  Yet remnants of international Communism persisted, most stubbornly in Cuba.

Throughout the Castro brothers regime in Cuba, an American trade embargo has been in place crippling the Cuban economy. Now, in his final year in office, President Barack Obama has flown to Havana to meet with Cuban leaders, including President Raul Castro.  This makes Obama the first sitting U.S. President to visit the island nation since Calvin Coolidge in 1928.

Even as we struggle to combat the barbaric jihadists in the Middle East while trying to re-boot the political hard drive in our own hemisphere, there are those who say a stronger hand is what’s needed, not a conciliatory one.

But as we should have learned in Vietnam, in a battle for hearts and minds against an asymmetrical enemy, might alone will never be the deciding factor — and as suggested in a previous post (Our Sorcerer’s Apprentice) may actually work to our disadvantage if in the wrong hands.

And so while attempts to define us by our faults may reveal shortcomings, whenever others question America, I suggest we revert to the appeal that worked so effectively against the Soviet Communists. I speak of the Charmin Supremacy. Continue reading

COMITY AND OTHER LESSONS FROM LINCOLN

(POLITICS, NOT RUNNING)

Lincoln st Cooper Union, May 1860

Lincoln at Cooper Union 1860

The heat and passion of political discourse is but a measure of the times, not their cause. And so in this particularly rancorous presidential campaign of 2016, where heat and passion has been felt from both political parties, what we are witnessing is an unsettled electorate wrestling toward an uncertain future.

With a large number of combative issues already facing the country, one more unexpected fissure opened in the crust of our political landscape recently with the sudden passing of associate Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia.

In Justice Scalia we had one of the most vocal justices of any era, and perhaps the most politically polarizing of his own. Considered a strict constitutional originalist, Justice Scalia was well known and highly regarded for his sharp-elbowed questioning and scathing dissents.

Today, President Obama nominated chief  D. C. appellate court judge Merrick Garland to fill the Scalia vacancy. Though Judge Garland is universally well-liked and has a moderate judicial record, in today’s hothouse political climate no nominee proffered by Obama can stand before the negating Republican-led Senate and expect a hearing much less an up-or-down vote for confirmation.  Continue reading

HAPPY BIRTHDAY WILSON KIPSANG

Wilson Kipsang sets world record in Berlin 2013

Wilson Kipsang sets world record in Berlin 2013

Happy birthday to Wilson Kipsang, the former marathon world record holder, who turns 34 today. Last year Wilson ran a strong second to fellow Kenyan Eliud Kipchoge in the London Marathon, 2:04:47 to Kipchoge’s 2:04:42.  In today’s marathon world the two 30+ year olds are a bit of a throwback as youth (and drugs) has emerged as a dominant player.

We go through eras in sports, and unfortunately the current era in almost all sports will be linked to drugs (though institutional corruption is making a big play for attention, as well). The only good thing we might see ahead is that the era of drugs as the preferred method of performance enhancement is coming to an end as gene manipulation promises a strong future in the 21st century. Continue reading

OUR SORCERER’S APPRENTICE

Sorcerer's Apprentice

Though clothed in the button-nosed cuteness of Mickey Mouse in the 1940 Walt Disney film Fantasia, the story of the Sorcerer’s Apprentice was a cautionary tale penned in 1797 by Goethe that warned of the consequences of misjudged and misguided power. It is a story that springs readily to mind in light of today’s toxic presidential campaign in the U.S.A.

Continue reading