Month: April 2016

WHAT MEAN THE STRUGGLES IF THE BATTLES GO UNNAMED?

There were several sad stories in the news this week that helped keep perspective in proper alignment. Each concerned people in the prime of their lives, each speaks to the promise and fragility that life presents to us all.

First came word that 31 year-old British army Captain David Seath had become the 11th fatality in the 35 year history of the London Marathon after he collapsed at mile 23, felled by cardiac arrest. A veteran of the war in Afghanistan, Capt. Seath was running London last Sunday to raise funds for Help For Heroes to assist fellow Afghanistan vets.

Then we read where two-time U.S. high jump Olympian Jamie Nieto, 39,  slipped while doing a back flip during a coaching session, missed the landing, and had to be airlifted to hospital to undergo surgery to relieve compression to his spine. Still recovering, the universally well liked Olympian remains partially paralyzed.

Finally, closer to home, we were saddened to hear that Tori Hendrix, wife of our friend and old Elite Racing TV family member Austin, had succumbed to cancer at age 37, leaving behind two young ones and a life nowhere near where its end should have been.

Hendrix Family
Hendrix Family

Each of these stories begs the question, what mean the struggles if the battles go unnamed? Do we comprehend such purposes in life, or is purpose no more than a counter-puncher’s resolve? I wish I knew. But my scope is not that wide.

It is often said that the marathon is an apt metaphor for life, for there is great joy and exhilaration as well as deep disappointment and despair to be found in both.  And while life will most assuredly see us pass through both portals many times over, sometimes the marathon can encompass all within the course of a single event, even a single mile.

And perhaps that is its truest gift, for notwithstanding all the rewards to be discovered in its challenges, it is through its metaphoric use that we learn to temper our highs with humility and assuage our lows with hope, while in the between fight as we can from the wellsprings of preparation, effort and faith. (more…)

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STICKIN’ IT TO THE CONSUMER

New-car-keysEverywhere you turn these days you find another example of industries who are just out to stick it to the consumer.

Some of you are old enough to remember when you would buy a house or a car, or rent a hotel room, they used to give you a key. And it worked every time.  In fact, it was a special moment when someone handed you the keys to your new car or a new house.

These days you still get house keys for the most part – though keypads are coming on strong – but the auto and hotel industries have long since taken away keys and replaced them with fobs and plastic cards. Which is all well and good for them, but not so good for you if you lose the dumb-ass fob or demagnetize that plastic card.

As opposed to a key, which would cost $1.29 to replace down at Lowes or Home Depot, a new fob will run you $400 to $500 down at the dealership, with an extra charge to re-program it, not to mention the towing charge if you’re away from home when you lose it!

And today’s hotels, rather than give you a key, they hand you one of those shiny plastic cards with advertising on the front and a magnetic strip on the back. And, of course, you put the thing in your pocket where it evidently got too close to your ostrich-skinned wallet or your cell phone which act like card-strip Kryptonite,  meaning after you’ve timed your pee break perfectly to get up the elevator and into your room, the little light blinks red instead of green, meaning you have to rush back downstairs, holding yourself like a six year-old to stem the leak, in order to get the damn thing re-coded.

No wonder Trump is winning!

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CONVENTIONAL WISDOM

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Lemi Hayle & Lelisa Desisa battling in Boston

Boston, MA. – Modern day conventional wisdom held that professional runners could optimally race only two marathons per year, one in the spring, one in the fall. With a full marathon training cycle taking 12 weeks or so, and a proper marathon recovery requiring one month, it was felt that two per year was the way to best schedule a marathoner’s career for both excellence and length.

But as the popularity of the marathon continues to spread around the world, and opportunities crop up in parts of the world outside the U.S. and Europe where the weather is conducive to marathon running in non-traditional months, we’ve begun to see more and more top athletes stretch their wings and open their calendars.

With the money that now attends these newer events, and with youthful runners who might once have gone to the ovals in Europe now running marathons as a primary profession, the two-per-year order has evolved.

Racing is not simply a trophy collection exercise, but a business opportunity. And youthful legs like those of Lemi Hayle, 21, who just won the Boston Marathon after taking second place in Dubai in January in a PR 2:04:33, don’t seem to experience a perceivable drop-off even with a shortened training regime and following recovery.

In 2015 Hayle won Dubai in 2:05:28 then came back in April to win in Warsaw in 2:07:57. And we can be fairly certain that if he is selected for the Ethiopian Olympic team for Rio (and why wouldn’t he be?) there’s even a chance he might run in the fall again, as well. Young legs and hungry hearts bounce back quicker.

Whether there are any other factors involved we will set aside for the moment. Though the cynicism that might have been decried in the past is hard to dismiss out of hand anymore.

But returning to the gist of the post: Last year two-time Boston champion Lelisa Desisa ran four marathons, taking second in Dubai (2:05:52), first in Boston, then seventh at the Beijing World Championships and finally third in New York City.  Yemane Tsegay ran three majors, second at Boston and the World Champs before fifth in NYC.

Those results didn’t appreciably slow them on Monday in Boston where they went second and third in slow conditions. And their countrywoman Titfi Tsegaye finished second at Boston in the women’s race coming off a 2:19:41 PR winning Dubai in January, which was get 19th career marathon.

What jumps out from this list is that it’s all Ethiopian.

“Most Kenyans still listen to us,” said athlete manager Federico Rosa, whose Kenyan, Paul Lonyangata, finished fifth yesterday. “It is in Ethiopia they want to run more. They want to keep rolling in races, but we don’t want to kill the body. We want the athletes to be 100% ready for their next race, and to have a long career.”

Exuberance and indestructibility are hallmarks of youth. Perhaps the old marathon isn’t such an endurance event anymore, but a speed test over a long distance.  Then again maybe it’s just luring youthful prey into its less than tender trap.  It will take a few more years to determine how sharp the old distance’s teeth still are.

Good recoveries and congrats to all the Boston finishers.  Let’s see what London has in store next week.

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2016 BOSTON MARATHON PRESSER

Olympians Shalane Flanagan, Amy Cragg and Joan Samuelson talking prospects in Rio where Amy & Shalane just visited.
Olympians Shalane Flanagan, Amy Cragg and Joan Samuelson talking prospects in Rio where Amy & Shalane just visited.

Boston, Ma. –  U.S. Olympians Shalane Flanagan, Amy Cragg, Meb Keflezighi and Ryan Hall were an added attraction at today’s 2016 Boston Marathon elite athlete press conference. But with the top end Americans resting from February’s Olympic  Trials and preparing for Rio Games this summer, there are fewer marquee names in this year’s marathon field. Plenty of very fast runners, mind you, just not a lot of star power.

The biggest story in Boston 2016 is probably Lelisa Desisa’s attempt at a third BAA crown.  The 26 year-old Ethiopian has won two of his three Boston starts, 2013 and 2015. Only a DNF in Meb’s year of 2014, when Desisa stepped on a water bottle at 25K forcing him from the race at 35K, has seen him off the winner’s stand.  And speaking to his coach Haji Adillo, and his manager Hussein Makke, Desisa is laser focused on that three-peat.

“He is in top form,” said Coach Adillo, “better than ever, more mileage than before.  But after the World Championships (7th in Beijing in August) and third place at New York, we said, ‘enough’.  So we took it easy after November with only one race scheduled before Boston.”

Lelisa won that race, the Aramco Houston Half Marathon in January in a fine 60:37, showing he is in perfect position to become the ninth runner to take three Boston wins in a career, and first since Robert Cheruiyot won the third of four in 2007.

But Boston is a tricky race with no pacesetters, and a course as undulant as a Moroccan belly dancer.  (more…)

2016 HAPALUA – THE CHASE IS ON

Honolulu, HI. – At a time when interest in the outcome of elite races is struggling to connect with an audience, the Hapalua, Hawaii’s Half Marathon has designed a format that brings the world-class into competition with the local-class, while making hunters and prey out of all. In today’s version of the Hapalua’s unique Chase format, Kenya’s Isabella Ochichi used her seven-minute head start over scratch runners Patrick Makau and Erick Kibet to notch the overall win and take home the Hapalua title and $5000 top prize. Former marathon world record holder Makau and 61-minute half-marathoner Kibet finished together in 1:05:35, which was only good for fourth and fifth in the Chase.

Isabella Ochichi wins 2016 Hapalua Chase
Isabella Ochichi wins 2016 Hapalua Chase

 

The Hapalua Chase brings 24 of the islands’ best runners together as Team Hawaii to compete against four invited professionals. Team Hawaii runners get  head starts, ranging from 23 minutes to six minutes, launching from Kalakaua Avenue in the heart of Waikiki Beach.

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Kenyan stars Kibet & Makau (left) assess the start of Japan pro Ryotaro Otani who went off with a 3:00 head start.

2004 Olympic 5000m silver medalist and two-time Honolulu Marathon third placer Ochichi completed the challenging Diamond Head dominated course in 1:10:37, besting Japanese pro Ryotaro Otani – who was given a three-minute cushion – by 59-seconds.

Team Hawaii's Amanda Beaman takes 3rd in Chase.
Team Hawaii’s Amanda Beaman takes 3rd in Chase.

17 year-old Iolani High School senior Amanda Beaman finished third with a gun time of 1:25:23.  But with a 20-minute head start the 2015 Hawaii state cross country and 3000 meter champion was able to just hold off fast closing Makau and Kibet who ran the entire distance side-by-side.

“It was fun,” said Ochichi in the sun-spashed post-race gathering.  “You were running away from someone as well as running after someone.”

Two years ago Isabella came to the Hapalua, but was only awarded a five-minute advantage, which left her 1:10:24 gun time in only fourth place at the Kapiolani Park finish. Today, she caught Team Hawaii’s Amanda Beaman at 19K going up Diamond Head and cruised home the clear winner. (more…)

HAPALUA 2016

Patrick Makau and daughter Christine enjoying the breezes at the Outrigger
Patrick Makau and daughter Christine enjoying the day at the Outrigger Reef

Honolulu, HI. — Former marathon world record holder Patrick Makau and 2004 Olympic 5000 meter silver medalist Isabella Ochichi, both from Kenya, have returned to Hawaii as the star attractions for Sunday’s fifth Hapalua, Hawaii’s Half Marathon. Organized by the Honolulu Marathon Association, the Hapalua features a field of nearly 8000 runners in 2016, 2000 of whom hail from Japan. Both categories represent significant increases in the rapidly expanding sister race to December’s Honolulu Marathon.

Hapalua logoThe Hapalua is best known for its unique Chase format in which Team Hawaii consisting of 20 top local runners from the islands are given a series of head starts ranging from 23 minutes to 6 minutes before four professionals including Ochichi, Makau, Ryotaro Otani from Japan, and Erick Kibet from Kenya, take to the chase.

Makau (PR, 58:52) and Kibet (PR, 61:10) represent the scratch runners in the field (Kibet more as a pacer to give Makau company in the early stages), while Ochichi (PR, 68:38) will have a six-minute advantage, and 25 year-old Ryotaro Otani (PR, 62:48) will begin at 5:58 a.m. a slim two minutes ahead of his Kenyan rivals. From there it is the first person across the Kapiolani Park finish line who will take home the $5000 first prize out of a total purse of $11,000.

15Hapalua Passing Johanna
Eventual winner Peter Kirui of Kenya (64:08) & runner-up Nicholas Kemboi of Qatar (64:09) pass Team Hawaii’s Johanna Apelryd down Diamond Head in the final mile of the 2015 Hapalua

Local runners won the first three Hapalua Chases, while Peter Kirui of Kenya finally took home the top prize for the pros last year in a course record 64:08.

2016 marks the third Hapalua appearance for Makau, whose 2:03:38 win at the 2011 Berlin Marathon stood as the world record for two years.  In 2013 Patrick ran 65:28 at the Hapalua, but only finished 16th in the Chase format.

Makua returned to Honolulu in 2014, coming off a chronic knee injury that had sidelined him for the remainder of 2013 following a 2:14 finish at London Marathon in April.  A the 2014 Hapalua he ran a conservative 68:42, good for 15th position in the Chase. This year he arrives with seven year-old daughter Christine after dropping out of the Dong-A Marathon in Seoul, South Korea on March 20th, felled by a stomach bug that knocked him out before he reached 10K. The former world record holder is aiming for a 63:30 on Sunday.

Isabella Ochichi set world 5K road record at Carlsbad 200
Isabella Ochichi set the world 5K road record at Carlsbad 2004 in 14:53 in same year as she won Olympic silver medal in Athens, Greece.

36 year-old Isabella Ochichi took a long seven year break from competitive running after a bronze medal finish in the 5000m at the 2006 World Athletic Final. Two Achilles tendon surgeries and a stubborn weight gain after the birth of her son Bernard in 2010 kept the 2004 Olympic silver medalist over 5000m sidelined.

She has finished third in the last two Honolulu Marathons, and fourth in the 2014 Hapalua Chase, even with a women’s course record 70:24.  Just last week Isabella finished fifth in the Prague Half Marathon running 69:03. Her goal is to run 71-flat.

Hapalua course map

The Hapalua starts at 6 a.m.on April 10 by The Duke Kahanamoku statue in Waikiki and finishes in Kapiolani Park just like its sister Honolulu Marathon in December.  The times on the Hapalua course seem slow, but that has as much to do with challenging front and backside climbs over the infamous Diamond Head in the final four miles as it does with the tropical weather.

I will be hosting a live Periscope feed from the lead vehicle once the sun comes up.  You can follow along on my Periscope (<— download link) at ToniReavis.

Periscope LogoPeriscope is a simple iPhone app by Twitter that lets you do live streaming or broadcast to all your followers on Twitter. You can also watch and follow other people doing broadcasts on it.  If a person you’re following is doing live broadcasts, you can easily see it from your main dashboard on the app.

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THE ENDLESS CAMPAIGN

Marathon painThe lure of the marathon lies in the challenge offered by a long, grueling contest that offers no guarantees that you will complete the entire distance.  In the realm of politics the U.S. presidential campaign has been likened to the rigors a marathon for exactly the same uncertainty as to its outcome.

Certainly, no one has become a major party nominee, much less president of the United States, without going through a serious challenge.  And a thorough vetting of each candidate is absolutely necessary. But the endless campaign that is now being waged — as opposed to the roughly six-week sprint that it takes the British to select a new Prime Minister — all but guarantees not just a thorough vetting, but the eventual down-sizing (and at times evisceration) of every candidate who throws his/her hat into the ring.

This is politics in the United States in the age of media as entertainment, where the show, as opposed to the news, drives the entire enterprise.

Thus does the Political Industrial Complex spin politics into gold for consultants, pollsters, cable news networks, and a myriad other businesses that feed, clothe, clean and cover the campaign carnival while serving the public an ongoing narrative of wins and losses and disputed calls no different than the mirroring baseball, football and basketball seasons that fill the calendar.

The endless campaign churns out ad buys and fees, all which further necessitate manufactured controversy to maintain fresh story lines that power the ratings. All to the point where exhausted candidates eventually and invariably overstep, misspeak, and eff up until the public grows so tired and exasperated with each and every one of them, that by the time the “winner” finally emerges to deliver an inauguration address on the Capital steps, he/she is so diminished, disliked and distrusted that governance is all but impossible to achieve. And then the new off-year political cycle just picks right up from there.

This is our system? Indeed it is. And it is also why many who should, or might otherwise be running for high office are instead running as fast as they can from it.

President Dwight Eisenhower warned the nation of the Military-Industrial Complex upon leaving office in January 1961.  If only another departing president might have had the foresight to do the same for this just as damaging Political-Industrial Complex.  Would it have even made a difference, you think?

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