Month: August 2018

SUMMER IN THE CITY

Earlier this month it was the far west dealing with unrelenting heat that fueled devastating wild fires up and down the coast. This week it’s the east coast that’s broiling. Pity the poor players having to deal with the conditions at the U.S. Open tennis tournament in Queens.

And while it may seem we are experiencing yet another indicator of that oft mentioned bugaboo Climate Change, these spells do come around every now and again on their own. I found the following recollection in one of my old journals that brought back a particularly wild ride one hot summer’s night in the city.

*

Reeking tendrils of humidity stewed street stench wafted through the city like a hangover from the 1968 sanitation worker’s walkout.  The city sucked.  So off I headed to Boston to ride it out. Not that Boston was any bargain, but at least the beaches were proximate and, at the moment, free of medical waste.

The train, I figured – five hours from Penn Central to Boston’s Back Bay – a tranquil change from the jet whine life I was leading at the time. Plus, traveling by train felt like riding through New England’s backyard.

There was no real hurry, though no understanding, either, of how often the trains ran.  This was still pre-internet, pre-smartphone, but if the airline shuttles worked every half-hour, then the trains would probably go on a similar schedule, right?

I arrived at Penn Station at 6:40 p.m. as the last of the day’s commuters battled for already fouled air space.  Fixed-wing floor fans attempted to do what only an advancing ice age had a prayer to accomplish, cool the joint.  Instead, the fans fueled the street reek and knocked the walking weak off balance as they neared the piles of uncollected trash.  But I was already in a weekend state, oblivious to all the ill winds and foul moods, as well as one step ahead of the medical waste that was reportedly still bobbing off the Rhode Island coast. (more…)

Advertisements

2018 FALMOUTH PHOTO ESSAY

Little late, I know, but here’s a look back from the lead men’s press truck at last Sunday’s 46th New Balance Falmouth Road Race.

 

The calm before the storm in Woods Hole
A gray summer’s day for those heading to Martha’s Vineyard. 64F at the start.
Thus it begins
Great Britain’s Chris Thompson leads the way coming off 11th in the 10,000 & 9th in the 5000 at the European Championships in Berlin.
Chris Thompson, leads 2x Falmouth runner up Leonard Korir, Northern Arizona Elite’s Scott Fauble and US Army WCAP’s Haron Lagat in a strong early push.
Scotland’s Callum Hawkins (white over red) shows early interest, coming off 7th place at the TD Beach to Beacon 10k two weeks ago in Maine. Took 9th at the 2016 Olympic Marathon, 4th last year at the World Champs in London.
No damage to the pack after a 4:34 opening mile. But 4x defender Stephen Sambu in black enters the picture.
Sambu is the only 4x men’s winner in Falmouth history, and came in off a second place finish at the TD B2B 10k two weeks before. WCAP’s Haron Lagat in white and ZAP Fitness man Andrew Colley in blue on the left both have shown good form this summer.
Cheering fans help the runners through the first three miles of rolling hills.
As the course rolls down out of the tree cover, Sambu presses, passing three miles in 13:58 (4:40 3rd mile, off a 4:44 2nd). University of Michigan star Ben Flanagan falls in with WCAP’s Korir and Lagat, Colley and Fauble.
12 strong hit the flats as the boys roam the coast along Vineyard Sound. Callum Hawkins leaking off the back. Chris Thompson and GBR’s Ross Millington (yellow #9) still holding.
Four miles fall in 18:36 (4:37) as a steady headwind negates the clement 66F temperature. 10 still remain.
A well defined lead pack now separates, led by defending champ Stephen Sambu. Today’s splits right in line with the last three years when the winning time ranged from 32:10 to 32:17.
Chris Thompson (far left) finally gives way between 4-5 miles. This is the traditional place on the course when the finalists are determined. Philadelphia Med school student Martin Hehir (yellow on left) well positioned coming off 8th place at July 4ths AJC Peachtree Road Race in Atlanta. Colley in blue on the right took 6th there. 
Still 10 strong turning off the water and heading through the neighborhood section of the course.
Sambu still in front at 5 miles – 23:14 (4:38) – as the men begin picking through remnants of the pro women’s field.
The final six take a left and head toward Falmouth Harbor, Left to right: Martin Hehir, Ben Flanagan, Stephen Sambu, Haron Lagat, Leonard Korir, Scott Fauble. Toughest part of the course, too far out to smell the barn, but five-plus miles in and hurting.
Sambu had established a good lead by the time he reached Falmouth Marine in each of the last four years, but he’s a little under-raced this summer as he heads toward the Chicago Marathon in October.
With Falmouth Harbor off their right shoulder, the final six take one another’s measure. NCAA 10,000m champion Ben Flanagan took 2nd at the Bix 7 in Iowa after placing third at the Canadian Nationals at 5000m and winning a road mile in Ann Arbor. He’s the man with the speed.
Six miles in 27:52, 10k in 28:49, no records today, but we’ve never seen six men still together this late in the race. And the crowd drives them even harder toward home.
And it’s the rookie, The Wolverine, Ben Flanagan, flashing his heels and romping to the tape with a giant smile creasing his face. NAE’s Scott Fauble a breakthrough in second. Leonard Korir on the podium for the fourth straight year in third. Sambu relegated to fourth.
Happiest champion EVER!
Go Blue! Michigan Hugs all around.
Falmouth Road Race board member Scott Ghelfi and family hosted Ben during his stay in Falmouth. He just about lost his voice shouting out Ben’s win over the PA.
Saluting Canada’s first ever Falmouth champ.
And in they come, neatly 12,000 in all.
Just behind the finish line the Crow’s Nesters take in the action.
After his win, Ben heads to the Crow’s Nest to celebrate, while receiving a well-earned standing O.
Brad Hurst awards Ben his Crow’s Nest tee shirt, which, according to no less a source than Malmo himself, is Falmouth’s equivalent of the Masters green jacket.
2x Boston Marathon champion Geoff Smith hails a Commonwealth man’s win at Falmouth, a first since Dave Murphy’s double in 1984-‘85.
Kickin’ back, reliving the day. Many of the Crow’s Nest crowd raced against University of Michigan women’s coach Mike McGuire back in the day. Mac texted Ben the address and said go up and say hi.
Overlooking Falmouth Heights, a place Ben will long remember.

Thanks for coming along for the ride. See you next year.

 

END

SEPARATE AND EQUAL

With today’s announcement of the very strong pro women’s field gathering for the 2018 TCS NYC Marathon, another old idea resurfaced in the attempt to help focus attention on the actual racing side of the game. 

2018 NYC Women’s Field

Just as I recently posited how it might be fun (though impractical) to stage a pure match race between Galen Rupp and his former training partner Mo Farah in Chicago in order to truly focus public attention, I have always thought that the two U.S. Abbott World Marathon Major partners in the fall, Chicago and New York, should work together rather than compete for the same stock of athletes. 

Imagine if each event focused on just one gender at the tip of the spear where all the top female athletes go one place, and the best males line up at the other. Then, the following year they swap.  (more…)

CELEBRATING TOMMY LEONARD’S 85TH BIRTHDAY

As we come up upon the 46th New Balance Falmouth Road Race weekend, we also celebrate the 85th birthday of race founder Tommy Leonard. In honor of TL , here’s a little verse recalling that other great running institution associated with TL, Boston’s Eliot Lounge.  Happy birthday, TL.  See you soon.
Tommy Leonard his ownself

 

For this is where we runners met,
The bar we called our own,
Hard along the marathon course,
Just a half a mile from home,
*
On the corner of Mass. and Commonwealth Aves.,
In Boston’s old Back Bay,
Where we came to recover from training,
And put PRs on display.
*
With Tommy Leonard tending taps,
The guru in his lair,
Every runner’s true best friend,
With a heart big enough to share.
*
And Coach Squires in his corner,
The Wack in classic form,
Holding court, as usual,
Untranslatable being the norm.
*
With walls festooned with photos,
Of racers in their glory,
Posters, banners, flags, as well,
Each one with a telling story.
*
It’s where Rodgers came to assuage a loss,
Or celebrate a record run,
And Joanie nipped with barracudas,
A champion, not a nun.
*
With footprints of the running stars,
Pressed out front in wet cement,
Course Tommy mixed the formula wrong,
So the prints didn’t quite indent.
*
And remember the night the horse clopped in,
Or the Stanford marching band,
And Heidi singing in those tight blue jeans,
They and the joint absolutely crammed.
*
‘Twas a clubhouse for every iconoclast,
Be they runner, writer, or pol,
And while few considered themselves joiners,
To the Eliot they came one and all,
*
When running meant more than simple fitness,
Or a bucket–list item for the masses,
But instead formed a band of close brothers,
Before our youth and speed finally passed us.
*
Yes, those days are fondly remembered,
When the lines did snake around the block,
But we knew the secret back entrance,
Sometimes I wish we could turn back the clock.
*
When time was the measure of excellence,
And Greater Boston the club above all,
When speed was the currency in issue,
But a good time was at night at Fall Call.
*
Still, if running has taught us any lesson,
It’s that time stands still for no man,
No matter how hard we might wish it,
It’s to the future we must look to and plan.
*
Knowing our memories are ones that still carry,
Those times that were ours once alone,
When speed and endurance were in abundance,
And we called the Eliot our home.
*
Sadly, its doors were forced to shutter,
After the hundredth Marathon was through,
But the friendships we made there still linger,
How fortunate, how lucky, we few,
*
Who experienced the sport when it was booming,
When its flower was still in first bloom,
When Tommy was our lovable guru,
And the Eliot our nurturing womb.
*
So thanks to all who have joined us,
To salute Tommy on his 85 years,
But just consider the man’s constitution,
Good God, it should bring us all to tears.
END

TIGER ROARS AGAIN

Tiger Woods celebrates after making a birdie putt on the 18th green during the final round of the PGA Championship golf tournament at Bellerive Country Club, Sunday, Aug. 12, 2018, in St. Louis. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)

Oh, the airtime and pixels that were dedicated to Tiger Woods’ second-place finish at the 100th PGA Championships in St. Louis last weekend. For those stuck in a cave somewhere, Tiger roared to a final round 64 at Bellerive Country Club outside St. Louis to place second to young stallion Brooks Koepka who won the third major of his career, while becoming only the fifth golfer to ever take the U.S. Open and PGA titles in the same year (Woods, Jack Nicklaus, Ben Hogan and Gene Sarazen).  In the end, Koepka beat Tiger by two, and the field by three and more with his final round 66, 16-under total.

Still, it was the closest run Tiger  had made to a major win since Torrey Pines 2008, where he won the U.S. Open on a broken leg, the last of his 14 major titles. His run electrified the St. Louis faithful, and sparked a 69% increase in TV ratings over last year’s PGA.

But the greatest comeback ever, as some pundits were opining if he actually won? Don’t let Ben Hogan fans (or Tiger for that matter) hear you say that. Hogan almost died in a car crash driving home to Texas with his wife after the Phoenix Open in 1949. Docs said he might not ever play golf again, especially after a blood clot permanently closed the major vein to his lower extremities. And yet he came back to win the 1950 U.S. Open 16 months later. Now that is a legendary come back.  (more…)

NEVER MIND THE MATCH RACE

Well, so much for sticking my head inside the lion’s mouth outside the Chicago Art Museum. 

I’m getting hammered pretty badly across different fora and websites for my last blog post suggesting that the Chicago Marathon ditch its deep elite men’s field for a match race between defending champion Galen Rupp of the United States and his former Nike Oregon Project teammate Mo Farah of England. 

OK, I get it, bad idea.  And I even understand why. Sorry. At least I spurred a little extra interest in the race. (more…)

CHICAGO 2018: TOO MANY CANDIDATES ON THE BALLOT

Though it was a Frenchman, Michel Bréal, who first suggested that a distance race be held in the 1896 Olympic Games and be called the Marathon, it may be that fate, too, had a hand in the formulation.  You see, Athenian democracy, described as the first known democracy in the world, developed around the same fifth century BC time frame as the myth of Pheidippides, the Greek messenger whose run from Marathon to Athens telling of a great military victory over an invading Persian force was the genesis of our modern sport. And what is the Marathon but the most democratic of all sporting events where all are welcome to participate and the winners are decided by open competition?  It is in the light of that history that I make the following observation.

The 2018 BofA Chicago Marathon has set up another great open field for October 7th.  Announced yesterday, it is loaded with past and current champions from around the racing world. 2018 Boston, Dubai, Prague, Paris, Rotterdam, and Tokyo champions have all signed on. But hidden deep within that collection of mostly anonymous talent is something this sport has longed for since the days when Bill Rodgers first challenged Frank Shorter in the short mid-1970s window when both were at the top of their game, a great mano a mano duel. 

Here we have defending Chicago champion Galen Rupp and his former Nike Oregon Project training partner Mo Farah signed and sealed. It’s something the sport (and track and field) has been starved for and lax in developing for years, a truly intriguing match race. The last such match race worth its spit was staged in 1996 when Olympic long sprint champion Michael Johnson of the USA took on short sprint champion Donovan Bailey of Canada over an intermediate 150-meter distance in Toronto following the Atlanta Games. And though the race itself fizzled with Johnson pulling up lame midway, the promotion itself was a big success.

Now, for the first time in memory, we have two well branded Olympic distance medalists, men who used to be teammates, going head-to-head for the first time in the marathon, both looking to bust a fast time on one of the fastest courses in the world. Accordingly, Chicago is reinstating pacers after discarding that crutch following the 2014 race. And it makes perfect sense because both Rupp and Farah are past track burners who have yet to break through in terms of marathon times on par with their 10,000 meters PRs.

Here, then, is a natural rivalry that people might actually want to see, one that can be marketed, Galen versus Mo,m. And then they go lard it up with all these admittedly fast but anonymous extras who do nothing but steal the spotlight from the one thing that might get average people to stop and pay attention. Why?  Cause we’ve always done it this way? (more…)