Month: March 2019

LEADING FROM BEHIND?

During his second term in office, President Barack Obama was vilified for his policy of “leading from behind” in Libya. Whether such a strategy is viable in the realm of geopolitics is open to argument. But can leading from behind be a winning strategy in running?

I thought about that while watching yesterday‘s IAAF World Cross Country Championships from Denmark. One of the questions asked when the very difficult race course was unveiled was whether or not somebody laying off the pace could come from behind and still win. We don’t see much of that on the track or, as it turned out, yesterday at World Cross in Aarhus. In shorter distances races, contact is everything. But the marathon is another matter because you can let someone go early with the goal of reeling him/her back in later.  But it’s more than that. (more…)

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CAN RUNNING PULL ITSELF BACK FROM THE BRINK?

With a Warrior Games like course that has jaws dropped throughout the Twitter-sphere, there’s a real excitement for Saturday’s IAAF World Cross Country Championships in Aarhus, Denmark. The hunger has been even further driven by biennial scheduling of what once the most competitive annual footrace in the world.  So, yes, Aarhus is a true God-send for a sport still reeling from recent disheartening news.

The amputation of long-distance races from the 2020 IAAF Diamond League tour – along with the reduced quotas for all athletics’ events in the 2020 Tokyo Games as the IOC announced the inclusion of surfing, skateboarding, sport climbing, and breakdancing for Paris 2024 – is a sobering recognition that 1) the sporting world is more competitive than ever as it expands and diversifies, and 2) that the arrested development and long-time corruption endemic to the sport of athletics – as well as its inability (or unwillingness) to grow out of its Balkanized amateur past into a fully functioning professional future – has now come up against Recognition No 1. 

It also illustrates that the emotional tether that once linked the best long distance runners to the great herd of joggers who run behind them every week across the globe – much less to a robust fan base – has unraveled. 

Yet in one sense, the IAAF’s reduction of distance running is nothing more than a reflection of what distance running has done to itself. (more…)

FINAL TRACK SESSION FOR WINTER TRAINING CAMP

Foggy morning in Chula Vista

Chula Vista, CA. – With a roll of low-lying fog still clinging to the hillsides, and valleys along the U.S. – Mexico border, the final track workout of the winter training camp for Kenya’s Team Ikaika took place this morning at the Chula Vista Elite Athlete Training Center – formerly the U.S. Olympic Training Center.

Led by team manager Davor Savija and Coach Daniel Ngetich, the four men toured the track for 8×1 kilometer at 2:41 – 2:48 pace (64-65 seconds per lap) with a one minute 30-second jog recovery between. 

2:41 per kilometer

Team Ikaika (Hawaiian for “strong”) consists of Shadrack Kiplagat (60:06  half-marathon PB); Titus Sang (will make half debut this spring at the Istanbul Half Marathon); Ambrose (“The Cobra”) Kiptoo Bore (61:01 PB); Abel Kipchumba (59:22 PB), and an injured Evans Cheruiyot.

The group has been in San Diego for two months prepping for a series of half-marathons in April. But it’s more than just training they’ve come to experience. (more…)

SKECHERS PERFORMANCE LA MARATHON PREVIEW

With 2X LA Marathon Champion Weldon Kirui.

Los Angeles, CA -There’s a wonderful marination to the marathon. It gets the juices flowing. And when done in communion with enough people, there’s a special energy that’s created. And occasionally there’s magic. 

The 34th Sketchers Performance Los Angeles Marathon celebrates several hallmarks in 2019. It’s the 10th year for the iconic stadium to sea course, which has proven such a success over its first decade showcasing Los Angeles, West Hollywood, Beverly Hills, and Santa Monica. Like a running tour through the back lot of Los Angeles. 

It’s also the 30th anniversary of the Students Run LA program. If the Los Angeles Marathon did nothing else but spawn the SRLA program, it would have been a major success. 3500 students from at-risk high schools in the area will run the race again this year. Over 60,000 have participated in the program’s initial three decades.

The ripple effect on those lives and their families have been profound. 95% of the kids who run the marathon through SRLA go on to college. Congratulations to Marsha Charney and her team for first the three decades of what is one of the legacy jewels of this event. 

From a competitive standpoint, this year’s Los Angeles Marathon on paper looks to be very competitive on both the men’s and women’s side. 

Two-time champion Weldon Kirui of Kenya returns looking to become the first man or woman runner to win three LA titles.  To date, there have been four men who have won twice including Weldon, and five women beginning with Nancy Ditz the inaugural first two years champion in 1986 and ‘87. 

But Weldon will have his hands full as he has two other former champions in the field, as well as some other very closely matched contenders thanks to the yeoman work of Elite Athlete coordinator Matt Turnbull.  (more…)

5000 METERS IN MEDIAS RES

“In medias res”, meaning “into the middle of things”, refers to works that open in the middle of the plot rather than with background or other exposition, which is brought in later through dialogue, flashbacks, or description. 

Famous examples of “in medias res” are Homer’s the Iliad and the Odyssey, Virgil’s Aeneid, Shakespeare’s Hamlet, and every Bond film ever made.

On March 10, the IAAF Council met in Doha, Qatar where it announced new Olympic entry standards for Tokyo 2020, and declared its intention to modify its annual Diamond League tour by, among other things, making the 3000-meters the longest track event on the schedule, also to begin in 2020.  Essentially, that would eliminate the 5000-meters altogether, a decision taken to lower the TV window for the 12 weekly Diamond League meetings from two hours down to 90 minutes. 

That decision, however, was also met with harsh criticism, especially from the twin distance running powerhouses of Kenya and Ethiopia for whom distance running is all but a national identity.

So let’s think about this a little more.

What if, that’s always a good question to begin with. (more…)

BREAKING UP IS HARD TO DO

We’ve all been dumped. And it hurts. But the immediate reflex is always to beg her/him to take us back. “Please, just tell me what to do. I’ll change. I swear.”

Yeah, well, we all know how well that works, rarely – OK, never! So you pick your self up, reset your dignity, and eventually move on, generally to greener pastures. Which is what distance running ought to do after getting dumped by the IAAF. 

If ever there was a time for the sport of long-distance running to say adios to their governing body, now might be exactly the right time. After all, the IAAF just said adios to you by eliminating the 5000 and 10,000-meter races from the 2020 Diamond League, the IAAF’s premier track & field summer tour, which, in time, will only lead to their elimination at the Olympic Games, as the IOC continues to press for fewer track athletes to make room for breakdancers, skateboarders, pole-dancers, and kite-flyers.

There’s been a case to be made for this separation for years with the massive growth of road running across the globe. But the ties that bind long distance running to its parent organization were historic and seemingly of mutual advantage. But that connection no longer seems so apparent as the ties continue to come undone. (more…)

POWER IS AS POWER DOES

When the IAAF Council announced its significantly more strict Olympic entry standards for Tokyo 2020 on March 10th, and also changes to its Diamond League Tour, also for 2020 – essentially eliminating distance races over 3000m – the response from around the running world came fast and (mostly) furious. 

Perhaps most chagrined was Rich Kenah, Executive Director of the Atlanta Track Club, who will host the U.S. Olympic Marathon Team Trials next February 20th.  In wake of the strict new Olympic entry standards, the Atlanta Trials may not have much practical meaning in Olympic team selection anymore. 

This whole Olympic entry standards tightening didn’t happen in a vacuum, of course; it came at the request of the IOC, which, since the Olympics returned to the Modern Era in 1896, has used the sport of athletics as its center-stage attraction.  But now, as the sporting landscape has erupted with many more new sports looking for Olympic inclusion, the IOC doesn’t need as much from the sport of athletics as they once did.

It reminds me somewhat of when ESPN grew into the cable TV Hulk that came define an era.  Here’s how. (more…)