KALAKAUA MERRIE MILE 2016

img_3885Honolulu, HI. –  Oh,  you could see this one coming a mile away. 18-year-old Kenyan Edwin Kiptoo was obviously the wildcard in today’s inaugural Kalakaua Merrie Mile. Looking up stats on all the athletes, it soon dawned on me that this kid had never competed outside Kenya in his life. Yet he’d been second at the 2016 Kenyan Junior World Trials, and had a 1500-meter PR of 3:38.3 that was run in Eldoret at 7000′ altitude on a track where 2012 Olympic 1500m champion Asbel Kiprop holds the record at 3:37.0.

“Shoot!” I said to anyone willing to listen, “this is the guy. He’s gonna tip this whole thing  over.”

This “whole thing” was a Wahine vs Kane street mile (Women vs Men) held the day before the 44th Honolulu Marathon. The new event was the brainchild of long-time Marathon President Jim Barahal, with the idea being to get a sprint to the tape with both genders gunning for the win. Continue reading

MAKING IT PERSONAL ONCE AGAIN

My friend Elizabeth from Atlanta Track Club and I were talking about our pets as she drove me to Hartsfield International airport this morning for my flight to Honolulu for this weekend’s marathon. I’d been in town emceeing last evening’s Atlanta Track Club’s All Metro Cross Country Awards Banquet, where Lovett High School senior Selena Tripoli and Milton High School junior Sam Bowers were named Ray Buckley and Jeff Benton Award winners as Outstanding Athletes of the season.

Elizabeth has a 10 year-old greyhound with a bad back, and she told me how her vet actually made a house call when her dog was too hurt to travel. My wife Toya and I have two cats, and we, too, sing the praises of our vet out in San Diego.

Elizabeth and I then remarked how vets today are actually much like how human doctors used to be back in the day when every patient was also an individual client, rather than simply an insurance policy holder.

The distinction, we decided, was important in the effect it has on society at large. Continue reading

ATLANTA TRACK CLUB CELEBRATING ALL-METRO RUNNERS

We are right in the middle of post-season for high school cross country. NXN was last weekend in Portland, Oregon, while the Foot Locker Nationals come up this weekend at San Diego’s Balboa Park. Tonight, though, I’ll be hosting the 53rd annual Atlanta Track Club All-Metro Cross Country Awards banquet, a celebration of excellence that goes all the way back to the start of the ATC.

The All-Metros continue to inform the club’s spirit of promoting a healthy and active lifestyle no matter where one is in their life-cycle. 42 young athletes representing 31 schools will be feted tonight as members of the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd All-Metro Teams. Two coaches will also be recognized for their outstanding dedication to the sport.

Atlanta TC Executive Director Rich Kenah is just completing his third year heading the country’s second largest running club (28,000), and has continued expanding the club’s focus on  encouraging youth participation and rewarding its excellence. Congrats to all the 2016 Atlanta TC All-Metro Team selections.

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On the other end of the age scale, here’s something I’ve always wondered. Why do they call 40-year olds “Masters”?  Are they kidding? Believe me, by the time you hit the big 4-0, you’re no master, you’re losing your mastery.

Look, a master craftsman is one who gets better with age, I get that. But you don’t get better as a runner at 40 (much less 50,60, or 70). You just slower, if you can run at all. At the very least it takes forever just to find race photo that shows you with both feet off the ground. It’s pathetic, not masterful.

Anyway, everyone in the upper age divisions are always getting hurt, too. And not just little niggles from running. The one that gets me is when you start hurting yourself sleeping.

I get people asking all the time: “What happened to you? Why are you holding your neck like that?”
“I slept wrong.”
“Slept wrong? How, in the name of God, do you hurt yourself sleeping?”
“Yeah, well, maybe you should ask that all-loving God of ours. Seems to be one of His mysteries.”

Sure, I remember the days when I could feel the wind blowing my hair back when I stepped on the gas while racing. Kinda like Keninise Bekele and Wilson Kipsang must have felt in Berlin earlier this season (well, if they had long, flowing hair).

But add a few decades onto those two 34 year-olds, and they’ll be hoping to still have hair that’s not coming in tufts out of their noses and ears, or growing like a chia pet on their backs. I’ll tell you, the first time you go to the hair salon and the nice looking young woman starts clipping at your nose and ear hairs, well, that’s a crossroads day.

So I say enjoy it while you got it, kiddies. It ain’t no endless road. One foot in front of another is one thing, but blowin’ in the wind at some point just becomes another old Bob Dylan song.

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VIN LANANNA ELECTED USATF PREZ. DOES IT REALLY MATTER?

Today, in Orlando, Florida Coach Vin Lananna was elected president of USATF, the governing body of athletics in the USA, when the other candidate for the office, three-time Olympic champion Jackie Joyner-Kersee of East St. Louis, Illinois, withdrew her candidacy.  Both were among the finest candidates for the office the organization has ever had.  Both had risen to the top in their respective fields, she in athletics, he in coaching. Both are honorable people, and both have a deep and abiding love for the sport. Yet, even as the USATF family met in Orlando for its annual meeting to vote on a new leader, the question should at least be asked, is this election simply a myopic whistling past the graveyard given all the deeply cynical drug and corruption charges coming out of so many other brother and sister federations in sport worldwide?

The question of existential relevance is hardly inappropriate. Today, former Chicago Tribune writer Phil Hersh suggested a similar notion: Rot at the Core Threatens Future of Olympics.  And with the release of yet another damning investigative film by Germany’s ARD TV in conjunction with French newspaper Le Monde, Doping – Top Secret: The Protection Racket that uncovered corruption at the very highest levels of governance of the sport, it seems that for many in positions of authority the corridors of power are only greased avenues for bribery and extortion schemes. How can simply replacing the head person at USATF or even in IAAF home office really matter anymore?

There are 200+ federations that make up the IAAF. These are political fiefdoms that are run by fiat, and exist with all but no oversight, nationally or internationally.  If Washington, Jefferson, or Adams were around and involved in this sport, one might assume a Declaration of some sort might well be in preparation.  And it isn’t even that people believe in the system.  Instead they have absorbed it and learned to use it to their best interests.  I have no doubt that Jackie and Vin have the best interest of the sport as their animating mission. But that makes them the outlier in this international cabal, if inquiry and evidence be any judge. Continue reading

NCAA XC – TORTURE IN THE WAITING

Yesterday’s NCAA D1 Cross Country Championships in Terre Haute, Indiana again produced compelling competitions and high drama. But that drama was immeasurably stretched out by the interminable wait for team results, especially in the women’s race. So long was the hold up that it nearly bled over into the men’s competition.

Oh, it was pure torture, like waiting for voting results on election night. But in the end the Oregon Duck women were that much more thrilled, and Coach Mike McGuire’s Michigan Wolverines were all that much more disappointed when the whisper-thin 125 to 126 scores were finally posted.

This is not a new problem for NCAA cross. Most recently in 2012 there were all kinds of technical difficulties that had officials declaring Oregon as the women’s national champs, then Providence, and finally the Ducks one more time after the technology failed to account for several finishers.

But what is it with technology that can be so impressive in almost every regard – automation is replacing every worker in the nation, including brain surgeons  – but it can’t keep track of several hundred runners going 10 mph over an open grass field? Continue reading

THE ROADS AS RECONCILIATION

The divisions in this country remain profound as we exit this most contentious election season with a new president-elect. Yet despite those divisions America remains what it has always been, a unique patchwork society quilted of many colors sewn together with a common thread – the rule of law and an originating declaration espousing the equality of all.

Though it is a patchwork that is in constant need of mending, and it’s originating declaration in need of expanding, it has survived for 240 years along an arc of inclusion, which is no mean feat. We can see how difficult this quilting truly is when we look to the European Union’s current attempt.

There, a thousand years of national divisions defined by blood, religion, and wars have hardened hearts and released spasms of revanchist pride (see the Brexit vote in U.K.) It is a difficult history to surmount, much less in a single generation during which tumult and dislocation loosed by ongoing wars in the Middle East is a primary feature.

There is much in the world that is conspiring to separate us, while very few things find universal appeal. Even a mother’s hope for her child is defined differently in different places. And the Olympic Games, an institution born to unite, has been shadowed by corruption, cynicism, and a growing allegiance to fortune rather than fair play.

In any open society elections expose fault lines and divisions as new ideas are offered and debated while old ways are challenged. In that contested environment camps pitch and feelings get hurt.  Yet notwithstanding those divisions, there still exists in most people a desire for empathy and understanding.

One place these universal feelings are being expressed most profoundly are at road races, both in the U. S. and abroad. Continue reading

NOVEMBER SURPRISE

They call it an October surprise, and we had a few of those in the run-up to this historic 2016 election. Maybe not one as stunning as the November surprise that put Donald Trump in the White House, but now comes the question, how about the surprises that may come in February, March, April and beyond?

Because here’s the thing about Donald J. So without context is he upon entering the Oval Office, and so opaque to the public are his business dealings – no tax returns released after all – what happens when it turns out he just said all those things on the campaign trail to get into office, and didn’t really believe wholeheartedly in very much of that agenda?

It may be a cynic’s view, but what if he turns out to be the left-leaning New York Dem he once admitted being?  OMG, what if in one of the great ironies in U.S. political history President-elect Trump ends up as a hybrid version of a third Obama term? Yikes! Continue reading