Author: Toni Reavis

TONI REAVIS has been informing and entertaining audiences for over thirty years with his signature baritone pipes, encyclopedic knowledge, and sharp wit. One of the most respected names in running journalism, Reavis today mixes his passion for sport with his wide-ranging interest in politics, media, and culture. Reavis currently lives in San Diego where he writes his influential tonireavis.com blog, while serving on the board of directors of the Entoto Foundation, a 501C3 charity that brings needed health care to Ethiopia. In 2009 Reavis was inducted into the Running USA Hall of Champions. *****

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 mix 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
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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…)

2018 TD BEACH TO BEACON 10k PHOTO ESSAY

Cape Elizabeth, ME –  The 21st TD Beach to Beacon 10k presented the 7000 starters with the dreaded double of heat and humidity today, making for wet-banklet-like conditions over the rolling 6.2 mile run from Crescent Beach to Fort Williams Park.  Despite the oppressive conditions, New Zealander Jake Robertson arrived from his training base in Iten, Kenya anxious to take on the 2003 course record 27:28 set by Kenya’s Gilbert Okari in the first of three straight B2B wins.  Here are a series of photos from the lead men’s vehicle documenting the effort of Mr. Robertson and his followers.

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The finish line awaits at Ft. Williams Park , shot taken Friday at the B2B High School Miles
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The air horn sends the 7000 person field to their task at 8:12 a.m.
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Jake Robertson spoke of wanting to break the course record at the pre-race press conference, and put the boot in from the get-go, not waiting for any help. He used similar gun-to-tape tactics to win April’s Crescent City Classic in New Orleans in 27:28.
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No prisoners! A 4:15 first mile opened the winning gap. 2016 U.S. Olympian Shadrack Kipchirchir tried to follow, “but Jake was very tough.” You might think so after he knocked off five Kiwi national records in a six-week span early in the year, including a 60:01 win at the Houston Half Marathon.
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Mile 2 fell in 4:25 (8:40) and the road behind was already clear. “At the start Jake said, ‘are you ready to go with me, I’m going from the gun,“ said Steven Sambu, last year‘s fourth place B2B finisher and four-time Falmouth Road Race champion. “I said, ‘OK, let’s go.’ Then the 1st mile in 4:15, and in these conditions, it’s crazy! Way too fast for me.“
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Past 3 miles in 13:01 (4:21), 5K in 13:30 with a :34 lead on Sambu and Kipchirchir, Robertson was still rocking course record pace as he turned onto Shore Drive for the next three miles.
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4 miles fell in 17:31 (4:29) 16 seconds under course record pace. We could barely see Sambu and Kipchirchir in the distance with 2016 B2B champion Ben True moving into fifth behind Ethiopian Amedework Walelegn,  himself a 59;50 half-marathoner.
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Stern faced at 5 miles in 21:59, Jake took 4:28 for that 1609 yards, while Gilbert Okari ran a 4:16 in 2003. Only :04 under course record pace now, and paying the price for his early aggression and the high humidity. “At about 7.2 km I began to feel the conditions, “said Jake afterward. “I knew I had a gap and the win, but I came here on behalf of my family, my training partners, my sponsors, and everyone who supports me. Everyone has been so good to me in my time here in Maine, I wanted to give a performance that everyone was happy with.”
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Victory in hand! 27:37, tied for the third fastest time in B2B history. In these muggy conditions, Jake slowed over the final mile, but still won by 50-seconds, the largest margin in race history.  “I’m happy,” Jake told me in the media tent. “I was fearless and I delivered. If you set your mind to something and then deliver, you have to be satisfied. Sadly, no course record, but I gave it my best and I never want to give it anything but my best. ‘To give anything less than your best is to sacrifice the gift’ is a Steve Prefontaine quote that I love. Hopefully, I can return to Cape Elizabeth next year and get that course record.”
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Race founder and 1984 Olympic Marathon gold medalist Joan Benoit Samuelson greets a wobbly champion after his heroic effort.
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Fully recovered, Jake cheers in Stephen Sambu and Maine native Ben True in 2nd and 3rd. “I’m so happy for Jake,” said Stephen after checking the final times. “The way he trains, very serious. It’s amazing.” And that’s coming from the four-time Falmouth Road Race champion.
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A Viking ship sailed over Casco Bay behind the awards ceremony with Ram Island Light in the distance as another classic B2B was celebrated by the thousands lucky enough to have shared the course with some of the best foot-racers in the world. Thanks to the sponsors and record 878 volunteers who made it all possible. And to the host families who share their homes and hearts with all the invited runners. That’s olde tyme New England road racing at its best.

END

 

 

 

 

 

2018 TD BEACH TO BEACON 10K – TALES OF TWO FAVES

Cape Elizabeth, ME –  A race is all about urgency, whether along the cutting edge of competition itself, or in the honing of that edge leading up to the moment when the starter raises his/her arm and a hush falls over the assemblage.  

Every training session, then, every meal, every elimination, every hour of sleep is oriented against that unrelenting time frame. Yet, not all races are created equal, meaning one racer’s focus may be another’s stepping stone. 

Tomorrow’s 21st annual TD to Beach to Beacon 10K is one such dual purpose race. Two of the favorites going in are 2016 champion and last year’s runner-up Ben True, the North Yarmouth, Maine native who returns home from the European Diamond League track circuit, and New Zealand’s Jake Robertson who’s coming off a two month training stint at his home base in Iten, Kenya. 

“Not as 10k specific,” is how Ben True characterizes his condition for tomorrow’s race. “I want to do well in the (5000m) Diamond League Final in Brussels later this month. So I haven’t tapered down for this. It will be interesting to see how the legs are tomorrow.”

American record holders Ben True and Molly Huddle

Yet True, 32, the former Dartmouth College All-American, always performs well in his home state’s most prestigious race. In 2008 and 2009 he won the Maine resident’s title. Then, he returned as a pro in 2014 to place third in 27:50 – the fastest road 10K by an American in 29 years – before winning the race outright in 2016 (28:16), the first American to take the B2B title. Finally, he finished one second behind Kenya’s Stephen Kosgei-Kibet last year in 27:55. (more…)

AVOIDING SUMMER CHORES

For all the attention the spring and fall marathons attract, there is a red, white, and blue, freshly mown grass quality to the U.S. summer road circuit, something purely American akin to Broadway musicals like The Music Man and Oklahoma! 

Mighty Mississippi River flowing south past Bettendorf, Iowa

Last weekend was the quintessentially Mid-American Quad City Times Bix 7 Road Race in Davenport, Iowa, celebrating its 44th anniversary. During my 26th year at the Bix, I was brought back once again to the charms of that great rolling land with its open , friendly faces, wide front lawns, and the smell of freshly mown grass. It is a deeply seeded memory anchored in my own Midwestern upbringing down the Mississippi River in St. Louis.

But just as dearly as I loved the loamy fragrance of a freshly cut lawn, even more did I hate the chore that brought it about.  But since most parents in those less-child-centric times still ruled with an unbending hand and believed in the Emersonian qualities of hard work, I was forced on many occasions into action not of my choosing with implements of yard work in my bony little hands.

This dichotomy, then, between parental will and my own private interests became the motivation that led me to a system whereby my desire not to do such things as yard work would supersede their need for my household contributions.  I found it to be a design for a mostly chore-free childhood existence.  I’ll explain. (more…)