Author: Toni Reavis

TONI REAVIS is a veteran broadcaster/writer who has been informing and entertaining audiences for nearly four decades 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. Currently residing in San Diego, California where he writes his influential tonireavis.com blog, Toni also serves 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. *****

BETWEEN HOPE AND INTENTION

Back home in San Diego now after another memorable Boston Marathon week. I flew back on the same flight as Marathon Grand Marshall and 2014 champion Meb Keflezighi who carried a Gronk-signed New England Patriots football helmet along with the good wishes of dozens of blue-jacket clad marathon finishers.

During the long, cross country trip I chatted with row-mate Elisa Wiggins, a native San Diegan and Brown University grad who was dealing with some dire quads after Monday’s race. 

But I also had a chance to reflect on what we had witnessed in the 123rd running of the world’s most famous long-distance race.

As in all sports, so too, in the marathon, there is a mighty fine line between winning and losing. That margin in Monday’s 123rd Boston Marathon men’s race, the difference between first and second, 2:07:57 for champion Lawrence Cherono and 2:07:59 for runner up Lelisa Desisa of Ethiopia,  A difference of 0.0002% over a 128-minute span.

Nobody I’ve talked to saw anything close to a two-second spread.

“They were still shoulder-to-shoulder with 10 meters left,” said Giannia, the manager of decisive women’s winner Worknesh Degefa.

It makes no difference. Time was secondary. Cherono clearly won as Desisa slumped in his final stride, knowing his cause was lost.

So, did Cherono win, or Desisa lose?  (more…)

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THE DAY AFTER BOSTON 2019

Boston, Ma. – The Marathon is such a challenging distance that most athletes have no desire to take it on solo. Instead, they form up in packs, serving as confederates through much of its length, working as one until they come to the final third of the course where the  real racing begins and the winning is generally done.

That’s exactly how the men’s race played out yesterday at the 123rd Boston Marathon with the outcome in doubt til the final 5 meters when Kenya’s Lawrence Cherono prevailed against two-time Ethiopian winner Lelisa Desisa. It was thrilling stuff, indeed.

But as my broadcast partner on WBZ-TV4 Shalane Flanagan said, “the women’s race was the polar opposite.”

In that competition, the short but powerful Worknesh Degefa of Ethiopia gently but convincingly went to the front in Ashland and began to turn the screw after reaching  only the second of eight cities and towns that make up the historic Boston course.

Worknesh Degefa all smiles the day after

“After 4 miles the pace was too slow,“ 28 year-old Degefa said at today’s day-after press conference. “So I decided to take off. I kept going and that made me a winner.”

The last time we saw a move this bold this early in a major race was way back in 1984 when Maine’s Joanie Benoit pulled away from the inaugural Women’s Olympic Marathon field in Los Angeles at 5km and ran alone to win the first women’s Olympic Marathon gold-medal. Her time of 2:24:52 stood as the Olympic record for many cycles. It was only bested as the fastest time west of the Mississippi River this past March at the Los Angeles Marathon.

Yesterday it was with seeming ease that Worknesh Degefa gradually eased away from a pack that included four previous Boston women champions. They knew that this was the fastest woman in the field with her 2:17:41 performance at the January 25th Dubai Marathon. But maybe because it was her first attempt on the technically challenging Boston route with its rolling hills and iconic Heartbreak Hill, that they figured she would come back and they could reel her back in. (more…)

TIME OF SECONDARY IMPORTANCE IN BOSTON

Boston, MA. – The clock. Yes, the clock. We watch it incessantly as it ticks relentlessly. But just like how three-point shots in basketball are worth noting – like last night when Golden State Warriors guard Steph Curry passed Ray Allen for the most three-pointers made in playoff history – they aren’t the most important numbers. That designation falls into the category of wins and losses, like how the Warriors beat the L.A. Clippers 121 – 104 in game one of their opening round NBA playoff series.

In that sense, time is only of secondary importance in the outcome of a marathon like Boston, a classic race over a difficult course, unpredictable weather, and an absence of pacesetters.

As was proven again in 2018 with wild, wind-driven rain, Boston is primarily a race against other runners with the clock no more than an impassive attendant to the human drama. So while much of the marathon world focuses on the clock, at times slavishly so, Boston concentrates on racers.    (more…)

2019 BOSTON PRESS DAY

Boston, MA – Other than too many people and not enough time, it all went perfectly well at the John Hancock elite athlete press conference for the 123rd Boston Marathon this morning at the Fairmont Copley Plaza Hotel.

It was like old home week. There was Rob de Castella the 1986 champion here with his indigenous running team from Australia. There was ‘83 champ Greg Meyer hanging out with fellow Grand Rapids Michigander Dathan Ritzenhein. And three time women’s champion Uta Pippig with a wave and a hug still mourning the passing of her father.  Everywhere you looked was an old friend. 

But this was not a day to simply chat about yesterday. This was a press conference to see who might do what on Monday from Hopkinton to Boston. (more…)

FIRST BOSTON PREVIEW BEFORE THE DELUGE

In last year’s IAAF Competition Performance Rankings for the marathon,

At number 82 Boston Marathon USA 16 APR 2018 515 3 7967 110 0 8482
Where we are headed

So, we have ourselves the first official Performance Rankings for athletics, road racing, and the marathon by the IAAF, a means, they say, to better follow the sport for we fans.  And according to those rankings, last year’s Boston Marathon ranked No. 82 in the world.  Really?

Anyone else think Boston 2018 wasn’t better than 81 other marathons worldwide?  I guess that’s the difference between a systematic ranking and an emotional expression.  Same date, same time, same competitive point standing, but none of the heart or soul.

People run Boston from the heart to the core of their being.  It’s a love affair.  Something about the place and the people, the history.  Boston isn’t a marathon, it’s The Marathon like Augusta is The Masters.

This will be Des Linden’s seventh time on the old course, first as defending women’s champion.  The two-time Olympian and Southern California native was one of the favorites going into 2018 regardless of the conditions, but her chances improved mightily in the lashing winds and stinging sheets of rain.

Yes, after initially thinking she would drop out, then deciding to help her fellow Americans Shalane Flanagan and Molly Huddle, somehow Des found her own rhythm instead and ran away with the race.

Yuki takes it in stride with Tommy Meagher alongside

Japan’s “Citizen Runner” Yuki Kawauchi was never, ever a favorite, even for a podium position on a normal day.  But in that cold and rain, he became master of his domain.

This year Des and Yuki will be tested the way all great events honor their champions, by facing a field ready to beat their brains out. (more…)

LEST WE FORGET

Yesterday marked a somber anniversary. 25 years ago on 7 April 1994, the nation of Rwanda exploded in a paroxysm of genocide in which 800,000 Tutsi people were slaughtered by the majority Hutu population in a matter of 100 days.

Today, 25 years later, Rwanda has a new light, says its leader, President Paul Kagame.

Rwanda’s President Paul Kagame, center, gestures as he and first lady Jeannette Kagame, center-left, lead a “Walk to Remember” accompanied by Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, far left, Prime Minister of Belgium Charles Michel, second left, France’s Herve Berville, third left, and Governor General of Canada Julie Payette, fourth left, from the parliament building to Amahoro stadium in downtown Kigali, Rwanda Sunday, April 7, 2019. Rwanda commemorated the 25th anniversary of the worst genocide in recent world history. (AP Photo/Ben Curtis)

There is a powerful message here that should chasten people in every land, for a hard-line strain of populist nationalism is growing once again in many parts of the globe. It is not an inconsequential trend.

Whether it’s the Brexit battle in Great Britain – in or out of the European Union? – what’s called “authoritarian capitalism” in China, or the expanding populist nationalism of Vladimir Putin in Russia, Jaroslaw Kaczynski in Poland, Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Turkey, Viktor Orban in Hungary, Rodrigo Duterte in the Philippines, and, yes, Donald Trump in the USA, everywhere we look we see nations pulling back from a democratic globalist agenda as long-held systems come under strain from the twin poles of advancing technology and retreating opportunity.  

Yet there is another trend which plays against that troubling movement, the trend in movement itself.  (more…)

CARLSBAD 5000 ENTERS NEW ERA

When Competitor Group Inc. was sold to Ironman in June 2017, then exited San Diego to consolidate with Ironman at its headquarters in Tampa, Florida, you knew the Carlsbad 5000 might be in trouble.

Though it was the event that put Elite Racing, Inc. on the international running map in 1986 and led to the Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon series 12 years later, there was no surprise when Carlsbad’s prize purse was slashed in 2018 and only six men ran sub-15:00 on the world’s fastest 5K road course, a layout that has produced 16 world and nine American records.  It had become evident that if no one was there to pick it up, the event would have been abandoned.  And that would have been a tragedy, both for the San Diego area and the sport worldwide.

Instead, the Carlsbad 5000, the iconic Party-by-the-Sea, world record race that gave birth to the modern road 5K, enters its 34th year with a fresh step and new owners, anxious to reclaim its place among the world’s best road races.

The woman who stepped up to save Carlsbad is former CGI digital marketing executive Ashley Gibson. She and husband Travis invited local Olympic legend Meb Keflezighi to join them, and together, have had four months to put the event back on solid footing.

“In 2018, when the pre-sale registration was not happening and there were no plans for 2019, we all felt it was coming,” said Ms. Gibson.  “With the change in ownership, it became clear that Carlsbad didn’t fit the brand and that the passion and appreciation for what running meant wasn’t there.”

Conversations to buy the event kicked off, but ownership wasn’t secured until December. So registration for 2019 wasn’t begun until very late last year.

“There’s a lot of learning to do,” admitted Gibson, “but we feel fortunate we are the ones to keep Carlsbad’s legacy alive and thriving.”

 

New Carlsbad owner Ashley Gibson (center) with (l->r) Shalane Flanagan, Amy Cragg, Kara Goucher & Sash Gollish (CAN.)

(more…)