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. *****

WOMEN RACING WOMEN. NOT SO FAST

It all used to be so simple.  Then again, it all used to be pretty screwed up, too.  But in today’s charged political climate, where folks can be as sensitive as a hemorrhoidal pole-sitter, the politics of gender and self-identification remain fraught with — what did I just read today, that Prince Harry and Meghan Markle will raise their baby as “gender-fluid”? Gender-fluid?  Let’s see how that affects the Olympic schedule in 2044.

And so after a weeks worth of testimony at the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) in Lausanne, Switzerland, the case against the IAAF for requiring reduced testosterone levels in so-called hyperandrogenic athletes – or women runners with “differences of sexual development” (DSD) – now awaits a decision by a three-person panel on or before March 26th. 

Caster Semenya in Doha 2016
(Andrew McClanahan/PhotoRun)

The case against the proposed IAAF ruling, brought by double Olympic 800-meter champion Caster Semenya of South Africa, is not as simple as restricting performance-enhancing drug use. In fact, in what seems a massive irony, the IAAF is looking to sanction performancerestricting drug use to reduce the testosterone levels of certain female athletes, which begs the question, why not do the same for performance-enhancing drug use, if the point is to guarantee a level playing field? And how level is level? And how fluid is fluid? And have we stepped upon that old slippery slope?

Let’s begin here. The whole purpose of a competition is to discover through the intricate calculus of talent, training, and tactics how one athlete gets to the finish line ahead of all others. It is the ineffable nature of that calculus that makes the sport intriguing. Take away the unknowable, replace it with certainty, and you’ve essentially eliminated the game.

Why don’t women just compete against men?  Because we would know the result before the start.

I went grocery shopping with the wife yesterday and she was lamenting how heavy the bags were as she handed them to me from the cart to put in the trunk.

“You’re older than I am and I work out with weights in the gym,” she said  “But you only have to use one hand to lift the bags while I have to use two. It’s not fair.”

There it is. I have testosterone coursing through my system at a level she doesn’t, and testosterone is the separating agent that distinguishes a man’s strength and power advantage over a woman’s – after boys and girls compete on an equal basis before the onset of puberty. The IAAF suggests the way to make things right in the middle distance races from 400m to 1500m is to reduce that hormonal advantage certain women have over others. Semenya and her advocates suggest otherwise. (more…)

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NORTHERN ARIZONA ELITES TAKE TITLES IN TAMPA

Tampa, FL. – it was a Monty Python-esque (but winning) day for the Northern Arizona Elite team out of Flagstaff, Arizona at today’s Publix Gasparilla Distance Classic – ”now for something completely different”. While a record 36 inches of snow blanketed Flagstaff, warm and humid conditions tested the fields in today’s half-marathon along Tampa Bay.

Notwithstanding, NAE’s Scott Fauble used a final 400-meter sprint to pull away from defending champion Elkanah Kibet of the U.S. Army’s WCAP Program, to take the $8000 first place purse in 1:05:09, four seconds up on Sgt. Kibet.  On the women’s side, fellow NAU runner Aliphine Tuliamuk dominated her competition, taking the win in 1:12:29 nearly 2 minutes ahead of Boulder Colorado’s Becky Wade in second. Both NAE athletes are preparing for a spring marathon, Fauble in Boston on April 15, Aliphine in Rotterdam in six weeks time.

Fauble Finishes First 
Tuliamuk Dominates

(more…)

HAS THERE EVER BEEN ANOTHER G.O.A.T. LIKE TOM BRADY?

Tom Brady American football GOAT

Super Bowl LIII is this weekend in Atlanta and we’re having a party as we do whenever the New England Patriots enter the fray. Of course, the dominant stories this year are whether Pat’s coach Bill Belichick and quarterback Tom Brady can add a sixth Lombardi Trophy to their display case in Foxborough, or will 32-year-old wunderkind coach Sean McVay and defensive player of the year Aaron Donald, defensive tackle for the Los Angeles Rams, find a way to upset the reigning NFL dynasty and maybe begin a new one of their own.

But another question I have is, who in sports history is analogous to Tom Brady, someone everyone whiffed on – 6th round draft pick, the 199th player chosen – who went on to become the GOAT? Let’s take a look at some other GOAT candidates in other sports and compare. (more…)

R.I.P. TOMMY LEONARD (1933 – 2019)

Tommy Leonard

The great Tommy Leonard passed quietly from our midst yesterday at JML Care Center in Falmouth, Massachusetts at age 85. The beloved founder of the Falmouth Road Race and long-time bartender at Boston’s legendary Eliot Lounge, Tommy was the patron saint of running to thousands of people around the globe.

Tommy’s dear friend Russ Pelletier sent the following note last night. 

“Just want to let you know that he never lost his sense of humor.  I was with him yesterday afternoon.  It was obvious that he was at the end of the line.

Around the bed were three women on the JML staff and myself.  He was having difficulty breathing and couldn’t speak.  But we knew he could hear us.

So I told him, “Tommy, no matter what the situation, you always have young ladies taking care of you”.

I couldn’t hear his reply, but the nurse closest to him did.  I asked, “What did he say?”.  She looked at me and said, “I have the best seat in the house”.

He went out on his own terms.”

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Thanks to Russ for bringing one last Tommy-made smile to our faces. 

Those who knew him well loved him dearly, not just for a shared love of running, but for his selflessness and generosity of spirit.  Even those who had never met him felt like they knew him from the stories they’d heard.  Such was the effect Tommy had on people, a best friend you might not have ever met.

TL’s contributions were incalculable, and not just to the running community. He and fellow Back Bay barkeep at the Bull & Finch Pub (the Cheers bar on TV) Eddie Doyle raised funds for causes far and wide through the years from their posts behind the hardwood.  And though he had grown up in an orphanage and foster homes in western Massachusetts, Tommy created a worldwide family with his Irish glint, zest for life, and an embracing you-centered concern.  Like a human endearment machine, Tommy worked perfectly all the way to the end.

True, he was more of a dreamer than a hands-on producer. But TL was a wizard at bringing the right people together – like John Carroll and Rich Sherman in Falmouth, and Eddie Doyle in Boston – while creating an atmosphere where good times were to be had by all.   Today, we mourn his passing from a world where such character and traits seem increasingly anachronistic.

It’s with full hearts we send TL off on his next great adventure. Off beyond “the powder-puff clouds and shimmering Vineyard Sound” to make God laugh, angels weep, and more souls that can fit on the head of a pin happy.

Bless you, Tommy Leonard, your light and spirit will continue to shine through to show us the way.

 

“With Tommy Leonard tending taps, 

The guru in his lair, 

Every runner’s true best friend, 

With a heart big enough to share.”

Tommy Leonard at his station at the Eliot Lounge

END

OLYMPIC MARATHON QUALIFYING STANDARD STILL UNKNOWN

With the calendar’s turn to 2019, we have entered the year-plus long buildup to the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. Along that road are the U.S. Olympic Team Trials, both marathon, and track & field, with the marathon trials in Atlanta up first in February 2020. The Atlanta Track Club and USATF unveiled their Trials’ course layout just last week.

However, a new twist to Olympic and World Championships qualifying was introduced in November 2017 when IAAF announced its new World Rankings System. The idea was to make the sport more accessible to the public and to encourage more head-to-head competitions among the top-ranked athletes of the sport.

“For the first time in the sport’s history, athletes, media and fans will have a clear understanding of the competitions from the world through to global events, allowing them to follow a logical season-long path to the pinnacle of athletics’ top two competitions,” the IAAF said back in 2017.

In the new ranking system, every performance by an athlete in an international or national competition will be translated into a score, based on the IAAF scoring table, with the level of competitions also being graded.  The Olympics and World Championships will garner the most points and national championships the fewest.  The best five performances will be totaled and the average will be the athlete’s ranking score in his/her event. There are some other tweaks, but that’s essentially how it will work.

Though there is a consensus belief that a credible world rankings system is long overdue in Athletics, not everyone found the new system to their liking, which is understandable.  Among others, the North American, Central American and the Caribbean Championships (NACAC), one of the strongest member associations in the IAAF, took issue. “Understanding the system in the athletics community is limited, and on critical points, there are widely disparate views about fairness and viability of the system.”

In response to this and other reactions to the ranking system, the IAAF pulled its use as a qualifying factor for the 2019 World Championships in Doha, Qatar but plan to continue its use for Tokyo 2020/

Now, as we await the first big races of 2019 in the United States at the Houston Marathon and Half Marathon this weekend, I received the following email message.  (more…)

AN INTERVIEW WITH PHEIDIPPIDES

With the Atlanta Track Club and USATF unveiling a map of the 2020 U. S. Team Trials Marathon course, I thought it might be a good time to reconnect (tongue firmly in cheek) with history’s original Marathoner, the one and only Pheidippides.

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Pheidippides in Athens

First, a little background.

Fame is a bitch! Take, take, take, that’s all she does (and why is fame a ‘she’, anyway?) But if fame is a handful, can you imagine trying to uphold the status of a legend?  

As has been proven time and time again, once the public gets a hold of you there’s a stiff price to be paid for any of the benefits that might come with such renown. All you have to do is ask Caesar, Lincoln, Elvis, JFK, Marilyn Monroe, John Lennon, Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix or Michael Jackson, all of whom died of fame. So, you either nip such fame in the bud, like Dave Chappell, or find a way to accommodate it, because down that road has come many a man’s (woman’s) ruin. 

Take the case of Pheidippides, the legendary Greek messenger sent from the plains of Marathon to the city of Athens to tell the tale of the great military victory over the invading force from Persia in 492 B.C.  

Out of that single 40k run has come not only an Olympic event – and the Trials that precede it – but an entire industry, as well, as hundreds of such events are staged annually in cities worldwide for millions of avid runners. 

Yet in the case of Pheidippides and the Marathon, it took two and a half millennia for that history to finally come to pass.  That’s what happens when the first guy who does it dies. Takes a certain amount of fortitude for the next guy to step up. 

But back in 492 B.C. Pheidippides was no myth. He had a family and friends and people he worked with. Then, look what happened, one poorly paced run and he was marked throughout history. 

Being a day-runner, or herald – as it was then called – he must have been right behind the front lines while the actual battle against the Persians was raging. Then, when the tide turned in favor of the defending Athenians, he was called for what would become his historic assignment.

“Hey, you, Pheidippides. We need you to run back to Athens tell them we’re OK out here. Got it?  Tell them it’s good news. But you gotta hustle.”

Maybe his commanding officer didn’t know Pheidippides had already run over 250k to Sparta and back looking for reinforcements a few days earlier. Notwithstanding, the guy answered the call and ran back to Athens, announcing, “Rejoice we conquer!” before succumbing to his efforts. 

But as the late radio broadcast legend Paul Harvey used to say, there was more to The Rest of the Story.  And now we have The Man himself to ask. 

There have been mystical beings in every age, Highlander types, who lived beyond their eras. And who knew, Pheidippides was one himself? (more…)