ATHLETICS KENYA TO STAGE “MINI TRIALS” BEFORE PREFONTAINE TRIALS

     The Athletics Kenya decision to stage their Olympic 10,000 meter selection in Eugene, Oregon at this June’s Prefontaine Classic has come in for some harsh criticism back home. Perhaps to tamp down some of that criticism and ameliorate disappointed fans, Athletics Kenya chairman Isaiah Kiplagat has made a Solomon-esque decision. Today, he informed the agents who represent the 10,000-meter Olympic “A” standard qualified Kenyan men that they “must participate in the mini trials to be held in Nairobi on 17 April 2012 without exception.”

This message arrived out of the blue, leading to speculation that the addition of a “mini trials” comes in response to the backlash from the Kenya media and the National Olympic Committee.  The Kenyan Ministry of Sport had also made condemning comments about the AK’s handling of the Olympic selection process.

Regardless, it’s hard to argue with the logic of staging the 10,000m trials in Eugene. And it wouldn’t be the first time a Kenyan Trials selection was held outside the country, either as the 1992 Kenyan Olympic marathon team was selected out of the Boston Marathon.

But for the 10,000 meters, the atmosphere in Eugene at Hayward Field will be electric.  What’s more, the race will be conducted at sea-level, thereby mirroring the conditions the team will find in London at the Games.  As such, the need to experience and practice the kind of final lap sprint – that Kenyans are not well known for – and which could mean the difference between a medal and disappointment, is much more likely to come to pass in Eugene than at altitude in Nairobi.

Also, with a pre-selection race and a following Trials competition, the odds are greater that an experienced team will emerge, rather than include a one-trick pony who may rise in a single selection race at altitude, but then bomb out in London.  In any case, the intrigue continues, which will only build more attention for both races.

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PEGASUS WIRELESS ABOUT TO TAKE OFF IN L.A. 2012

    Though it is the most basic of all sports, running has always had a pretty high Geek factor, especially among its more serious adherents.   Whether it’s in shoe design, the latest moisture-wicking apparel, or the most sophisticated GPS or heart rate monitor, runners are always searching for that Holy Grail that might help get them from point A to point B even faster than before.

Over the years, the Los Angeles Marathon has ushered in a number of technological firsts for the sport.  In 1996, LA was the first major U.S. marathon to utilize a field-wide chip timing system. Then in 2009, LA became the first big city 26-miler to fully adopt social media outlets such as Facebook, YouTube, RSS, Flickr and Twitter.  Now again in 2012 L.A. will showcase another new technology. But this development, rather than being ancillary to the sport, is focused on directly on it. What’s more, it has the potential to unlock long hidden secret chambers that, once opened, could change the very nature of how runners train, avoid injury, while at the same time illuminate the competition for a television audience in a way never before possible.

This Sunday at the 27thHonda LA Marathon, wireless sensor technology will be utilized to monitor and analyze the stride characteristics of several runners, both elite and local, as they move from the start line at Dodger Stadium 26.2 miles to the finish line in Santa Monica.

Pegasus Sensors

Small motion-detecting sensors, weighing less than an ounce each, will be worn atop the shoe laces of the runners. Then, using a smartphone transmission, three distinct characteristics of their strides – Cadence, Ground Contact Time, and Kick Dynamic – will be uploaded to KTLA-TV which will then broadcast those metrics in real time via an on-screen dashboard for analysis and comparison.

“Through this technology, we can identify the changes in a runner’s stride dynamic over the course of the marathon,” explained Bill Kaiser, co-director of the UCLA Wireless Health Institute, and one of the inventors of the technology now licensed by Pegasus Sports Performance.“We can then analyze those changes to evaluate their efficiency as fatigue begins to take its toll, but which might yet be too subtle for the human eye, alone, to pick up.”

KTLA DASHBOARD

Cadence (strides per minute), Ground Contact Time, and Kick Dynamic (called distal leg lift) will be monitored on a continuous basis at a rate of 60-100Hz per second. These metrics will then be shown to the TV audience in real time on a graphic dashboard throughout the race – no different than how NASCAR illustrates the internal workings of their race cars on TV via dashboard displays.

Josh Cox Laces Up

Josh Laces up

“I’ve trained with the sensors several times, and competed in them once,” said Josh Cox, American 50K record holder who beta tested the sensors at last fall’s Rock `n’ Roll Los Angeles Half Marathon. “The advantages for the athlete are twofold. One, you can analyze the data post-race or post-workout, and fine tune your workouts according to what you’ve learned about your stride mechanics. But it’s a real eye-in-the-sky for the coach, who is able to coordinate and monitor an athlete’s stride characteristics during the workout itself. And while an athlete might have previously given his coach feedback like ‘maybe I went out a little too hard, but I felt okay on that last interval’, now the coach can just look at his smartphone and say, ‘Hey, your heart rate is up, your stride is beginning to change. You’re doing more harm than good. You’re done for the day’.”

Perhaps more impressive is the ability to actually monitor a workout in real-time off site. Say Meb Keflezighi was in Mammoth, California doing a tempo run, but his coach Bob Larsen was back home L.A. Bob could still monitor Meb’s workout in real time via his smartphone or computer as he watches Meb’s heart rate, cadence, ground contact time, kick dynamic, pronation, and supination 300 miles to the north. Then, with an escort alongside in a car or on a bike – as Meb so often has – coach Larsen could communicate his observations and instructions to Meb on the fly. Continue reading

SAME AS IT EVER WAS

     As we approach this weekend’s USATF Indoor Track & Field Championships in Albuquerque, New Mexico, once again we find the advance stories focusing as much on the politics of the sport as on the competition itself.  The wedge issue currently roiling the sport – as it has since the USATF annual convention in St. Louis last December – is over the number of sponsorship logos athletes can display on their competition singlets, the size of those logos, and at which competitions those regulations will be fully enforced by USATF, the sport’s governing body.

According to stated USATF rules, which follow international IAAF regulations, an athlete can only display two commercial logos or one club logo and one commercial logo.  But as reported today on LetsRun.com, in a nod to athlete demands, USATF has agreed to allow athletes with a club logo to have two commercial logos on display, as well. For their part, athletes want the right to display one club and three commercial logos.

Regardless, while USATF and the athletes go back and forth over number, size, and where the uniform rules will be enforced, the USATF Board’s legal counsel Larry James wrote a memo to the Board stating his concern that any deviation from the stated rules might be seen by Nike – sponsor for the USATF Indoor and Outdoor National Championships  – as reducing the value of its own contract with USATF, and thereby, under the terms of that contract, would allow Nike to pay a lesser amount to USATF for its own visibility.  And since more athlete logos appearing on athletes’ singlets might thus be interpreted as a reduction in value by Nike, USATF is forced to implement its uniform restrictions, irrespective of the gentleman’s agreement they came to in St. Louis with athlete legal counsel David Greifinger to hold off on the implementation at domestic events.

You can read the whole account on LetsRun.com, but the bottom line according to David Greifinger (the former legal counsel to USATF, by the way) is, as currently worded Nike can argue anything reduces the value of its contract. “Taken to its logical extreme, Nike would have veto power over the composition of USATF’s Board and committees, USATF’s Bylaws, Regulations, and Competition Rules, and all matters pertaining to competitions and athletes’ rights.”

That a kerfuffle like this is still taking place 34 years after the institution of USATF as governing body for track & field, road racing, youth running, masters running, trail running, race walking is evidence enough of the limitations of the institution.  However, history, too, may be instructive for the current situation. Continue reading

BOSTON VS LONDON MARATHONS 2012

    Again in 2012, the two springtime World Marathon Majors, Boston and London, will be staged six days apart.  Boston’s 116th annual sets off from Hopkinton on Monday April 16th  for Copley Square, while London’s 32nd annual begins in Blackheath headed for The Mall along St. James Park the following Sunday April 22nd.

Today, 27-year Boston Marathon sponsor John Hancock Financial Services announced the professional field for the annual Patriot’s Day race, while London’s race director Dave Bedford released his women’s field back in early December before travelling to Iten, Kenya to announce his men’s field on January 20th.

Both events are loaded, as the crème of Kenyan and Ethiopian running look to make one last impression on their Olympic selectors before final Olympic squads are chosen for the return to London in August for the Games.

Boston’s field features defending champions Geoffrey Mutai (2:03:02, CR, WB) and Caroline Kilel (2:22:36) of Kenya.  London parries with defending Kenyan champions Emmanuel Mutai (2:04:40, CR) and Mary Keitany (2:19:19).  Boston will line up five sub-2:06 men (see below), London counters with ten.

London also has the edge in terms of depth on the women’s side with ten sub-2:23 women to Boston’s five, yet Boston brings together five champions from 2011: Kilel (Boston) and Georgina Rono (Eindhoven) of Kenya, Firehiwot Dado (New York), Aselefech Mergia (Dubai 2012), and Mamitu Daska (Frankfurt) of Ethiopia. London may have fewer current champions, but is Kenyan top heavy with defender Mary Keitany going up against 2011 Berlin champion Florence Kiplagat, and her 2011 World Champion namesake (though unrelated) Edna Kiplagat. Continue reading

‘BRING BACK THE MILE’ Expands Website

     After a successful splash  launch, bringbackthemile.com has expanded its website with a State Federation Petition requesting that the Mile be brought back to the State Championship  level around the nation.  The expanded website also allows for anyone to share  photographs, videos or their written stories through the I Am the Mile sub-campaign. The website also features an ever expanding database of Mile news, history, trivia and athlete bios.

The initial launch on January 19 not only created “buzz” on the web and  beyond, but generated almost 14,000 YouTube views of the Bring Back the Mile trailer and extended video as well as 1,000-plus Facebook fans  and a Sports Illustrated “Faces in the Crowd” feature.

“We are heartened by the response that we have received since our launch,” said Ryan Lamppa, Bring Back the Mile Founder. “People have a love and a passion for the  Mile, and our website bringbackthemile.com will be the Mile home on-line. Our front page feature is the high school state federation  petition drive to replace the 1600-meters with the Mile at State  Championships.

“In addition, a special thank you to the Bring Back the Mile Support Team including Olympians and Milers Jim Ryun, Marty Liquori, Carrie  Tollefson and Leo Manzano and our Partners who have offered their  support and feedback to get this national campaign launched,” Lamppa  added.

The Mile holds a special place in track & field and beyond because no  running distance, or field event for that matter, has the history, the  appeal, the “magic” of the Mile. The first sub-4 minute mile by Great  Britain’s Roger Bannister in 1954 is regarded as the greatest individual athletic achievement of  the 20th century, and no other event has produced an equivalent of the  sub-4 minute Mile standard in the sport, in the media and in the  public’s mind.

Unfortunately, the Mile has lost some of its luster over the past decade, and the Bring Back the Mile mission is: To return the Mile to prominence on the American sports and cultural  landscape by elevating and celebrating the Mile to create a national  movement.

Visit www.bringbackthemile.com or contact media@bringbackthemile.com for more information.
The Bring Back the Mile Support Team media@bringbackthemile.com

GEOFF HOLLISTER & CHICAGO MARATHON SOLD OUT

Geoff as we knew him best

The sport of running lost one its true guiding lights today as news of Geoff Hollister’s passing was announced in Portland, Oregon.  Hollister succumbed to cancer just days after his 66th birthday following a several year battle with the disease.  Full story here

Among his many other talents, Geoff was instrumental in bringing Alberto Salazar out to Oregon, and this past weekend at the New Balance Indoor Grand Prix in Al’s home town of Boston, Salazar’s Nike Oregon Project athletes Galen Rupp, Mo Farah, and Ciaran O’Lionard all wore specially designed singlets in honor of Geoff.  Galen, who grew up in Eugene and attended the University of Oregon, like Geoff, was especially touched.

“He was so passionate about the sport,” recalled Galen last Friday, Geoff’s 66th birthday.  “He brought so many new ideas, like Athletics West (the Nike-sponsored track team of the late 1970s).  He really knew how to advance the sport.  I’ve known him since high school, and he was always so good to be around.”

I’d known Geoff for over 30 years, too, and we’d reconnect every August at Joanie Samuelson’s Beach to Beacon 10k in Maine, where his laugh and embrace of life were always in full engagement. Though he’d long retired from Nike, Geoff kept busy in recent years using his arts background to produce documentary films, from the award-winning “Fire on the Track”, the tale of Steve Prefontaine, to last year’s “There is No Finish Line” showcasing the saga of Joanie’s rise to Olympic glory, and her continued influence on runners of all ages, genders, and abilities.

One of the original “Men of Oregon”, as writer and fellow Duck Kenny Moore dubbed the men who ran for legendary Oregon coach Bill Bowerman, Geoff Hollister lived a life that exemplified Joseph Campbell’s dictate to “follow your bliss”.  May we all be so fortunate.  Continue reading

‘BRING BACK THE MILE’ LAUNCHES CAMPAIGN

    
     Bring Back the Mile Launches National campaign to elevate and celebrate the iconic distance.
The Mile holds a special place in Track & Field and beyond. No running distance, or field event for that matter, has the history, the appeal, the “magic” of the Mile. The first sub-4 minute mile by Great Britain’s Roger Bannister in 1954 is regarded as the greatest individual athletic achievement of the 20th century, and no other event has produced an equivalent of the sub-4 minute mile standard in the sport, in the media and in the public’s mind. Unfortunately, the Mile has lost some of its luster over the past decade, especially at the High School level where the 1600 meters is run, 9 meters short of a Mile. Today, the ‘Bring Back the Mile’ campaign is being introduced at: www.bringbackthemile.com.
Our Bring Back the Mile mission is simple: To return the Mile to prominence on the American sports and cultural landscape by elevating and celebrating the Mile to create a national movement. Visit www.bringbackthemile.com and let’s Bring Back the Mile! Thank you.
The Bring Back the Mile Support Team media@bringbackthemile.com