Category: Runner’s Digest Radio

REMEMBERING SAMMY WANJIRU FIVE YEARS AFTER

 

Wanjiru v. Kebede, Chicago 2010
Wanjiru v. Kebede, Chicago 2010

As might be expected in any nation with a talent pool as vast as theirs, Kenyans continue to debate the makeup of their 2016 Rio Olympic Men’s & Women’s Marathon squads. They also pray that the non-compliance ruling handed down last week by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) doesn’t derail their heroes from competing in Rio this August.  Yet even amidst those attention-grabbing headlines, we are sadly reminded that it was on this day in 2011 that Kenya lost its legendary 2008 Olympic Marathon champion Sammy Wanjiru, who died tragically when he fell from the second story balcony of his home in Nyahururu during a domestic dispute.

Wanjiru was only 24 years old at the time of his death, and still had room to grow as an athlete.  The following excerpt is taken from my blog the day after Wanjiru’s death.

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“I won’t offer any speculation except to suggest that youthful fame and fortune are never simply a single-edged blade carving happiness from a rough-hewn upbringing of need and want.  Over and again we have witnessed the tragic cuts that sudden wealth and corresponding sycophancy can lay open on those ill-prepared to parry their thrusts.  Sammy Wanjiru was a passionate racer, and evidently he carried that passion into his every day dealings to a calamitous, untimely end.

What I knew of the great champion came only from the vantage point of a reporter, one fortunate enough to be up close for what was his final marathon, and one of the greatest marathon performances ever, his victory in the 2010 Bank of America Chicago Marathon. (more…)

THE ELIOT LOUNGE PRE-BOSTON MARATHON 1978

MeterMagazineIn recent months my friend Matt Taylor has launched a new clothing line called TrackSmith whose influences harken back to a simpler, more rudimentary time in the sport.  Among the projects associated with TrackSmith, Matt has come out with a new running publication called Meter.

I am proud to be among the contributors tor the inaugural issue of Meter, providing a look back at the legendary Eliot Lounge, that long lost and fabled runner’s bar in Boston’s Back Bay which shuttered its doors in 1996.

Yesterday, Matt put up on Twitter an audio clip I sent him from my old Runner’s Digest radio show in Boston that aired from 1977 to 1988. In this clip we find ourselves inside the Eliot on the Thursday night before the 1978 Boston Marathon. The place was teeming with runners from around the world as our favorite band, Heidi and The Secret Admirers, was closing the night in style.

As Heidi kicked off her final encore at about 1 a.m., Ian Gamble, a motor racing promoter from Auckland, New Zealand — who also organized New Zealand’s Choysa Marathon — made an offer to Greater Boston Track Club star Randy Thomas who is now the long time track and cross country coach at Boston College.

If you want to know what it felt like to be in the Hub of the running universe at the height of the running boom, perhaps the four minute clip below will give you a taste.

Eliot Lounge Meter Mag

DOUGLAS WAKIIHURI TURNS 50 – The Marathon is like a Rose

Douglas Wakiihuri
Douglas Wakiihuri

(With an addendum by Brian Sheriff, an old racing friend of Douglas’s)

Today is the 50th birthday of Douglas Wakiihuri, who remains one of the favorite sons of Kenyan running.  Born September 26, 1963 in the seaside city of Mombasa, the Japanese-trained runner won Kenya’s first-ever World Championships gold medal in the Marathon in Rome 1987. Not until Luke Kibet won the world title in Osaka, Japan in 2007, did Douglas have company in that exclusive club.  Abel Kirui then claimed entry with wins in Berlin 2009 and Daegu, South Korea in 2011.

Following his own World Championship in `87, Douglas earned the silver medal at the 1988 Summer Olympics in Seoul, finishing 15-seconds behind Italy’s Gelindo Bordin.  The next year he won the London Marathon, and then took home the Commonwealth Games Marathon gold medal from Auckland, New Zealand in February 1990.

In this excerpt from Runners Digest Radio we listen to Douglas Wakiihuri on the eve of his win at the 1990 New York City Marathon.  In this contemplative moment Douglas describes the marathon as ole Will Shakespeare might well have, if the bard had ever explored the depths of the distance as had Douglas.

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GETTING FIRED LAUNCHES RODGERS

In this excerpt from the archives of my old Runners Digest Radio show in Boston, we go on-the-run with marathon legend Bill Rodgers, four-time Boston and New York City Marathon champion of the mid-to-late 1970s. During our run Bill talks about his transition from ex-college runner to resurrected marathon runner.

Runner's Digest
Runner’s Digest
Bill Rodgers, 2:09:55 American Record, Boston 1975
Bill Rodgers, 2:09:55 American Record, Boston 1975

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In my previous post, THE FESTIVALIZATION OF SPORT, I suggested today’s young seem, on the whole, less rigorously competitive than previous generations. There are far more options these days, but perhaps part of it has to do with the stresses today’s youth are under as a matter of every day experience — not to mention how the expectations of yesteryear and those of today do not nearly match up with one another either.

HOW DOES IT FEEL?

In the aftermath of World War II many nations had to dig out of devastation, left with the psychic remains of shattered lives.  My mother was one who saw her world destroyed, but was fortunate to find refuge in America, which sat alone and free. This gave her Baby Boom children the freedom to dedicate themselves to youthful ways well into their adult years.  While the youth of today remain at home much longer , Boomers had the luxury to remain more infantile longer.

When I moved from St. Louis to Boston in August of 1973, I shared a two-bedroom, one bath apartment with three friends.  We paid $160/month, $40 each.  I had just left Washington University in St. Louis, a well-regarded liberty arts institution. In looking through some old papers in the attic of my parent’s house 40 years later I found a receipt for my final semester from the early 1970s, $1250.

Today, the same apartment that we paid $160 for in Boston is now $1525/month, while a semester at Wash. U. in St. Louis is $22,420 and rising.

Could this be why American kids in the 21st century seek less strident forms of release?

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KENNY MOORE – THE SENSATIONS OF RUNNING

Bowerman, Kenny Moore     Perhaps best known for his many brilliant articles in Sports Illustrated, for whom he began writing in 1971 while still an active world-class marathoner, Kenny Moore later had his SI pieces compiled into the book, Best Efforts, a must-read for anyone who loves the sport as well as fine writing.  Moore was one of The Men of Oregon, the subtitle of his 2006 biography of the University of Oregon’s legendary coach Bill Bowerman.

In the following excerpt from the archives of my Runner’s Digest Radio show, the two-time Olympic marathoner who finished 14th in the Mexico City Games and an agonizingly close 4th in Munich `72 (behind U.S. teammate Frank Shorter’s gold), speaks to the commonality of running at a high effort. (more…)

THE ROAD TO GO PRO: A NEW ARRA

By 1981 the sham of amateurism, which began in the late 19th century as a means to segregate sport along social and economic lines, was too obvious to ignore and too constricting to let stand.  Road running’s promise was great, but the top athletes were frustrated by the hypocritical status of their “shamateur” sport which looked the other way as appearance fees were paid to a few high profile athletes, notably American marathoners Frank Shorter and Bill Rodgers, while the majority of contending runners like Herb Lindsay and Greg Meyer, for instance, took home little or nothing even if they won.  For their part, Rodgers and Shorter were unable to cash in on their deserved recognition via open market forces.  So the athletes began to meet at events around the country in order to formulate a plan of action.  (more…)