MISSING THE SONG OF THE CITY

    Another small chorus in the song of the city has begun to go silent in the nation’s neighborhoods, as the U.S. Postal Service continues its removal of their iconic blue collection boxes from street corners throughout the country.  It’s been going on for six to eight years, now, as the decline in first-class mail usage, the ubiquity of email, increasing competition from Fedex and others, internet bill-paying, and the cost of collecting a dwindling number of hand-mailed items has made the post office collection box increasingly obsolete.  First installed in the 1850s alongside post offices and on street corners in large cities, their final delivery will certainly be to the Smithsonian Institution, the reliquary of America’s memory in Washington D.C.

Like the neighborhood service stations of old which ballyhooed the cleanliness of their award-winning bathrooms, rang out with the industry of double service bays, and produced both a uniform-clad window washer and pump jockey as cars drove in over the black rubber hoses announcing each arrival with a distinctive “Ding-Ding” bell, the corner mail box was a part of the strains of neighborhood life. (more…)

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“PEACHTREE’S CHARM”

     Why is it that everyone but the people in charge understands the problem?

“It’s part of the Peachtree’s charm. People won’t know the people who win or their name, but they’ll know that it (Peachtree) attracts some of the best talent in the world.”

That’s John Curtin of the Atlanta Track Club quoted in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution about tomorrow’s 42nd Peachtree Road Race, which doubles as the USA Road 10K Championship and PRRO Race of Champions.

If it weren’t so stunning an admission, it might actually be horrifying.  Maybe I misread.  No, that’s correct, having people not know who your anonymous, interchangeable champions are is now considered “charming”. Not a blight on the sport, not an indictment on the last generation of leaders who allowed a totally unregulated marketplace and stagnant prize purses to create the image that road racing is boring, even as race coffers continued to swell with participant entry fees, it’s charming.  Kind of like how Antebellum life in and around Atlanta was charming, I guess. (more…)

LET’S MOVE NOT MOVING ENOUGH?

    

      According to the blog Health Affairs, Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move anti-obesity campaign has become increasingly imbalanced since its launch in February 2010, with exercise losing its standing when compared to dietary considerations – Michelle Obama’s ‘Let’s Move’ Is Losing Its Footing. 

     The key finding, as pointed out by Running USA’s Ryan Lamppa, is that “as the program evolved, the focus turned to caloric intake and not expenditure.”  In studying the coverage of the Let’s Move program, Health Affairs was “unable to find much evidence about implementing the exercise parts of the Let’s Move initiative. This is particularly relevant because of the scaling back and cancellation of physical education classes due to budget cuts.”

     Health Affairs points out that in 2006, only 3.8 percent of elementary schools, 7.9 percent of middle schools, and 2.1 percent of high schools provided the minimum level of weekly physical activity as recommended by the National Association for Sport and Physical Education (150 minutes per week for elementary-school-aged children and 225 minutes per week for middle and high school students). (more…)

EUGENE OUR PARALLEL UNIVERSE

     Eugene, Oregon is a secluded, untroubled place.  Home of the University of Oregon, last week this college town two hours south of Portland hosted the 2011 USATF Outdoor Track & Field Championships at historic Hayward Field. With its vast student population having migrated, the town settled back into its quiet summer slumber, its trees arcing beneath the weight of their season’s green dress, the air warm and radiant, even though ambient with pollen.  If you didn’t check the Weather Channel for the rest of the year, you’d think you died and gone to heaven, so accommodating was the university, the town, and the climate to the sport of track and field.  For the 40,000+ track fans who flew in, drove to, then strolled through the turnstiles under warm, mostly sunny conditions, it was like walking into some track and field inspired Field of Dreams.

But Tracktown USA, as it’s been dubbed, might just as well be our version of Potterville to George Bailey’s Bedford Falls in Frank Capra’s It’s a Wonderful Life, an alternate reality where the characters are generally the same, but their personalities and likes have fundamentally changed.  For in the wake of the 2008 Olympic Trials, last week’s four-day USATF Nationals, and in preparation for next summer’s Olympic Trials, we have seen what might have been had track and field managed to join other American sports and escape its restricting, cradle-to-grave amateur past and evolve into a, if not untainted, at least decidedly less insular professional future. (more…)

YOUNG LOVE

     It’s summer in this classic college town, and though the USATF Nationals have filled the local hotels, it is still off-season as For Rent signs hang from most apartments near campus, and traffic speeds along unimpeded.

Last evening after the day’s travails were over around Hayward Field, and Molly Huddle and Bernard Lagat had been crowned national 5000 meter champions,  I saw a young couple walking up ahead, the boy with his arm around his girl’s shoulder as they ambled along the leafy foot path.

“Isn’t that sweet?” I said to my two co-workers, Mike and Alex as we carried our camera equipment back toward our motel.

“What?”

“Young love up there.”

“Well, that’ll change when they get married,” declared one whose name shall remain anonymous to ensure future happiness and contentment.

My reverie passed, for he had made me think.

“Yeah, probably right.  You put your arm round the wife, and you’re as likely to hear, “what are you doing?”

“Being affectionate?”

“Stop acting weird.  You’re throwing me off balance.”

So enjoy it while it’s in bloom, kids.  The days of reckoning await.

Love you, dear.

 

Oh, don’t miss Nike Track Nationals tonight on-line at Runnerspace.com around 6:25 p.m.  Best high school boys and girls track teams in the nation vying for a national championship.

 

END

USATF NATIONALS BEGIN

     Eugene, Oregon – USATF Nationals began today at historic Hayward Field in a dry run for next year’s Olympic Trials. Accordingly, Tracktown USA is packed with the rabid and transfixed fanatics who make up the faithful in this sport, the people who keep the flame alive even as the powers-that-be continue to search for a new CEO as well as an effective marketing and promotional approach on a scale which track both deserves and once experienced.

Skies were thick and temps low throughout the day until the sun broke out and winds fell to a lull for the evening finals.  Ideal conditions prevailed for the women’s and men’s 10,000 meters, and weren’t that bad for the finals in the women’s shot put and discus, men’s triple jump and discus.

Shalane Flanagan dominated the women’s 10,000 meters, dipping under 31:00 for the fourth time in her career.  Kara Goucher rode the pace work of Jen Rhines till moving past in the final stages to grab second place, leading the consistent Ms. Rhines, Desi Davila, and Magda Lewy Boulet under 32:00, which, from stats man extraordinaire Ken Nakamura, is the highest number of American women ever to crack the 32:00 barrier in a single race.  Flanagan, Goucher, and Rhines will reprise their 2008 Olympic 5000-meter teaming to this year’s 10,000-meter World Championships squad in Daegu, South Korea in late August.  (more…)