19th Century Sport in Search of 21st Century Foothold

   

     Running has long found it difficult to secure a solid foothold on the American sporting landscape.  One reason is lack of professionalism when compared to other mainstream sports.  Another is the growth spurt of X Games events and modern day heroes like Shaun White in the popular culture.  But another reason is as simple as formatting. 

The most popular American sports are episodic in nature, featuring a pitch, a play, a shot every 30 seconds. They are also segmented into quarters, periods, or halves, making for easy television coverage.  So even with tens of millions of self-designated runners bounding about the continent for the last thirty years on personal quests, Americans have yet to fully embrace a sport which is linear, doesn’t involve a ball or violence, and only pays off on an investment of interest shown over a long, gradual build up. (more…)

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Rotterdam Marathon on Universal Sports

     The 31st Rotterdam Marathon goes off at 5 a.m. eastern, 2 a.m. pacific time.  You can watch the race live on universalsports.com. Or, you can watch two-hour taped coverage on Universal Sports TV at noon eastern with American 50K record holder Josh Cox and me on the race call.

     With six pacers and what’s being called the “Magnificent Seven” contenders in hot pursuit, the stage is set for a full out attempt on Haile Gebrselassie’s marathon world record set in Berlin 2008.  2:03:59 averages out to 4:43.72 per mile, or 2:56.3 per kilometer pace.   Here are the splits to look for on an even-pace schedule:

KILOMETERS                                            MILES                

 5K –  14:41                                             5 miles – 23:38

10K –  29:23                                        10 miles – 47:17

15K –  44:04                                        15 miles – 1:10:58

20K –  58:46                                        20 miles – 1:34:34

1/2   – 1:02:00                                    25 miles – 1:58:13

25K – 1:13:27

30K – 1:28:09

35K – 1:42:50

40K – 1:57:32 

Late word from Rotterdam is that the pacers will now shoot for 62-flat at half-way and 1:28:20 for 30K.  Weather is good, but there is some hand-wringing about the sun in the final half-hour.  Anything less than perfect conditions throughout is enough to disrupt such a challenging task.   However, there are seven very strong contenders ready to win. Tune in to see how it plays out.

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GOING OUT ON THE WIRE FOR THE WORLD RECORD IN ROTTERDAM

 

     When Ethiopia’s Haile Gebreselassie ran the current marathon world record 2:03:59 in Berlin 2008, he was paced through the half-marathon split by 2009 World Marathon champion Abel Kirui of Kenya in 62:03.  Then, pushed by another Kenyan, James Kwambai from 32-35K after Kirui dropped away, Haile completed his record performance with a 61:56 negative split.  That 62:03 from Berlin `08 is the fastest first half ever run on the way to a marathon world record.  Not that people haven’t gone out in sub-62 before. Welshman Steve Jones blistered the first half in Chicago 1985 in 61:42.  At the time it was the eighth fastest half-marathon ever run.  But neither Jonesy, who came home in 65:33, nor anyone else who’s gone out sub-62 has ever closed strong.  That’s why tomorrow’s ABN AMRO Rotterdam Marathon promises to be a real high wire act. 

      “It’s a risk, but a calculated risk,” said elite athlete race director Eric Brommert of his plan to send his six pacesetters out in 61:45 to 61:50 for the 31st running of the world’s second fastest marathon. (more…)

Another Event Joins Pledge Drive to Support U.S. Training Camps

   

          Ben Rosario understands the importance of group efforts.  Before returning to his hometown of St. Louis in 2006 to open the first of three Big River Running Company stores, the former D2 All-American from Truman State College ran professionally for the Hansons-Brooks Distance Project in suburban Detroit.  Off his Hanson’s training in Michigan Ben qualfied for the 2004 Olympic Marathon Trials, then finished second at the 2005 U.S. Marathon Championships at the Twin Cities Marathon.  Today, Rosario announced that he and his Big River Running Company partner Matt Helbig are joining the “Dollar for Distance Development” pledge for their June 1st Big River Festival of Miles presented by Under Armour.

      “We believe in the sport,” said Rosario who, it was also announced today, will direct the 2012 & 2013 U.S. National Cross Country Championships in St. Louis’ Forest Park.  “And we believe in the sport’s potential to grow. Our Festival of Miles Foundation gives funds to athletes in need, so we will pledge $500 from our foundation and another $500 from our three stores. This is exactly the kind of program that people can do across the country, and help move the sport forward.” (more…)

Avoiding Our ‘Race to the Bottom’

      Globalization, an inevitable consequence of our increasingly technological world, has driven multi-national corporations to the far corners of the globe in search of the cheapest possible labor and the most advantageous corporate tax policies.  As a result, pressure on middle-class wages at home has split the country farther and farther into the have and have-not camps.  At the same time, the government’s ability to maintain balance and equanimity amongst the strata of society has been diminished by what Columbia University professor Jeffrey Sachs calls a worldwide race to the bottom  as nations vie to lure wealthy corporations via tax policy and loopholes, policies which inevitably lead to shrinking revenues and reduced social services, further bifurcating the country.

It’s a cycle the so-called running community has witnessed over the last 20+ years itself as events sought cheaper and more abundant elite athlete labor, primarily from east Africa. In turn, road racing’s unregulated marketplace has stagnated at 1980s purse levels, displacing American, European, and Austral-Asian runners who found it impossible to sustain the rigorous lifestyle necessary to compete at an international level for the reduced wages on offer, while East African athletes still earned what for them was win-fall profits when compared to the meager average annual wages back home. (more…)

NCAA CHAMPIONSHIP COMPROMISED BY STADIUM SELECTION

     Butler versus U. Conn will go down as the most poorly played NCAA basketball final in history. Butler shot an embarrassing 18.8% from the field in their 53-41 loss, and U. Conn didn’t fare much better, hitting on just just 34.5% of their shots, going just 1-for-11 on 3-pointers.

“Without question, 41 points and 12-of-64 (shooting) are not good enough to win any game, let alone the national championship,” Butler coach Brad Stevens told the Houston Chronicle.

Sure, U.Conn’s size and defense was a factor, but that alone can’t explain the paucity of performance.  As I watched the game, I kept remarking to the wife as she lamented to poor quality of play compared to the NBA, “it’s not just them.  It’s the venue.  They’re playing in a football stadium, not a basketball arena.”

I recalled the year our TV crew attended a San Antonio Spurs game at the Alamo Dome before the RnR Marathon.   Like Reliant Stadium in Houston, the Alamo Dome was built for football, not basketball.  The site lines, ceiling height, the overall cavernous expanse threw off delicate spacial relationships and shot rhythms.  So last night,  not only was the momentus nature of a NCAA Championship weighing on the Butler kids, and the size of the U.Conn players, but the building itself contributed to the stinker of a game we saw.

One can only hope the NCAA site committee was happy with the revenue generated by the 75,000 people in attendance, because their decision to stage the Final Four in Reliant Stadium helped make this the worst display of basketball acumen in NCAA finals history.  As with most sports now days, it’s no longer about the game or the players.  It’s all about the revenue, and in the end the players suffer the ignominy for institutional greed.

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