FESTIVAL OF MILES PRODUCES FAST TIMES

     The 1300-person crowd rose along the front stretch as hip 5, Jordan McNamara of the Oregon Track Club, made his move.  The St.Louis Track Club Men’s Mile was the final race of last night’s Big River Festival of Miles, and in the final 100 meters it had boiled down to a three man fight.  On the inside ran John Jefferson from Team Indiana Elite, a 3:57 man who had charged to the lead at the bell with 400 to go.  In his slipstream the hometown favorite, Stephen Pifer of the Oregon TC, a native of Edwardsville, Illinois from just across the Big Muddy from St. Louis, a 3:56 man with scores of fans urging him on.  And waiting, waiting, waiting was McNamara, who had a PR coming in of 3:59, but had won the “B” heat of the Oxy High Performance Meet in L.A.on May 21st in 3:42. So he was in form, and rarin’ to go.

    I was on the P.A.  It had been a great night of racing, beginning with the Go St. Louis! Healthy Kids mile won by Nick Thatcher in 5:29.  The fourth annual series of races served as a fund-raiser to benefit 2008 St. Louis U. High All-State high jumper Mike Rathmann, who was paralyzed just a few weeks after graduation in a vacation accident.  His mom, Toots, was on hand, as well, celebrating her birthday.  Good night all around for the Rathmann bunch. (more…)

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MEET ME IN ST. LOUIE

     St. Louis, Mo.- I’m back in my old hometown to serve as guest announcer for tonight’s fourth annual Big River Festival of Miles presented by Under Armour.  Taking place at my high school alma mater, St. Louis University High School, the FOM is a series of races from an open mile for boys and girls from first to eighth grade, to invitational boys and girls high school miles, to an elite/pro women’s 800 and men’s mile to close the program.

     The Big River Festival of Miles was conceived in 2008 by fellow SLUH alum Ben Rosario, co-owner of the Big River Running Company, and a former Hanson’s Distance Project runner.  The first FOM was staged to benefit the family of Brigette Schutzman, a standout cross country and track runner for Saint Louis University who had been badly injured in a car accident on New Year’s Eve 2007.   The meet raised $8,000 for the Schutzman family. (more…)

FROM A GRATEFUL NATION

On this Memorial Day 2011 two wars draw our young service men and women into harms way, even as we remember those who have fallen in all our previous conflicts.  Today, it is  an all-volunteer force which fights on our behalf in Iraq and Afghanistan, all but separated from the vast majority of Americans in whose name they are willing to make the ultimate sacrifice.  A generation ago it was a drafted army that connected Americans of all socio-economic strata, which ultimately caused the country to come to political terms with its aims in Vietnam.  I am the son of two World War II veterans, one from Poland, the other from America.  In their time there was no separation of purpose, nor a coming to political terms with the conflict before them.  How unified was the nation, how willing America’s sons were to march into battle, and why, is captured movingly in the following letter my father wrote to his mother as he shipped out to the battlefields of Europe 67 years ago.  (more…)

A RUNNING USA RACING INITIATIVE?

     A year and a half after conducting a Town Hall meeting at their 2010 industry conference focused on the obesity epidemic, Running USA has yet to put in place a children’s initiative that would either compliment or coordinate with First Lady Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move, NFL’s Play 60, or NBA’s Get Fit initiatives.  Though a memorandum of understanding (MOU) has been floated to create a joint RUSA, USATF Foundation, RRCA initiative, to date, no consensus has been reached on implementing that, or any other such program. 

     It is classic running world paralysis, underscoring the deep divisions inherent in this most individual and turf-oriented of sports.  As RUSA President Virginia Brophy Achman of Minnesota has said, “While it is great that we all have thoughts and opinions, and I do embrace diverse perspectives, at some point we have to build consensus and move forward. “

     She is absolutely right.  Yet the passions in the sport run strong. And while that is a good thing, the existential division between road running and its default national governing body, USATF – which, given the state of that organization, shows no signs of changing – has led to a deeply rooted local event orientation, which in turn has made cross-event promotion and consensus an elusive target.

     This coming Tuesday another teleconference among RUSA board members will again broach the subject in an attempt to kick start a process which is quickly moving away from a sport whose mission and structure, at least on the surface, is perhaps best suited to address the growing national problem.  (more…)

BRILLIANT CONCEPT – KIDS RACING

     There is an event going on today at Lindbergh Schweitzer Elementary School here in San Diego which is taking a throwback approach to kids running.  The 2nd Annual Chelsea King Invitational Mile benefiting Chelsea’s Light Foundation is staging a series of one-mile races open to boys and girls in San Diego County. And here’s the wrinkle – somebody is going to win!  There are even qualifying times of 7 min/mile for boys, 8 min/mile for girls!  Qualifying times, not the inert “everyone’s a winner and no times are recorded” format which has mirrored the general decline in adult running performance this past decade.

     Kids from third to sixth grade will participate, and they must have teacher approval, i.e. homework up to date, and good citizenship.  Digital timing is provided by the San Diego Triathlon Club, and each race will have “rabbits” to ensure fast times.  Imagine, rabbits for kids’ races.  A brave new world, indeed.

The purpose of this event is to honor the memory of Poway High School runner Chelsea King who was killed February 2010 while out running near her home, and to promote the ideals she exemplified: athletic excellence, academic achievement, sportsmanship, and community outreach.  Although this event is intended to benefit Chelsea’s Light Foundation, organizers underscore that the event is not being produced by Chelsea’s Light Foundation.

Awards will go five deep with overall champions receiving pure silver commemorative medals, along with the title of “fastest elementary miler in San Diego County.”

We salute P.E. teacher Ms. Mary Lou Baranowski for organizing this event, and hope others will follow her lead and bring back healthy competition to our nation’s youth.
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TOO LATE

“And it’s too late, baby, now it’s too late
Though we really did try to make it,”  –  Carol King, 1971

Really, does it make any difference anymore?  After our nearly 30 years in the wilderness under Ollan Cassell ( he was Executive Director of the AAU 1970–1980, then Executive Director of USA Track and Field 1980–1997), the following ten years of triage under Craig Masback, and the recently completed two-year sideshow of Doug Logan, unless we discover that Dick Ebersol announced his resignation as head of NBC on May 19th in order to take the post as USATF CEO, would anyone outside Indianapolis even lift an ear bud for news of who’s next on the USATF Gong Show stage?

Honest, this sport is so far outside the mainstream of the American sporting consciousness, and USATF has its own head so far twisted up its bureaucratic ass, that to think anyone, even Mr. Ebersol, would be anything but insignificant as leader would be to believe Harold Camping’s five-month margin of error excuse for his May 21st rapture miscall.                   (more…)

OPEN LETTER TO GOD

     I don’t know whether to be happy or sad that the End Times failed to materialize yesterday.  For all those expectant souls counting on Harold Camping’s mulligan from 1994 to be right, you’re heart goes out to them.  It’s gotta be rough having to get refocused and all.  I mean, end of the world isn’t like spring cleaning, it does take some major preparation.  And he seemed so sure of his calculations this time, didn’t he?  Though, having blown the call before, you had to wonder why such an important message would be trusted to someone with such a poor track record.  But “the Bible promised,” he said, and folks did want to believe.  You gotta give `em that.

Sure, I hadn’t quite made it to my three score and ten, but I’d come close enough not to feel cheated if the Rapture had indeed filtered out the deserving from the not.  And based on all the evidence, it would seem I still had about five more months coming, though suffering would have consumed most of that.

But here we are, again, in the aftermath, wondering how literally to take Your musings as transcribed by Matty, Mark, Luke, and John.  I mean, you can make any kind of hash you want depending on how you choose from all that’s in there.  In fact, that’s the problem.  It’s open to interpretation, and we’re not good with that.  For heaven sakes, we can’t agree on tonight’s side dish for dinner.  How we gonna get together on the metaphysical stuff? (more…)