Sitting in 27c on the aisle with a nice magazine-reading lady on the window. The stream of fellow travelers continue to board the flight for Houston. I chat with one of the flight attendants about general passenger comportment, as she tells tales of one lady too persnickety to accept help in placing her roller bag in the overhead bin. It’s this way with air travel these days, fun for those that don’t do it.

So I’m just waiting for the final section 5 boarders, hoping for someone small and quiet to fill 27b, the middle seat. Then, magically, the head attendant announces over the PA that the front door has closed and locked, and “please direct your attention the TV monitors for an important safety demonstration.”

My row-mate and I glance over at one another with a sly grin betraying our feelings.

“You believe this?” We bump fists. “Here I was hoping for someone small and quiet, and instead we get vacant and non-corporeal.”

Travel as those of only a certain age can remember. Before air travel began to resemble bus travel. Now if only the young guy in front of me in 26c doesn’t lay back into my sternum, I may remember this United flight fondly.







Now most of you are too young to remember, but at one time America flew a man to the moon and back safely – actually, we flew three men to the moon on Apollo 11, but Michael Collins only purchased the Super Saver, middle seat ticket, so he only got a fly-by while Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin got to go down and hit balls on the Sea of Tranquility moon-base driving range.

But since we now live in conspiratorial times, let’s give a nod to the outside possibility that America, a well known David Blaine apologist, perpetrated an elaborate hoax in lieu of an actual moon shot, which might have been an even harder trick, come to think of it, what with all the mirrors, sleights of hand, and Cronkite duping that such an elaborate ruse would’ve required.

Whatever the case, because we had accomplished such a seemingly impossible goal, the standard refrain when anything earth-bound and banal was not achieved in an appropriate manner – like taking the trash out on time – was, “if they can put a man on the moon, why can’t you do X?”

It was a simple equivalence on par with parents asking children, “If Johnny jumps off the Grand Canyon, does that mean you have to, too?”  Of course, if parents remembered anything about childhood friendships and double-dares, in fact, it did mean you had to make the leap or forever live in upper-arm-punching ridicule.

But since 1969 we have not been able to plant a dude on the moon – though Elon Musk is taking a Tesla and a crash-test dummy all the way to the sun, though I’m sure we could all nominate a more worthy passenger. Notwithstanding, everything possible today has been reduced by a quarter million miles across the board.

So maybe we shouldn’t be that confounded that we can’t seem to govern ourselves or keep the Russians from choosing our leaders for us. With all the technology that we have at hand, you’d think we could keep track of who had won, even if it’s by one vote. But, evidently, we are a hanging chad or two away from such competence.

Bringing matters into the world of running, we have seen these kinds of problems all the time in NCAA cross country.

The NCAA D1 Cross Country Championships always seem to produce compelling competitions and high drama. But that drama is immeasurably enhanced every few years by the interminable wait for team results. Most famously in 2012, there were all kinds of errors that had officials declaring Oregon as the women’s champs, then Providence, and finally the Ducks one more time after the technology failed to account for several finishers. The grass at the Lavern Gibson XC Course had measurably grown in the interim.

So, what is it with technology that can be so impressive in almost every regard – men to the moon and back without Boingo wifi!? – but it can’t count several hundred runners going 10 mph over an open grass field, or figure out how to protect an election process?

With that in mind, let’s take the outrage down a notch or two and give the kids in Washington a break.  I think a few hours of cable-TV news viewing shows fairly clearly that the phrase “Best and Brightest” is hardly applicable to either end of Pennsylvania Avenue these days.

But when you realize that the USATF Board of Directors can place its president, Vin Lananna, on administrative leave amidst a federal investigation, makes you wonder why can’t we do something similar with our own bossman in D.C. as special counsel Robert Mueller tries to pin down Putin‘s prerogatives.  “Out to pasture” or “To the moon!” both have a nice ring to them, don’t you think?



Austin, TX. – At last week’s Running USA conference in Austin, Texas the question confronting the industry was ‘why the steady slide in road race participation over the last three years, and how to combat it?’

Pricing increases, calendar glut, and competition from other fitness platforms offer some insight into the reasons. But we have gone through almost 50 years of fitness and hard bodies as the Baby Boom generation moved like a cultural pig in a python through the second half of the 20th and the beginning of the 21st centuries.

Perhaps a question to ponder: Was it inevitable that there was going to be a backlash against the Boomer’s cultural impact, and road racing is just another example?  What generation ever wants to do what their parents did?  After all, rock ‘n’ roll was supplanted as the dominant musical expression by hip hop, and the 2018 Winter Olympics ain’t nothing your grandma’s Lake Placid.

“All our events are bucking that trend,” countered High Five Events CEO Jack Murray the day before the 27th Austin Marathon, Half Marathon and 5K. “Our 3M Half (Jan. 21st) was up 1500 this year to 8000. And it was up 1000 last year, too. The Cap 10,000 when we took it over four or five years ago had 13,000, 14,000. Now we have over 20,000.”

One thing Murray has going, as well, is a city experiencing major population growth with a well established running community. According to Census Bureau figures, the Austin area’s population soared 19 percent from 2010 to 2016. During that time, the region added nearly 330,000 residents; close to the number of people living in the entire city of Corpus Christi.

“We also have a team that is up on new ways to attract entrants,” explained Murray. “Early Groupon, give aways, combos. During a 4-day period we donated all registration fees from the 3M Half and the Austin Marathon to the Hurricane Harvey Relief Fund, which totaled around $55,000.

“Today people know what a professional event looks like via social media. So we are competing not just against other running events, but against every other kind of event. And we have to deliver a similar product.”

Tomorrow’s Austin Half Marathon is up 1000 entrants from last year, the 5K another 1000, while the marathon held steady as it introduced a new, faster course late in the sign up period. The prize money had also increased for the second straight year with High Five at the helm.  It is all part of a drive for Austin to host the 2020 U.S. Olympic Marathon Team Trials.

The days of out-sized growth in the running industry may be gone, but just as the best runners maintain their careers by an unrelenting attention to detail and process, so, too, must the best events in an increasingly competitive marketplace.

You can watch live coverage of the Austin Marathon and Half Marathon live-streamed on Flotrack.org beginning tomorrow morning at 6:45 am. central time.




Every religion has its Creation story.  All runners do, too. And while most very fast runners generally had their beginnings on organized track teams in school or clubs,  the vast majority of citizen runners we see in weekend races come to the sport later in life.  Personally, I began running because my mother was Polish.

First of all, it wasn’t like Mom had been a runner, or that the Polish people were necessarily fast in the same sense that Central Highland born Kenyans and Asela-generated Ethiopians were fast – although the Poles do have a couple great 800 meter men right now in Marcin Lewandowski and Adam Kszczot.  No, it’s because without realizing it, Mom attached to my small American male body what was considered by my peers to be a girl’s name, a combination that created issues that running seemed to address quite nicely, as in fight or flight.

See, my namesake is Saint Anthony of Padua, the patron saint of lost items – “St. Anthony,  please, tell God I lost my lunch money.”  Anyway, A-N-T-H-O-N-Y is how we in the West spell that saint’s name. Thus the diminutive becomes TONY. But in Poland, they spell that saint’s name A-N-T-O-N-I.  Accordingly, TONI is what I now had for a handle. And that one single letter difference is why I began running. Continue reading



There are those who put a lot of stock in birth order in determining a person’s psychological development. Austrian psychiatrist Alfred Adler (1870-1937) was one of the first in his field to suggest that birth order played a determinative role in how one approached friendships, love, and work. Later studies challenged his birth-order theory, but generally speaking first-born children were said to be more conscientious and achievement oriented, while laterborns were more rebellious, open, and agreeable. (Sounds about right in my sibling lineup)

But beyond in what order you may have been born within your own family, there is also something to be said for being born at the right time in the history of man in determining one’s future path. Not in the astrological sense, as in Mercury being in retrograde when mom spit you out, but in the sense of coming along when the world is prepared to appreciate and remunerate your particular skill set.


Aussie great Derek Clayton

When Australia’s Derek Clayton reset the marathon world record in Antwerp, Belgium in 1969 at 2:08:34, he broke his own record of 2:09:37 set in Fukuoka, Japan two years earlier. But riddle me this? Who were the guys back in Nairobi, Ngong, Eldoret, or Iten, Kenya at the time who weren’t racing in Fukuoka or Antwerp?  Who were the guys that we never knew, never heard of, but may well have been the best marathoners of their generation but never were? Continue reading



Now for the women. As with the men, East African women populate the top ranks of the year-end distance running lists. However, in the marathon, the Kenyan women were not nearly as dominant as their men.

Ethiopian women have consistently  outdone their southern neighbors over the last eight years, notching 77 (35%) of the 220 sub-2:30 women’s performances in 2017, compared with 72 (32.7%) for Kenyan women.

But while only 14 nations produced a sub-2:10 men’s performance in 2017, 82.75% from Kenya and Ethiopia (actually a somewhat down year from more traditional 90%) 20 nations were on the sub-2:30 women’s list last year, with Japan at 16 (7.27%), and America 12 (5.45%).

The differences between men and women world-wide speak to the gaps in societal acceptance for, and/or promotion of women’s sporting opportunities. Continue reading



When the calendar flips I always like to do a deeper dive into the past year in marathon running, just to see what the numbers might suggest.  And from the looks of it, not much changed in 2017 other than the Breaking2 Project in Monza, Italy in May when world #1 Eliud Kipchoge of Kenya came oh, so close to 1:59:59.

Other than that, it was more general excellence out of East Africa,  undercut by yet another drug sanction of a TOP echelon athlete (2016 London and Rio Olympic champion, Kenyan Jemima Sumgong).  And, finally,  though their times weren’t any different than in previous years, there were two American breakthrough wins in Majors at the end of the season, Galen Rupp in Chicago, then Shalane Flanagan in New York City.  But in this post I focus on the men.

Here are the numbers, then, as I attempted to count them on the IAAF.org site, and a comparison with the earlier years of this teens decade in century 21.


Total – 186
Kenyan –   113 (60.75%)
Ethiopian – 41 (22%)
American –    2 (Galen Rupp, 2:09:20, 1st in Chicago)
TOP time – 2:03:32, Eliud Kipchoge, Berlin

Total- 150
Kenyan –     98 (65.3%)
Ethiopian-  39 (26%)
American –   0 (Galen Rupp, 2:10:05, 3rd, Rio Olympics)
TOP time – 2:03:03, Keninisa Bekele, Berlin

Total – 172
Kenyan –     97 (56.4%)
Ethiopian – 57 (33.13%)
American –    0 (Luke Puskedra, 2:10:24, 5th in Chicago)
TOP time: 2:04:00, Eliud Kipchoge, Berlin

Total – 180
Kenyan –  106 (58.88%)
Ethiopian – 57 (31.6%)
American –    1 (Meb Keflezighi,  2:08:37, 1st in Boston)
TOP time – 2:02:57, Dennis Kimetto, Berlin

Total – 189
Kenyan –    99 (52.4%)
Ethiopian- 61 (32.2%)
American –   1 (Dathan Ritzenhein, 2:09:45, 5th in Chicago)
TOP time – 2:03:23, Wilson Kipsang, Berlin

Total – 220
Kenyan –  120 (54.5%)
Ethiopian – 64 (29%)
American –    5 (Dathan Ritzenhein (twice), 2:07:47, 9th in Chicago, also Ryan Hall, Meb Keflezighi, Abdi Abdirahman)
TOP time- 2:04:15, Geoffrey Mutai, Berlin

Total – 182
Kenyan –  110 (61%)
Ethiopian – 42 (22%)
American –    3 (Ryan Hall (twice), 2:04:58, 4th in Boston, also Meb)
TOP time – 2:03:02. Geoffrey Mutai, Boston

Total – 144
Kenyan –     79 (54.86%)
Ethiopian – 47 (32.6%)
American –    0 (Brett Gotcher, 2:10:36, 7th in Houston)
TOP time – 2:04:48, Patrick Makau, Rotterdam