WORLD RECORD MARATHONER PATRICK MAKAU IN HONOLULU FOR LONDON TUNER

World Record holder Patrick Makau
Marathon World Record holder Patrick Makau

Honolulu, Hawaii — Marathon world record holder Patrick Makau of Kenya arrived in Honolulu last night in preparation for The Hapalua, Hawaii’s premier Half Marathon.  The second edition of The Hapalua will be run this Sunday morning beginning adjacent to world-famous Waikiki Beach.  The race, and its Chase format, will be Makau’s final tune up for the April 21st Virgin London Marathon where he will test himself against one of the strongest marathon fields ever assembled, including all three medalists from the 2012 London Olympic Marathon.

While there are some who might question why an athlete of Makau’s stature would travel so far for a tune up when his marathon is just six weeks away, and chance a major disruption to his training, Makua has always run to his own rhythms, and with evident success. (more…)

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CAIN MAKES NBC HIGHLIGHTS PACKAGE

Mary Cain - Winning Personality(picture courtesy PhotoRun)
Mary Cain – Winning Personality
(courtesy PhotoRun)

While couch-surfing yesterday afternoon I came across the U.S. Bank NBC Sports Report with Liam McHugh.  First up on the highlight reel was the Chicago Blackhawks continuing their record, non-losing streak to begin an NHL season as they bested the Detroit Red Wings in overtime 2-1.  Next up came Lebron James leading the Miami Heat over the New York Knicks, 99-93, in Madison Square Garden. That was followed by Tottenham over Arsenal 2-1 in Premier League play in England.  Finally, McHugh teed up the feel-good story of Mary Cain, the 16 year-old phenom out of Bronxville, New York capturing the mile at the U.S. Indoor Track & Field Championships in Albuquerque in 5:05.68.

“Look for her in three years in Rio,” McHugh said in closing.

Going back to 1967 when Doris Brown won the first of four U.S. indoor mile titles in 4:43.3, there has never been a single U.S. indoor mile/1500m title won in such a pedestrian time.  In fact, the slowest winning time in the previous 46 years was 4:59.3 run by the Toronto Olympic Club’s Abby Hoffman in 1969 when she bested Shalane Flanagan’s mom, Cheryl Bridges (5:07.0).

Yet, it mattered not to NBC Sports that Cain’s time was the slowest in modern U.S. indoor history, or that it was nowhere near here best high school record 4:28.25 that she ran at the Armory in New York at the 106th Millrose Games in February behind Canada’s Sheila Reid.  In this day and age when track and field has been all but dry-docked from the sporting mainstream, the fact that a runner made it to a major network’s highlight package goes to show what a winning personality can generate. (more…)

RED SOX, CUBBIES & THE BOSTON MARATHON

Shoe print     As the winter snows give way to the unrelenting muds of March, the small dividing strip of land along Commonwealth Avenue in Newton, Massachusetts between Center Street and Hammond Road — a strip that runners know better as Heartbreak Hill along the Boston Marathon route — becomes rutted by the innumerable footfalls that pound its surface every day.  For the area runners who work this hallowed ground through the long, bitter months of winter it is the pull of generations past which draws them through till Marathon day in mid-April.

This is also why there had always been a close connection between the beginning of baseball season and the arrival of the Boston Marathon, for both are harbingers of hope, the promise of better, warmer days ahead. Yet the Marathon, like the long baseball season, while holding hope, never actually promises it.  Would a people who sprung from a Pilgrim’s harsh heritage have it any other way?

Born of myth, the marathon is rooted in failure, even demise.  Its language alludes to that curtain which will befall each of us one day.  “Man, I really died today,” is how a runner describes a poor performance.  So, too, in baseball was failure built into the system;  hit safely just three out of ten times, and you are an honored player.  It is this element of suffering to attain, overcoming to transcend which extends these sports from their 19th century beginnings into today’s nano-second world of instant gratification.

And it is also in that sense of suffering to attain that the long-tormented Chicago Cubs baseball fans can relate to what New Englanders had long gone through with their beloved Red Sox.  Yet even the Cubs’ multi-generational streak of futility and frustration can’t compare to the 87 accursed years that Boston Red Sox fans endured the “Curse of the Bambino”. (more…)

RUNNING REMAINS MUDDLED IN FORMING WORKING PARTNERSHIPS

Seattle, WA. — With Athletics Kenya releasing news Thursday that three Kenyan marathoners face doping bans for failing drug tests, and former three-time steeplechase world champion Moses Kiptanui adding his voice to those expressing the opinion that there is more PED drug use going on in Kenya than previously believed,  it was timely to find the World Marathon Majors release a new drug policy this week. The World Marathon Majors is made up of the New York City, Boston, Chicago, London, Berlin and Tokyo marathons.

While not aimed at any particular nation or region, the new policy is an acknowledgment that the same temptations are in play in Africa as anywhere else.  And having been to both Kenya and Ethiopia several times, and as recently as last year, I can tell you that the argument against the likelihood of drug use in East Africa has always been more about cost, availability and regimentation than the desire to partake.  Plus, the number of talented athletes is so huge, and some regions so remote as to negate the practicality of widespread drug use.

However, all one need do is recall that when I first visited Africa in 1998 there were no cell phones, internet cafes or wireless technology whatsoever.  In other words, things have changed; modernity rolls in quite quickly.  And with more and more opportunities to perform around the world, the temptation to lift oneself out of poverty, by whatever means necessary, grows right along with them.  Therefore, the need to increase testing should mirror that same pattern of growth.

But testing is expensive, not just in the form of the tests themselves, but in the human cost of placing testers in areas where athletes live and train.  That’s why I found it interesting to note that a major World Marathon Majors initiative should be released under a London Marathon letterhead rather than a World Marathon Majors’ one.  It points to the continued muddled nature of this sport from an organizational standpoint. (more…)

MO FARAH TO RUN HALF OF LONDON’S MARATHON: GOOD IDEA?

Mo Farah
Mo Farah

Britain’s double Olympic track champion Mo Farah begins the re-landscaping of his career toward the marathon this weekend when he competes in New Orleans at the Rock `n` Roll Half Marathon.  It will be the second competitive half-marathon of Farah’s career. The 2012 Olympic 5000 & 10,000 champion won the 2011 New York City Half Marathon in his debut in 60:23.

While the half in New Orleans will serve as an intermediate step toward Farah’s full marathon debut in London 2014, he will concentrate his 2013 efforts on the IAAF World Track & Field Championships in Moscow this summer. But there will be another, more significant step toward the marathon this April when Mo will start this year’s Virgin London Marathon.  Yes, he will start, but he will not finish.  How do we know?  Because that is the deal that Mo’s people worked out with London, start this year, run till half-way then drop off. Then go the full distance in 2014.

From an athletic and PR standpoint this makes perfect sense.  From Mo’s vantage point getting the chance to take part in the event without actually being a competitor should serve him well, even if to a small degree, in 2014.  And financially it’s a certainly a win fall. According to the U.K’s Daily Mail, Mo Farah will receive an impressive (by running’s standards) £750,000 for his two London starts ($1,160,000US).  That fee, which was not confirmed by first-year race director Hugh Brasher (son of event founder Chris Brasher), would dwarf even the £500,000 it is believed Paula Radcliffe received in her prime a decade ago.

The Daily Mail story also underscores the point  made by Ben Rosario in a recent submission about the need to make such appearance fees public to hype the sport as being truly professional. BEN ROSARIO: WHAT ARE WE AFRAID OF?

“He’ll be rightfully well rewarded as an Olympic champion,” was all Hugh Brasher would reveal to the Daily Mail.

But while it all works well for Mo and the event to go just half-way in London 2013, how fair is it to the actual race contenders?  And what does it do for the focus of race coverage? (more…)

KASTOR TUNES UP FOR L.A. WITH RECORD ATTEMPT IN PASADENA

Deena Kastor
Deena Kastor

Foot racing is one of the few sports which make us wish (at times) we were older as a new age-group leads to new challenges and better chances to succeed.  Other times it just makes us feel old.  So while NBA legend Michael Jordan copes with turning 50 today, Deena Kastor, the 2004 Olympic Marathon bronze medalist and 25-time U.S. champion across all running disciplines, competed for the first time in the Master’s Division (40+). Having turned 40 last Thursday, Deena chose Pasadena, California for her debut, taking on the Kaiser Permanente Rock ‘n’ Roll Pasadena Half Marathon benefiting CureMito (how’s that for a convenient name?)

So even as Jordan continues searching for an outlet to quench his infamous competitive spirit, Kastor was racing in Pasadena as a final tune-up for the Asics Los Angeles Marathon, a home town race she will be running for the first time March 17th.  She was also going after Colleen De Reuck’s 2006 American master’s best for the half-marathon (1:11:50).

After a strong third-place finish at the February 2nd USATF National Cross Country Championships in St. Louis, Deena stayed right on-pace through the first half in Pasadena — 33:58 at 10K, 71:46 pace.  It was in the second half that Kastor slowed to finish in 1:12:57 (5:34 per mile for the distance).

“It was definitely a strength person’s course out there,” she said afterwards. “There were a lot of hills to tackle, both up and down.  I wanted to push hard the whole way, but it’s difficult to focus on times on a course like this where the hills pile on throughout.”  (more…)

USATF TAKES OWNERSHIP OF ROAD RACING

.US National Road Racing Championships    In what must be seen as a harbinger of hope, USA Track & Field announced yesterday that it has signed a new sponsor for a new event to bolster what has previously been little more than a nominal national road race series.  Called the .US National Road Racing Championships, the new 12-kilometer event will feature a $100,000 purse — $20,000 to each gender champion — while putting a jaunty cap atop a currently quite bland USA Running Circuit —  nine locally controlled unaffiliated events which run from February through October over distances from one-mile  to the marathon.

The new event and sponsorship was announced yesterday as part of a three-year deal with Neustar, a Virginia-based domain-name registration company.  No specific date or location for the new race was disclosed as details are still being worked out.  However, the time and place announcement is said to be coming in March.

The signing of Neustar was ushered through by the still-dewy USATF CEO Max Siegel who took office last May.  The deal represents the single largest event sponsorship signed by USATF in a decade (which is telling in itself).  What’s more, the event will be the first road race wholly owned and operated by USATF.

With hundreds of road races and millions of road racers nationwide, and only several thousand adult track and field athletes, the imbalance in USATF membership and focus has been a festering challenge since road racing was first lumped in with track and race walking when Congress broke up the old AAU with the enactment of the Amateur Sports Act of 1978.

Max Siegel, USATF CEO
Max Siegel, USATF CEO

“…the vast majority (of runners) are running for something other than prize money or Olympic medals,” Siegel said in the announcement. “This race is their race, and USATF is their organization. With the support of Neustar, we will be able to reach out to a full cross-section of runners like never before.”  (more…)