Tag: Abdi Abdirahman

ABDI ABDIRAHMAN BRINGING RACING BACK HOME TO SOMALIA

Cape Elizabeth, ME. –  Like many a natural born American, I had one parent who was not.

In the waning gray days of World War II, Eastern Europe was a place of devastation and dislocation. In that tumult, my parents – he an American army officer who had escaped from German POW camp, and she a member of the Polish Home Army – met and married in February 1945 after a courtship of only ten days.

“In wartime,“ Pop once told me, “you don’t analyze, you act.“

Ten days later Mom and Pop were forced to split up, he heading east in search of an American mission, she remaining behind with only a handwritten note identifying her as the wife of an American soldier while asking anyone who could to help.

It took the better part of 1945 for Mom to escape Russian occupied Poland and make her way to Nuremberg, Germany where she found refuge with General George Patton’s Third Army.  It was in late 1945, then, that she finally sailed for America hoping she would recognize the man she had married nearly a year before. Such are the rippling effects of war and its many deprivations and dislocations.

Mom finally arrived in St. Louis, Missouri in January 1946 and by June 1951 was a mother of three native-born American kids living in a newly built suburban home. But she did not become an American citizen until 1972 some 26 years later. Though she loved America and all it had given her, she was forever a proud Pole, too.

“How do you renounce who you are?” she once said when I asked why it had taken her so long to apply for citizenship, as renouncing former allegiances was one of the requirements of American citizenship.

This is a long way around to recognizing that America still remains the most unique country in the world, the only nation born of an idea rather than of blood or soil. But it is also an acknowledgment that America is not alone in generating patriotic feelings in the hearts of its people, especially those forced leave because circumstances beyond their control had given them no choice but to go.

So when the American president – whose mother was born in Scotland and grandfather in Bavaria  – fomented a chant of “send her back“ from xenophobic followers against a Somali-born U.S. Congress person, it flew in the face that America has shown the world throughout its history.

Representative Ilhan Omar (D-MN) came to the United States from Somalia with her family as a ten year-old in 1992. She is the Somali-born U.S. Congress person President Trump’s followers want to “send back” after she made comments they found critical of Israel and America.

Irrepressible Abdi

Four-time U.S. Olympic distance runner Abdi Abdirahman also fled war-torn Somalia with his family when he was only three years old. After existing in a Kenyan refugee camp for five years, the family found asylum in the USA in 1985.

Today, Abdi is working toward bringing the sport that has defined his adult years back to his homeland, because though he is a proud American, and eager capitalist, he remains a loving son of Somalia, too. (more…)

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MO VS. THE ZEN MASTER – LONDON 2019

From afar, does Mo seem skittish to you? Could be that he’s never been more prepared, and is just raring to go. Or, does the prospect of staring down Eliud Kipchoge, the Kenyan master, have him unsettled?

Eliud v Mo (AP)

After four Olympic gold medals and six world titles, you’d expect an athlete of Mo’s experience to be beyond such considerations. But Eliud Kipchoge is deep, deep water. There is a serenity about him, a regal presence that Farah, for all his Olympic and World Championship hardware, doesn’t naturally posses.  Very few do.

There’s just an aura about certain people, and Kipchoge has it. Maybe 10 wins in 11 marathon starts, including the world record and the Olympic gold medal, develops such grace.

In contrast, there was Mo over at the London Marathon expo slap-dashing around trying to jump on the moving treadmill belt set at WR pace and flopping like a fish while an average Joe alongside in the next lane looked over startled by the tomfoolery. All in good fun, or a sign of nerves?

This, you could say, is truly a mano a mano contest between two of the highest profile runners of their era. The kind of potential crossroads match-race we rarely see in this sport.  (more…)

BOSTON ASSEMBLES STRONG AMERICAN FORCE FOR 2017

President-elect Donald Trump won this year’s divisive U.S. presidential campaign in part by touting an “America First” agenda.  Seems he isn’t the only one thinking about the home team.

Lest we forget, the Boston Marathon is contested on Patriots Day, an April holiday in Maine and Massachusetts commemorating the 1775 Battles of Lexington and Concord, the first military engagements of the American Revolutionary War.  Accordingly, Boston’s marathon in its early years was known as “The American Marathon”.

For the last generation, however, The American Marathon, like all marathons around the world, has become the exclusive province of athletes from East Africa.  So overwhelming has the transfer of power become that the sight of American Meb Keflezighi pulling out a victory in 2014 was so unusual, such a welcome surprise, that even runner-up Wilson Chebet of Kenya joked, “I would have been the most hated man in Boston if I had caught Meb.”  Keflezighi’s 11-second victory became the marathon equivalent of the Boston Red Sox World Series baseball win a decade earlier, as each snapped losing streaks of historic proportions.

Though Meb’s win in Boston was the first by an American in 31 years, even before Patriot’s Day 2014 there had been a resurgence in American running, in no small measure due to Keflezighi’s silver medal in the Athens Olympic Marathon 2004 and his New York City Marathon victory in 2009.  Still, even with the occasional peak performance by Meb or Ryan Hall, there was no lessening of the East African domination, either. But the spirit of Meb’s win in 2014, and game challenges by Hall, local-born Shalane Flanagan and fellow Olympian Desi Linden (2nd, 2011) in the women’s races had whetted the locals appetite for more.

This week Boston’s major sponsor John Hancock Financial Services announced their American field for Patriots Day 2017, and it is as strong a home contingent as the old town has seen since the U.S. Women’s Olympic Trials were contested in Boston in 2008.  While the international field has yet to be announced beyond defending champion Lemi Berhanu Hayle of Ethiopia, and 2012 champion Wesley Korir of Kenya, the American lineup will prove formidable. Five of the six 2016 U.S. Rio Olympic marathoners were announced, led by Boston debutant and Olympic bronze medalist Galen Rupp (a man coached by 1982 Boston champion and local product Alberto Salazar), 2014 champ Keflezighi, Utah’s Jared Ward, Marblehead, Mass. favorite Shalane Flanagan, and the aforementioned Desi Linden. (see linked JH announcement for full U.S. field) (more…)

2016 TCS NEW YORK CITY MARATHON- PHOTO ESSAY

New York, N.Y. – He may or may not actually be the 20 years of age that his passport declares (birth dates are often less precise in some parts of the world). But that didn’t stop Eritrea’s Ghirmay Ghebreslassie from frolicking like a young colt through the five concrete boroughs in the 46th running of the TCS New York City Marathon.

Ghebrslassie entering Central Park on his way to victory
Ghebreslassie galloping in Central Park on his way to  a 2:07:51 victory.

Showing no signs that he was competing in his third big time marathon in seven months time, the long-named strider put an exclamation point on his 2016 campaign, adding the New York City title to fourth place finishes in the London and Rio Olympic Marathons.

Under azure blue skies and clement mid-50s Fahrenheit temps, Ghebreslassie took charge as the lead pack climbed the Pulaski Bridge at halfway in Queens  (1:04:25). His decisive move splintered the 12-man pack and led eventual runner up Lucas Rotich of Kenya and eventual DNF Lelisa Desisa of Ethiopia on a clean breakaway. From that point forward the man from Asmara, Eritrea just kept turning the screw tighter and tighter until Desisa then Rotich gave way up the Willis Avenue Bridge at 20 miles.

Thin as a miser’s smile, the 2015 World Marathon champion in Beijing was only 34-seconds off the course record pace at 20 miles. But once free from Rotich, the recently married Gheb cantered home in 31:01 over the final 10K while Mutai had pressed his margin with a 28:36 in 2011 to set the record at 2:05:06.

In the end Ghirmay G. added a shiny Big Apple to his growing display case with a convincing 2:07:51 win, third  fastest winning time in New York history and just five seconds off his PR run this spring finishing fourth in London. (more…)

RITZ AND ABDI SQUARE OFF IN TAMPA

GasparillaTampa, Florida — For native Floridians 43F might feel a tad chilly, but for the thousands of snowbirds watching Weather Channel reports of record cold and snow back home, 43F can seem downright balmy. So when long-time Gasparilla Distance Classic announcer Phil Stewart came dressed for the 38th annual winter classic dressed in a pair of chino shorts this morning , I was a bit surprised given that I, a wimpy Californian, arrived swaddled in four layers and gloved up like a member of Admiral Perry’s expedition to the pole.

Phil, myself, and Runner’s World Magazine maven Bart Yasso were working together to inform and (hopefully) entertain the crowds lining the Bayshore Boulevard finish at today’s Gasparilla 15K and 5K, day one of the weekend long Publix Gasparilla Distance Classic. Tomorrow’s 8K and half-marathon promise temperatures at least 10-12F higher for the 6 a.m. half-marathon start and downright waxy by midday as the final 8K finishers complete their journey.

In today’s 15K defending champion Jon Mott overcame a strong challenge from 2014 runner up Rafal Matuszcak to take his third Gasparilla 15K title since 2012 (he finished 2nd in 2013). Last year Mott bested Matuszcak by 20-seconds with a 48:44 clocking. This year Matuszcak challenged Mott all the way to the line, but came up five-seconds short, 47:49 to 47:54, in the excellent racing conditions.

Hanson Brooks Distance Project runner Megan Goethals dominated the women’s 15K. Her 52:07 took top honors by 3:50 over runner up Rebecca Howarth, 56:07.

Over 30,000 runners have signed up for the four weekend races, today’s 15K & 5K, and tomorrow’s half-marathon & 8K. All four races, in fact, sold out, a testimonial to 23 year race director Susan Harmeling and her staff who brought back pro racing to Gasparilla last year after dropping the top division following the 1997 race. (more…)

THE MAYOR OF TUCSON

Abdi leading the cheers in Osaka 2007
Abdi leading the cheers in Osaka 2007         (photo by Scott Winnier)

In less than two weeks Tucson’s Abdi Abdirahman will compete in the Honolulu Marathon for the first time.  Due to the marketplace of marathons, it has been more than a quarter century since a top American male has come to Honolulu to race.  So as Honolulu prepares for its December 8th onslaught, and the nation as a whole celebrates what many believe to be her most endearing holiday (before going off the rails again on Black Friday), I thought we’d go back a few years to a trip I made to Tucson in 2007 as Abdi prepared for the U.S. Olympic Trials Marathon in New York City.

Though I had known and covered Abdirahman for many years, what I learned during that visit didn’t just reveal the character of the man, through him it reminded me of the character of the country he now calls home.  Perhaps it’s a reminder we all need to hear during this time of Thanksgiving. (more…)

RACING FOR THE PODIUM IN LONDON

2012 U.S. Olympic Marathon Team

Houston, Texas – The U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials are over, and the focus now turns to the Games in London in August.  The American marathon team is strong and experienced – men and women both – as good as any in recent cycles.  And while the road in London will be long and fraught, and by no means a betting probability for the Americans, the self-selected six from Houston, especially the runners-up Ryan Hall and Desi Davila, raced as if Houston was no more than a stepping stone, with the next step up the Olympic podium itself.

The legacy left by reigning Olympic Marathon champion Sammy Wanjiru of Kenya, the sadly departed spiritual leader of the recent Kenyan marathon boom “I AM SAMMY WANJIRU!”, was first seen in Sammy’s seemingly reckless, but gold-medal-winning attack of the Olympic Marathon course on a warm, sunny day in Beijing 2008.  His from-the-gun blitz changed the perception of how a marathon could be run and won, just as Tanzanian Filbert Bayi’s gold medal and world record (3:32.16) at the 1500 meters in 1974 at the Commonwealth Games in Christchurch, New Zealand still quickens the heart as the turning point in that event’s tactical evolution away from a purely sit-and-kick to an early-race surge methodology.

And so while Meb Keflezighi may have won the U.S. men’s Trials race on Saturday in a new PR 2:09:08, Ryan Hall (2nd, 2:09:30) deserves the extra star on his collar for dictating a race tactic that he knows he, Meb, and Abdi Abdirahman (3rd, 2:09:47) will most likely have to answer in London on August 12th.  Ryan predicted it would take a sub-2:10 to earn a place on the London team despite all historic evidence to the contrary – the fastest previous third place finish in an Olympic Trials Marathon was 2:10:55 by Texan Kyle Heffner in 1980.  What we didn’t know at the time was that Hall was going to lay down a 2:06-paced charge through the first 20K (60:02, 4:50/mile), instantly separating the real contenders from the hopefuls, and even putting his top echelon rivals outside their comfort zone.  Only Hall and Abdi Abdirahman had sub-2:09 personal bests coming in – and Abdi’s (2:08:56) was over three years old at that.  So while the last miles slowed as the wind and fatigue rose (31:36 final 10k, 5:03/mile), the early pacing had long since defined the outcome. (more…)