(21 Dec. 2018) Today, in this season to be jolly, we wish a happy 74th birthday to famed Italian Coach Renato Canova, who has prepared many a great runner for what were the athletic performances of their lives.
In the summer of 2012, while sipping tea at the Kerio View Hotel in Iten, Kenya, I asked Coach Canova if he were put in charge of the U.S. distance program what changes he would make to maximize performance against the Kenyan runners who have dominated the sport for so long.
“First thing, the U.S. is better than Europe,” said the white-haired Italian as we looked out over the sweep of the adjoining Rift Valley. “Their 5 and 10-kilometer base is already moving. When you start getting sub-27 minute 10K, and many, many 27:10, 27:20 – 27:20 is enough to run a marathon in 2:05.
“But for many years there was the mentality in Europe and the USA to go for very high quality (training), but to reduce the volume. So we had a pyramid that was very, very high, but the base was very, very narrow. And it could not produce any results. So you need to increase the base while maintaining the same difference in the parameters (top to bottom). Then the pyramid becomes higher because the base has become higher, not because you have made the top higher. (more…)
Strange to see Kenenisa Bekele still having issues in his marathons after such a long run of success on the track and cross country. After being widely recognized as the distance running G.O.A.T., you just expect each of his following steps to be equally agile and precise. But after eight marathon starts in four years, this GOAT seems to be butting his head against a particularly stubborn foe. To date he has only racked up two wins, one fewer than his total number of drop-outs.
Several years ago I wrote some verse – THEEND OF MYTH – about the demise of the marathon as a truly scary distance for top tier athletes after Ethiopian track man Markos Geneti ran 2:06 to win his debut at the 2011 Los Angeles Marathon. But every once a while, and notably with someone like Bekele, the old lady can still bare her teeth and say, “Not so fast”. (more…)
And so the grand experiment has come to a conclusion. And, oh, so close did it come to its vaunted goal, just one second per mile short of history’s first sub-2 hour time for the marathon distance. Not for the marathon, mind you, but for its distance – because a marathon by its historic formulation is a competitive event. What we witnessed yesterday in Monza, Italy was a time trial/lab experiment, not a race. But that is nitpicking, though a significant nit.
Notwithstanding, a huge congratulations go out to Eliud Kipchoge and the entire Nike Breaking2 Project for such a grand experiment in human performance, footwear technology, and scientific experimentation.
But what did we come away with after yesterday’s 2:00:24 performance on the Formula One racetrack in Monza? Certainly, more questions as well as some answers. First of all, we know that the sub-2 is now possible, more likely probable, because he damn near did it! But since he didn’t quite do it, what else needs to be done that this experiment informed us as still being required? (more…)
The separation between the sport of foot-racing and the experience of a closed-road “happening”, all under the rubric of Road Racing, has become so profound –
A friend forwarded this YouTube video to me today.
Flash mob at the 2012 Peachtree Road Race
Though many of these people are wearing official bib numbers, when is it time to declare this something other than road racing?
What running has transformed into over these last years – well, you fill in the definition. I, for one, would just like to see the schism made complete with people’s events and elite competitions going their separate ways. The connection between the two has long since been broken. And as we continue to see in the fewer and fewer race coverages on TV around the country, the charity fund-raising, costume wearing, and celebrity sightings continue to draw more and more of the focus. Not that the pros don’t have themselves to blame for much of that transfer, but that’s another column for another day.
All I’m suggesting is giving the professional sport its due without having Suzy the news anchor go all goose-pimply as the Richard Simmons brigade toddles by sweatin’ to the Oldies at 17:00 – 20:00 per mile pace. Not that I don’t want the brigade to get out there. But make that a separate day’s treat, OK, not an intrusion on my sport. Thank you. (Nothing personal)
As the professional fields for the 2012 BMW Berlinand Bank of America Chicago Marathonshave been announced, it reminds us that the marathon requires a different combination of strengths than its shorter-race cousins where contact is the name of the game. In the longer race you can moderate early, and still strike late. Last year in Chicago, Wesley Korir made the first major move at 30Km, but it was eventual winner Moses Mosop who made the last. That said, it is very difficult mentally to allow others to “get away” without responding in the initial engagement or not to get too discouraged with one’s inability to match that first move. Patience remains key in the marathon.
The same principle holds in politics where the instant response can, in the long run, be ill-advised or misguided. We saw an indication of that this week when Mitt Romney issued a harsh condemnation of the Obama administration after the attacks at American embassies in Benghazi, Libya and Cairo, Egypt on the anniversary of 9/11.
“It’s disgraceful that the Obama administration’s first response was not to condemn attacks on our diplomatic missions, but to sympathize with those who waged the attacks,” the candidate said in a prepared release.
Of course, the response he denounced wasn’t released by the White House, but by the American embassy in Cairo where hostilities were mounting outside their compound. Also, their statement came out before the assault in Benghazi which led to the death of American Ambassador to Libya Chris Stevens and three others.
There is an old Washington adage that partisanship ends at the water’s edge. In times of crisis, goes the theory, Americans of all political stripes rally to our elected leaders – like we did for President Bush 11 years ago on 9/11 – not only because they hold the constitutional reins of authority, but because they are privy to more information, so we must assume they know things we don’t which might color their decisions.
Therefore, even if we disagree with their response or policies, we wait to voice those disagreements until information clarifies the situation in the aftermath of crisis. Only then do we assert our opposition and rally others to vote on our behalf. But ambition is a powerful lure, especially in the heat of a presidential election, especially when you have recently come under fire from your own partisan punditry for lack of clarity on the financial positions you propose to adopt if elected.
“A slave has but one master,” wrote 17th century French essayist Jean de La Bruyère. “An ambitious man has many masters as there are people who may be useful in bettering his position.”
This may well be the fault line of the Romney candidacy, a lack of fixed political views now subordinated to those who may be useful, but whose passions and prejudices outpace the wisdom required of the office he seeks. (more…)