BERLIN 2017: IS PAST STILL PROLOGUE?

In the past, it was the pure strength men, or those who couldn’t quite finish fast enough on the Olympic track to earn medals, who sought solace in the marathon. Back then the world record was less a goal than an outcome. Names like Derek Clayton, Ron Hill, Frank Shorter, Bill Rodgers, Toshihiko Seko, Alberto Salazar, Rob de Castella, Steve Jones, and Juma Ikangaa are still venerated by old hearts.

Today, with the rewards to be made, young men come into the game totally fearless, all the progeny of the late Sammy Wanjiru, the mercurial Kenyan who announced a new era in marathon running when he attacked the 2008 Beijing Olympic course on a hot summer’s day as if he were on a 10k romp through a dewy meadow on a perfect spring morn. The following spring in London he goaded pacers to a 28:30 first 10k on the way to a 1:01:36 half and a brave, but fading 2:05:10 win.

Wanjiru forever changed the relationship between racers and the distance in those two races, stripping the marathon of much of its mystique, and arming marathoners everywhere with new courage at starting lines around the world.

We saw the full effect of the Wanjiru Era last May in Monza, Italy when former 5000 meter world champion Eliud Kipchoge came within 25 seconds of the two-hour barrier at Nike’s Breaking2 Project exhibition.  And now on September 24th in Berlin, Kipchoge, along with defending champion Kenenisa Bekele of Ethiopia and 2013 winner and ’16 runner up Wilson Kipsang of Kenya will meet at the 44th BMW Berlin Marathon, hunting for sub-2:02:57, the official marathon world record. It is a glorious matchup between two former track men moving up and one pure marathon man, each a past winner in the German capital.   Continue reading

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GASPARILLA CELEBRATES ITS 40th ANNIVERSARY

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Tampa, FL. – The Gasparilla Distance Classic began 40 years ago when what came to be known as the first Running Boom ushered in an era of personal fitness that we still see in full swing today.

In its first year Tampa city fathers invited Boston’s Bill Rodgers to the Gasparilla 15K as he was elevating himself to iconic status, already owning one Boston and two New York City Marathon titles, while holding the American marathon record from Boston 1975 (2:09:27).

Bill came to Tampa in `78 to tune up for his second Boston win two months later. That victory by the reigning King of the Roads put Gasparilla on the map, and it soon became the season opener for every great road racer worth his or her salt from around the world. Continue reading

LINING UP FOR THE TWO BIG RACES AHEAD

New York City Marathon Logo TCSNew York, N. Y. —  Well, here we are together again, New York, New York with two huge races looming ahead. One we can’t wait for, the other we can’t wait to be over.

One pits fields of finely tuned athletes against one another in a long 42 km grind through the five boroughs of the city. The other pits two BMI challenged pols in a death match march through the electoral map of 50 states.

Personally, I feel like a runner in the final kilometers of a marathon on a bad day. I am psychologically blistered, emotionally cramping, and I have election year chafing in places that gentlemen just don’t speak about. And I fear that the bleeding nipples of despair may lie just around the corner.

Thank God, the 46th TCS New York City Marathon (40th for five-borough course) arrives first on Sunday to grab our attention and tire us out a bit. Continue reading

BACK TO PACING AS USUAL

Running fast behind pacers is a thoughtless act. You know what’s coming — in fact, it’s been negotiated — and you can either do it or you can’t. But there is no thought required as there is in a pure racing format like the Olympic Games.

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Matthew Centrowitz and Nick Willis celebrate Olympic glory

One of the many highlights of the Rio Games was Matthew Centrowitz’s stirring front-running win in the men’s 1500 meter final. Yet, historic as it was — first American to take that title since 1908– there are some who question the standard of that gold medal run, because the 3:50 winning time was the slowest since the 1932 final.

Notwithstanding the Olympic motto, “Faster, Higher, Stronger”, such time-based considerations miss the entire point of the endeavor, and help define what’s missing in the staging and presentation of the sport in general. Continue reading

DR. ROSS TUCKER, SCIENCE OF SPORT, ON ALTITUDE & EPO

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BILL RODGERS: SPEAKING OF ALTITUDE

Moses Mosop wins Xiamen 2015 (Jiang Kehong photo)

Moses Mosop wins Xiamen 2015 (Jiang Kehong photo)

The 2015 marathon year began where 2014 left off with Kenyans and Ethiopians sweeping the top places at the Xiamen Marathon in China. Moses Mosop, the big-engine Kenyan who had such an explosive 2011 campaign — but who had been beset by injury and personal issues in the last few years — returned to form in Xiamen with a course record 2:06:19 win.
2 Tilahun Regassa (ETH) 2:06:54
3 Abrha Milaw (ETH) 2:08:09
4 Robert Kwambai (KEN) 2:08:18
5 Tadese Tola (ETH) 2:10:30

Mare Dibaba goes sub-2:20 in Xiamen (Jiang Dehong photo)

Mare Dibaba goes sub-2:20 in Xiamen (Jiang Kehong photo)

On the women’s side, Ethiopia’s Mare Dibaba continued her success from 2014 when she also began the year with a win in Xiamen before showing third in Boston then placing second in Chicago — though those places will likely move up one notch once the Rita Jeptoo drug positive has been adjudicated. Dibaba went 2:19:52 in Xiamen yesterday to destroy her competition & post the event’s first female sub-2:20.

1 Mare Dibaba (ETH) 2:19:52
2 Meseret Legesse (ETH) 2:27:38
3 Meriem Wangari (KEN) 2:27:53
4 Meseret Godana (ETH) 2:36:11
5 Cao Mojie (CHN) 2:43:06

At the end of 2014 I posted my analysis of the marathoning year.  Yesterday, I received a response from my old friend and oft-time running partner Bill Rodgers, the four-time Boston and New York City Marathon champion from the 1970s. Since I only lived two blocks from Bill’s old running center shop in Boston in those days, I would often tag along on Bill’s second run of the day as we spun the miles of Jamaica Pond beneath us in both foul weather and fair. Often during those runs we would discuss exactly the issues that continue to animate the sport to this day. With Bill’s permission, here is how yesterday’s back-and-forth went. Continue reading

GETTING FIRED LAUNCHES RODGERS

In this excerpt from the archives of my old Runners Digest Radio show in Boston, we go on-the-run with marathon legend Bill Rodgers, four-time Boston and New York City Marathon champion of the mid-to-late 1970s. During our run Bill talks about his transition from ex-college runner to resurrected marathon runner.

Runner's Digest

Runner’s Digest

Bill Rodgers, 2:09:55 American Record, Boston 1975

Bill Rodgers, 2:09:55 American Record, Boston 1975

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In my previous post, THE FESTIVALIZATION OF SPORT, I suggested today’s young seem, on the whole, less rigorously competitive than previous generations. There are far more options these days, but perhaps part of it has to do with the stresses today’s youth are under as a matter of every day experience — not to mention how the expectations of yesteryear and those of today do not nearly match up with one another either.

HOW DOES IT FEEL?

In the aftermath of World War II many nations had to dig out of devastation, left with the psychic remains of shattered lives.  My mother was one who saw her world destroyed, but was fortunate to find refuge in America, which sat alone and free. This gave her Baby Boom children the freedom to dedicate themselves to youthful ways well into their adult years.  While the youth of today remain at home much longer , Boomers had the luxury to remain more infantile longer.

When I moved from St. Louis to Boston in August of 1973, I shared a two-bedroom, one bath apartment with three friends.  We paid $160/month, $40 each.  I had just left Washington University in St. Louis, a well-regarded liberty arts institution. In looking through some old papers in the attic of my parent’s house 40 years later I found a receipt for my final semester from the early 1970s, $1250.

Today, the same apartment that we paid $160 for in Boston is now $1525/month, while a semester at Wash. U. in St. Louis is $22,420 and rising.

Could this be why American kids in the 21st century seek less strident forms of release?

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