Tag: Dave Bedford

THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN PROMOTING AND DIRECTING

Interest in this Friday’s Standard Charter Dubai Marathon continues to mount, though it has little to do with competition. Instead, the focus is almost entirely centered on one man, Ethiopia’s Kenenisa Bekele, whose stated goal is to break the marathon world record set in Berlin 2014 by Dennis Kimetto of Kenya at 2:02:57.  While the marathon record is almost always the object at the annual BMW Berlin Marathon, where the last six men’s records have been run, the sport rarely finds athletes willing to boldly predict their intentions with a gaudy Trump-like flourish. Not sure if it’s chicken or egg, whether the unpredictability of the marathon itself or the nature of the men and women who ply their trade in that game tend to deliver an endless series of “Only God knows” answers to “how do you think you’ll do?” questions.  (Maybe it’s just bad questions, too). 

In any case, building fan interest under such circumstances has become increasingly difficult in a more crowded sports landscape that features more and more charismatic characters with Facebook Live accounts, tattoo tapestries, and multi-million dollar prize purses.  Even when the top first prize in marathoning is Dubai’s $200,000, it doesn’t break through to the general public as having relative importance in the greater realm of pro sports.  And if you don’t have an Olympic gold medal or a World Championship on the line, what else do you have to generate interest other than money?

But fan interest, like the stock market, is an iffy proposition. Hard to read, hard to presume or presage.  Yet there are some who are better than others at gauging what might pique the public interest. 

Promotion Game
Promotion Game

“We like making fights people are interested in,” UFC president Dana White told Colin Cowherd on his Friday, Jan. 13 show in response to the public interest in a possible Floyd Mayweather v Conor McGregor match between the undefeated boxer and the current mixed martial arts fan fave. “We like putting on entertainment events, whatever.  As long as the people who buy the pay-per-view or bought the tickets are excited about what happened that night, how do you lose?”

That’s the attitude a showman has, the desire to please the paying customer. The question I have is where are those characters in the running game?  Because there is a big difference between a meet director and a meet promoter.  (more…)

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WHO HAS TO FIGHT THE LAW?

i_fought_the_law_by_norealityallowedWhile the clock tells no lies, neither does it ask any questions. Instead it merely records our passing in cold indifference. And so in athletics’ ongoing fight to rid itself of the scourge of fraudulent performance the question arises, where does the responsibility for actually giving a damn lie? And, is drug testing in and of itself enough to achieve the goal?

I ask because based on the evidence of continued PED use, and the institutional corruption that allowed and benefited from it, one might conclude that the intended deterrence has not been achieved, and that some other stick or carrot may be required.

That thought was brought to mind yesterday while watching Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions appear at his confirmation hearing before Congress as Attorney General designate.  During one exchange Senator Sessions said the following in response to whether fraudulent speech is protected under the First Amendment to the Constitution:

“Fraudulent speech, if it amounts to an attempt to obtain a thing of value for the person making the fraudulent speech, is absolutely fraud, and can be prosecuted.”

In the case of performance-enhancing drug use the intent is specifically ‘to obtain a thing of value’, i.e. race prize money. Therefore, when a WADA doping control officer goes over the doping control official record at time of testing, a negative declaration by the tested athlete becomes, in fact, a form of speech, and therefore should be considered a prosecutable offense if subsequent testing produces a positive finding of drug use. The same ask-and-answer should be required of appropriate coaches, managers, and federation officials, as each category has been found complicit in past PED distribution. No accusations, mind you, simply covering bases. (more…)

THE NEED FOR WHITE HATS V. BLACK HATS

Tesfaye Abera wins in Dubai
Tesfaye Abera wins in Dubai over defender Birhanu

Last night’s Standard Charter Dubai Marathon showed in microcosm all the strengths as well as all the weaknesses confronting foot racing as public spectacle. From a purely athletic standpoint it was a terrific show with 23 year-old unknown Tesfaye Abera of Ethiopia coming back in the final 500 meters to sling shot past defending champion Hayle Lemi Berhanu by nine seconds in 2:04:24 to notch a five-minute PR!

But except for a small, but enthusiastic gathering of Ethiopian ex-pats at the finish, the dead flat, three-turned Dubai course layout was as empty as the Revlon makeup counter at the local mosque.

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"Money" Mayweather bling
“Money” Mayweather bling

Say what you will about Floyd ‘Money’ Mayweather, the recently retired-now unretired boxing champion (and richest sportsman in the world in 2015), the guy could sell the be-jeezus out of his fights. People just hated the guy with a passion for his swaggering, make-it-rain lifestyle, his pimped up, iced-out persona. And boy, did the people want to see him get his ass handed to him. The fact that none of his opponents could knock his block off just made his next fight sell all the more pay-per-view buys. The guy could sell the sh*t out of his fights.

But the fact is, however you chose to see Mayweather – and his numerous trips to court to defend his treatment of women gave validity to the charge he wasn’t putting on that much of a show, he might actually have been a bit of a d*ck after all – a sport needs its Black Hats to gin up interest going up against the good guy White Hats to promote the game. (more…)

DAVE BEDFORD ON WORLD RUNNING™

IAAF Road Commision Dave Bedford
Dave Bedford, IAAF Road Running Commision Chairman

The sport of road racing has always had an arms-length relationship with the IAAF, the international governing body for the sport of track & field (athletics to the rest of the world outside the U.S). With the Marathon being the lone road event on the Olympic schedule, when we speak of the IAAF and its 212 national governing body members — like USA Track & Field in the United States — we speak mostly about track racing, jumping and throwing.  Yes, there is a biennial World Half-Marathon Championship — coming to Copenhagen, Denmark on March 29th — but it is no exaggeration to say that the sport of road racing has been under-served by the IAAF and its members for a long, long time.

That reality hasn’t just been detrimental to the sport of road racing, it has hurt the IAAF as well.  Since the vast majority of runners are not involved in making Olympic or World Championship teams, the tens of millions of recreational and non-elite runners around the world have rallied beneath the flags of independent local events, robbing the runners, the events, and their federation overseers of the marketing potential their huge aggregate numbers might have otherwise represented.

world-running-logoNow, for the first time, the IAAF is taking a long overdue look at this highly under-valued constituency.

This past week the monarchs in Monaco unveiled World Running, a global website whose goal, according to its About Page, “is to bring the world of running together, with a global Ranking system, expert advice and the latest running news.”

At the heart of World Running is its global Rankings system through which runners of all abilities can virtually compete on a worldwide basis. The concept is simple; every time you finish a race, whether a local 5k or a World Marathon Major, you input your finishing time and event into World Running, and through a mathematical algorithm your global ranking is produced.

Designed by Realbuzz out of Great Britain, the site also promises expert training advice, training guides, nutritional tips, injury advice, as well as an extensive events calendar, charity fundraising listings and the latest running news.

Former London Marathon Race Director Dave Bedford, the current chairman of the IAAF Road Running Commission,  has been “involved and supportive” of the concept. However, according to the one-time 10,000-meter world record holder, the original idea was suggested some 2 ½ years ago by IAAF General Secretary Essar Gabriel of France.  I spoke with Bedford Saturday from his home in London. (more…)

2013 – YEAR IN REVIEW

BostonStrong     The biggest, as well as saddest, story in running this past year was the bombing at the Boston Marathon in April. Of such magnitude were the Boylston Street explosions, and of such duration their reverberations, that the episode represented the second most searched item on Google for the year — running only behind the car crash death of Fast & Furious movie star Paul Walker.

Bag Checks, the new standard
The new standard

The entire Boston bombing saga left the city, nation, and world seeking a new equilibrium as security was markedly ramped up at civic events everywhere — probably never to be returned to pre-Patriot’s Day levels for the foreseeable future, if ever.

Kenmore Square desolate at midday.
Kenmore Square stood desolate at midday two days after the Boston bombings.

The week following was a sober reminder of an unfortunate truth, terrorism works.  Not since the anti-war days of the late Sixties and early `70s had I witnessed anything as close to marshal law in the U.S. as I did during the week after the Boston Marathon — though in this case it was self-imposed.  During that interval when the two Chechnyan brother bombers remained unknown and at large, the Boston metro area was held in the grip of a palpable fear.

I do not envy the Boston Athletic Association its task of threading the needle between respectful commemoration and unintended validation come next Patriot’s Day.

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BOSTON VS LONDON MARATHONS 2012

    Again in 2012, the two springtime World Marathon Majors, Boston and London, will be staged six days apart.  Boston’s 116th annual sets off from Hopkinton on Monday April 16th  for Copley Square, while London’s 32nd annual begins in Blackheath headed for The Mall along St. James Park the following Sunday April 22nd.

Today, 27-year Boston Marathon sponsor John Hancock Financial Services announced the professional field for the annual Patriot’s Day race, while London’s race director Dave Bedford released his women’s field back in early December before travelling to Iten, Kenya to announce his men’s field on January 20th.

Both events are loaded, as the crème of Kenyan and Ethiopian running look to make one last impression on their Olympic selectors before final Olympic squads are chosen for the return to London in August for the Games.

Boston’s field features defending champions Geoffrey Mutai (2:03:02, CR, WB) and Caroline Kilel (2:22:36) of Kenya.  London parries with defending Kenyan champions Emmanuel Mutai (2:04:40, CR) and Mary Keitany (2:19:19).  Boston will line up five sub-2:06 men (see below), London counters with ten.

London also has the edge in terms of depth on the women’s side with ten sub-2:23 women to Boston’s five, yet Boston brings together five champions from 2011: Kilel (Boston) and Georgina Rono (Eindhoven) of Kenya, Firehiwot Dado (New York), Aselefech Mergia (Dubai 2012), and Mamitu Daska (Frankfurt) of Ethiopia. London may have fewer current champions, but is Kenyan top heavy with defender Mary Keitany going up against 2011 Berlin champion Florence Kiplagat, and her 2011 World Champion namesake (though unrelated) Edna Kiplagat. (more…)