Less than two months ago former Elite Racing TV producer Rich Jayne made a well received presentation to the Competitor Group Inc. sales staff at their Mira Mesa corporate offices. There Jayne outlined the costs and opportunities involved in presenting six of the company’s top half-marathons on TV and the internet as a showcase for CGI’s newly designed Half Marathon Grand Prix, a two year, 30-event series for professional and age-group runners culminating in a $240,000 payout to the pros.
Then even as the sales people were out hustling the idea (to a U.S. auto manufacturer as I understood it) three days ago, Poof!, CGI’s entire North American elite athlete program was terminated with extreme prejudice, including the professional Grand Prix and the invited elite field for upcoming 36th Rock ‘n’ Roll Philadelphia Half Marathon September 15th, an important final tune up for the fall major marathon season. (more…)
His career as a runner, coach, author and journalist is unique…Now Tom Derderian adds a political wing to his CV. Last Sunday September 23rd the long-time Greater Boston Track Club coach, Boston Marathon historian, and sub-2:20 marathoner was elected new president of the USATF New England chapter. I have known Tom over 30 years, and his passion for the sport of running is as great as anyone I’ve ever met.
In response to a column I wrote last week, “YOU DIDN’T BUILD THAT”, Tom wrote the following: “We will have no sport if we let the free market do only whatever it needs to for its own business survival instead of the survival of the sport.”
In that regard, with the presumptive sale of The Competitor Groupand its vast stock of Rock `n` Roll Marathons to the owners of the Tour de France, the link between love of the game and hunger for the gain has been stretched farther than ever before.
Consider that when Tim Murphy founded Elite Racing in 1988, he did so because he loved the sport and thought he could put on races which other runners would support. First he gave us the seminal Carlsbad 5000, the race which introduced the concept of the 5K to road racing. Then his idea for the Rock `n` Roll Marathon series germinated when Tim found himself all alone slogging along Friar’s Road through the final miles of one of the old Heart of San Diego Marathons.
The event started in Coronado, andfinished in Mission Valley at Qualcomm Stadium. Wouldn’t it be nice, Tim thought, to have some support out here in the middle of nowhere. And slowly the Ah-HA idea – rock bands along the course! – took form. But he wasn’t thinking as a businessman, he was thinking as a runner who identified a primary need. Only later did his runner-born ideas turn into a lucrative business. (He’s got another one cooking again.)
When Murphy sold his business to Falconhead Capitalin December 2007, everyone knew how such capital investments worked. Five years is the out-marker lifespan for such capital investments, and thus when word leaked that CGI was for sale, it made all the sense in the world; 2012 was the obvious time for Falconhead to cash out and move on.
Attracting business people into running is a good thing, but their goals, understandably, are purely market driven. That’s why we need the custodians of the sport to maintain a semblance of focus on the sport’s heritage while developing its future. Yes, the next quarter’s spread sheet is important, but not more important than expanding interest in and the fan following for the actual sport itself. Tom Derderian understands this distinction. Here, then, is his view of what running needs in its oldest, and most ardent region. It’s this view which led to his election last Sunday. (more…)
Politically incorrect or not, the truth is both indisputable and self-evident: The utter domination of distance running by athletes from East Africa, a continuing trend which has seemed to peak in 2011, has now begun to shrink the sport itself. The atrophy is as evident as the hollows beneath Demi Moore’s cheekbones.
More evidence was on display again today at the NCAA D1 Men’s Cross Country Championship in Terre Haute, Indiana in the person of Arizona freshman Lawi Lalang of Kenya. A wholly inexperienced distance runner who showed up on the Arizona campus last fall “with no competitive running experience whatsoever” according to his Wildcat bio sheet, Lalang was, nevertheless, an easy runaway winner in today’s national championship over his more seasoned competitors.
This stark difference in talent was a contributing factor which led to the recent departure of sub-4:00 high school mile star Lukas Verzbicas from the track program at the University of Oregon to train full-time for triathlon at the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs – VERZBICAS CHOOSES TRIATHLON OVER RUNNING. That was a particularly troubling loss, since it represented another strand of running’s DNA being torn away. But young Lukas was quite straight forward about his decision. After winning the ITU World Junior Triathlon Championship this year, he looked at what lie ahead, and didn’t see himself being able to run what he considered world-level times against the Kenyan and Ethiopian runners. So off he swam /biked to triathlon where no such (dominant) competition awaited. But the Lukas loss is just another example in an increasing trend that has diminished a once robust sport. (more…)