CONSIDERING CHICAGO 2017

People have been asking why I hadn’t written anything on the outcome of this year’s Chicago Marathon after the historic win by Galen Rupp in the men’s race, and the third place finish by Jordan Hasay for women, whose 2:20:57 represents the second-fastest marathon time ever by an American woman.  Well, it has taken me a while to write, because A) I wasn’t there to talk with the principals, and B) there are conflicting emotions at play.

On the surface, it’s a wonderful thing; two American runners achieved a truly impressive outcome against world-class competition in one of the major marathons of the world.  Both athletes are likable and humble with careers of excellence going back to their high school days now coming to full flower in their professional years.  Both have loving support systems and are coached by another all-time great American runner, Alberto Salazar of the Nike Oregon Project. Together, these results are worthy of grand celebrations, all things being equal. But, of course, all things are not equal, which is what leads to the conflicting emotions. Continue reading

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SIMPLE, PURE, AND HEARTLESS

The 10,000 meter finals at the USATF Outdoor Nationals ran late last night in Sacramento due to the steamy weather that is coating much of the western half of the country.  But you couldn’t say the results were a product of the weather. Instead, if they showed anything, it was the relentless, heartless nature of the sport itself.

Highlights, of course, were the wins by Molly Huddle for the women, her third, and Hasan Mead for men, his first. But equal stories were to be found a bit behind in the forms of previous champions and Olympic medalists, Shalane Flanagan and Galen Rupp. We could say the same for retiring 800 meter star Nick Symmonds Continue reading

TWIXT THE SPIRIT AND LETTER

As an athlete Alberto Salazar was willing to delve more deeply into the dark raging corridors within than any athlete I ever encountered.  That do-or-die spirit is what elevated Al to iconic status as a runner, but it also brought him to the edge of the abyss. Twice he ran himself to the precipice of a serious medical crisis, once at the Falmouth Road Race 1978 (hyperthermia), again at the 1982 Boston Marathon (hypothermia).

Now, with the release of a 269-page interim USADA report on the Nike Oregon Project and its coach by Russian hackers, we find Coach Salazar’s intense drive to succeed once again putting him on the edge between fair and foul, not only in the court of sport, but in the court of public opinion.   Continue reading

TOP 10 POSTS OF 2016

The author

The Blogger in an analog state

As the interesting, arresting year of 2016 comes to a close I thought I’d go back through this year’s blog offerings and see which ones captured the reader’s imagination or piqued your interest most.

Here then the Top 10 most read posts on this site from the now fading year.  Topics range from Olympic performances, to State of the Sport issues, to presidential politics,  and beyond.  Many thanks to all who stopped by for a read and maybe even a reply. Happy 2017 to all!

 

  1.  RUPP IS IN!!! – Galen announces his debut marathon will be the U.S. Oly Trials in Los Angeles. Kinda thought he might do well. Now, it’s on to Boston 2017!
  2. THEORY OF PERVERSE INCENTIVES IN RUNNING – Foot-racing, which used to be the focus of running events, is now just a supporting element.
  3. IN THE WAKE OF THE WOMEN’S 800 – A crash, tears and histrionics in the women’s 800m final at the Olympic Trials.
  4. DO YOU BELIEVE IN MAGIC? – Almaz Ayana smashes the women’s world record in the 10,000 meters by 14 seconds without as much as a furrowed brow.
  5. CHICAGO 2016 – For the second year in a row the Bank of America Chicago Marathon staged a no-pacesetters competition with a slow winning time.
  6. COE ATTEMPTS TO WALK IAAF OFF THE LEDGE – New IAAF prez tries to draw his sport back from the cliff of doom.
  7. SUB2 PACK FORMS UP – Like the murmur of far off hooves, the Sub – Two Hour marathon quest became a lot more audible in December.
  8. IN TRUMP WE TRUST – And we thought the Chicago Cubs winning the World Series was historic!
  9. THE HEAT WILL BE ON IN L.A. – Conditions for the Oly Trials Marathon in L.A. were forecast from the low-70sF (21C) to 80F (27C) at noon.  Not ideal, by any measure.
  10. BACK TO PACING AS USUAL – Pure racing for high stakes is what grabs the attention of the common man.

That’s the Top 10 from 2016.  Safe New Year’s celebrating, and we will get together again in 2017!

TR

END

 

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) Continue reading

KNOWING WHEN TO SAY WHEN

The Fancy Bear hackers have been at it again, releasing their fifth batch of Therapeutic Use Exemption (TUE) records. Included in the latest dump of 41 athletes from 13 countries are the TUEs of American distance running stars Shalane Flanagan and Galen Rupp. A shorthand analysis of the release, however, shows nothing of note to report.

But it continues to strike me how Gotcha! the search for guilt in the world of sport is on the one hand  — there is a TMZ quality to it — while at the same time society at large turns a blind eye to widespread, even institutional drug use/abuse on the other.

Perhaps sports is the last of the perceived innocents in a world of increasing cynicism, still falling into the “is nothing held sacred anymore?” category.

Len Johnson penned an excellent column today on the Runner’s Tribe website, We Need To Talk About Drugs.  Among his observations was:  “Sport has never quite managed to get to grips with PEDs from the time the IOC and individual federations first took the issue seriously. The first testing was done at the Mexico City Olympics in 1968 and the first tests for anabolic steroids at the Montreal 1976 Games. Both measures were playing “catch up” on what was already occurring.”

When you look at the larger world it makes you wonder why athletes wouldn’t give in to the drug culture that exists. After all,  “Ask your doctor if (insert any one of a hundred brand name drugs here) is right for you.”  And consider how much of popular culture, our music, art, books and movies, has been created via thought enhancement.

In literary circles one easily recalls the list of boozy writers: Hemingway, Faulkner, Bukowski, Fitzgerald, Raymond Chandler, etc. Yes, alcohol is a legal product, but the only question is whether it enhanced their writing, or just made the writer’s life more tolerable.  In either case, the pattern is clear.  And there’s no secret that the kaleidoscopic words of Hunter S. Thompson were informed by heavy drug and alcohol use.

Consider how much music from the 20th century alone, from blues to jazz, rock to hip-hop, was created free from drugs or alcohol? And when did the Beatles fully expand into true pop music greatness? After they began experimenting with pot and LSD.

Today, students and parents alike look to “study drugs” to enhance their children’s concentration and focus, hoping to better their chances at getting into college. And once in college, about 1 in 5 students reports using study drugs to get them through those punishing all-nighters.

It makes you wonder if this widespread tolerance of drug use in the wider society will finally do in the prohibition against it in sport, when enough people just can’t prop up the hypocrisy any longer. Continue reading

SOLINSKY’S GREATEST RUN

Even as the sport celebrates the 10,000 meter debut of American master phenom Bernard Lagat at last night’s Payton Jordan Invitational in Palo Alto, California — a world master’s record win in 27:49 — we recall that six years ago today Chris Solinsky ran his own 10,000m debut at Payton Jordan in what turned out to be the run of his career.   Here is how I reported it on our old Runnerville.com website, created by by Tracksmith founder Matt Taylor.
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May 2nd, 2010

SOLINSKY AR 26:59.60!!!

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Solinsky in American Record form

Solinsky in American Record form

Well, they sold it as an American record attempt at 10,000 meters.  Just top-billed the wrong guy.  In a stunning debut in track’s longest event, former University of Wisconsin All-American Chris Solinsky shocked the field, the fans, and even himself with a sensational 26:59.60 win at the Payton Jordan Invitational 10,000, ripping 14 seconds off Meb Keflezighi’s 27:13.98 record set on the same track in 2001.

Galen Rupp, the Alberto Salazar-trained Nike star who the record attempt had been built around, ended up doing much of the second half pace work.  And though he achieved his goal of dipping under Meb’s old record, his 27:10.74 clocking could only garner him fourth place as a slew of records fell in the wake of Solinksky’s shocker.

”It hasn’t sunk in yet what I ran,” a surprisingly fresh Solinsky told the gathered media that surrounded him after his historic run.  “We came in hearing about Galen Rupp trying to break the record. This was a glorified tempo run.  This was just an indication race to see where I was, because we are going to Oslo for a 5K (June 4th).  This was my debut. No one expected it.  I didn’t expect it!” Continue reading