This Wednesday, June 5th is Global Running Day, and there will be celebrations and recognitions throughout the world. But perhaps Global Running Day should be recognized two days earlier on June 3rd instead. Why? Because June 3 is Fred Lebow’s birthday.
While Frank Shorter is recognized as the Alan Shepard of the Running Boom with his victory in the Munich Olympic Marathon in 1972 igniting the sport’s growth in America, Fred Lebow was the man, perhaps as much as any other, who launched the sport of road running across the world from his offices at 9 E. 89th Street, headquarters of New York Road Runners Club just off 5th Avenue and Central Park.
In 2019, Fred would have been celebrating his 87th birthday. Sadly, he died of cancer in October 1994 at the age of 62.
Fred was not a great runner himself, finishing the inaugural New York City Marathon in 1970 in 4:12:09, placing 45th out of 55 finishers. But he was a great running impresario at a time when the sport required intrepid pioneers willing to make something out of essentially nothing.
Back in the early days when running was making inroads into more and more people’s lives, it was Fred, bullhorn in hand and true belief in his heart, who became the sport’s primary front man and tub-thumper, the man who engineered the first five-borough New York City Marathon in 1976, taking what had been a quirky event making four-laps of Central Park and turning it into an international phenomenon.
Always looking to expand the sport, both domestically and internationally, Fred was a willing interviewee as well as a self-confessed “borrower” of ideas he discovered during his far-flung travels to see how others were staging races elsewhere.
On July 21, 1980, I sat down with Fred in his office for one of our many interviews for my Runner’s Digest radio show in Boston. In this interview, we discussed the future of running as a professional sport. It’s fascinating to go back nearly 40 years and see where Fred saw the sport’s future heading. I can only wonder what he would have thought of today’s running world.(more…)
Ever wonder why average runners have to qualify for the Boston Marathon, but the elite runners don’t?
Well, for one thing, there is a competitive marketplace for the top athletes and invitations with appearance fees are the means of recruiting them. It’s a holdover from the sport’s shamateur (sic) past but one that has proven resilient to change, despite the introduction of prize money purses in the 1980s.
We have just gone through a small tempest at this year’s Boston Marathon after the Boston Athletic Association separated the “invited” men’s field from the Wave 1 runners for the first time – by two minutes – thereby bringing the invited men’s field into line with the elite women who have started 28-minutes ahead of the men for the last 15 years.
“It’s a seemingly minor change,” writes Beverly, “one that will economically affect only a few sub-elites who might have a breakthrough day. But it ensures that an anonymous runner will never stand on the podium, putting to rest the notion that we’re all competing together in the same race—a notion that is arguably one of the greatest aspects of our sport. Now, if you’re not one of the few pre-selected to be in the first start, you are, quite explicitly, running in a different competition.”
Jonathan has it exactly right except for the notion that we’re all competing together in the same race where the average Doheny is theoretically competing against the best in the world. That has always been a misnomer. The thousands of citizen runners don’t run against or with the pros, they run concurrently. Only a historic weather event like we had in Boston 2018 can wipe enough pros from the field that one or two “regular” runners can end up in the prize money positions from the mass field.
Besides, Boston already makes a distinction between charity joggers, recreational runners, and Boston Qualifiers. That, among other things, is what makes Boston special. But until the sport, in general, makes that same distinction between BQs and professional-class runners, we are going to have this amorphous amalgam that the public doesn’t understand much less take seriously as a sporting event. Instead, they view even major marathons as more like, you know, the Pope’s visit, or the tall ships sailing into Boston harbor, primarily a big civic event. (more…)
We’ve all been dumped. And it hurts. But the immediate reflex is always to beg her/him to take us back. “Please, just tell me what to do. I’ll change. I swear.”
Yeah, well, we all know how well that works, rarely – OK, never! So you pick your self up, reset your dignity, and eventually move on, generally to greener pastures. Which is what distance running ought to do after getting dumped by the IAAF.
If ever there was a time for the sport of long-distance running to say adios to their governing body, now might be exactly the right time. After all, the IAAF just said adios to you by eliminating the 5000 and 10,000-meter races from the 2020 DiamondLeague, the IAAF’s premier track & field summer tour, which, in time, will only lead to their elimination at the Olympic Games, as the IOC continues to press for fewer track athletes to make room for breakdancers, skateboarders, pole-dancers, and kite-flyers.
There’s been a case to be made for this separation for years with the massive growth of road running across the globe. But the ties that bind long distance running to its parent organization were historic and seemingly of mutual advantage. But that connection no longer seems so apparent as the ties continue to come undone. (more…)
The entry standards for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics were released yesterday (March 10, 2019) by the 216th IAAF Council meeting in Doha, Qatar, site of this summer’s IAAF World Championships.
Across the board, 100 meters to 50K walk and field events, the standards for Tokyo 2020 are significantly stricter than for Rio 2016. Interestingly, the 2012 standards for the London Games were generally harder than for Rio 2016, too, but slightly easier than Tokyo 2020.
The only events that had a harder standard in 2012 than either 2016 or 2020 were the men’s triple jump where it took a hop, step, and jump of 17.20 meters to qualify for London, while only 16.85m for Rio and 17.14m to get into Tokyo 2020. Also, the men’s Hammer Throw, which took a heave of 78 meters in 2012, 77m in 2016, and 77.5m for Tokyo.
But the generally more stringent standards for Tokyo confirmed the changing nature of the Olympic Games as the International Olympic Committee looks for new eyeballs and sponsorships and accordingly has put the squeeze on the IAAF to reduce the number of track & field athletes at the Games. No doubt, the landscape of what it means to be an “Olympian” continues to undergo fundamental change with the evolving nature of sports participation and viewing worldwide. Recall how Breakdancing is making its case for Olympic inclusion for Paris 2024.
The greatest percentage change in athletics qualifying from 2016 to 2020 came in the women’s marathon where the sub-2:45 of 2016 was lowered 9.4% to sub-2:29:30 for 2020 (the ‘A” standard in 2012 was 2:37). Besides the racewalk category, which showed a 6.51% lowering in the men’s 50K and a 5.21% tightening in the women’s 20K, the men’s Olympic Marathon standard underwent the next biggest drop from sub-2:19 in 2016 to a sub-2:11:30, representing a 5.4% thinning (the “A” standard was 2:15 in 2012).
The qualifying window for the racewalks, the marathons, and the 10,000 meters has already begun (1 January 2019) and will end on 24 May 2020. All other events begin their qualifying window on 1 May 2019.
In related news, the IAAF Council also announced in Doha fundamental changes to the Diamond League beginning in 2020. Most dramatic was news that the 3000-meters will be the longest track event on the schedule. What’s more, the number of DL meetings will be cut from 14 to 12 with only one meeting per week leading to a single, one-day Final, rather than the two-meets that currently end the season. The number of contested disciplines will also be trimmed from 32 to a core 24, the same 12 for both men and women. And the meets themselves will be trimmed from two-hours to ninety minutes.
But in terms of the Olympic Marathon, based on 2018 results, and leaving aside the IAAF Ranking System, which will combine in a 50-50 percentage breakdown with the time-based standards to create the final list for Tokyo 2020 – Our friends at LetsRun.com have an excellent summary here – Americans would have only qualified five men for the Olympic Marathon in 2020 under the new guidelines.
Galen Rupp ran 2:06 twice in 2018, winning in Prague (2:06:07) and taking fifth-place in Chicago (2:06:21). The next best American was Jared Ward, whose 2:12:24, though outside the 2:11:30 qualifying standard, came home with a sixth-place finish from the New York City Marathon last November.
He, along with Scott Fauble of Northern Arizona Elite, four seconds behind in seventh; Shadrack Biwott in ninth-place in 2:12:51; and Chris Derrick at 2:13:08 in tenth would qualify based on a top-10 finish at any of the six Abbott World Marathon Majors (within the qualifying period).
Runners who finish top-five in any IAAF Gold Label marathon, and top-10 at the IAAF World Championships Marathon are also deemed qualified. However, Elkanah Kibet, who ran 2:12:51 to finish 13th in Chicago would have come up short.
On the women’s side, there were ten Americans who went under the 2:29:30 entry standard in 2018 led by Amy Cragg’s 2:21:42 third-place finish in Tokyo 2018. Another nine would have qualified by finishing top-10 at World Marathon Majors, combining for a total of 19 qualified American women.(more…)
Though his future in competitive racing remains cloudy, it was heartening to hear that Jamaica’s KemoyCampbell had been released from the hospital in New York City last week and is making progress in his recovery from a heart-stopping collapse at the Millrose Games while serving as a pacer in the 3000 meters on February 9.
In that last realm, it is because athletes like Mr. Campbell are signed to shoe company contracts as “consultants” and to races as “independent contractors” – rather than drafted as “team members” or hired as “employees” – that such individuals need not be provided with benefits including healthcare insurance. And in a sport that constantly stresses both internal and external body systems, that you’re-on-your-own policy is like doing trapeze work without a net.
Thus is Mr. Campbell left to pay his substantial medical bills via the kindness of his shoe company sponsor, Reebok, which pledged $50,000 to Kemoy’s cause, and by GoFundMe.com contributions. But that is not a system.
On the other hand, as we read in OutsideMagazine, American athletes are provided with Participant Accident (PA) coverage by USATF for exactly the kind of medical emergency faced by Mr. Campbell. Overseas, the IAAF Diamond League also provides participating athletes with accident coverage, though that policy does not apply across the board to all IAAF-sanctioned events. This patchwork system reflects the direction that American healthcare itself has been headed for decades. (more…)
It all used to be so simple. Then again, it all used to be pretty screwed up, too. But in today’s charged political climate, where folks can be as sensitive as a hemorrhoidal pole-sitter, the politics of gender and self-identification remain fraught with — what did I just read today, that Prince Harry and Meghan Markle will raise their baby as “gender-fluid”? Gender-fluid? Let’s see how that affects the Olympic schedule in 2044.
And so after a weeks worth of testimony at the CourtofArbitrationforSport (CAS) in Lausanne, Switzerland, the case against the IAAF for requiring reduced testosterone levels in so-called hyperandrogenic athletes – or women runners with “differences of sexual development” (DSD) – now awaits a decision by a three-person panel on or before March 26th.
The case against the proposed IAAF ruling, brought by double Olympic 800-meter champion CasterSemenya of South Africa, is not as simple as restricting performance-enhancing drug use. In fact, in what seems a massive irony, the IAAF is looking to sanction performance–restricting drug use to reduce the testosterone levels of certain female athletes, which begs the question, why not do the same for performance-enhancing drug use, if the point is to guarantee a level playing field? And how level is level? And how fluid is fluid? And have we stepped upon that old slippery slope?
Let’s begin here. The whole purpose of a competition is to discover through the intricate calculus of talent, training, and tactics how one athlete gets to the finish line ahead of all others. It is the ineffable nature of that calculus that makes the sport intriguing.Take away the unknowable, replace it with certainty, and you’ve essentially eliminated the game.
Why don’t women just compete against men?Because we would know the result before the start.
I went grocery shopping with the wife yesterday and she was lamenting how heavy the bags were as she handed them to me from the cart to put in the trunk.
“You’re older than I am and I work out with weights in the gym,” she said “But you only have to use one hand to lift the bags while I have to use two. It’s not fair.”
There it is. I have testosterone coursing through my system at a level she doesn’t, and testosterone is the separating agent that distinguishes a man’s strength and power advantage over a woman’s – after boys and girls compete on an equal basis before the onset of puberty.The IAAF suggests the way to make things right in the middle distance races from 400m to 1500m is to reduce that hormonal advantage certain women have over others. Semenya and her advocates suggest otherwise.(more…)
However, a new twist to Olympic and World Championships qualifying was introduced in November 2017 when IAAF announced its new World Rankings System. The idea was to make the sport more accessible to the public and to encourage more head-to-head competitions among the top-ranked athletes of the sport.
“For the first time in the sport’s history, athletes, media and fans will have a clear understanding of the competitions from the world through to global events, allowing them to follow a logical season-long path to the pinnacle of athletics’ top two competitions,” the IAAF said back in 2017.
In the new ranking system, every performance by an athlete in an international or national competition will be translated into a score, based on the IAAF scoring table, with the level of competitions also being graded. The Olympics and World Championships will garner the most points and national championships the fewest. The best five performances will be totaled and the average will be the athlete’s ranking score in his/her event. There are some other tweaks, but that’s essentially how it will work.
Though there is a consensus belief that a credible world rankings system is long overdue in Athletics, not everyone found the new system to their liking, which is understandable. Among others, the North American, Central American and the Caribbean Championships (NACAC), one of the strongest member associations in the IAAF, took issue. “Understanding the system in the athletics community is limited, and on critical points, there are widely disparate views about fairness and viability of the system.”
In response to this and other reactions to the ranking system, the IAAF pulled its use as a qualifying factor for the 2019 World Championships in Doha, Qatar but plan to continue its use for Tokyo 2020/
Now, as we await the first big races of 2019 in the United States at the Houston Marathon and Half Marathon this weekend, I received the following email message.(more…)