CITIUS, ALTIUS, WHO-IUS

Hellickson Family of Hinckley, Oh. awaiting arrival of Katey

Hellickson Family of Hinckley, Oh. awaiting arrival of Katey

While announcing at the finish line of last weekend’s 37th Rite Aid Cleveland Marathon, Half, and 10K I began chatting with the Hellickson family from Hinckley, Ohio who were awaiting their daughter, Katey, who was running the marathon. With their signs and enthusiasm the Hellicksons rooted for all the runners who came across the line, and it got me to thinking.

Endlessly we’ve been told that running is a participation-based sport rather than spectator-friendly one. But those who grew up in the first running boom know full well that running had a tremendous spectator base when local heroes were the stars of the sport. Only through the last 25 years and the East African domination have we lost that thread of interest.

Rather than individual brands like Shorter, Rodgers and Salazar, we’ve been fed an endless string of East Africans who are staged anonymously to run against the clock with the aid of pace setters. But rooting for a time rather than a person is inherently less meaningful and appealing.

We saw how impactful a rooting interest can be with Meb Keflezighi’s win at the Boston Marathon in April.  And though he didn’t perform up to hopes, look at the buzz Mo Farah generated for the Virgin Money London Marathon the week before that.

Citius, altius, fortius is all well and good, but any sport has to begin with who-ius, who are you rooting for, not what are you rooting for.

Boston crowd cheers Meb's win

Boston crowd cheers Meb’s win

If Boston had been a paced time-trial there is no way Meb would have won.  And if London had not been a time-trial you wonder how differently Mo might have fared. In that sense, straight up competition allows the improbable to become possible. But more than that, the sport needs to pit Him versus Him, Her versus Her, Them versus Them. Make it personal. Wrap the audience up in the who of it all, not the what.

We see this in boxing all the time. Many of the premier lighter weight division boxers hail from Latin America. While they speak no English, it doesn’t deter the sport from generating pay-per-view interest, because the promoters actively market mano a mano competitions. And while golf is full of stats like who hits the ball farthest, the only real stat is who won the tournament? Continue reading

BOSTON EFFECT ON RACE PARTICIPATION

Bolder Boulder 10K

Bolder Boulder 10K

   

It’s been six weeks since the bombings at the Boston Marathon, time enough for the first rush of emotions to have run their course, and for cooler more reasoned calculations to resume.  Just yesterday, Marc Fucarile, 34, a roofer from Stoneham, Massachusetts, was released from Mass General, the last victim to be released from hospital into whatever semblance of normal now awaits him after the loss of his right leg.

And so as we settle into this brave new post-Boston 2013 world, the question arises like the morning sun, what is the new normal?  In that light I was intrigued to read the Boulder Daily Camera article following Memorial Day’s Bolder Boulder 10K.  In its story the Daily Camera quoted race director Cliff Bosley saying he thought the tragedy at Boston contributed to fewer people participating in Boulder this year, as entrants were down 5.7% from 51,681 in 2012 to 48,741 on Monday.

“I think some people made the decision not to come,” Bosley told the Daily Camera. “Just, ‘Let’s take a year off and see how it plays out’.”

Immediately, I wondered A) was it true that Boston was the cause for the drop off?  B) if so, is Boulder an anomaly?  C) Did Bosley overlook other potential factors?  Or, D) is there evidence of similar declines in race registration or finishers which might be attributed to The Boston Effect?  I made some calls to the other major races that followed Boston on the calendar.   Here is some of what I learned. Continue reading

36th RITE AID CLEVELAND RACE REPORT

Cleveland Champs  Philemon Terer, Sarah Kiptoo

Cleveland Champs
Philemon Terer, Sarah Kiptoo

Cleveland, Ohio — Kenyans Philemon Terer and Sarah Kiptoo of the AmeriKenya Running Club in Santa Fe, New Mexico battled the fields and then the heat at today’s 36th Rite Aid Cleveland Marathon to notch the biggest wins of their respective careers.  Terer broke free from Ethiopia’s Tesfaye Dube at 40K on the way to a 2:17:37 win. By dipping under 2:20 Terer added a $3000 bonus to his first place prize. Dube arrived at the Browns Stadium finish 33-seconds later to claim runner up honors.

Under conditions which changed from overcast and 64 degrees Farenheit to sunny and 79, Sarah Kiptoo still managed to chop a remarkable eleven minutes off her marathon PR with her 2:33:41 win.  Two-time defending champion Mary Akor finished second in 2:36:03 while Charlotte, North Carolina teen Alana Hadley completed her much anticipated debut in sixth place with a 2:58:22 clocking. Continue reading

RITE AID CLEVELAND MARATHON WEEKEND

Cleveland Marathon     Cleveland, Ohio – The Rite Aid Cleveland Marathon & 10K has always been a front-runner.  Well before other marathons began staging multiple events on race weekend, Cleveland always staged both a world-class 10K and marathon on the same day.  Now to accommodate the growing number of people looking to get into the sport, organizers have added a 5K and a Kid’s Run on Saturday, while a half-marathon is also included on Sunday’s schedule along with the marathon and 10K.  In all over 22,000 people will wind through the streets of Cleveland in the 36th anniversary of the city’s signature racing weekend. Continue reading

ON ANY GIVEN SUNDAY

Community of Spirit

The trilling of birds fills the Sunday morning air, a gentle reminder that we once lived in a society scaled more for pause and reflection, rather than one constantly driven by the passing billow and grind of work-a-day commerce.

On any such Sunday morning across the country we seekers and sufferers alike gather by the tens of thousands, congregants all, and embark on a journey of spiritual awakening, discovery and self-fulfillment. We represent every race and religious denomination, every creed and every faith, and by our simple garb make it impossible to distinguish between the wealthy and the poor among us.  We, then, are America’s runners, observers who enter no church as such, rather attend what amount to services at speed at marathons and road races nationwide.

Ours is a movement now firmly within the American mainstream, though we only began in earnest in the 1970s. Then, a combination of age and cynicism began to erode once dewy ideals which were bent toward altering a society of convention waging an immoral war in a foreign land.  Back then, a few iconoclasts sought refuge from the collective entanglement, and began to run on a path of self-discovery and personal well-being.

Today, our discipline transcends all boundaries and conventions, and has swollen into the millions across the globe. But even as our new collective has clogged city streets  – and in doing so filled charity coffers – we have met resistance.  Resistance not for what we believe, i.e. the restorative and redemptive power of a distance run, for that is a universal set tied to men like Thoreau and Emerson.  Instead, the resistance has come due to that which we require to fulfill our quests.  For in our need for open roads on which to celebrate fitness and health, we have called upon the graces of other, more traditional congregants whose path to their own places of worship have been blocked in the process.

The scheduling of marathons on Sunday mornings has thus become a thorny issue throughout the country. It cropped up a few years ago in Los Angeles, California after the city’s 21st annual marathon in 2006.  The old L.A. course, like so many major marathons, wound through the city’s neighborhoods blocking streets, and at times disrupting church services, in L.A.’s case as many as 500 churches.   But in thinking about the churches / marathon dilemma it struck me how narrowly us-versus-them that argument had become.  Continue reading