Tag: Jim Ryun

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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A TRIPLE CROWN FOR THE MILE?

Even as California Chrome‘s bid for horse racing’s first Triple Crown in 36 years came to a thudding halt in yesterday’s 146th Belmont Stakes, the outdoor track season swept into full summer swing last Thursday from sea to shining sea with plenty of action on the enameled plain in between.

Eric Avila wins Jim Ryun Festival
Eric Avila wins Jim Ryun Festival

In San Diego, Eric Avila and A.J. Acosta, two former area high school stars who have been beset by bad fortune in recent years, returned to top form to cap off the Jim Ryun Festival of Miles at the San Diego High School track.  Avila blasted a near 10-second PR 3:56.89 to edge out Acosta’s 3:57.07 in front of a small but enthusiastic gathering that came to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Jim Ryun’s first high school sub-4  minute mile, a crowd that included many of track’s former stars from SoCal.

Eric Finan leads four sub-4s in Concord, Mass.
Eric Finan edges out New Zealand’s Hamish Carson (blue), Providence College’s Julian Oakley and Leo Manzano in Concord, Mass.

 

Back east In Concord, Massachusetts Eric Finan of Team USA Minnesota joined Avila in the sub-4 club, his 3:58.73 leading three other men sub-4 at the 6th Adrian Martinez Classic. New sponsor Hoka One One brought in Olympic 1500m silver medalist Leo Manzano as the star attraction, but Leo could only manage fourth place (3:59.31) in the tightly contested race.

 

 

Jordan McNamara captures his second FOM title in St. Louis

J Mac captures his second FOM title in St. Louis in record time

And in St. Louis, Missouri Jordan McNamara of Nike OTC Elite posted a 3:54.27 clocking to take down Leo Manzano’s 2009 event record (3:55.29) in the seventh edition of the Nike Festival of Miles. It was JMac’s second win on the St. Louis University High School track.  He captured his first FOM title in 2011.

In all there were 10 men under 4:00 on the same night, two in San Diego, four each in Concord and St. Louis.  And while all three events showcased excellent competition, giving fans much to appreciate and applaud, what also stands out is the parochial nature of it all. Even the name Festival of Miles shows how blinkered and uncoordinated the sport continues to be.

“The Jim Ryun event looks fun, though I was a little disappointed in the name choice,” wrote Ben Rosario, impresario behind the seven-year old Nike Festival of Miles in St. Louis. “But it is what it is.”

But why is it what it is? (more…)

HOW IMPORTANT ARE HEROES?

jim-ryunSI   There will be an interesting test this Thursday evening in San Diego as the running community gathers to celebrate and commemorate the 50th anniversary of Jim Ryun’s first high school sub-4:00 mile.  Local leaders Paul Greer, Tracy Sundlun and Josh Cox joined with Jim Ryun to stage the celebration at the former Balboa Stadium – now home to the San Diego High School Cavers – where Jim ran one of his most iconic races as a high school senior.

It was at the 1965 AAU National Track & Field Championships where the lanky senior from Wichita East High School in Kansas lined up against a truly world-class field in front of 20,000 fans (when track could draw that kind of crowd outside the confines of Hayward Field in Eugene, Oregon.)

On the heels of Dr. Roger Bannister‘s celebrated first sub-4:00 mile in 1954, Ryun became the twelfth member of the exclusive sub-4 club as a high school junior on June 5, 1964.  Running 3:59.0 while finishing eighth at the Compton Invitational just six weeks after his 17th birthday Ryun became a national sensation.  The following year in San Diego Ryun not only notched another sub-4:00 mile, he WON the national championship in an American record 3:55.3!  And he did it by out-gunning the reigning Olympic gold and silver medalists from Tokyo 1964, Peter Snell of New Zealand and Josef Odlozil of Czechoslovakia, and then American record holder Jim Grelle!  It was the performance of a generation, and still resonates a half-century later.

“Imagine an American high school kid doing that today,” marveled Marty Liquori, himself a member of the five-man U.S. high school sub-4:00 club. “An American  record in the national championship against the Olympic champion?  It would be impossible.” (more…)

RE-RUN SAN DIEGO BRINGS PRO TRACK BACK TO AMERICA’S FINEST CITY

Re-RunSD     San Diego, CA. — Track is back in San Diego! Hard to believe, but it’s been a quarter century since a professional track meet was last staged in America’s Finest City, and nearly a half century since its greatest days.  That clock gets turned back this Sunday at 10 a.m. when Re-Run San Diego looks to recreate some of the city’s past track glory following a 5K road race through downtown San Diego and scenic Balboa Park in a unique track-follows-road-race format with $60,000 waiting on the line.

For those too young to remember, track used to be a big deal in this corner of the left coast. Not just because of people like Steve Scott and Thom Hunt, or in latter days with Meb Keflezighi and Monique Henderson.  It was the meets that dotted the calendar, whether in Balboa Stadium downtown, or over at the Sports Arena for the Jack-in-the-Box Indoor meet.

San Diego Union Tribune scribe Nick Canepa has spent 40 years chronicling all things sports in this town, but as he wrote in a February 2012 column it was track that provided his most lasting memory.

“But, for me, nothing tops the night of (Eamonn) Coghlan’s mile on the Sports Arena boards during the Jack-in-the-Box Indoor Games. It was electrifying. He blew the roof off the joint. If you had never seen a track and field event in your life, even if you were the losers’ parents, you had to feel what it’s like to be a page in history.”

The thought of what track once was can raise goosebumps or loosen tears depending on your mood.  But rather than escape into the past two young men with the future of the sport in mind hatched the idea for Re-Run San Diego over the last year. (more…)

JIM RYUN RETURNS TO SITE OF RECORD RUN

Balboa Stadium 1960s
Balboa Stadium 1960s

San Diego’s Balboa Stadium formed a classic horseshoe design in 1965 when it was home to the AFL San Diego Chargers.  Today the place has shrunk in size and import as home to the San Diego High School Cavers.

Back in  1965 Balboa Stadium also hosted the AAU Track & Field Championships, the highlight of which was the one mile run, featuring New Zealand’s Peter Snell and Czechoslovakia’s Josef Odložil, the Olympic gold and silver medalists from Tokyo 1964.  Joining them in the field was the newly-minted American mile record holder, Jim Grelle, a product of Bill Bowerman’s University of Oregon program, and one other notable worth mentioning, a gangly high school senior out of Wichita East High School in Kansas, one Jim Ryun.

Last night an only slightly less gangly Jim Ryun stepped back into Balboa Stadium for the first time in 48 years to address members of the San Diego Track Club just before their weekly workout.  After his remarks and the surge of autographs and photos had slowed, Jim stood and recalled the night in 1965 that still stands as the most legendary that any U.S. high school athlete in track ever created.

Jim Ryun speaking to SDTC
Jim Ryun speaking to SDTC

“In 1965 I had just turned 18, and the day before the meet there had been a press conference, and I was not invited because I was a high school kid — which didn’t bother me.  But my coach, J.D. Edmundson, went, and he came back and said, ‘They asked Peter Snell what he thought about the kid from Wichita East.  And he said, “Well, one day he may be a factor in a race, and I’m sure he’ll have a great career”.  Well, J.D. was telling me that hoping it was going to fire me up.  But I was already fired up. I didn’t need that.”

Ryun remembers an electric crowd of around 20,000 that night in a stadium which held 34,000. ABC’s Wide World of Sports covered the meet live with Bill Fleming and Jim Beatty on the call. (more…)

DRINKING THE OLYMPIC KOOL-AID

It is a spectacle beyond wonder, and an all but incomprehensible effort to stage, primarily for the host city and its organizing committee.  But so, too, for the grand ayatollahs of the IOC, the bishops of their member national committees, and their deep-pocketed supporters, the sponsors.  Yet it remains the labor of the plebian athletes to be the sine qua non for the entire enterprise.  Without them, what?  And so, of the $6 billion generated by the London Games, how much will be shared with those whose exploits make the grand exposition possible?

Well, consider that a 2012 Olympic gold medal has been struck with less than 1.5% actual gold (a mere 6 grams), and you have an apt understanding of the balance of commercial power we are about to behold over the next fortnight plus three. We know who really gets the gold.

My old friend Bob Bright excoriated me recently following my previous post – BOB BRIGHT: AFTER 25 YEARS NOTHING HAS CHANGED.  Bob charged me with becoming an advocate for the athletes rather than a straight journalist.  “Folks, including you, are trying to build a sport around the wants and needs of athletes. How’s that working out? Athletes are here today and gone tomorrow.”

True enough, Bob, athletes do come and go; it is the way of all sportsmen. But take a good look at the sports which have strong athlete representation. Those are the ones that flourish.  In fact, track and field is not built around the athletes, and how that is working out is, as you say, abundantly evident.

Therefore, it isn’t the athletes’ side I am taking. Instead I’m casting a critical eye at the imbalances which continue to hold sway in this sport, and which, over time, have contributed to the withering of the sport’s status on the sporting landscape.  Make no mistake, if the situation were tilted unfavorably to the advantage of the athletes at the expense of the federations and events, and as a consequence the same sad state of the sport was in evidence that we see under the current model, you can be certain that I would write in favor of a corresponding swing in fortunes.  But until that eventuality is witnessed, I will read and write as my eye and conscious lead me.

It has never been my intention to diminish the role of any of the stakeholders of the sport, simply to acknowledge the critical role the athletes play in the proceedings, and the consequences of not elevating their station.  Thus, the issue of athlete rights remains evergreen, and with each passing month seems to be gaining increasing momentum.  Now with bright light of the Olympic flame about to be lit, the subject is rife for further enlightenment. (more…)

RYAN HALL BATTLING PLANTAR FASCIITIS

Ryan Hall, 65:38, 2nd place

The Olympic countdown clock is ticking. For some, like today’s Rock `n` Roll San Diego Half Marathon winner Meb Keflizighi, the Olympic Games are right on schedule, 10 weeks out with all his tickets punched, ready for the final big training push toward the medal stand in London.  For others, like second place finisher Ryan Hall, August 12th is approaching like a runaway freight train as he finds himself still lashed to the rails of injury wriggling to get free in time.

“I felt good out front,” said Hall after his 65:38 time put him 2:26 behind Meb’s 63:12 win.  “I was faster through 10K than at Healthy Kidney (the 10K in New York City in May.) But I was a little flat in the second half.”

In what was their final race before the August 12th Olympic Marathon in London, hometown hero Meb Keflizighi and 2008 Olympic Marathon 10th place finisher Ryan Hall established themselves early with a 4:40 opening mile on an overcast day with the temperature holding at 61 degrees Fahrenheit.  But by two miles(9:14) Meb had already opened an eleven second advantage that did nothing but grow through the next 11+ miles.

Coming on the heels of Ryan’s 30:15, 15th place performance at New York’s Healthy Kidney 10k, where Meb ran 29:08 for seventh place, today’s half marathon result begged for an explanation. While the sweet-natured Hall generally holds his inner thoughts to himself, begging off any rivalry with Meb, or caring much about his times at events other than in the marathon, a man with 4:46 per mile pedigree over the 26.2 mile marathon distance built atop a 3:42 1500 meter high school chassis can’t average 4:50 per mile over 10K and 5:00 pace in the half marathon without raising some red flags.  And today Ryan copped to the issue at hand, or should I say foot?

“I’m not going to lie. When I was first looking at doing this race, right after starting back training after the trials, I was thinking about trying to come here and run 61 minutes or something good. But as things progressed, my body didn’t quite come around like I was hoping.  I’m still battling this plantar fasciitis.  It’s really lingering, and giving me some problems. I need to get rid of that.   I’ve run 65 minutes the month before a marathon before (Boston in 2011 after the NY Half), so I look at that and know these races are always tough for me.  So just go back to training, get back in shape, and get things figured out with my foot.”

However, it’s one thing to be flat due to high mileage a month out from a major marathon, and quite another to deal with a nagging injury that won’t go away with one of the two or three biggest races of your life coming on fast.

“It (left foot plantar problem) cropped up in November,” explained the tousled-haired bleach blond with the boy-next-door demeanor. “I took three weeks off, and I thought doing therapy on it it would be gone, but it’s worse than before.  It’s one of those things where your foot is bothering you, and you’re favoring one leg. Now my right hamstring is bothering me.  So it’s one thing leads to another.  But I have great people around me, and I believe it’s going to get better before the Games.” (more…)