When Running was KIng

Boston Billy after 1978 at the center of the whirlwind

Man isn’t just a pattern-seeking animal, he is a goal-setting beast.  From breaking the four-minute mile to putting a man on the moon and returning him safely to earth, we have constantly striven to outdo our forefathers.  Accordingly, we have seen the standards of excellence mount with an almost linear progression through the course of time.

Today, the marathon performances of the Running Boom champions seem almost quaint by today’s standards, as far from world class as the exploits of their own predecessors seemed during their time in the sun.  At this year’s 117th Boston Marathon, five of its greatest champions from the Boom era will return to celebrate the anniversaries of their winning moments. Continue reading


     Davenport, Iowa – It may not have been the record heat of a week ago when Midwest thermometers were topping out in the triple digits, but with the temperature rising fast from its 77 degrees start at the 8 a.m. and blanketed by 85% humidity the 37thQuad City Times Bix 7 Road Race proved to be a radical weight loss seminar for the 15,000+ runners and walkers testing the full seven-mile distance over the rolling out-and-back course.

Thousands thunder up Brady Street in Mile 1  

 Kenyans Silas Kipruto (32:36) and Caroline Rotich (36:42) took home top honors and $12,500 as champions , as the race returned to an international field format after two years as the U.S. 7-Mile Road Championship.  Arizona’s Abdi Abdirahman was the first U.S. male finisher in sixth place.  Neither 2009 champion Meb Keflezighi (out with a heeling Achilles tendon), nor 2010 winner Ryan Hall (announcing his running of the BofA Chicago Marathon) returned to Davenport this year.

Instead, both Kipruto and Rotich led predominantly Kenyan and American fields through the sweltering conditions to impressive wins.  Both champions established an early presence at the point of attack up the steep Brady Street hill as the race got underway. Then, as if on the same strategic wavelength, they stretched their respective fields to the breaking point down miles two and three as the course turned right onto rolling, crowd-lined Kirkwood Boulevard heading to the turnaround at 3 1/2 miles. Continue reading


Bix legend Joan Samuelson welcomes women's masters to finish line at Brady Street Challenge. Davenport duo Kathy Evanchyk (gold) and Mary Toohill lean for the win.

The 11th Brady Street Challenge kicked off the 37th Quad City Times Bix 7 weekend here in Davenport, Iowa last night.  Seven races in all made their way up the 7% – 9% grade which constitutes the opening segment of the Bix 7 Road Race tomorrow morning. It’s a quarter-mile grind with champions earning $500 for the torture.  Makes you appreciate the 10%+ grades the cyclists of the Tour de France must climb.  But those guys use expensive geared machines. These folks have only their legs and the drive of their arms to propel them.

The Davenport air was all but liquid last evening, not in the sense of rain, but in terms of humidity.  As if the brutality of the hill wasn’t enough, the weight of the heated air itself added an even greater challenge.

Best race of the night was the first one, as three-time former women’s master’s
champion Kathy Evanchyk of Davenport inched past 2008 champ Mary Toohill by just .47 seconds in 1:29.69. Continue reading


Grete Waitz Statue, Bislett Stadium

     Oslo, Norway – Perhaps it was a good thing Grete wasn’t still with us, because last night in Bislett Stadium where the great Norwegian champion first came to national then international prominence, she was eulogized to over 1500 people by the likes of the Norwegian Prime Minister, the mayor of Oslo, the head of the Norwegian Athletics Federation, fellow champions, and the president of the New York Road Runners.  Knowing Grete, the private person who shunned personal recognition, the public display of it all would have been pure torture.  

     Her husband Jack  joked to me earlier that “Grete will come back and haunt me” if he made the commemoration too elaborate.  But both Grete and Jack came to the realization long ago that she wasn’t just a private citizen of Norway alone.  The one-time school teacher from Oslo had long since become a citizen of the world, and the world needed to say good-bye and thank you. 

    Continue reading


     Oslo, Norway- Next Tuesday May 17th Norway will celebrate National Day, commemorating the signing of its constitution in 1814 which declared the country to be an independent nation free from Swedish rule.  All over Norway children’s parades will be the central expression of the celebration, with the longest parade here in Oslo where over 100,000 people will gather in the city center to participate in the festivities. Accordingly, Norwegian flags can be seen hanging prominently throughout the capital in preparation for the national holiday.

I arrived in Oslo yesterday to join in another national memorial service, this one to celebrate the life of Norway’s legendary runner Grete Waitz who died April 19th at age 57 after a long battle with cancer. The nine-time ING New York City Marathon champion and four-time world record holder in the marathon was buried in a private ceremony April 28th with government honor at state expense, only the sixth woman in Norwegian history to be accorded that distinction.

Tonight at 6 p.m. at Bislett Stadium leading Norwegian politicians, members of the Royal family, and thousands more touched by Grete’s short, but extraordinarily well-lived life will bid a public farewell to one of Norway’s most beloved international ambassadors.  A delegation from the New York Road Runners also arrived for today’s service, led by its chairman George Hirsch, president and CEO Mary Wittenberg,  marketing chief Ann Wells Crandall, and media director Richard Finn. Also on hand is 1984 Olympic Marathon champion Joan Samuelson, Grete’s great friend and athletic rival. Continue reading