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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TEAMING UP

IAAF President Sebastian Coe gave an interview to the British newspaper The Guardian this past Tuesday June 13th to discuss the unsteady state of the sport of athletics. While admitting that the sport has been mired in crisis, racked by both internal institutional corruption and wide-spread drug cheating, Lord Coe’s prescription included the following observation:

“We have to be more innovative, we have to be braver and more creative in formats. The first thing I said when I became president was that we have to think differently.”

My question to President Coe is, did he watch last weekend’s NCAA Track & Field Championships in Eugene, Oregon?  Did he watch the women’s 4X400 meter Relay final when the University of Oregon’s Raevyn Rogers took the baton from Deejah Stevens a half-stride in front of USC’s Kendall Ellis with the entire women’s championship hanging in the balance?  Did he watch knowing that Raevyn had to win in order to overcome Georgia’s 8.2 point lead over her Ducks by scoring the 10 points for the victory? Continue reading

GASPARILLA CELEBRATES ITS 40th ANNIVERSARY

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Tampa, FL. – The Gasparilla Distance Classic began 40 years ago when what came to be known as the first Running Boom ushered in an era of personal fitness that we still see in full swing today.

In its first year Tampa city fathers invited Boston’s Bill Rodgers to the Gasparilla 15K as he was elevating himself to iconic status, already owning one Boston and two New York City Marathon titles, while holding the American marathon record from Boston 1975 (2:09:27).

Bill came to Tampa in `78 to tune up for his second Boston win two months later. That victory by the reigning King of the Roads put Gasparilla on the map, and it soon became the season opener for every great road racer worth his or her salt from around the world. Continue reading

BRADY AND PATRIOTS TRANSCENDANT

 

 

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The Boston Globe’s Dan Shaughnessy – author of The Curse of the Bambino, no less, a book about the Boston Red Sox – suggested in his Super Bowl lead today that the New England Patriots’ improbable, cataclysmic, can-you-effing-believe-it! 25 point comeback win over the Atlanta Falcons in Super Bowl 51 may be the greatest moment in Boston sports history.

So much emotional weight was freighted onto this Deflategate Revenge Tour finale in Houston, along with the possibility of Pat’s quarterback Tom Brady and coach Bill Belichich winning their unprecedented fifth Super Bowl title, that the game rose above any of the previous 50 Super Bowls, which on its own has become the national sporting event of the year. But the best moment in Boston sports history? Let’s consider the rivals in the three other major professional sports and our own minor one of running. Continue reading

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

BACK TO PACING AS USUAL

Running fast behind pacers is a thoughtless act. You know what’s coming — in fact, it’s been negotiated — and you can either do it or you can’t. But there is no thought required as there is in a pure racing format like the Olympic Games.

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Matthew Centrowitz and Nick Willis celebrate Olympic glory

One of the many highlights of the Rio Games was Matthew Centrowitz’s stirring front-running win in the men’s 1500 meter final. Yet, historic as it was — first American to take that title since 1908– there are some who question the standard of that gold medal run, because the 3:50 winning time was the slowest since the 1932 final.

Notwithstanding the Olympic motto, “Faster, Higher, Stronger”, such time-based considerations miss the entire point of the endeavor, and help define what’s missing in the staging and presentation of the sport in general. Continue reading

BEAT DOWN AT BIX

Davenport, Ia. — So there was this little dustup between miles four and five at the BIX 7 Road Race yesterday in Davenport, Iowa. Teshome Mekonen of Ethiopia was clipping the heels of race leader Silas Kipruto, and two-time champion Kipruto became a tad tired of it. Anyone who’s been in a pack has had that situation happen to them. At first it’s frustrating, but soon, if it keeps happening, it has a tendency to piss you off.

Silas Kipruto lashes out at Teshome Mekonen (19 in yellow) as #11 Isaac Mwangi considers his options

Silas Kipruto lashes out at Teshome Mekonen (19 in yellow) as #11 Isaac Mwangi considers his options

So after a couple of head turns and stern glares from Kipruto, and a corresponding ‘go eff yourself’ from Mr. Mekonen, the 6’4″ Kipruto took a MMA backhand swipe at the much smaller Ethiopian, which backed him off, and caused all kinds of panic in the pack, which by that time was made up of two Kenyans and two Ethiopians, the Yankees-Red Sox of distance running rivalries.

As it so happens, all four of the guys in that lead pack had been racing against one another on the tour, and so were well aware of one another.

On July 10 at the Utica Boilermaker 15K it was Ethiopian Mekonen who took the win, with countryman Belay Tilahun in 5th, followed Kenyans Isaac Mwangi and Silas Kipruto.

Then last week in Santa Cruz, California at the Wharf to Wharf 6 Miler it was Isaac Mwangi outkicking Silas for the win with Mekonen in third. So these guys were not strangers.

Kipruto pulls away from Tilahun for the win

Kipruto pulls away from Tilahun for the win

Yesterday at Bix Kipruto pulled away with Belay Tilahun in tow as Mwangi and Mekonen succumbed on the infamous Kirkwood Boulevard hills in Mike 5. New father Kipruto finally went on to win the race in a last 800m sprint to notch his third BIX victory.

But Mekonen then filed a protest saying he had been interfered with. But it’s not like it all happened in a vacuum. Mekonen was causing the problem by clipping the heels of Kipruto in the first place. But in any case, this is exactly what we need in the sport. At least in America.

Every sport in America that is successful has a modicum of violence. The most popular sport, football, is predicated on violence. If you want to find an audience better find a way to incorporate some version of it. So here’s a proposal. In every 5 km of a race there ought to be at least 100 meters designated as a full contact zone. Let’s let them go at it MMA style and let the chips (and teeth) fall where they may.

Meb Keflezighi came into yesterday’s race wanting to get out of his comfort zone as he heads toward the Rio Olympic Marathon in three weeks time. And he did the early race leading with U.S. Army WCAP runner Elkahan Kibet.  But there is nothing that will get you out of your comfort zone quicker than a shot of adrenaline from a well thrown punch.

Oh, Mekonen’s protest was disallowed.

“Are you ready to rumbbbllle!!??”

Let’s get it on?

END
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