Tag: Michael Johnson

CHICAGO 2018: TOO MANY CANDIDATES ON THE BALLOT

Though it was a Frenchman, Michel Bréal, who first suggested that a distance race be held in the 1896 Olympic Games and be called the Marathon, it may be that fate, too, had a hand in the formulation.  You see, Athenian democracy, described as the first known democracy in the world, developed around the same fifth century BC time frame as the myth of Pheidippides, the Greek messenger whose run from Marathon to Athens telling of a great military victory over an invading Persian force was the genesis of our modern sport. And what is the Marathon but the most democratic of all sporting events where all are welcome to participate and the winners are decided by open competition?  It is in the light of that history that I make the following observation.

The 2018 BofA Chicago Marathon has set up another great open field for October 7th.  Announced yesterday, it is loaded with past and current champions from around the racing world. 2018 Boston, Dubai, Prague, Paris, Rotterdam, and Tokyo champions have all signed on. But hidden deep within that collection of mostly anonymous talent is something this sport has longed for since the days when Bill Rodgers first challenged Frank Shorter in the short mid-1970s window when both were at the top of their game, a great mano a mano duel. 

Here we have defending Chicago champion Galen Rupp and his former Nike Oregon Project training partner Mo Farah signed and sealed. It’s something the sport (and track and field) has been starved for and lax in developing for years, a truly intriguing match race. The last such match race worth its spit was staged in 1996 when Olympic long sprint champion Michael Johnson of the USA took on short sprint champion Donovan Bailey of Canada over an intermediate 150-meter distance in Toronto following the Atlanta Games. And though the race itself fizzled with Johnson pulling up lame midway, the promotion itself was a big success.

Now, for the first time in memory, we have two well branded Olympic distance medalists, men who used to be teammates, going head-to-head for the first time in the marathon, both looking to bust a fast time on one of the fastest courses in the world. Accordingly, Chicago is reinstating pacers after discarding that crutch following the 2014 race. And it makes perfect sense because both Rupp and Farah are past track burners who have yet to break through in terms of marathon times on par with their 10,000 meters PRs.

Here, then, is a natural rivalry that people might actually want to see, one that can be marketed, Galen versus Mo,m. And then they go lard it up with all these admittedly fast but anonymous extras who do nothing but steal the spotlight from the one thing that might get average people to stop and pay attention. Why?  Cause we’ve always done it this way? (more…)

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AWAITING THE MARQUEE MATCHUPS

Mayweather unloads on Ortiz
    I have been a boxing fan even longer than a track/running fan, watching Gillette’s Friday Night Fights with my father in those halcyon days when black and white television had the jittery faraway look of today’s USA 5 KM Championship internet coverage in Providence, Rhode Island.   But even now I find foot racing and boxing to be at least sporting second cousins. Both require rigorous training, and then the shared goal in competition of trying to stop the other guy from doing to you what you are trying to do to him.
Last night, in Las Vegas Floyd Mayweather Jr. remained unbeaten (42-0) with a controversial fourth round sucker-punch KO of Victor Ortiz to claim the portion of the world welterweight title Ortiz carried into the ring.  Today, in Providence Ben True of Maine bested six-time NCAA D2 champion Aaron Braun ex of Adam State and Kenya’s Sam Chelanga two-time D1 NCAA champion ex of Liberty University, while in Philadelphia Matthew Kisorio defended his Philly Half title against fellow Kenyan Sammy Kitwara in a U.S. all-comers record 58:45 (joined by New Zealand’s Kim Smith’s similar 1:07:11 record performance on the women’s side.) In a side-note, former multiple time NCAA champion out of Colorado, but long injured Adam Goucher qualified for the 2012 Olympic Trials Marathon in Houston with his 1:04:53 time (needed sub-1:05).

Of course, the overt violence of boxing and mano-a-mano nature of the game separates it from the more subtle and less obvious violence of running where the pain and savagery is meted out using pace as the hammer (and head-butting and sneak punches aren’t an issue).  Another difference is that no runner on the planet – no, make that ALL runners together on the planet – don’t earn what Mayweather pulled down for the 11:59 of fighting last night, $25 million, a sum likely to rise when pay-per-view receipts are counted.  For reference, the Samsung Diamond League total payout for the 2011 track and field season is $8 million spread over 32 event champions.  Dartmouth grad Ben True earned the princely sum of $5000 for his USA 5 KM Championship.  (more…)