ATLANTA TRACK CLUB CELEBRATING ALL-METRO RUNNERS

We are right in the middle of post-season for high school cross country. NXN was last weekend in Portland, Oregon, while the Foot Locker Nationals come up this weekend at San Diego’s Balboa Park. Tonight, though, I’ll be hosting the 53rd annual Atlanta Track Club All-Metro Cross Country Awards banquet, a celebration of excellence that goes all the way back to the start of the ATC.

The All-Metros continue to inform the club’s spirit of promoting a healthy and active lifestyle no matter where one is in their life-cycle. 42 young athletes representing 31 schools will be feted tonight as members of the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd All-Metro Teams. Two coaches will also be recognized for their outstanding dedication to the sport.

Atlanta TC Executive Director Rich Kenah is just completing his third year heading the country’s second largest running club (28,000), and has continued expanding the club’s focus on  encouraging youth participation and rewarding its excellence. Congrats to all the 2016 Atlanta TC All-Metro Team selections.

*

On the other end of the age scale, here’s something I’ve always wondered. Why do they call 40-year olds “Masters”?  Are they kidding? Believe me, by the time you hit the big 4-0, you’re no master, you’re losing your mastery.

Look, a master craftsman is one who gets better with age, I get that. But you don’t get better as a runner at 40 (much less 50,60, or 70). You just slower, if you can run at all. At the very least it takes forever just to find race photo that shows you with both feet off the ground. It’s pathetic, not masterful.

Anyway, everyone in the upper age divisions are always getting hurt, too. And not just little niggles from running. The one that gets me is when you start hurting yourself sleeping.

I get people asking all the time: “What happened to you? Why are you holding your neck like that?”
“I slept wrong.”
“Slept wrong? How, in the name of God, do you hurt yourself sleeping?”
“Yeah, well, maybe you should ask that all-loving God of ours. Seems to be one of His mysteries.”

Sure, I remember the days when I could feel the wind blowing my hair back when I stepped on the gas while racing. Kinda like Keninise Bekele and Wilson Kipsang must have felt in Berlin earlier this season (well, if they had long, flowing hair).

But add a few decades onto those two 34 year-olds, and they’ll be hoping to still have hair that’s not coming in tufts out of their noses and ears, or growing like a chia pet on their backs. I’ll tell you, the first time you go to the hair salon and the nice looking young woman starts clipping at your nose and ear hairs, well, that’s a crossroads day.

So I say enjoy it while you got it, kiddies. It ain’t no endless road. One foot in front of another is one thing, but blowin’ in the wind at some point just becomes another old Bob Dylan song.

END

WHILE MUCH HAS BEEN GAINED…

Life is rarely black and white, all one thing and not somewhat another. Take for instance high school football.

I say high school football, because in America that is usually the first time we get truly associate ourselves with my school, my team.

So it’s Friday Night Lights, and out on the field are 22 young men exchanging energy in a game of offense against defense and vice versa. On one side of the field a group is watching that interaction and they are cheering, smiling, and clapping, it’s wonderful. On the other side of the field another group watches that same exchange of energy and mutters, clenches their fists, and pouts.

So which is it, a happy thing or a sad thing? Or does it all depend on the bias with which you entered the stadium?

As we prepare for the TCS New York City Marathon in just over a week’s time, we are once again presented with a men’s competition featuring top athletes from East Africa, with American stars Dathan Ritzenhein, Abdi Abdirahman and some talented rookies thrown into the mix for good measure. Continue reading

MONDAY NIGHT RAW

Two titans in Berlin

Two titans in Berlin

What were they thinking — or not thinking, as the case may be? In a race that close, the stakes so high, I mean, why didn’t Wilson Kipsang invite Keninise Bekele’s goat-getter (maybe Mo Farah) onto the Berlin Marathon press truck just to needle him a little in the final kilometers? In a marathon 10-seconds is a blink. It wouldn’t have taken very much to throw him off his game. Didn’t these guys follow news reports between training sessions?

The BMW Berlin Marathon might have kicked off the 2016 Abbott World Marathon Majors fall campaign in real style (Bekele in 2:03:03 to Kipsang’s 2:03:13), but there’s no doubt which is the major race of the season. Continue reading

HAPPY BIRTHDAY WILSON KIPSANG

Wilson Kipsang sets world record in Berlin 2013

Wilson Kipsang sets world record in Berlin 2013

Happy birthday to Wilson Kipsang, the former marathon world record holder, who turns 34 today. Last year Wilson ran a strong second to fellow Kenyan Eliud Kipchoge in the London Marathon, 2:04:47 to Kipchoge’s 2:04:42.  In today’s marathon world the two 30+ year olds are a bit of a throwback as youth (and drugs) has emerged as a dominant player.

We go through eras in sports, and unfortunately the current era in almost all sports will be linked to drugs (though institutional corruption is making a big play for attention, as well). The only good thing we might see ahead is that the era of drugs as the preferred method of performance enhancement is coming to an end as gene manipulation promises a strong future in the 21st century. Continue reading

WILSON KIPSANG – WHEN THE MARATHON BEGINS TO HURT

Former marathon world record holder Wilson Kipsang speaks with Ato Boldon, Adidias’ Spencer Nel and me about when a marathon begins to hurt, and the final stretch in last year’s TCS New York City Marathon (which he won).  From the Global Athletics Conference in Durban, South Africa.  Current record holder Dennis Kimetto sat in, as well.

END

SHOWDOWN IN LONDON: HEAD TO HEAD

The Virgin Money London Marathon announced its 2015 professional men’s field today, and the gathering is already making salivary glands water among the faithful world-wide.  But though it is already being dubbed “Greatest Field in History” – and how many times have we heard that before? – what I found most appealing about the roll-out was how binary the London organizers made it.

Kipsang vs Kimetto clashofchampions

While former London Marathon champion and course record holder Emmanuel Mutai has also been signed, along with 2014 Chicago king Eliud Kipchoge, and the redoubtable Keninise Bekele of Ethiopia, any one of whom might well expect to see his name up on a race marquee, notwithstanding the presence of those other stars, it’s the current and former marathon world record holders who are primarily being touted. This is a welcome sign of marketing savvy, and takes a page from how boxing promotes it’s major fights. Continue reading

MARATHON YEAR 2014

Dennis Kimetto, marathon world record holder

Dennis Kimetto, marathon world record holder

There were highs (American Meb Keflezighi‘s magnificent win in Boston) and lows (Kenyan Rita Jeptoo testing positive for EPO), but some things ran along a well worn path in the world of marathoning in 2014. Chief among those was the utter domination of Kenya and Ethiopia in the ranks of the men’s marathon.

Fully 95 of the top 100 times posted this past year hailed from those two nations (57/38), led by Kenyan Dennis Kimetto’s 2:02:57 world record in Berlin in September. By comparison, last year 89 of the top 100 marathon times came from Kenya (55) and Ethiopia (34), led by Kenyan Wilson Kipsang‘s 2:03:23 world record, also in Berlin.

This year presumptive world number one Kipsang had to console himself with major wins in London (2:04:27 course record) and New York City (2:10:59 in chilled and windy conditions). Those two wins sewed up the $500,000 bonus for winning the 2013-2014 World Marathon Majors series.  Nice consolation.

Wislon Kipsang battles Lelisa Desisa for New York title.

Wilson Kipsang battles Lelisa Desisa for New York title in November.

However, revelations out of Kenya late this year pointing  to a growing drug scandal and corruption charges have left the more cynical among us wondering how pure that dominance may be, or if we truly are in a golden age of the sport or simply an increasingly deceptive one. However, until further evidence surfaces we take what has been presented at face value. Continue reading