Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Video: Fam & "Run Like Hell" at New York Running Co.

Anthony Famiglietti, one of the few notable US distance runners not competing this weekend, was out Monday night for a screening of his movie Run Like Hell. "Fam" also gave a short, candid talk to the intimate crowd of around 50 runners, joggers, and fans in attendance at the New York Running Company in Columbus Circle. Also, he was gracious enough to stick around after all but store employees had left, to sit down with us and answer a few questions.

A recap of the evening, after the jump.

It's easy to tell that Fam is a guy who shoots from the hip in most everything he does. He feels like he'll run a good 10k after being a steepler for so long - he does it. He decides he wants to live and train in NYC when everyone else is living like a monk in some mountain range or another - he does it. Successfully. Apparently, he was even considering doing the Marathon Trials after clearly being a mile/steeple/5k guy for his whole career. (More on that in part two of the interview, with will be available tomorrow .)

His speech was similarly spontaneous. There were tangents and anecdotes, but it was interesting and altogether conversational rather than stiff and completely cliche'd as I imagine many such appearances by runners can easily become. The video had the same free-wheeling feel, opting to divert into musical montages that made training footage look as electric as I've ever seen.

After the event, and an autograph/chat session, the '04 Olympian sat down to talk about Run Like Hell, his running, and of course, the Marathon Trials... a topic which will be covered in Part Two of our interview. Look for it tomorrow.

Thanks to Fam, Spencer and the folks at New York Running Co., and Michael and the rest of the adidas team, for sponsoring the event and having us.

(Hi-res version of the interview over at our blip page. Music by Holtz.)


Whats A "Blue Collar"?

It is obvious that every old school/long hair/mutton chopped running fan in America wants Brian Sell to win on Saturday. They also want him to change the oil in their car and drink a can of Budweiser afterward. There is a clear image surrounding Sell in the running community, and I am not so sure it is entirely warranted.

As you can tell by the number of modifiers in that last sentence, I am wary of how such a statement might be taken. I am all for blue collar running. It is the hardcore, independent, pick yourself up by your own bootstraps and run fast as hell image that I someday would like to portray myself. I just don't think that applies to Sell.

It's not his fault. From what I can tell, Sell is a great guy who works really hard and deserves all the attention and good results that he gets. And he gets quite a bit. He did run 2:10 in Boston after all, which puts you in elite American marathoning status as far as I'm concerned.

He gets full support from Hansons and other places and is not exactly scraping by. In short: he is doing everything he can with his considerable resources to race as fast as he possibly can. What people don't want to admit though, is that he is doing everything that the so-called white collar elite guys are doing.

Yes, he is running 150 mile weeks while other guys, Abdi and Ritz for instance, are doing a bit less. That just means those guys don't think it would help them. Somehow this makes them less hardcore than Sell. I am 100% sure that if the shorter mileage guys thought running 300 mile weeks would make them better, they would do it. They do other things that are equally taxing with the considerable resources that they have. In short, again: Sell is working as hard as everyone and anyone else out there.

Mainly, I am just a bit put off that a guy like Sell, who is definitely an elite runner who gets all of the resources, income, and accolades that other elite runners get, has somehow taken the label of blue collar from the guys who actually are what I consider to be "blue collar" runners.

My guess is that most of the guys in the trials with real jobs, like most guys in America, are no longer working their 40 hours in some factory making elevator buttons or replacing car bumpers. Rather, they are working the "new blue collar" jobs, like underwriter at an insurance company, or data entry at a ne...wait, what was I talking about, I must have dosed off. For anyone who has experienced such a job, you know how draining and spirit destroying they are.

Believe it or not, there are a lot of guys out there who are living life like you and I, working (at least) 40 hour weeks at a soul sucking, uninspiring job, and still managing some seriously fast times (2:14s even). That is blue collar. Running miles and miles through predawn suburbia while the wife and kids are fast asleep in a safe, comfortable house that is paid for by heading to work right after that morning run with only a coffee cup's worth of support.

The fact: These guys are blue collar runners. They may not have the privilege of sleeping past 5:30, but let's at least let them keep the title. Sell seems like a great guy, but let's call a spade a spade. He is a professional runner no matter how dirty his fingernails are after his shift at Home Depot.


Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Watch You Some Running Tonight

TV alert, from Alison Wade over at

A feature on Macharia Yuot (who also got some love from the NY Times) airs tonight on ESPN. And NOVA is airing programming looking at a few members of the, shall we say, "less elite" contingent at Boston.

And speaking of visual coverage, check back right here, to this very site, this very evening for our exclusive interview with the man they call Fam.


Monday, October 29, 2007

The Voice of a 7:30 Apologist

True story: I went to see The Darjeeling Limited last night (very average, and I'm generally a big Wes Anderson fan), at the AMC theater just west of Times Square. Walking through Times Square (also known as Satan's Asshole), the streets were packed (nothing new) and everyone was standing stock-still and staring up at the buildings (unfortunately, also nothing new). What struck me, though, was that everyone was standing there staring in the same direction: they were watching a giant monitor broadcasting some sort of live classical music performance. OMG! Times Square! They have TELEVISION there! That's right: everyone was standing around watching TV.

Meanwhile, the buzz/outrage has been quite fervent over at Letsrun. While I suppose some of the complaints about the planning/marketing of the Trials are semi-well-founded, I think it's a little early to get our knickers all in a twist. Yes, 7:30 is an EARLY start. Yes, it makes it impossible for West Coasters to tune in at a natural waking hour. And folks in NJ and Connecticut have a heck of a commute on their hands. But I think it is a little lazy of critics to simply assume the NYRR, as experienced a race-management organization as you can find, picked that start time via a late-night game of Yahtzee while in a collective haze of Jack Daniels and mai thais.

You have to stop and think: why 7:30? Find out just that, after the jump.

7:30am. There has to be SOME reason, and it ain't avoiding the heat. Well, there are two obvious ones: to get on The Today Show, and to be able to run through Midtown, including Times Square. Is it worth it to have the entire event so early just for that? Well, at face value, those five minutes, that one pre-Central Park mile probably make it seem like it a middling plan, at best. But I think it's worth a closer look.

Why did I mention my experience in Times Square last night? The point is this: the tourists in Times Square will stop and watching ANYTHING. They stopped and watched television, hardly a brand-spankin'-new technology at the ripe age of 100+ years old. There will be plenty of people in Times Square at 7:30 next Saturday. Speaking from personal experience, I'm pretty sure there will be plenty of people outside The Today Show studios near the starting line, at 7:30. Plenty of people in the neighborhood around Rockefeller Center. I don't think this is a terrible scenario - there will be barricades on the streets. A police caravan. Maybe even a truck of some sort playing music and trying to fire up the crowd. OF COURSE the tourists out and about in Midtown are going to stop and watch all along the first few miles of the course.

So here's what you'll have:

-- The 5 Million people who normally tune into Today but would not otherwise watch the Trials on TV will be watching the start and early portion of the race. Yes, 5 million.
-- The first mile of the route will be passing some of the most recognizable landmarks in the United States, with tourists lining the barricades throughout.

What sort of message does this send to those 5 million viewers, even if only for five minutes? That this is a huge event. That distance running in America is (can be?) a marquee sporting event. A spectacle. Slap the word "Olympic" on the event, to boot, and I think you will make quite an impression on those viewers. Then you cross your fingers and pray that some of those folks will bounce over to to watch the stream because they were intrigued. And if the availability of the stream isn't mentioned on The Today Show that morning, and during the early coverage, I would be absolutely shocked. (FWIW, I do think, this is where things break down, because you're asking the viewer to make a special effort AND to do something they might not be used to doing - watching a TV show streamed online)

So no, 7:30 is not conducive to the quote-unquote "casual fan of elite running" to attend the marathon. But: have we ever established that such a person even exists? Would New Yorkers be coming out of the woodwork to watch a small number of elite marathons compete, if it were 10am? 1pm? Would casual fans be tuning in? There is really no precedent to show that such would be is the case. You have diehard fans, you have runners, and you have everybody else, and the early start time, believe it or not, is squarely aimed at notching the biggest possible viewership from the "everybody else."

After being carried by tourists over the first mile, once in the park, you will have the die-hards out in force. However, the numbers here remain to be seen. After one crit-loop is done we're looking at about about 8:15am. Maybe a volume of Sunday marathoners begin to trickle out for their shake-out run. Another loop, 8:40. Friendship Run participants start showing up. Another loop, 9:05. Tourists have begun to show up in Central Park at this hour, not to mention plenty of walkers/joggers who, again, should, in theory, be disposed to stop and watch. Thus begins the final loop.

In that little breakdown - diehards, runners, hoi polloi - there lies the real question mark in all of this: are all those folks who are in town to run NYC on Sunday going to attend the Trials on Saturday? This is, I believe, what the NYRR is banking on. They have scheduled the International Friendship run for 9am that morning -- I imagine, in an effort to get a few thousand people into Central Park: people of a demographic we all imagine should be predisposed to watch a marathon, if anyone is. Whether this tack succeeds or fails depends on how many people will be willing to curtail their sleep two nights before their own marathon to get up at 7am and watch the Trials. A dicey proposition at best, if you ask me. Personally, I expect we won't see significant numbers straggling over to the course until 8:30 or 9. But this is where the whole project, as a spectator event, will succeed or fail.

If things break right, if the weather is as beautiful as it can be in New York at this time of year and people want to be outdoors, this could be a spectacular event. Still, I'm not so naive to expect that it will be -- there are a couple of MAJOR "ifs" in there, between the number of diehards in NYC (I think this number has probably been vastly overestimated by the NYRR) or who are willing to travel to NYC , and the number of Sunday marathoners who will turn up. But if the planners' plans come to fruition, the start will come off like a NYC-sized spectacle... and the finish of the race will be viewed by a crowd that has steadily grown into an impressive mob.

Treu: it might not play out that way. But I just don't see a way that a better scenario could be guaranteed.


NY Times looks at Macharia Yuot

A really nice look at Macharia Yuot in the New York Times as the paper looks ahead to this weekend's Olympic Trials. Like Lopez Lomong, Yuot is one of the Lost Boys of the Sudan, and the article deals with his time as a refugee crossing Africa on foot:

“I saw a hippo come out of the river and break a man in two,” he said. “Even before that, wild animals killed many people. But some local soldiers with guns protected us.”

Really, that more or less sounds like a typical day commuting to Manhattan for me. After making it stateside, Yuot would become a DIII National Champ at Widener in Philadelphia (many times over) and has adapted to American culture to the point where he carries a BlackBerry. He'll bring a PR of 2:21 to the Trials on Saturday.


Welcome to Trials Week

Here we are: a week out from what has been billed as the greatest localized weekend of distance running in the history of the galaxy. The Olympics pale in comparison. The World Championships grow sick with envy. A week from today, the IOC will collectively commit hari kari after they realize their blunder in awarding the 2012 Games to London with their bad food, crappy weather, and kindergarten-quality puce-and-yellow logo.

And we are going to be there for all of it. Especially the collective hari kari. (Our tickets to France are already booked, and hopefully we'll even get to assist!) Sure New York is crowded and messy and dangerous and 6.5 days out of the week we wonder why we're living here... but now it all becomes worth it as we can access all of the events of the coming weekend, and get a gyro from that guy in the truck over there, to boot. And since we're in the area we'll be doing a lot of quote-unquote "coverage": the Trials, Bad Boy, INGNYC, the St. Jude's Hospital 5k Run/Walk... the works. We'll be weighing in with a look at the Trials field, your cut-the-crap guide to visiting to NYC on this glorious weekend of running, hopefully a little video, and definitely plenty of photos of each event. So check back often.


Sunday, October 28, 2007

Conference Meets: Results

Youch. A tough weekend for the alma maters. Lots of tight, quality races, but no major shocks, other than the return of the Frank Stallone of West Chester, NY, Matthew Kiplagat.

A-10 - LaSalle wins. Shocker. Richmond pretty impressive to nab 2nd. But still, no one outside the conference cares.
Virginia 32, over NC State's 39 despite the Pack putting 6 in the top 13. 3rd place? 130 (Florida State). Products from the state of Ohio go 1-4-7-14, proving that, though oft-maligned, The Heart of It All is pretty much awesome at running and life. Chris Kollar says adieu to Biladeau by 6 seconds. Sam Bryfczynski, unfortunately, could only manage 23rd.
Big East - Showing yet again that it is, for my money, the best distance-running conference in the country:
Mann gets the Cards to the top of the heap, winning a close one over Georgetown, 55-60, with Providence at 74, Notre Dame 93, Syracuse 103, Villanova 124. And remember how folks were ready to send Nova to the Dance a couple weeks ago after Paul Short? The win over Georgetown, AND Providence/Syracuse (are we still considering the Orangemen a threat to get 2nd in the NE?) gives Louisville a little breathing room in the tough Southeast region. Nova could throw them another point, as well. Individuals: Curtis, Korir, Smyth, Smith, with 10 seconds between 1st, 2nd, and 3rd, but only 1 second separating 3rd & 4th.
Big 10 - Wisco
with ease: 33 points. Wisconsin ran what would appear to be the A-team; Michigan 5th behind THE Minnesota University, THE OSU and THE Indiana University. Minnesota well-clear in 2nd with 65 points, Withrow takes individual title, Letsrun message board crashed by speculation on individual national title chances.
EMU. Perrin wins. Miami 2nd. All, as expected.
PAC-10 -
Oregon 39, Stanford 55, Cal 70. Shadrack & Rupp 1-2, with room to spare; finish that night's celebratory bacon and olive pizza from Papa Dino's in lockstep, as well.
Patriot - American by a point over Navy. Army third. And in the Patriot League, that's the way it should be. (Fennell then Hallinan, with Fennell over 20 seconds in front.)
Arkansas, Florida, Bama, Tennessee.
Pat Summit League - Southern Utah throttles Oakland, IUPUI. Baumgartner not even needed, and, as teammate Mark Currell triumphs, he looks on from a lawnchair, a cooler full of lukewarm Schlitz's at his side. Does life get any better?


Saturday, October 27, 2007

Conference Meets: Friday Results

-- Out in the Heartland, Colorado won the Big XII meet. Again. Snooze.
-- MAACs: do we even need to type who won? Evan Garber, you failed!
-- And apparently they also went ahead with Heps in the rain, too. Princeton over Cornell.

The rest of the weekend starts today. Or something like that. I'm still really hungover.


Friday, October 26, 2007

Experience the Backseat

Since we've been discussing advertising... I happened to notice while riding a Long Island Railroad train last week, a poster for the Knicks upcoming season. For the past two years they've been running an "Experience" campaign - here's the gem they turned out for Isiah Thomas:And what a vision we have experienced. Well, the one on the train for, I believe, Jamal Crawford, read "Experience the Ride." I immediately began hoping that I'd soon see the following around the city:


Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Weekend Meets Preview: Conferences

There's a lot going on this weekend. So to help you sift through the raft of conference meets that are coming up in a few short days, we've put together a little guide to the juiciest conference meets on tap. After the jump: getting to know each D1 conference like you know your favorite recording artists.

It's hard to keep up on each of the many conferences that will be competing this weekend, so we compare each of the major conferences to their natural cognate in the music world. Read on to better familiarize yourself:

ATLANTIC 10: Oasis –– The greatest rock band since the Beatles. Or, maybe more accurately, washed up and self-important. By the way: Wonderwall wasn’t even that great of a song to begin with.

HEPS: Radiohead –– Man, they take themselves seriously, don’t they? And maybe they’re a little too smart for their own good, got a little too plugged into the whole sociopolitical-consciousness thing, what with this “pay what you wish for our album” business, which could only have been hatched by some sort of granola-making neo-hippie agro-commune. But they’ve got talent. Dammit, they’ve got talent.

BIG 10: Paris Hilton –– What’s that you say? Not a recording artist? Ha! Like the Big 10, this girl is just fantastic at pretty much everything she tries. Being a socialite. Reality TV star. Movie star. Internet star. And, of course, pop star. Of course the nay-sayers claim she’s just getting by on reputation. But they’re just jealous.

BIG 12: Michael Bolton –– Powerful vocals. Surprisingly handsome looks. The ability to overcome a history of bad hair and parlay his affection for ping pong into a relationship with one of the Desperate Housewives. You take cheap-shots at him, and never, never, never admit to liking his music, but “Said I Loved You But I Lied”? “How Can We Be Lovers (If We Can’t Be Friends)”? There’s just no denying what a good couple of cuts those are.

PATRIOT LEAGUE: Iron & Wine –– Mellow and easy on the ears. Throw in a wicked beard and you’ve got the kind of conference you want to listen to while kicking back and chiefing on a giant joint of medicinal hemp.

CONFERENCE USA: Destiny’s Child –– Marquette and Cincinnati left to pursue a career in the movies. St. Louis wanted to return to its gospel roots. And TCU suddenly thought it was SO much prettier than everyone else. What's left are the roadies and back-up dancers who I bet you didn’t know, still tour under the “DC” name, playing some of the biggest, most prestigious bowling alleys and Knights of Columbus halls across the country.

MAC: Steve Winwood –– Can’t say nothing bad about Steve Winwood. He’s blue collar, he’s sorta old school (he played with Eric Clapton for chrissakes!), the college kids like his stuff from the 80’s. Some real nice hits once upon a time. But he’s a dying breed. Steve Winwood just likes his football too much.

SEC: David Lee Roth –– That might actually be a picture of Chris Kattan as David Lee Roth. No matter.

BIG WEST: The Polk Street Elementary Sixth Grade Mixed Choir –– I guess they’re fairly talented but it’s just a bunch of kids from the same neighborhood, so their concerts are only supported by their parents, grandparents and very begrudging siblings. Not the national following they could, and, probably should have. I mean, afterall: did you hear that arrangement of “Only the Good Die Young”? Tabitha James absolutely sold the solo in the second verse.

ACC : Captain and Tenille –– Classy. Timeless. Nautical.

MWC: Gwar –– For no particular reason. Why is that guy, with no apparent musical responsibilities, standing in the back of the picture with so much fake blood on him?

BIG EAST: Aerosmith & Run DMC on “Walk This Way” –– On paper it looks like an unlikely marriage. But you mix it all together – I believe the kids call it a “mash up” these days – and what comes out on the other end is pure sonic bliss – at least according to bjw. Afterall, he wakes up every morning and immediately puts this song on repeat so that it will get him up and at ‘em, and will remain ready to greet him when he walks back through the front door, as if to ensconce him in supple arms and whisper in his ear, “You’re home.”

PAC-10: Coldplay –– you know how I know you’re gay?

You like the Pac-10.


Tuesday, October 23, 2007

What is Wrong, Wrong With American Distance Running

Public: Can some random person please make an obvious, worn out point about what should change in American distance running to make it more popular?

ME: Ok, I will.

I love these people who think they need to tell the world via internet how things would be better for all distance runners if they were running the show. They are simple-minded egomaniacs who need to realize that "American distance running" is not some lumbering beast blindly wandering around, just waiting for someone to point him in the right direction.

What is wrong, after the jump.

Seriously, here is what is wrong with American distance running:
This ad is hanging up around NYC. Subways, buses, the usual. It is lame as hell. I can see my Grandma designing this ad. Nana loves Lady Liberty. Unfortunately, Nana is not who we want to get excited about the trials.

Leading up to the U.S. Open tennis tournament, which was in NY, there were posters in the same spots with pictures of Roddick, Federer, Serena, Sharapova, and the other big stars looking all young and hip. Commuters had some young, good looking individuals to look at while waiting for their train and, in the process, learned that the U.S. Open was going on and if they wanted to be hip, they should check it out.

No one in New York is going to be attracted to a picture of the statue of liberty, unless they just got here from 19th century Poland.

I am convinced that the trials deserves a similar marketing technique. Instead of using some no name Runner's World model, put up a picture of Ryan Hall crossing the line in Houston, Meb with his silver medal, or Abdi licking a sneaker. Maybe even put their names and some information about them underneath their pictures. Then, some people might actually know some names of the guys running in the race on Saturday, which is usually a prerequisite to cheering for them.

Of course, simply creating a different print ad is not going to make drastic changes, but this principle can very easily be extended to other ways usatf and big events like the NYC marathon can promote the sport. The USTA, the association that puts on the the aforementioned U.S. Open, is a remarkably conservative and unhip organization, but they successfully market their events and players as the opposite, which is to say young, exciting, and fashionable.

One of the first things that can be done to generate excitement is to promote the individuals and give them a personality or, rather, to give them a chance to let their personalities shine through. Well, there are some cases where we should probably just give them one (Anday Rownbay).

Either way, give people a chance to learn the differences between runners and then let them choose sides. Whether they love or hate how cocky one runner is or how humble another runner is, they at least have some sort of preference to the outcome of the race. Every type of contest is more exciting if you care who wins or loses.

For instance, I only like watching soccer during the World Cup because I want the U.S. to do well. Other times, the sport is rather dull. I also only like watching fights when I want someone to get beat on real bad. This is the principle that needs to be used to market the sport. We have to get some runners to be hated and others loved. (by the way, I was just making that one part up to make a point...I really like to watch all fights, especially in public places.)

I realize that I have slowly rolled away from my original point about the ad. Basically, distance running is an individual sport. The individuals need to be at least recognized before anyone cares if they do well or not. A print ad hanging up all around the city would be a significant step in that direction.


Monday, October 22, 2007

A Monday Morning Time-Waster

I know it's not quite track season yet, but here's a little something for those bored moments in the coming work week. I'm sure this little game has been around the Internet a couple times, but I didn't discover it until recently, so it may be new to some of you. Since I work in a space shared by several people I was forced to hammer the keys, while trying to maintain relative quiet, and let me say, it ain't easy. For those craving an extra challenge, try doing the same - double points will be awarded. By us, not by the game. It can't hear you.


Saturday, October 20, 2007

Best/Most Talented/Fastest American Field Ever?

It is inevitable that there will be (and has been already) a great deal of opposition to this "greatest field ever" label that has floated around the trials. Quite frankly, it's easy to see it from the old guys' point of view.

I mean, I know when I was in college, my team used to train harder, party harder,
run faster, and eat more. And, despite the same training, faster times, and same dorm cafeterias that the current team has now, that stuff is still true.

One thing I hate: People who think it was sweeter than it is now and feel the need to always tell you about it.

That said, in the early 80's there was indeed a strikingly deep field of American marathoners. There were a LOT of guys between 2:12 and 2:17. There were not, however, as many under 2:09.

Meb kinda sorta almost cancels out Frank Shorter. But, there are a couple of guys who have run very close to or faster than Frank ever did which makes this field faster and deeper up front than any ever. As for a more general idea of depth, it's tough to say if we're looking at the best ever.

Here's the thing: This trials is the best we've seen in a long time. It's easy to think this field is the best ever when a short time ago we were struggling to get people under the Olympic 'A' standard. There are a LOT more 2:12 to 2:17 guys than there were in the last twenty years, but not quite as many as the early '80's.

Which one makes a better field, the depth of quality up front or the depth of 2:12 to 2:17ers? That's a personal decision I guess. "Fans" probably care more about the former while guys who are running or have run close to 2:17 in the past probably care more about the latter.

The discussions are entertaining, though, and good for the sport. I always imagine an exchange with Joe Old Guy gesticulating, throwing out his back and breaking his hip, trying to convince Billy Young Gun that Beardsley was a man and Ritzenhein a mouse.

Face it: Old people are lame and have romantic, cloudy memories. Young people are brash, selfish and have a limited sense of history. Ryan Hall may be the new Frank Shorter which makes Frank Shorter the old Frank Shorter and, let's face it, no one wants the older model of something.

Look at the time in the picture of Ryan Hall. LOOK AT IT! This is American distance running. Things matter in this order:
1. Olympic Medals
2. Times
3. How many beers you drink
4. Your place at New York/Chicago/Boston/London

I have not answered any questions here. I realize that. I have, however, decided the question is unanswerable, like a lot of life's questions. I look forward to the message board scuffles regardless.


Friday, October 19, 2007

I Heart NY(rr)

…kind of.

A few vocal members of our running community (or maybe many, I can’t be sure unless wejo makes people register to post on that damn message board) have been passionate in their outrage at NYRR and Mary Wittenberg in particular. Criticism has been focused mainly on the corruption that the evil Frau Wittenberg has brought upon our innocent sport, which was apparently uncorrupted by money and politics until she came along.

Some would have you think Mary simply sits high above the city with a bellyful of kraut and bier, signing millions of dollars away to the fat cats at USATF, all the while smiling through cabbage-dotted teeth. That is (probably) not true.

They wonder how a person can think that American distance running could be improved by simply throwing a (relatively) large crapload of money at it.

The unromantic truth: that is exactly what needs to happen sometimes.

I am all for those 60 year old guys who’ve run Boston 30 times and saw Rodgers and Shorter do well without fat cat support. But, the times, they have a-changed. There is more competition, both in the pool of athletes and in sports marketing, and dollars just plain help when it comes to developing runners and, moreover, quality events.

This is not a hardcore capitalist’s view, it’s the truth. If there is to be exciting distance running events filled with high quality athletes, then someone has to be willing to put up the money for huge events in huge venues.

The NYRR so far have set such a quality stage. They have also engineered an unprecedented amount of build-up toward the meet. Of course, I do not think they have gone about it perfectly (more on what they have done wrong later), but they have created a (relatively) large crapload of hype.

It certainly doesn’t hurt that they are hyping the best American field in history. But, it also doesn’t hurt that it is in the most famous park and the most famous city in the nation. I don’t care how pure it might seem to have the trials in small town America, NYC is exciting and hip and has lots of shit to do after (and before) the race (see: Terre Haute after xc nationals). Wittenberg and NYRR have provided that venue and have at least made an attempt at providing serious hype. It has been a good start so far.


Weekend Preview

Conference meets are next week, so the picture says it all. I'm pretty certain this is, more or less, what every team around the country will be doing.


10/16 Poll: All Shook Up

Lots of new faces in the new national poll (w. Pre-Nats finish):

t8. Cal (3b)
17. Tulsa (6b)
26. BYU (11b)
30. Florida (14w)

Other big jumps:
2. NAU (1b d. Iona, prev. 15th)
3. UTEP (1w d. Buffs, prev. 20th)
11. Virginia (4b, prev. 29th)

And over in the regional polls, Florida State is our only sandwich team, making a strong case to be The Honorary #31. Sure, why not. And, finally, in case you didn't notice, they have Colorado needing an at-large bid to get to Nationals behind NAU and UTEP. Hahahahaha.

[photo from Trackshark]


Thursday, October 18, 2007

Faster, Higher, Less Voluptuous

First they guaranteed perfect weather for the duration of the Olympics. (They will dissipate potential rainclouds by shooting rockets into them.) Now they are guaranteeing that athletes will receive their medals from only the slimmest, hottest of young Chinese women. No word yet on whether this guarantee is predicated on a plan to shoot rockets into the "big bottoms" the planning committee is so worried about. But if it is, sign me up.

[by way of Deadspin, via 100 Percent Injury Rate.


Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Willis Gets Married, Looks Relaxed, Easy

Yeah you've probably already seen the pictures, but I thought I'd weigh in: big thumbs up on the suits in lieu of tuxes. Thumbs up on the fit of the suit on Willis. Meh on the boutonnieres, which are borderline out-of-hand in size. Meh on the brown with the red - a nice harvest pink* would have worked better with the chocolate dress, but since the red was probably picked first, may we suggest something lighter, say summer oak* instead?

More importantly, the results from Willis' wedding don't tell the whole story - did you see how easy he looked doing it? He just looked so relaxed and so strong late, that you have to figure that's worth a couple more years on their married lives, at least. The numbers might not have been as good as maybe someone else's wedding, but that shouldn't discount how effortless Willis looked.

* colors may or may not have been made up


Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Trials Preview in Free NYC Magazine

I stumbled upon a bit of running literature today: for any New York-folk, I recommend keeping an eye out for a magazine called Metro Sports NY. In the current month's issue, the magazine features a pretty decent preview of the NYC Marathon and Olympic Marathon Trials: a course map with mile markers and recommended spots to spectate, and short mini-bios of the main contenders... and they get it right, covering just about everyone of note other than the Olympic dark horse darling of the NYRR Media team, Josh Rohantinsky. (I, for one, think he will end up being be a non-factor in his first marathon, but if the race goes out too "tactically" (read as, "slowly") then who knows?)

Anyway, serendipity brought me upon the magazine outside of Penn Station (7th Avenue entrance, beneath the Madison Square Garden marquee) in one of those big black cabinets holding a variety of publications behind their respective doors. Don't know where else you might find it around the city, but it's at Penn, if nowhere else, and, it's free. Not bad train reading, at all.


Monday, October 15, 2007

The Weekend That Was: Pre-Nationals

bjw... tall, wiry, reasonably handsome when I squint my bad eye, and... prophetic? His earlier post about times at Pre-Nats certainly framed the major story of the weekend. This time around, breaking 25:00 got you 148th place in the Blue race [ind, team]. 156th in the White race. 17th in the Open. 24:59... #1 in your parents' hearts, #321 - and counting - in the nation. Searing times at Pre-Nats highlighted the Weekend That Was. More after the jump.

McDougal clocked a 23:12 to set the course record at last year's Pre-Nats. That is very, very fast. Lopez Lomong took down that record in the Blue Race and smiled: 23:02. But 23:02 was the new 23:12 for just a short while, as McDougal ran 22:56 in the White Race to reclaim his record, screaming "That's mine, bitch" as he crossed the line*. The immediate question is, how is this course not short? But, as a Championship course that is cut into the grass and marked year-round, it's not subject to the accidental shortening that could take place year to year like you might see at your run-of-the-mill high school invitational. Apparently conditions were just that perfect on Saturday. It makes you wonder - what could Bekele or Tadesse have run on on Saturday? 20:43? 16:12?

-- McDougal, obvi, but even more so, Lomong. Just sick, sick range.
-- "Robert" Curtis & Jacob Korir. Also cracked the old CR.
-- NAU. You have to like any team with a guy named "Morten Bostrom."
-- Pifer/Vaughn. But the Buffs still need a 5th. Pannone looked good in the Open, but, based on his time alone, he wouldn't have been the answer Saturday.

You May Have Missed:
-- UVA looked really nice. And Kevin T-Shirt ran 5 of the 8 Open Kilometers in 15:36, just a bit behind the lead-pack, before dropping out. Late-season secret weapon?
-- Bethke 24:17 to win the Open. Him, plus Eagon, and Wisco looks good, but hardly a clear favorite.
-- Chile: Arkansas 47, Abilene 74. Strang 30:11 in the Open would have him right up with Forrest.
-- PSU National: LaSalle wins over Oklahoma and Penn State, 62-88-120.
-- Georgetown perfect in JV meet at Princeton. High Fives all around, guys!

Finally, Iona missed Matt Kiplagat SORELY. An awesome showing by it's pack (4 in the top 18), but, regarding that #5 man, 88th at Pre-Nats = getting buried at Nat-Nats.

*Quote may or may not be fabricated.


Friday, October 12, 2007

Aren't There Other Meets Going On This Weekend?

And the answer is, no, there are actually no other meets going on other than Pre-Nats. Oklahoma State is not attending Chili Pepper this year so, yawn. And Great American actually CANCELLED its college races this season, due, probably, to the fact that no teams worth mentioning would have come. While we're on the subject, the high school races over at Great American have really slipped, huh? I just feel like those first couple years it was super-stacked and much bally-hooed, and the excitement has steadily worn off and it's been kidding itself ever since 2002. Maybe the rise of other interregional uber-meets around the country have diminished the anticipation and thus the meet's luster, too. Also, I used to walk to school uphill in the snow. But seriously, they'll let just about any team into the so-called Race of Champions now - I mean, even Long Island's St. Anthony's and Kellenberg are competing there this weekend.


Pre-Nats to Answer Questions

Pre-Nats are tomorrow. Obviously. For those keenly interested in NCAA cross country, it is a chance to sort things out, to get a sense of the pecking order, to see where the chips fall, to align all cosmic aspects of the universe. Who knew such grand things could take place in humble, smelly Terre Haute, Indiana not once but TWICE a year? There's been sniping that the configuration of teams in each race will merely rehash some matchups from earlier in the year. But clearly, these folks have been overlooking the fact that the meet organizers had a greater goal, answering, for once, for all, that age old trivia question: How many Division 1 schools have a nickname that neither ends in the letter 'S' nor includes a color, and WHICH ONE IS THE BEST AT CROSS COUNTRY? Predictions after the jump.

After Saturday, I will finally be able to sleep soundly, for
the stars have truly aligned for us. SIX of the very small handful of colorless, S-less D1 athletic teams will toe the line in the SAME race. How can you not be excited for this? It's at least as big of a deal as Ben Stiller and Owen Wilson teaming up to make a Starsky and Hutch movie. Blue race, your cup truly runneth over. Here is where I see the noble trailblazers of nicknamedom across our country shaking out after this weekend:

1. Stanford Cardinal - Cardinal period. Not a bunch of the birds.
2. NC State Wolfpack - A great name for a cross country team.
3. Notre Dame Fighting Irish - Why no backlash over this racist, racist name?
4. William & Mary Tribe - A classy institution, with the classiest of Indian-themed nicknames.
5. Syracuse Orangemen - Doesn't count as a color; it is the very essence of that little, round man.
6. Navy Midshipmen - Not at Pre-Nats, but they could hold their own there.
7. UMass Minutemen - Nobody likes a Minuteman. Probably why they're skipping Pre-Nats.
8. Illinois Fighting Illini - On this list only until PC lobbyists bring them to their knees.
9. Bucknell Bison - Also too cool for the Blue Race.
10. Georgia Tech Ramblin' Wreck - What's that you say? Yellow Jackets? Sorry, buster - that's their mascot.

So there you have it. It's really pretty staggering how good, on a regional and national level, most of these teams are. In other words, if you want to have a cross country powerhouse, you could hire a pied-piper coach. You could recruit a bunch of international studs. Or you could just lobby your Athletic Department to lop that S off the end of your school's nickname. Simple as that. Finally, by my calculations, there are just three other schools with D1 Cross to share this little quirk. Can anyone name them? Anyone? Bueller?

Oh, and Stanford doesn't really count because Cardinal IS a color. But I'm going to keep pretending otherwise.


Pre-Nationals (aka The "I'm really not that good am I?" Invitational)

We live in a self-absorbed world. This isn't news to anyone, I'm sure. Everyone seems to think they are the proverbial "bee's knees". They think they deserve their own space on the web. Some even think they are interesting enough to write something people would want to read on a "blog" (ugh). Enough people even think someone named Tila Tequila deserves a television show chronicling her bisexual (yaawwwnnn, that's not sensational enough for me) love tribulations. Because of this whirlwind of entitlement swirling around us, it is nice to know that there will always be times in life where a large amount of people can be brought back to reality.

The point: Pre-nationals is a reality check for all college runners who think they are anything. It is the closest you can come to plugging yourself in to that hypothetical, yet somehow very real, list of runners from best to worst. And that list is pretty depressing to the large majority of us.

Example: Say some joker thinks he is a halfway decent NCAA division one distance runner. maybe he is having a really good senior year. He goes to pre-nationals, sees the clock over the finish line and has run a huge PR (yes, PRs in Terre Haute are just about as worthy of remembering as track PRs bcause everyone runs there) and sits in the chute with a smile on his face, knowing he ran under 25 minutes. He thinks that is a pretty good time. He thinks he can finally consider indulging in some type of self-respect.

He later finds out he finished 111th, in the Blue race. 218th after combining the races. 232nd with the open race. Then he figures there are at least 50 (at least!) NCAA D1 runners out there who ran at Penn St. or Arkansas who are better. And don't even get our poor runner started on all the Division 2 and 3 and NAIA guys (who, by the way, run purely for the love of the sport unlike Mr. moneybags 111th over here) that could have beat him in Terre Haute.

Therefore, our confident hero has gone from a shit-eating grin in the chute to a blank stare on the van drive home after a few short math equations. He proceeds to erase his myspace page and any further thoughts about that absurd slef-respect thing. He has, after all, broken through the top 500 of college runners in America...or thereabouts.

Way to go!


Wednesday, October 10, 2007

10/9 Poll: Yes, Boys, You ARE #1... For Now

New poll. Oregon ascends. Arkansas falls. Zero movement out west regionally. Ditto the Mid-Atlantic. Florida an obvious honorary #31 with most votes and as only sandwich team. William & Mary now tied with each other for the top spot in the Southeast. I'm sorry, what I'm missing there? I'm just not seeing the Colonials making THAT much noise, although they looked solid if unspectacular taking 2nd to a Georgetown team that appeared, based on the results anyway, to be running controlled. Last I checked, NC State and Louisville each beat the Hoyas by over 70 at Nationals last year and brought more back this year.
If Pack/Cards > Hoyas
Hoyas > Tribe
Pack/Cards >> Tribe.


Sensationalism Beats Out Sensational Finishes

I admit: I typically get excited to check major marathon results to see only a) if an American had a huge race, or b) if there was a world-record or near-world-record performance turned in. So with a WR newly-minted and the Marathon Trials nigh one month from now, leaving few elite Americans at Chicago, I didn't even make a point to look up the results while out of town over the holiday weekend.

I first heard anything about the marathon on the evening news that I just happened to be watching - not my typical source of running information. And what did they cover? The medical issues caused by the heat. I was aghast that they didn't even MENTION the winner. Now that I'm come back to civilization, and have the seen the videos of the finishes, I'd even aghaster. How can you not spare 15 seconds to cover these races? On the off chance you haven't seen them, here is the terrific men's finish, and the equally dramatic women's finish. Reflecting back on last year and all the attention Cheryiout's fall got (it even made PTI), the coverage of THIS year's Chicago Marathon only drives home the point that the anchors and producers of American's sports news prefer sensationalism over real human and competitive drama.

I only wonder if the average American sports fan sees this coverage and wonders to himself if there was any story beyond that nasty fall or this even nastier heat.