Thursday, July 10, 2008

The Year of the Trials

There is a lot of talk these days about the upturn in American distance running. To most fans, the best way to measure whether the talk is valid is to see how the athletes do at the Olympics in August. The results will come in, we'll compare the Beijing results to the Athens, Sydney, Atlanta, and Barcelona results. Hell, we'll even throw in Seoul and L.A. for good measure, but you can forget about Montreal. Irrelevant. Only old people were alive in 1976.

When those inevitable comparisons come to pass, I think we can all agree that this year's distance squad will probably finish higher on average than any since, um, let's say '76, but '68 isn't out of reach either (we do have Lagat now, after all).

Results are results and, sure, it's great when the good old USA does well but, the big step forward this year is not in the runners' performances., it's in the success of the three Olympic Trials. These were events, man. Talk about a turnaround. Each of the three trials, 2 marathons and a track meet, were HUGE events where a LARGE group of people had fun, got enthusiastic, and cared about foot races.

New York City, Boston, and Eugene brought their A game and it showed. those cities have quite an A game too. They wanted their event to be the best ever and, in each case, it might be argued that they succeeded. Birmingham, Sacramento, and St. Louis, though? Are you kidding me? Not the best ever. Not close. Those cities could throw everything they had at the next 10 trials and still not be able to match what was done this year. They don't have the resources, the fan base, or the practice with big events. Which is something important to keep in mind for future national championships.

That is the exciting turnaround of this season. The big performances on the track will come, have already started to come. The right people have identified problems with preparation and the right people are working hard to fix those problems, and it is coming around. Watching it come around over a long period of time is the most fun thing about being a track fan. But, the events and the media coverage, along the excitement that both of those entities can create when done well, is the most exciting turnaround that has been most promising about '07-'08.

The domestic track season is over which means we all have a lot of computer screen watching to look forward to. It also means the big times and races are about to drop, which is fun, even if you are watching the action spread over a dozen or so pixels. The benchmark for track events in America, though, has already dropped in NYC, Boston, and Eugene, and it's a mark that should make us all pretty happy with where American distance running has turned.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Excellent summary; I agree.