The Heat Is On In, and For, L.A.

If you’re a baseball fan, Spring Training is merely a platter of crudités to hold you until the real feast of the regular season begins next month.

If college hoops is your preference, you’re still a week away from your TV watching smorgasbord of the opening rounds of March Madness, which will culminate in the Final Four crescendo just about the time of baseball’s first pitch.

But if you’re a fan of running, it might be hard to find a weekend that rivals this one, whatever aspect of the sport you favor.

Like track and field? There are indoor championships galore, from the New Balance High School Nationals at New York’s 168th Street Armory, to the NCAA Division I championships at the University of Arkansas’ Tyson Center, perhaps the best venue in the country to stage and watch a track meet.

If your taste tends more toward competition on asphalt, there’s no shortage of high-level races this weekend either.

It began this morning in Jacksonville, FL, where the Gate River Run crowned the USA 15km champions, with Ben True making it three in a row and Amy Hastings taking the women’s crown to prove her preparations for next month’s Boston Marathon are right on schedule.

LAMarathon

Tomorrow, the action is centered on the two biggest cities on either coast. Shortly after 7, the United Airlines New York City Half gets underway, sending more than 20,000 runners, including some of the world’s best, through the streets of Manhattan on a route that runs from Central Park in Midtown, down the West Side, beneath the Battery at the lower tip of the island and finishing at South Street Seaport on the Lower East Side.

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Hitting the Lotto, New York Style

Today is the day thousands of runners — 80,080, to be exact — have been awaiting on tenterhooks for several months. Beginning this morning, a lucky 14,326 of them will be selected in the lottery for acceptance into the 45th running of the TCS New York City Marathon, which will be run November 1.
NYRR-logoThat number is up by 56 percent from last year’s lottery acceptances, which numbered 9,170. Last year’s figure was somewhat lower than usual due to the higher-than-normal number of entrants who were guaranteed spots after the 2012 race was cancelled in the wake of Superstorm Sandy.
The lottery used to be the primary way of gaining entry to the marathon, and in the pre-Internet days it was actually something of a rite of spring for runners to queue up to mail their entry forms on the first allowable date. In the intervening time, however, the number of lottery runners in the field, which is once again expected to total close to 50,000, has shrunk to less than a third, as other avenues of acceptance have gained popularity.
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In a race against the clock, excitement is often the loser

By the time most of you read this, Shalane Flanagan will have broken Deena Kastor’s eight-year-old marathon American record of 2:19:36.
Or she won’t have.
And that’s the problem with this, or any other, record attempt: It’s a Pass-Fail exam, all black and white, no shades of grey.
finish-lineclockSo while some may set their alarms to 2:30 a.m. on the East Coast to follow Flanagan’s attempt in Berlin online, I won’t be among them. I’ll be up early enough Sunday, on my way to time a local trail race, and I’ll check the Twitter feeds and message boards to see how she did, and if she was successful, file the time away in my memory bank of other semi-useful (or semi-useless, depending on your point of view) athletic facts and figures. Continue reading

Beyond Words

NHFatBroad

Sometimes, a picture is worth a thousand words.
Then, there are those times when no words will do, when our language, no matter how richly textured, is inadequate to convey the image observed.
Yesterday, just before the halfway point of the USA 20 km championships in New Haven, was one that fell squarely in the latter category.
As the men’s lead pack approached the city Green, a rather large woman, clad in flip flops and burgundy velour pants, began to cross the street in their path.
Thinking she was simply oblivious to the oncoming racers, warnings to get out of the way were yelled from the pace vehicle.
But instead of stopping and letting the men pass, the woman hopped right in with them, running along for several meters, an impressive feat given her footwear, clothing, and girth.
It provided a brief moment of levity for the leaders, and perhaps enabled them to momentarily forget the miserable conditions they were racing in, with temperatures and humidity both in the mid-80s.
Before the day was out, photos of this incongruous runner had gone viral on social media sites, and the following morning was the lead photo in the New Haven Register’s race story.
While the photo’s (and the woman’s) five minutes of fame has doubtless just about expired, for Labor Day 2014, it was the athletic image of the moment, right up there with streakers at the Super Bowl or animals on the field at a baseball game.

Long May He Run

People celebrate birthdays in a thousand different ways, but once you reach prime AARP membership age, the festivities for most people, unless you’re George H. W. Bush and favor sky diving, tend to be sedate, perhaps dinner and a movie and an early bedtime.

Dave McGillivray finishes his 60 mile birthday run.

Dave McGillivray finishes his 60 mile birthday run.

 

Of course Dave McGillivray, race director of the Boston Marathon and dozens of other big events like Beach to Beacon and this weekend’s Falmouth Road Race, isn’t most people. Since he was 12 years old, McGillivray has been running a mile for every year he’s spent on earth. Usually, he does this on a 3.5 mile loop around his hometown of North Andover, MA, although some past celebrations have occurred as part of transcontinental runs he’s done, once ending with a lap of Fenway Park before a Red Sox game.

This year McGillivray turns 60 (August 22 is the actual date if you want to send a card of electronic best wishes), so he decided to up the ante a notch or two by culminating the run with a celebration at his house for 170 friends and family. Throughout the history of these birthday runs McGillivray’s motto has been, “My Game, My Rules,” so this year he’d jump the gun by two weeks, scheduling the affair for the “off” week between B2B and Falmouth. Just as nature abhors a vacuum, so must Dave hate to see an unfilled date on his calendar. Continue reading

A Midwest Midsummer Running Classic Hits 40

There was a period back around the turn of the millennium when the last week in July meant I’d be boarding a plane to fly to Davenport, Iowa, for one of the fixtures of the U.S. summer racing circuit, the Bix 7.
bixlogoThe 7-mile race along the banks of the Mississippi forms the third leg of the July Holy Trinity of road racing, which begins in Independence Day with Atlanta’s Peachtree 10K and continues with the Boilermaker 15K in Utica, N.Y. Elite runners from East Africa can make a year’s worth of winnings taking a busman’s holiday on this circuit, and if they find they’re in good form and placing well, extend it into August at Beach to Beacon and Falmouth.
What defines Bix, which celebrates its 40th running this Saturday, are the 3 H’s – heat, humidity, and hills. I’d been warned about the first two before my first trip to the Quad Cities, but there’s nothing to fully prepare you for the steamy air roiling off the Big Muddy, raised to energy-sapping levels by the mid-summer Iowa sun. Continue reading

Has Major League Baseball Finally Jumped The Shark?

For years and years, Major League Baseball’s All Star Game was just that, a game, a brief respite in the long season to give the best of America’s pastime a chance to showcase their talents in front of a national audience who, limited by the local TV coverage of the time, rarely saw stars from the other ColorRunleague. It was a chance to settle, at least for one day, who was better, Willie Mays or Mickey Mantle, Whitey Ford or Bob Gibson.
Now, continuous interleague play and round the clock (and nation) coverage of games from every team has removed much of the magic of the Mid Summer Classic, even with home field advantage in the World Series upping the ante.
The All Star Game has also grown beyond a simple nine-inning contest between the best of baseball to become a multi-day extravaganza. The Home Run Derby, the Futures Game, the interactive FanFest have all served to expand, and some would say simultaneously dilute, the focus of the occasion. Continue reading