Ryan Hall Can Learn a Thing or Two From Meb

The announcement earlier this week that Ryan Hall was withdrawing from next week’s ING New York City Marathon was met with dismay and disappointment in most quarters, but among some running cognoscenti the reaction was more of a head shake and “What, again?”

HallHall had a brilliant start to his marathoning career, including a dominant 2:09:02 victory in the 2008 Olympic Trials race in Manhattan’s Central Park, and a mind-blowing (and admittedly wind-blown) 2:04:58 at Boston in 2011, part of a five-year streak in which he ran two world-class marathons every year.

But in 2012, that brilliance began to lose some of its luster. The first cracks in his marathon dominance came at the Olympic Trials race in Houston, where he finished second behind  Meb Keflezghi, another American who has endured his own stretch of tribulations before reemerging as a top marathoner. Hall’s downward spiral continued at the London Olympics, where he dropped out before the halfway point, then accelerated with scratches from New York that November and Boston the following spring. The latest scratch makes it four consecutive marathons that he’s failed to finish, or even start. Continue reading

Running Brave, 49 Years On

Most commemorations of historical events wait for multiples of five or more to hold any sort of significant celebration, but there’s at least one that deserves recognition even though it’s just one year shy of the half-century mark.

Billy Mills wins the 1964 Olympic 10,000m

Billy Mills wins the 1964 Olympic 10,000m

In fact, it could well be argued that Billy Mills’ stunning victory in the Olympic 10,000 meter run in Tokyo on the ides of October, 1964, is worth celebrating on each of its anniversaries, and indeed, every one of the 364 days in between.

For those whose grasp of track and field history is a bit foggy, Mills was the Native American and U.S. Marine who shocked the world by outsprinting world record holder Ron Clarke of Australia, the pre-race favorite, and Tunisia’s Mohammed Gammoudi down the final straightaway to grab the gold medal in an Olympic record 28:24.4, a PR by almost 50 seconds. It remains the only Olympic gold won by an American in the event and was the only medal of any color until Galen Rupp won silver in London in the race last year. Continue reading

Minnesota Nice, x 26.2

Hyperbole is pretty much de regueur when it comes to advertising road races. “PR course,” “best post-race party,” “bands every mile” are just a few of the claims you’ll see bandied about on entry forms and websites for events of nearly every distance and size.

MTCM_vert_rgbBut the folks in the Twin Cities who put on their eponymous marathon every October aren’t exaggerating when they call their race “The Most Beautiful Urban Marathon in America®.” Heck, they’ve even trademarked the phrase, and why shouldn’t they? If it were ever contested in court, any other city 26-miler that tried to mount a challenge would be bounced out in a heartbeat.

When city marathons first started becoming the rage back in the ‘80s and ‘90s, in the wake of the success of New York City and Chicago in this country and London and Berlin overseas, there was an inside joke among those of us covering the sport that an urban marathon course had to include at least one stretch of industrial ugliness or housing malaise, just to ensure that the participants really knew they were in a city. But somehow, over a course that meanders from the start near the Metrodome in downtown Minneapolis to the finish near the state capitol in St. Paul, the TCM organizers have managed to route runners over 26.2 miles of the most scenic roads found within the limits of any city in this country. Continue reading

NYRR says “Ta-Ta” to ING

After a decade awash in a sea of orange, the New York City Marathon will switch colors to royal blue for the next eight years, as organizers announced a new title sponsorship with Tata Consultancy Services, an Indian IT firm which will replace Dutch financial giant ING as the race’s deep pockets.
NYRR-logoIt’s no secret that Mary Wittenberg, NYRR CEO, has spent considerable effort the past year or more seeking to replace ING, which announced it was ending its 10-year deal with the race following last year’s Hurricane Sandy-induced cancellation. The timing of that release was purely coincidental but was nonetheless a kick to an organization that was already down after its flagship event had been torpedoed for the first time in its 42 year history, not only by the gale force winds and water of Sandy, but even more by the shifting political winds of City Hall, from where Mayor Michael Bloomberg imperiously declared “the race will go on,” then did a 180 less than 48 hours before the starting gun when it became apparent that the majority of citizens of the Big Apple were opposed to holding a five-borough fitness celebration when so many of them were without power, water, or even shelter. Continue reading