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


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

Hooray for the Red, White and Runners

Every year around this time, and again in late November, I seem to have the same debate, either with myself, or with someone in the running flagrunnerscommunity: Which is the bigger running holiday, Independence Day or Thanksgiving? Are there more Firecracker 5,000s and Four on the Fourths, or more Turkey Trots? And which day draws more people onto the roads? Continue reading

Take a Step (or 9) Back for Sir Roger

The annual Cinco de Mayo parties and marketing campaigns may be winding down, but the following day offers another reason to celebrate, especially if you’re a runner, and even more so this year.

roger_bannisterThis May 6 marks the 60th anniversary of Roger Bannister’s historic run on the Iffley Road track in England, where he became the first man to dip under the “unbreakable” four-minute barrier for four laps of the cinder oval.

In the intervening six decades, running under four minutes has gone from being considered an unobtainable, superhuman feat to the mark of a really, really good miler (in fact college runners achieve the feat somewhat often, the latest occurrence coming at the Penn Relays last month).

Sub-four minute miles might be even more commonplace if the distance was contested more often, but sadly, that’s not the case.

Since Bannister turned the trick on that stormy English afternoon 60 years ago, the hallowed distance of the mile has been supplanted by its metric equivalent, the 1500 meters, a race which lacks the mile’s symmetry of four equal circuits of the oval, each to be covered in an average of 60 seconds.

Continue reading