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Kenya’s Robert Kiprono Cheruiyot and Teyba Erkesso of Ethiopia had already crossed the finish line as champions of the 114th Boston Marathon. But our WBZ-TV broadcast still had another forty minutes of airtime to fill.  This is when we turn our coverage toward the masses of runners who make up the bulk and base of the old town race.

Our reporter on Heartbreak Hill was busy corralling whomever he could for a quick interview as the field trudged up toward 21 miles.

“Hi, you’re on live TV,” he began with one woman.  “How do you feel?”

“Fine,” she replied.

“What are you running for?”

Without a second’s irony, she replied, “3:30,” and continued on her purposeful way.

The reporter came to a stop, seemingly caught off guard by her response.  3,30?  Was that some charity he hadn’t hear of?  What did “3,30″ refer to? Flummoxed, he let the woman go, and sought out another runner. Well, of course, the woman was telling the poor soul the time she was shooting for in this, the most prestigious foot race in the world.

Ever since the BAA instituted time qualifications in 1970 to retard the size of the fields, Boston’s qualifying times have become the holy grail of average marathon runners the world over. Qualifying for Boston is often referred to as the People’s Olympics, and if you’ve ever stood at the finish line of a marathon as the clock ticks toward the Boston cut-off time, the emotion on the faces of the runners who make it, testify to the glory attached to earning a Boston bib number over and above simply finishing a particular marathon.

Boston isn’t like every other Tom, Dick, and Harry marathon where $70 to God knows how much will garner you a bib number. No, at Boston you have to be a real runner. Or, at least, that’s how the policy’s unintended consequences have turned out.

Nowadays, however, the sport has so given itself over to charity fundraising that the very concept of running a race for a fast time no longer computes.  And what if Macbook running slow? In fact, there were some runners who qualified for Boston who weren’t able to run this year, because the race had “sold out” by November 2009, many through charity entry.

Please don’t get me wrong. I am among those who believe that the charity connection to running has become a wonderful, and richly rewarding addition to the sport.  But what was once a side dish threatens to become the main course.  What do you think?  Has the charity component gone too far in running? Does any reporter ever ask Kobe Bryant, “what are you shooting for?”  Let us know how you see it.

We love sports because raw competition is there for all to see, unscripted, in the moment, neither burnished not tarnished by the money changers or middle-men.  Certainly the era of PEDs has put everyone on notice.  Any truth can fall prey to the dark forces of greed and lust.  And yet even though our faith has been shaken, we still want to believe, because, for all its frailty, sport fullfills man’s sense of exceptionalism. 

Tiger Woods is among the most self-possessed athletes in modern times. His record of golfing achievements stand in bold relief.  But Tiger Woods, the man?  I’m not sure we ever have, or will, see what’s behind the mask.  Not our right to know, except Tiger wants it both ways.  He wants us to follow, but not intrude, buy, but not pry.  But in accepting the former one forfeits the latter. Read more…

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Carey Pinkowski’s run in Chicago is enough to make even the Daley family jealous.  He began the celebration of his 20th year directing the Bank of America Chicago Marathon by announcing American star Deena Kastor as his first signing for the 2009 race. 

“We are lucky to have her, ” he told me,”just hope her foot holds up in training.”

It has been a remarkable 20 years for the event and the sport, not the least because of Pinkowski’s efforts.  When he took over Chicago in 1990 it was a sunken ship, having lost its sponsors, its pro runners, and much of the goodwill of the Chicago running community.  But by adhering to the path all runners must take to reach their full potential, starting slowly then proceeding to build up year by year, Carey has raised the great ship, and steered it back to the front ranks of the grand flotilla of world marathons. Read more…

June 15th, 2009

Make `em Laugh

Realizing this is now a weekend old (and that Runnerville has been down for months), but did anyone else watch the live cut-in of Usain Bolt’s 100m from Toronto on ESPN Sportcenter last Thursday night? 

If USATF ex. dir. Doug Logan wanted to witness the floor in the recession of this sport, all he had to do was pay attention to that presentation.  With the NBA Finals game four coming up next, the two Sportcenter anchors couldn’t have found a more entertaining or comical interlude if they’d switched on The Comedy Channel.

“Note to self,” mocked one after the first of two false starts.  “Never schedule a live cut-in with a false start.”

His partner was already in hysterics.

“It was the smilling guy in lane eight,” he said referring to the inimitable Bernard Williams, the Nathan Lane of sprinting.  Of course the smug ESPN boys had no idea who any of the sprinters in the race were except Bolt.  Not that that didn’t keep them from ridiculing the entire offering.  Read more…

July 17th, 2008

Doug Logan named USATF CEO

Doug LoganINDIANAPOLIS – The USA Track & Field Board of Directors on Thursday approved top sports executive Doug Logan, the former Commissioner, President and CEO of Major League Soccer, as its next CEO. A bilingual sports and entertainment leader with a proven track record of generating long-term sponsor partnerships, television outreach and high fan attendance, Logan and MLS in 1996 were named Sports Industrialist of the Year by Sports Business Daily. Read more…

Toni as host of and Matt as featured presenter at the first annual Running Film Festival.

(hat tip to Katie at RunningTimes.com)

Matt will be presenting this subject matter (but not this video)…

I don’t normally read ESPN Magazine, in fact I detest ESPN for only covering the drug aspect of our sport, but I found myself reading it as I waited at the local Jiffy Lube for my car to get an oil change. On the cover was the face of Kimbo Slice, the newest MMA star. The article went into depth on Slice’s life and how he’s become such a big star in the sport despite accomplishing so little.

While the article was entertaining, it also got me thinking that one of the reasons MMA has become so big is because UFC and the other organizations in the sport have done a phenomenal job at putting a face on their sport.

In the article the author stated, “Truth is, a star and some buzz are good for any sport; MMA should welcome Kimbo’s charisma, personality and ability to attract the uninitiated.” What Kimbo seems to be doing is a smaller version of what Lance Armstrong did for cycling and what Tiger Woods has done for golf. Those sports found their one poster boy, the one guy who could take their sport to the next level in terms of popularity and marketed that person to the extreme.

I truly believe every sport has a Lance Armstrong or Tiger Woods. That one person that has a story, shares their personality with the world a bit and comes out on top 9 times out of ten. But who are the athletes in our sport that have that charisma and personality, who win a bunch and can attract both old and new fans alike? I’d love to hear all of your thoughts on this.

May 17th, 2008

Like Sex and Chocolate

Wii FitTwo of my favorite things are video games and running. (There, I said it.) Actually, that’s not entirely true; sometimes I loathe running and, despite a recent attempt to re-ignite my love affair with the gaming world, I haven’t played video games “seriously” since college. But boy did I have an obsession for both a decade ago. True story: in college I developed tendentious in both thumbs from playing video games. I had to wear splints. But the rewards were well worth the consequences – I beat Mike Tyson, I completed GoldenEye 007 on all three levels in two weeks, I ran Bo Jackson for 894 yards in one game of Tecmo Bowl, and I absolutely killed it on Parappa the Rappa. My running accomplishments weren’t as exceptional nor rewarding, but as a sub-9:00 steeplechaser I wasn’t a slouch. So it was with both lust and dismay that I read Nintendo’s announcement of the Wii Fit. Read more…

April 7th, 2008

Welcome to the Internet Age

In last week’s Runnerville Weekly podcast, Matt Taylor discussed his conversation with Chris Lukezic about the lack of interest sponsors seem to have about getting their athletes out in the public eye.  Chris told Matt that if asked to do a public promotion he would gladly do it.  The conversation carried on to conclude that if Chris went out and met 100-200 new people, that the interaction with those people would create 100-200 new fans of Chris, as they would have a personal connection with him since they interacted with him.

While this sounds great, there is one piece missing from this puzzle.  Once Chris has 100-200 new fans, where does he send them to follow his racing?  Luckily for Chris he has a blog that he can send people to, where he provides commentary on his training and racing.  However, for the majority of professional athletes, blogging is not an interest they have or their sponsors have.  So where do fans get their news?

For the majority of die-hard fans out there, including me, we know where to look to find our running news.  We check LetsRun, FloTrack, EliteRunning, etc. on an obsessive basis to see if there just might be a piece of news we missed after rolling out of bed and turning on the computer in the morning.  However, do new fans know where to go to find professional running news? Read more…

April 3rd, 2008

From the Pros

Chris Lukezic: Future’s So Bright…Chris Lukezic is a good friend. He’s someone I admire and respect, not for his 3:33 PR and 2006 US Championship, but for his ability to 1) see running through a broader lens and 2) define himself as more than a runner. When I was an assistant coach at Georgetown (while Chris was a student) Chris and I spent many hours discussing the sport, most often at his favorite coffee joint – Murky Coffee, situated across the river in Arlington, VA. The most frequently discussed, and lamented, topic of conversation was the failure of our sport to market itself and its athletes in a already-crowded marketplace. Well, in June 2007 Chris started a blog. And last week he wrote one of the most intelligent and thought-provoking posts I’ve ever read from an athlete. I strongly urge you to read his words below. Chris, welcome to the conversation… Read more…