Fragments – Vol. 3


By David Yon

Can it be?

I saw the strangest sight Saturday morning. Out of the fog (so to speak) came a familiar looking person wearing a race number. Yes, it was Bill Lott and he was not testing the number for the finish line system, he was running the race!

GWTC is, of course, a wonderful organization, but there are some running treasurers around the area that occur with little or no help from our group. Rose City is one of those treasurers. (Others range from Eglin Air Force Base to Dothan to Boston with lots of stops in between.) Thank you Dr. Story and Thomasville crew for putting on a quality event every year and for letting Bill Lott run in 2006! Jessie Close grabbed his third straight Rose City title with a time of 34:32. It was his ninth win. (Sorry, but I don’t know yet who won the women’s race. In an interesting twist, the one-mile run actually closed out with 250 kids age 12 and under participating. One GWTC member was heard “having to call and pull strings to get my child in the race.”

Boston kicks off Marathon Big 5, London follows with Great Show

It is an old concept, but with a new application. Picking a few events from a multitude and making them marquee events for a sport can increase the profile of the whole sport. Tennis and Golf’s “grand slams” are the best examples. With literally hundreds of marathons run every year, it is hard for the winners to create the “star power” that can bring huge pay days. So the directors of the Boston, London, Berlin, Chicago and New York Marathons have formed an alliance to create a “Marathon Majors.” To add spice they have figured out a formula to recognize a “champion” based on runners’ performances at these events over a two year cycle and have committed $1,000,000 in prize money to the winners. In addition to these five races, marathoners can also score points in the Olympic Marathon and the World Championships if they fall in the two year cycle. The races will be scored on a grand prix style with first place being awarded 25 points, and the next four places receiving 15, 10, 5 and 1. Runners can only count their top four performances in any two-year cycle and they must run at least one marathon each year. If the series is tied at the end, the tie will be broken by (1) any head-to-head results in any qualifying races run by those two athletes or (2) if there were no head-to-head results between the tied athletes, the winner will be determined by a majority vote by the five race directors. Each year the top male and female runner will receive $500,000.

The competition got off to a great start with Robert Cheruiyot winning Boston with a course record time of 2:07:14, beating Cosmos Ndeti’s record by one second and earning a $25,000 bonus for that second. Rita Jepto took the women’s title with a time of 2:23:38 making it a Kenyan sweep. In London, it was Felix Limo out sprinting Martin Lel to lead seven runners under 2:08. The margin of victory was 2:06:39 to 2:06:41. On the women’s side Deena Kastor stopped a Kenyan sweep and put an exclamation point on the best weekend in a long time for U.S. marathoners. With a bronze medal in the Olympics, wins at Chicago and London and a sub 2:20 time, Kastor has proven she is able to compete against the best in the world and win. Her winning time of 2:19:26 was the eighth fastest time by a woman and makes her the fourth fastest female marathoner of all time.

But Kastor was just the beginning of the American madness. Khalid Khannouchi proved he was back with a fifth place finish at London. Meb Keflezighi led five Americans to top ten finishes at Boston and eight to top fifteen finishes. Meb, the former Eritrean who moved to the U.S. in his teens, battled the leaders for most of the first twenty miles before finishing third. His story has become a great story of perseverance and opportunity. Just as compelling a story, though, is the “team Hanson” parade. Seven years ago Kevin Hanson watched Boston and became dismayed when the top twelve runners all claimed other countries as home and the US runners produced another dismal performance. Imagine sitting around Sportsbeat and deciding “we are going to do something to bring quality running back to the US.” Well, Shannon Sullivan was known to provide a job and place to live to more than one needy elite athlete, but Kevin and his brother Keith owned a few more stores and had a few more resources with which to work and soon they were providing the means for a group of runners to live and train together. Or as Brain Sell, the fourth place finisher at Boston, put it: ”It’s similar to the Kenyan mentality. Get a bunch of guys who kill each other every day.”

Their model was the Greater Boston Track Club, home of Bill Rogers and other top runners who help create the “glory days” for U.S. marathoners. Boston became their number one target for redemption. The result in 2006 was spectacular as the Hanson-Brooks (Brooks jumped on board as a major sponsor) team placed seven runners in the top twenty with the top effort being Sell’s fourth place finish. In addition, to providing support, the Hanson brothers’ attention to detail is part of the key to success. On the morning of the race, Clint Verran (tenth place finisher) reported: “At the Copley Plaza, we placed our fluid bottles on tables marked for each 5K elite fluid station. Before we knew what hit us, our coach Kevin Hanson has a 6 page course map with the current temperature and wind conditions for each stage of the race. ‘He’s been up all night,’ I think to myself.” The Hanson training course in Detroit is designed to mimic the Boston course and includes a large “CITGO” sign one mile from the finish. As Boston veterans know the CITGO sign marks the one mile to go on the Boston course. The training course even included cut out poster girls from Wellesley to mark the halfway point.

I thought OLN’s coverage of Boston was very good – at least so far as marathon coverage goes. The network covered the best parts of the competition and generally stayed on task with a minimum of silly interruptions. Perhaps the biggest surprise was Carol Lewis. Mary Jean has often threatened to tie me down and administer sedatives as I screamed at her on the TV while she announced track meets. She can be way too shrill and determined to tell me more than I want to know about what she thinks the athletes are thinking and to tell me too many times. She was much more reserved and cautious, and therefore much better in my view, at describing the distance action. And she did her homework to prepare for an event that was outside her usual operating territory. Of course there was still Larry Rawson saying “do you know how many cattle a Kenyan can buy with the first place prize money” that is demeaning and silly. Also, I wish OLN could duplicate the motorcycle cameras that move back in forth in the pack when they cover the Tour de France.

As usual Tallahassee was well represented at Boston. Tallahassee finishers (that I could find) included:

McDermott, Jack T. 37 M 2:53:31
Robida, John M. 25 M 2:57:12
Roberts, Andrew 39 M 3:10:02
Pletnick, Michael 21 M 3:26:12
McDaniel, Jerry 52 M 3:26:13
Emo, Warren A. 53 M 3:33:09
Leboutillier, Phil 40 M 3:34:30
Wilson, Kevin R. 30 M 3:50:52
Cunningham, Rob 57 M 3:51:48
Pardieck, Christy L. 27 F 3:52:34
Ausley, Loranne 42 F 4:06:10
Scovera, Kristen M. 36 F 4:11:46
Vargas, Louis A. Esq 56 M 4:11:47

FSU still Rolling

Andrew Lemoncello kept FSU’s record breaking performances rolling at the Payton Jordon Cardinal Invitational in Stanford, California by breaking the 5K school record held by Joep Tigchelaar when he ran 13:45.69. I will have more to say on that and other great performances by FSU in the next edition as the team prepares for a run on a national outdoor title. Former FSU runner, Vicky Gill used her support from the Chenoweth Fund to arrive at the meet on time and run a fast 5K time of 15:46.17.

On your next run remember:

You can’t arrest a man can for trying to break his own fall
Back on the Corner Again
With a Pigeon for a friend.

~John Hiatt.