SEPTEMBER CAT BIRD SEAT
By David Yon
It is time to start hoping for a few days of cooler weather. The roads are crowded again in the morning with kids and parents racing to school. The days are definitely getting shorter and, while September is still a hot month in Tallahassee, you can occasionally feel a respite from the heat and the most intense days are behind us. The racing schedule is full again with Tom Brown Bash, Under the Oaks, Sickle Cell and Prefontaine to name a few. Maybe that also means a few slightly faster times. And while football will grab most of the headlines, high school cross country teams have reported and begun preparing for their seasons.
A special thanks to Felton Wright for taking on the task of putting on a one mile track event. I think everyone who participated had a great time and several people have asked about trying to fit another one in before the fall is over. There are some very significant differences between a road mile and a mile on the track. With all of the great track and field that the month of August brings, it is nice to have a little taste of the sport here at home as participants. While my time (nor anyone else’s for that matter) certainly could not compare to the world leading 3:44.60 run by Hicham el Guerrouj in Nice on July 16 ( or his world record 3:26.00 1500 meters run on July 14 in Rome), it was fun to get a feel for the tactics and strategies of the ‘oval.’ If you ignore the recent drug suspensions for a couple of American athletes, there seems to be a bit of a rebound in the sport in this country, especially in the distance events. I recently had the opportunity to watch an IAAF Grand Prix meet in Edwardsville, Illinois. In addition to a terrific send off for one of the sport’s icons and truly great class acts, Jackie Joyner-Kersey, there was a men’s mile race that saw 9 men, including 7 U.S. runners, break four minutes in front of a near capacity crowd. Boulder, Colorado has become a training spot for a number of U.S. distance runners that have the potential to be competitive on the world stage.
JJK, often called the world’s greatest female athlete, had the crowd at Edwardsville stomping and chanting every time she sped down the track for a lift off into the long jump pit. Edwardsville is a very short drive from the impoverished neighborhood in East St. Louis where she grew up. A week or so earlier she had pulled off one last miracle at the Goodwill games in winning the Gold medal in the heptathlon with a come from behind effort. There would be no such repeat drama here as, despite the crowd*s support and wishes, the best she could do was a sixth place finish. It did not seem to matter however as everyone from Olympic gold medalist to the mayor of East St. Louis to members of the current (and last) track team from Jackie’s high school alma mater paid tribute to her career. While so many great athletes forget where they started, it was obvious from this ceremony that Jackie has strong ties to her base in East St. Louis and that she has not forgotten her roots. Time and time the tributes were not so much for her 10 Olympic and World Championship medals or her world records, but rather for her ‘humanity’ and her commitment to give something back to track and field and to the place where she was raised.
I would sure like to see good turn outs for our last two lecture series this year. If you are among the many missing these events, you are missing a great opportunity to learn about our sport and how it affects our bodies and minds. Mary Jean has had a wide range of great speakers, including doctors, coaches and much more. On September 28, Sarah Docter-Williams will be dispensing lots of good knowledge. She has been an elite athlete at several sports and is now a physical therapist. Breeda Deenehy will speak on December 7 about Bogs, Tartan and Macadam: Lessons From 21 Years of Competitive Running. Breeda has plenty of elite running and training stories to tell us about with an Irish twist and maybe a tale or two about her recent Irish wedding to Lee Willis. Also don’t forget that the elections committee (Mae Cleveland, Bill Perry and Bill McGuire) are pulling together names for next year’s officers and directors. And the awards committee is looking for nominations for the many awards, including runner of the year given out each year. By the next issue, hopefully, we will have details about a year end party. We will have a band again and hopefully the American Legion Hall or something similar.
Till then I hope you find some downhill slopes that don’t pound the quads!