Sunday, July 10, 2016. Hayward Field. University of Oregon. Eugene, Oregon. Track Town USA.
It’s 3:00 P.M. Malinda and I have settled into our seats in Section C, Row 28. It’s the last day of the 2016 Olympic Trials. The race we’ve been waiting all week for, the Women’s 1500 meter Final is at 5:00 P.M. T-minus two hours to go. 120 minutes. How will we pass the time?
We’ve come to watch and cheer for Shannon Rowbury. Shannon arrived at Sacred Heart Cathedral as a freshman in the fall of 1998. It was also my first year as the head coach at Sacred Heart Cathedral. Eighteen years and hundreds of memories later, here we are.
You would think that after multiple USA Championships, World Championships, and Olympic Games and this, our third Olympic Trials, we wouldn’t get nervous anymore. We do.
I decide to take a selfie and post the picture to social media. That will eat up some time. It should be noted that the sign Malinda is holding in the selfie was made earlier in the Fan Fest as a means of eating up time and alleviating nervousness.
It’s now 3:09 P.M. Down to 111 minutes.
I busy myself watching the pole vault and high jump. I spend some time looking up the heptathlon scores heading into the final event on my smartphone. I make some small talk but at times like this, I prefer to be just left alone – me and the thoughts screaming silently in my head. The women’s 5000 race starts and it’s pretty exciting. That distracts me for about fifteen minutes and five seconds.
Suddenly it dawns on me. Very few people among the 22,000 spectators in the stadium have such an emotional investment in the outcome of an event. For most, if your favorite athlete makes the Olympic team it’s, “woo-hoo” and high five the person sitting next to you. If they miss out on an Olympic spot it’s, “darn it, that’s too bad,” and on to the next event. I’m one of the lucky ones. I REALLY care if Shannon finishes in the top three or not. It’s that mystery of not knowing if it will be the thrill of victory of agony of defeat that makes sports so riveting. It’s why they run the race. This revelation, that I am blessed to be in my current stressful situation reminds me of a quote I often share with the Sacred Heart Cathedral teams, “pressure is a privilege.” If there’s no pressure, you either have no chance or you are such a sure thing that it isn’t challenging and thus not as much fun. You actually should want there to be pressure.
I decide this deserved another social media post.
Now it’s 4:49 P.M.
I look over and notice that Shannon’s friend Aysha is putting lipstick on Malinda. This hot pink or red lipstick has become Shannon’s signature look, an homage to her grandmother Nonie, who passed away five years ago. Aysha asks me if I want lipstick. I look at her questioningly. But then Shannon’s mom, Paula, says “Oh come on, Andy.” Hey, an Olympic spot is on the line. If I need to “lipstick up” to help get the job done, then I better pucker my lips. The timestamp on my phone says that by 4:53 P.M. I had done my part to get to Rio. Now it was all on Shannon.
Shannon and Jenny Simpson were the clear favorites in the race. Brenda Martinez, doubling back in the 1500 after a heartbreaking fall 150 meters from the finish line in last week’s 800 meters, was also someone to contend with. Morgan Uceny, the 2012 Olympic Trials champion, has been looking strong and should not be counted out. The field was deep and there could easily be a couple other runners from the pack who could make this challenging.
The first two laps were typically on the slow side with lots of bumping and pushing. All the contenders were bunched together and in position to make their run for Rio. With about 450 meters to go, right behind Shannon, Alexa Efraimson and Lauren Johnson made contact, with Johnson being bumped off-balance.
With 400 meters to go, Uceny passed and cut-off Shannon, causing Shannon to fall back to fifth place. Shannon was boxed in with Uceny in front of her and Efraimson to her right. There was nowhere to go. I remember hearing Malinda screaming in a very panicked voice. I kept thinking, “there’s still 45 seconds of running left. She’ll get out of the box and then she’ll kick.”
With 250 meters to go, Shannon passed Sara Vaughn to move into fourth place. But with 200 meters to go, there still wasn’t a whole lot of room for Shannon to start her kick. “Still 30 seconds of running. There’s time,” I said to myself, this time my rhetorical voice sounding a little more panicked. Shannon would tell me later at dinner that she stayed patient and she knew there would eventually be an opening and when it came, she’d take it and go.
Finally, with about 150 meters left, Shannon got past Efraimson and had a clear path to chase Uceny and Simpson. Martinez was closing hard as well and Amanda Eccleston was right there in the hunt, too. But Shannon shifted gears and easily pulled into second place where she safely remained until the finish line.
The next few hours are a bit of a blur. We waited for Shannon to come around on her victory lap to give her hugs. She seemed thrilled to see me wearing the lipstick and we of course took a picture together. From there we went out to the Fan Fest where we danced to the live music, drank a few beverages, and cheered wildly when they presented the awards for the women’s 1500 meters. As we left Hayward Field, we noticed they hadn’t added Shannon’s name to the “Who Made the Team” board. Taking out my Sharpie, I decided to help them out.
First there was Beijing. Then there was London.
And Rio makes it a Trio.
When the World Cup began a month ago, my main interest in the event was how well Brazil could host an international sporting event. Whether Brazil could successfully put on the World Cup safely for the spectators would go a long ways towards Malinda and me deciding to go to the 2016 Rio Olympics. Over the last four weeks, however, my interest in soccer (futbol) has grown tremendously. I’ve loved following the games and reading up on the nuances and intricacies of this “beautiful” game.
Being just four time zones from Brazil made viewing games very easy – one game at 9:00 A.M. and a second one at 1:00 P.M. Our maintenance staff had all the games on the plasma screen in the school dining hall. I even met friends at a sports bar to watch a game and watched another in a hotel lobby with family. The convenience and social aspect of following the World Cup were winning me over.
Of course I was cheering for the USA team but all the pre-World Cup hype of being in the “group of death” made me think it was going to be a short lived run at this year’s World Cup for the Americans. That all changed after watching the Portugal game. It was an exciting game and as a soccer rube, I have to admit, the increased scoring at this year’s World Cup (thanks to the new ball, the Brazuca) has helped keep me interested. The agony of Portugal’s tying goal in the fourth minute of injury time only increased my passion.
Soon I was downloading the IAAF and Watch ESPN apps. I was studying up on the Group Play tie-breaking rules (goal differential BEFORE head-to-head). I watched more “I Believe That We Will Win” videos than I care to admit. I participated in social media, using the hashtag #USMNT and posting things in anticipation of the Germany game.
Even the loss to Germany did not dampen my excitement. The USA was on to the knockout stage! I started reading futbol websites in between my visits to LetsRun and the USATF Rewards page. The Five Thirty Eight website is chalk full of statistical analysis. Stats and numbers? Like track? I believe that you should sign me up! I was not and still am not an expert on the sport, but I was enjoying pretending to be one.
The USA-Belgium game was such a rollercoaster. The drama reminded me of the Olympic Trials 5000 meter race when Kim Conley came from behind to grab the last qualifying spot to London. And that Tim Howard guy?! Sixteen saves! I didn’t need a website to tell me it was a performance for the ages. Then reading more about Tim Howard and how he’s battled Tourette’s syndrome made me respect him and his performance even more.
Although the USA was eliminated, my interest did not wane. With each passing game bringing us closer to crowning the champion, the tension for the teams grew as did my excitement for the drama that was about to unfold.
The quarterfinal game between the Netherlands and Costa Rica was a great battle between two teams that didn’t want to lose. In the final minute of extra time, the Netherlands coach Louis van Gaal replaced his goalkeeper Jasper Cillessen with Tim Krul. It seemed like a strange substitution to me. The announcers said that Krul was two inches taller than Cillessen and thus had a larger arm span to block penalty kicks. This fascinated me. What a great idea…if it works. And it did!
I have grown up following baseball, where the “closer” is the relief pitcher specialist used only to protect a lead in the ninth inning. World, meet Tim Krul, the first penalty kick goalie specialist. Maybe in a few years, every team will have a goalie specialist for penalty kicks. I can see how it is a slightly different skill set to defend the goal in the course of the game when you have to track multiple players (including your own team) and the ball; versus defending the goal against a single player taking a penalty kick from a known location. The fact that Krul “talked a little trash” to get in the heads of his opponents only made this more interesting. Yes, my Google searches for Tim Krul approached my Google searches for “I Believe That We Will Win” videos.
The semi-final games were certainly a contrast. One history making blowout and one scoreless draw that came down to penalty kicks. All I can say about the Germany-Brazil game is this graphic sums it up pretty well (and humorously, too).
As for the Argentina-Netherlands game, I don’t understand why van Gaal didn’t save a substitution so he could put in Krul. I’ve been looking for the message board on WhoScored so I can post a critical comment about this (anonymously, of course).
But now it’s all over (congratulations, Germany!). And I am left wondering, what to do with myself? What will I do with the this extra time now that I’m not watching games in the middle of the day? Not listening to podcasts and reading blogs about the World Cup? Fortunately, cross country season is right around the corner and there’s a Diamond League meet in Monaco on Friday.
Since getting into running and coaching, I have been less fanatical about the typical professional sports (and teams) that dominated my attention growing up. More LetsRun. Less Sports Illustrated. But the Seattle Seahawks recent run to the Super Bowl re-kindled the sports fan buried deep inside me.
I became a Seahawk fan back in 1978. I must have liked the logo on their helmet. There was also something special about the lefthanded quarterback, Jim Zorn, and his favorite receiver, Steve Largent. During that 1978 season the Seahawks beat the local Oakland Raiders two times to finish with a record of 9-7. It was not spectacular, nor was it enough to make the playoffs. But for an expansion team in just their third year of existence, it was a solid season. They finished with more wins than losses for the first time and were the first team to beat the Raiders twice in a season in 13 years. The Seahawks of this era were known for their trick plays such as fake field goals and fake punts, onside kicks and scrambles by their quarterback. I was hooked – a fan for life! Little did I know that cheering for the Seahawks would lead to many sad days. When it wasn’t football season and the Seahawks weren’t disappointing me, I had the Houston Astros to step in and break my heart instead. Let’s just say, there haven’t been a lot of championship days for me and my sports teams.
In 2013 on Super Bowl Sunday, I was home sick in bed with pneumonia. For the first time in many many years, I missed the Kaiser Permanente San Francisco Half Marathon. It was heartbreaking to stay home on what most of us in Pamakids consider the biggest day of the year. In the afternoon, I watched Super Bowl XLVII from my bed.
This year was a totally different experience. I have been inspired by my Pamakid teammates and I’ve been training consistently to build back the base that I lost during my two bouts with pneumonia last year. I’ve been giddy with excitement for the Seahawks and Super Bowl XLVIII, reading every article and story that I can get my hands on and watching video after video in preparation for the big game. “I’ve been waiting for this game since 1978,” I told my wife Malinda, every night when she implored that I turn off the device and go to sleep.
I see a little bit of Pete Carroll in my coaching style. I like my teams to have fun but I also hold them to a high level of expectations. If you are on my team, you are expected to commit and work hard. Watching Carroll run up and down the sidelines, cheering on his team and constantly handing out pats on the backside and high fives reminds me of what I do at meets. His post-game speeches have given me new material for my post-meet huddles. And his mantras!? “Tell the Truth Monday.” “Competition Wednesday.” “Turnover Thursday.” “Each game is a championship opportunity.” I love that cheesy stuff!
Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson’s leadership and dedication has been truly inspiring. He went to last year’s Super Bowl just to get a feel for what the experience would be like because he planned to make it to the Super Bowl this year. I read story after story about Wilson’s upbringing, how his grandfather instilled a work ethic in his father and how his father passed it down to him. “Why not us?” Wilson told his Seahawk teammates back in training camp, as he planted the seed that the Seahawks’ goal should be to win the Super Bowl.
On the morning of February 2, 2014, I awoke to the sound of raindrops. As we are in the midst of a drought, it was welcome news for us Californians. But not exactly great news for the runners at the 31st annual Kaiser Permanente San Francisco Half Marathon and 5K. Before the race I tried to keep everyone positive and upbeat. In our team huddle before the race I reminded the team that while every day was a great day to be a Pamakid, that today was an especially great day to be a Pamakid. Then I looked people in the eyes and told them stick to their race plan despite the rain. “Be patient early. The race still starts at the Great Highway and I’ll be there to remind you of that,” I yelled, “Go Green on three!” I felt like I was leading the Seahawks huddle before they took the field for Super Bowl XLVIII.
The race unfolded beautifully. At the seven mile mark on the Great Highway, I saw most every Pamakid. I then ran over to the mile to go mark and waited for the return of the runners. In particular, I remember seeing Zack Hedling approach. I checked my watch. It read 1 hour, 14 minutes. If he wanted to achieve his goal of running a sub-1:20, he had six minutes to get in. Yelling like Pete Carroll, or like I do when coaching the Sacred Heart Cathedral team, I got in Zack’s face, “You can break 1:20 but you need to go now! Six minutes to glory!”
It was a glorious day for the Pamakids. In 2009, Zack was out top finisher in 99th place with a time of 1:24. In 2008, Adam Lucas was our top finisher in 59th place with a time of 1:22. This year, we had 5 runners in the top 59, all with times of 1:20 or faster. We’ve come a long way. Steve Lloyd was our first top 10 finisher in a long time, running an unbelievable 1:12:13.
Reading on Facebook (isn’t that the now official way of finding out if someone is pleased with their race or not) I read several excited status updates. Yes, it was a good day for the Pamakids:
– As mentioned already, Steve in 7th place (1:12) and Zack, sub-1:20.
– Matt H with a one minute PR of 1:18.
– Denis with yet another small PR as he inches closer and closer to 1:20 flat.
– Fiona pleased with her 1:40.
– Danielle H very pleased to run 8 minutes faster than last year with a 1:40.
– Marlyss and Catrine both pleased to be close to their PR’s despite the wind and rain.
– Akemi, shooting for a 1:53 and running 1:49.
– Jodi, not only breaking 2 hours, but also kicking in to break 1:59.
– Jim, running 6 minutes faster than in 2011.
– Karen, with a six minute course PR and knocking on the door of the 2 hour mark.
– Keith, Jeannie, and Theo all placing first in their respective age divisions.
– Marcia with a big last mile in the 5K.
As I settled in to watch Super Bowl XLVIII I was already excited from all the great race performances I had just witnessed. It turns out, there was one more grand performance left on this memorable day.
Seattle Post-Intelligencer writer David Nemhauser posted a blog the morning before the game. In the final paragraph, he eloquently expressed what Seahawk fans were feeling and showed his confidence that the Seahawks would win the championship:
The climb to get to this point has been long and treacherous. Fans deserve to savor every moment. Our shared history is marked by a collection of near-misses and nearly hopeless mediocrity. In a world permeated by equivocation and murkiness, we gather today to celebrate the opportunity for crystal clarity. One team will win. One franchise will walk away with an accomplishment that can never be undone. Seahawks fans know which team that will be. The rest of the world finds out tonight.
The Seahawks journey, much like the half marathoners’, was long and treacherous. I am trying to savor every moment from the race and the Super Bowl. February 2, 2014 was a Championship Day like no other!
In my mind there are eight primary running shoe brands. Below I give a brief overview of each company.
SAUCONY – 1898
Slogan: Loyal to the Sport.
Location: Lexington, MA
Famous Shoe: Saucony Jazz
High-Profile Runners: Magdalena Lewy-Boulet, Ryan Shay, Wallace Spearman
Saucony History: The company name Saucony comes from a Native American word, which means “mouth of a creek or river.” The company began making children’s shoes in 1898. The first factory was in Kutztown, Pennsylvania, on the banks of the Saucony Creek. The Saucony logo represents a river running over three boulders. In 1910, Russian immigrant Abraham Hyde started a shoe company called Hyde Athletic Industries. Over the years, Hyde became known for high-quality and technologically-innovative footwear including brands such as SpotBilt and PF Flyers. Hyde Athletic Industries bought Saucony in the late 1960s, and moved it to Cambridge, MA. By the late 90’s, when Saucony became Hyde’s dominant brand, the name of the company was officially changed from Hyde Athletic Industries to Saucony.
NEW BALANCE – 1906
Slogan: Let’s Make Excellent Happen.
Location: Boston, MA
Famous Shoe: New Balance 990
High Profile Runners: Jenny (Barringer) Simpson, Maggie Vessey
New Balance History: New Balance was founded in Boston in 1906 as the New Balance Arch Company by an English immigrant name William Riley. The company manufactured arch supports and orthopedic shoes. In 1934 Riley went into a partnership with leading salesman Arthur Hall and began marketing New Balance shoes and arch supports to policemen, waiters, laborers, and other people who spent much of their day on their feet. Riley had committed the company to providing relief from foot pain and other orthopedic problems. In 1938 they made their first running shoe, which they sold with a money-back guarantee. New Balance was the first shoe company to offer running shoes in multiple widths, consistent with their mission to provide every person, no matter their foot size or shape, with the best fitting shoe possible.
New Balance had always proudly manufactured their shoes in the U.S., but in the 1980’s the company shifted most of its production to Vietnam, Indonesia, Bangladesh, and other international destinations. This sparked a flurry of controversy in the mid 1990’s after a brief filed with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) disputed “Made in the USA” labeling standards. By the late 1990’s, New Balance’s production had shifted to China and scandal followed in 2000. Allegations turned out to be true that the New Balance factories in China operated in “sweatshop conditions.” A year later, in 2001, New Balance doubled its U.S. work force. Today New Balance still manufactures some of its products in one of its five U.S. factories by using modern management, high-tech production methods, and extensive employee training to offset the cheaper manufacturing costs of Asia. However, a large number of its products are still produced in China.
MIZUNO – 1906
Slogan: Never Settle.
Location: Osaka, Japan
Famous Shoe: Mizuno Wave Rider
High Profile Runners: Carl Lewis, Antonio Vega
Mizuno History: Mizuno began as Mizuno Brothers Ltd. in Osaka in 1906. Rihachi Mizuno and his younger brother Rizo were the founders. They sold western sundries including baseballs. Early on Mizuno made baseball equipment, skis, and golf clubs. Today Mizuno makes apparel, equipment, and footwear for its primary sports: baseball, softball, volleyball, golf, and running.
BROOKS – 1914
Slogan: Run Happy.
Location: Bothell, WA
Famous Shoe: Brooks Beast
High Profile Runners: Desiree Davila, Brian Sell, Hanson’s Brooks Team
Brooks History: Founded in 1914, Brooks began business as a maker of ice skates and cleated sports shoes, but the company did not distinguish itself until more than 60 years later, when it thrived as a manufacturer of running shoes. Brooks ranked as one of the top three brands in the United States during the late 1970s. Success during the late 1970s sent the company reeling during the 1980s, as it failed to sustain its market leadership and floundered. A refocused market strategy during the 1990s, targeted toward serious runners in the 35 to 54-year-old age bracket reinvigorated Brooks, prompting diversification into apparel in 1997.
ADIDAS – 1924
Slogan: Impossible is Nothing.
Location: Herzogenaurach, Germany
Famous Shoe: Adidas Supernova
High Profile Runners: Haile Gebrselassie, David Rudisha, Blanka Vlasic, Jeremy Wariner
Adidas History: Adidas was founded in 1924 in Germany by two bothers Adi and Rudolf Dassler. The company was first named Dassler shoes. However, in 1948 Rudolf Dassler left to start his own company which would become known as Puma. Once Rudolf left, Adi came up with the famous three stripes logo and changed the company’s name to Adidas. When Adi made his first shoes in 1920, he was inspired by a single idea. His vision was to provide every athlete with the best footwear for his respective discipline. He was the first entrepreneur to use sports promotion as a way of drawing public attention to his innovations. He began to use well-known athletes as advertisement for his products. Many famous athletes such as Jesse Owens and Muhammad Ali counted themselves among the friends of the adidas family. Aggressive publicity was one of the cornerstones of Adi’s corporate policy. He came up with a product innovation for every major sporting event, always documenting the superiority of adidas footwear.
PUMA – 1948
Slogan: Faster is Funner.
Location: Herzogenaurach, Germany
Famous Shoe: Usain Bolt’s spikes
High Profile Runners: Usain Bolt
Puma History: In 1948, after splitting from his brother Adi, Rudolf Dassler started his own company called Puma Schuhfabrik Rudolf Dassler. Puma gained popularity in the 1950’s thanks mostly to world-class soccer players and runners wearing Pumas.
For years there was a feud between Adidas and Puma because of the split between brothers Adi and Rudolf Dassler. In 2008 Barbara Smit published “Sneaker Wars: The Enemy Brothers Who Founded Adidas and Puma and the Family Feud That Forever Changed the Business of Sport.” In September 2009 the two companies, in the spirit of the Peace One Day program, staged a soccer game to officially end the feud. It was the first joint activity between the two companies since the brothers went their separate ways more than sixty years earlier in 1948. They didn’t play Puma against Adidas, but instead created two teams with a mix of employees from the two companies. Adidas boss Herbert Hainer and Puma chief Jochen Zeitz were both on the team that won 7-5.
ASICS – 1949
Slogan: A sound mind in a sound body.
Location: Kobe, Japan
Famous Shoe: Asics Kayano
High Profile Runners: Ryan Hall, Lolo Jones
Asics History: Kihachiro Onitsuka formed Onitsuka Co., Ltd., in Kobe, Japan in 1949. He was motivated by the use of sports as a means to rehabilitate juveniles after World War II. After World War II children could not get any sports shoes when they wanted to play sports. The company name was changed to ASICS in 1977, which stands for the first letters of the words in the Latin proverb, “Anima Sana in Corpore Sano,” meaning “a sound mind in a sound body.”
Slogan: Just Do It.
Location: Beaverton, OR
Famous Shoe: Nike Pegasus
High Profile Runners: Allyson Felix, Bernard Lagat, David Oliver, Shannon Rowbury, Sammy Wanjiru
Nike History: In 1964, Phil Knight and legendary University of Oregon track coach Bill Bowerman created Blue Ribbon Sports (BRS) to provide athletes with better shoes. BRS initially sold shoes manufactured by Tiger, which was a subsidiary of Onitsuka Company (the company that eventually became Asics). Their first year sales totaled around $8,000 worth of Tiger shoes. It wasn’t until 1971 that BRS introduced the concept of the greek winged goddess of victory—Nike—followed by the launch in 1972 of the company we know today as Nike. The Nike “Swoosh” was designed by Caroline Davidson, who was at that time, a student at Portland State University with an emphasis in advertising. She met Phil Knight while he was teaching an accounting class. She designed the swoosh logo and got paid $35. In 1974, the Waffle Trainer became the company’s first self-designed shoe. By the mid-1980s, Nike had slipped from its position as the industry leader, in part because the company had badly miscalculated on the aerobics boom, giving upstart competitors an almost completely open field to develop the business. Fortunately for Nike, the debut of a new signature shoe for an NBA rookie by the name of Michael Jordan in 1985 bolstered Nike’s fortunes. The “Just Do It” slogan was born in 1988. San Francisco Dolphin South End Runners Club icon Walt Stack, then eighty years old, appeared in the first “Just Do It” ad. In the 1990’s Nike faced criticism for contracting with factories in countries such as China, Vietnam, Indoneisa, and Mexico, where there were accusations of minimum wage and overtime law violations. Nike has also faced criticism for use of child labor in factories in Cambodia and Pakistan. Despite the controversies, thanks to international expansion, aggressive and savvy marketing, and innovative product development, Nike is considered the world’s leading supplier of athletic shoes and apparel.
Are you trying to figure out your next running goal? Today, I throw out some possible options to consider.
The Beer Mile
This is a classic race run all over the world. It’s basically running four laps with drinking a beer before each lap. Although probably most popular on college tracks the day after the season ends, the event is popular enough to have a lengthy set of rules and records.
The Egg Nog Mile
If beer isn’t your thing, some high school runners in the Sacramento area began a traditional egg nog mile in December 2007. The pictures (warning, they are somewhat graphic) and results from Egg Nog II show that the event is fun, competitive, and challenging.
The Donut Mile
If eating is more your thing, some of the guys right here in San Francisco, have an event for you – the Donut Mile. Footage from the 2009 winter running of this event at Kezar Stadium includes World 100K silver medalist and San Francisco native Chikara Omine in action.
Perhaps these guys were in training for the Krispy Kreme Challenge. This race takes place in Raleigh, North Carolina. Participants run two miles, then consume one dozen Krispy Kreme donuts, and then run another two miles.
If you don’t like drinking or eating while running, here’s one that will not tax your gastro-intestinal tract – backward running (a.k.a. retro running, and I’m not talking about wearing 1970’s Dolfin shorts while running). Reverse running events seems to be most popular in Europe. The third Backward Running World Championships were in Austria in 2010. If you look closely at the backward running results and records, the name Thomas Dold of Germany dominates in every distance from 800 meters to 2000 meters.
Dold is also known for his dominance at the Empire State Building Run-Up, sponsored by the New York Road Runners. In February of 2011 he won the event for the sixth year in a row, climbing the 86 flights and 1,576 stairs in ten minutes, ten seconds. The men’s record is 9:33. The 2011 women’s winner was Alice McNamara of Australia with a time of 13:03, well off the 11:23 women’s record.
Stairway races are becoming quite popular with the New York Times reporting that there are more than 160 staircase races in five continents and in thirty-four states. Pamakid Runner, Anders Ryerson, competed at the San Francisco Fight For Air Climb at 555 California Street in 2010. Ryerson, who came in fourteenth out of over 1,000 participants in 8:53, was just over a minute behind the winner. “The stairwell is dry and warm, so climbers need to drink plenty of water before hand or stop at the aid stations in various stairwells on the way up. The view from the top of 555 California would take your breath away except that the climbing has already done that,” says Ryerson. “Once at the top you get massages, food, drinks, 360 views of the city, and luckily an elevator ride back down.”
Most of the indoor stairway run-ups take place in high-rise office buildings or hotels. Some of the more famous stairclimbs are the Hustle Up the Hancock (Chicacgo’s John Hancock Building) and the Taipei 101 (a race up 2,046 steps in the second tallest building in the world). Outdoors there is the Niesen Treppenlauf, in Switzerland, which consists of 11,674 steps adjacent to a funicular with spectacular Alpine views.
Baby Buggy Relay
Perhaps team relays are more your style? Grab fifty of your best buddies, get a baby stroller and start running repeat 200 meters….for 24 hours. If you can average 27-28 seconds per 200 meters maybe you can challenge the Guinness World Record that was set in 1979. There were some pretty studly runners on this team and they covered 343.5 miles in 24 hours, which works out to 14.3 miles per hour or 4:11 per mile.
Mass relays, often involving 100 runners are a fun way to make it into the Guinness Book of World Records. The women’s 100X1 mile relay, that’s 100 different women, each running one mile, saw a rash of record setting performances in the 1990’s. In 1977 San Francisco Dolphin South End Running Club set the record for the women’s 100X1 mile relay, with a time of 10:47 (6:28 per person). That record stood for seventeen years until 1994 when the Syracuse Chargers broke the long-standing record, running 10:33:38 (6:20 per person). That started a flurry of women’s 100X1 mile relay attempts that saw the record change hands five times before the decade ended.
In 1995, the DSE answered back, asking me to organize a team to regain the record, which we did with a 10:15:29 (6:09 per person). In 1996, the Syracuse Chargers reclaimed the record with a 10:14:16 (6:08 per person) but it was shortlived as one month later the Houston Area Road Runners Association improved the record to 9:49:08 (5:53 per person). In 1997, this time under the team name AC’s Athletics Club, I organized a team to that re-set the world record. This time we ran 9:38:39 (5:47 per person). That record stood for until 1999 when the Canadian Women’s Milers Club ran 9:23:39 (5:38 per person) to set what still stands as the world record.
And if none of this is your cup of tea, then the Across the Bay 12K is less than a month away.
Before Valentine’s Day 2010, I wrote a blog titled “Love and Running.” As a follow-up, this year I share the story of a wedding proposal that took place on Sunday, February 7, 2011 at the finish line of the Kaiser Permanente San Francisco 5K.
This is a story about Phillip Cuevas, 35, and Lily David, 29. Phillip works at Kasier Santa Clara as a rad technologist in the Radiology Department. Lily works at Kaiser Hayward in the Labor and Delivery Department. They have been dating for nine years and four months. During that time, Philip reports that they enjoy participating in events together, “because they want to Thrive!”
Three weeks before the race Phillip decided it was time to propose and he came up with a unique idea to surprise Lily. Phillip signed up for the half marathon and Lily signed up for the 5K. They went to the start of the race together and when the gun was fired, started running.
Phillip sprinted ahead and veered onto the 5K route. At the finish line area, awaiting their arrival were Lily’s sisters, Janet and May. Janet and May had delivered some key items to Phillip at the finish line: a diamond ring, two dozen red roses, and a big banner saying, “WILL YOU MARRY ME? LILY DAVID”
According to the chip timing, Philip arrived at the finish line 28 minutes, 4 seconds after the race started, in 201st place. He had about eighteen minutes to prepare himself for Lily’s arrival at the finish line. As other runners finished the race they noticed the banner and many decided to stay around to see who this Lily was and to see if she would say yes. A big crowd began to gather at the finish line to watch. “As the crowd continued to get larger, I was getting a little nervous and excited waiting in front of the banner with two dozen red roses in my left arm and the small box containing the ring in my right hand,” said Phillip.
When the clock reached 46 minutes, 49 seconds, Lily arrived at the finish line to a cheering crowd. “As I was heading towards the finish line, I saw a huge crowd,” recalls Lily. Many of the spectators were taking pictures and video with their cell phones to capture the special moment of two complete strangers. From the picture at the right, you can see she then looked over to the side and saw Phillip and the banner. “I was in shock,” said Lily. “Then I knew he was going to propose to me. I got emotional and I started crying. I walked towards Phillip gave him a hug.”
At first Phillip just let the banner speak for itself. “She came up to me and I introduced Lily and myself to the crowd and told them we both work for Kaiser,” said Phillip. “I knew she was winded from running so I told her not to say anything and only listen to what I had to say. I expressed my feelings to her, gently grabbed her left hand and went down on one knee and offered the ring and said, ‘Will you marry me?’”
She said, “Yes!”
As I watch the baseball playoffs peppered by questions from Malinda about the role of running in baseball – triggered by Aubrey Huff lumbering home with the winning run on a sacrifice fly in Game 4 of the National League Championship Series (NLCS) – I’ve taken a new interest in the role that running has in the game of baseball. How important is speed to a baseball team?
I’m no baseball coach but I did a little research to provide a track coach’s perspective on running and baseball. I believe there are four main ways that running comes into play in a baseball game. 1) There’s running to first base after hitting the ball. 2) There’s stealing a base after getting on base. 3) There’s running the bases after someone else hits the ball. 4) There’s running while playing defense.
I am amazed at how perfect the dimension of a baseball diamond are. It’s ninety feet from home plate to first base. That seems to be the perfect distance to have close plays at first base on ground balls and bunts. No player in history has been able to consistently beat out a bunt or ground ball to an infielder. Mickey Mantle is credited by Major League Baseball (MLB) with the fastest time from home to first base both batting lefthanded (3.1 seconds) and righthanded (3.5 seconds). The statistics are all from a 1952 The Sporting News story.
Another statistic to consider when reflecting on speed and baseball is the stolen base. Rickey Henderson is the MLB all-time stolen base king with 1,406 steals during his career. Henderson also holds the modern day single season record with 130 steals in 1982 (Hugh Nicol is credited with 138 stolen bases in 1887 but many of those steals would not count as stolen bases under the modern day rules established in 1898). Related to the stolen base is stolen base percentage (SB%), as in what percentage of the time was a player successful in their attempt to steal a base. Henderson’s career SB% was 80.8%. Tim Raines holds the career record with a SB% of 84.7% (808 steals out of 954 attempts). The MLB SB% average for the 2010 season was 72%. The likely reason for such a high percentage is that players who have little chance of stealing a base (i.e. the slow guys) don’t bother attempting to steal. Vince Coleman holds a record for stealing fifty consecutive bases without being thrown out from September 1988 to July 1989.
Running from base to base in baseball is more than just raw speed. It requires tagging each base with your foot and changing directions at the base. According to the Guinness World Record Book, Evar Swanson holds the record for circling all the bases the fastest, running it in 13.3 seconds in 1932.
Most other measures of speed while running the bases are subjective, not objective. The same is true of a player’s speed while playing defense.
In reality baserunning in baseball is more about smarts than speed. Most if not every major league team employs a baserunning coach to teach these smarts. The Philadelphia Phillies have been particularly happy with the work done by their baserunning coach, Davey Lopes. That being said, one of Lopes’ pupils, Phillies pitcher Roy Oswalt, made a questionable baserunning decision in Game 2 of the NLCS. Oswalt “ran through the stop sign” by the third base coach and was actually lucky to not be thrown out.
Herb Washington may be regarded as one of the fastest baseball players of all-time. Washington was an excellent sprinter in high school and college. In 1974, despite not having any professional baseball experience but because he was the world record holder in the 50 and 60 yard dash, he was signed by Charlie Finley and the Oakland A’s. Washington became the A’s “designated runner,” a rather gimmicky idea of Finley’s. Few other baseball teams have ever used up a roster spot for a player who’s only role is to pinch run. Washington played in 92 games that season, stole twenty-nine bases, and scored twenty-nine runs for the A’s. He did not have a single at-bat nor did he appear on the field as a defensive player. All he did was pinch run. Washington earned a championship ring when the A’s defeated the Dodgers in the 1974 World Series. After playing in a few games at the beginning of the 1975 season Washington was released and never ran again in the major leagues.
Current San Francisco Giants centerfielder Andres Torres is said to have run 10.37 for the 100 meters as a teenager. This is quite fast and people on the Track & Field News message board questioned whether the mark was legitimate. No official record of his 10.37 was found and it was ambiguous if Torres did this in high school (possibly while attending a high school in Puerto Rico) or while in junior college. The Giants opponent in the NLCS, the Philliies’ Shane Victorino was the Hawaii state 100, 200 and 400 champion in high school. His 10.80 in the 100 from 1999 still stands as the Hawaii state meet record.
Several other major leaguers had strong track & field credentials prior to beginning their professional baseball career.
Deion Sanders was a multi-sport athlete from the 1990’s known mostly for playing both professional baseball and football at the same time. But, before that, in May of 1987, he had an amazing baseball and track & field day. The Seminoles baseball team was playing in the Metro Conference Tournament at the University of South Carolina. In the afternoon Florida State beat Southern Mississippi to advance to the championship game later that evening. Adjacent to the baseball field at South Carolina was the track, where the Metro Conference Championships were taking place and Florida State’s 4X100 relay team was in need of a runner. Sanders went over to the track, was quickly taught what to do, and successfully ran the second leg of Florida State’s 4X1 relay team; the team ran 40.24. Sanders then went back to the baseball field and had the game winning hit as Florida State beat Cincinnnati. One day, two sports, one athlete, and two Metro Conference Championships. After this, Sanders decided he liked track & field and dabbled in the sport, in 1988 he ran 10.26 in the 100 meters and also ran a leg on the fourth fastest 4X100 relay team in the nation.
Like Sanders, Bo Jackson played both professional baseball and football. During Jackson’s college days at Auburn, he was also a track & field letter winner. He qualified for the NCAA Indoor Championships in the 60 yard dash in both 1983 and 1984. His best time was 6.18 seconds.
Bernie Williams was signed by the New York Yankees as a seventeen year old in 1985. Williams would make his major league debut 1991 and enjoy a sixteen year career with the Yankees, playing in six World Series. However, prior to signing with the Yankees, Williams was a top junior 400 meter runner. He won four gold medals at the 1984 Central America and Caribbean Junior Championships. He ran 21.99 (wind-aided) in the 200, 49.29 in the 400, and also ran on the winning 4X100 and 4X400 relay teams. Years later, in 2002, at this same meet a guy by the name of Usain Bolt won the same individual events Williams won, the 200 and 400. I wonder what sort of a baseball career Bolt might be capable of?
While there certainly have been baseball players who were fast and contributed to their teams’ success, they haven’t been the stars of their team (Mantle being the exception). Why? Because to be a baseball star you need to be able to throw a pitch near a hundred miles an hour or hit a curveball. Neither of which are helped by your running ability.
The World Centipede Running Championship will take place next Sunday, May 16 as part of the ING Bay to Breakers. This will mark the twenty-fifth year of official centipede competition at Bay to Breakers.
For Bay to Breakers, centipede racing consists of thirteen connected (tethered) runners and one or two floaters. The floaters run alongside the centipede and can substitute in for a runner who can no longer keep up. It is also the floater’s job to help warn other runners that a centipede is coming, communicate between the centipede runners about the pace, and block other runners from getting in the way.
There are numerous other rules and regulations that you can read about on the Bay to Breakers website. The centipede should be no longer than sixty feet long and there should be four feet between each runner. There are two divisions, seeded for the more serious teams and fun for those who don’t want to focus on speed. The rules differ slightly between the two divisions. While artistic costumes are encouraged in both divisions (it is a San Francisco race and IT IS Bay to Breakers) the fun division “requires” twinkie feelers on all runners and a stinger on the back runner.
The origin of this type of centipede running traces back to 1978 and the Aggie Running Club. At that time the Aggie Running Club was a UC Davis club, nowadays the Aggies are sponsored by Asics. Peanut Harms, still active in the running scene, was a co-founder of the club and he was there when the first centipede was born (or hatched).
In a 2009 Cal Track & Running News article (page 17-23) with Mark Winitz, Harms described how the centipede got started. Then Aggie club president Angel Martinez is credited with coming up with the name centipede and for writing the official rules. The Lenichi Turn is a 360 degree turn that the fun centipedes must do on John F. Kennedy Drive by Lindley Meadow. In the interview Harms describes the origin of the Lenichi Turn, “The Lenichi Turn was brought to the U.S. by Igatoo Lenichi after Pete and Oscar Sweeney visited Poland and befriended the entire town of Lenichi in 1978.” I leave it to you, the reader, to determine the validity of Harm’s story. …How could anyone come up with details like that if they weren’t true?
After the 1978 race the Aggies began to focus on running fast. In 1986 Bay to Breakers created an official centipede division. The Aggies have dominated the race, winning the men’s division 19 out of 24 years and the women’s division 19 out of 23 years. The official records, held by the Aggies, for the 12K course are 37:40 (men; 5:03 pace) and 47:11 (women; 6:20 pace).
Over the years the Aggies male centipede has had some spirited battles with the first overall woman, earning a story in Sports Illustrated about them. The first woman to beat the Aggie centipede was Olympic marathon gold medalist Joan Benoit Samuelson in 1985 (she stomped on the centipede, winning by over one minute). The Aggie centipede returned in 1986 to take on Samuelson and Grete Waitz. Waitz and the centipede pulled away from Samuelson after the Hayes Street Hill and the fourteen of them (Waitz and the thirteen centipede runners) ran stride for stride together through Golden Gate Park. In the final 240 yards Waitz pulled ahead, the front runners of the centipede accelerated but the back runners did not, and the centipede as a whole got tangled up allowing Waitz to win by five seconds. After the race Waitz had this to say about the centipede, “When I came to Bay to Breakers, I didn’t realize how big a thing this centipede was. After I finished, I realized that to beat them was something special.” At the 2009 Bay to Breakers the first woman, Teyba Erkesso of Ethiopia, beat the Aggies 38:29 to 40:27. This gives the women the upper hand over the centipede in three out of the last four years.
At this year’s Bay to Breakers, LinkedIn is trying to set the Guinness World Record for the longest human centipede. The current record is 2,026, set in Japan. Last year The Town of Etxebarri in the Basque Country (Spain) attempted to break the record but could only get 1,449 people together. In order to set the record, not only must 2,027 or more runners be attached together, they must move thirty meters. LinkedIn is cleverly using this as the motto for going after the record: One person alone can only accomplish so much. But when you’re connected to other people through LinkedIn, imagine what you can accomplish.
And that pretty much sums up the reason for running in a centipede!
Good luck to the Pamakid Runners’ Centipede on Sunday. Team captain Steve Holcombe with Justin Mikecz, Danielle Bisho, Jocelyn Rodriguez, Greg Taleck, Zack Hedling, Kenley Gaffke, Jeff Huizinga, Simon Novich, John Gieng, Michael Cunningham, Mark Hermano, Jimi Smith, and myself as the floater will be in the seeded division running with style on Sunday!
The NCAA Men’s Basketball Final Four (a.k.a. The Big Dance) is one of my favorite non-running sporting events. I love following the emotional highs and lows. I get excited listening to the hyperbole during the pre-game “Prelude to a Championship” show. And I get goosebumps watching the tournament highlights at the end of the telecast while the song One Shining Moment plays. I think the NCAA Basketball Championship tournament represents athletics at its best and this year there were some especially interesting story lines that touched me.
David vs. Goliath
Much has already been made of the David vs. Goliath match-up of Butler against Duke. It was perfect that this year’s Final Four was in the state of Indiana.You couldn’t read or listen to any coverage of the championship game that didn’t have some reference to the 1986 movie, Hoosiers.
Playing the part of David were the Butler Bulldogs from the mid-major conference, the Horizon League. Butler’s total enrollment is 4,438 students. In terms of basketball lineage, this was their first ever appearance in the Final Four and first ever appearance in the NCAA Championship game. Previous NCAA Championships: zero.
Playing the part of Goliath were the Duke Blue Devils from the basketball powerhouse conference, the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC). Duke’s total enrollment is over 13,000 students. Prior to this season Duke had played in fourteen Final Fours, nine NCAA Championship games, and had won three NCAA Championships.
It was a great match-up and a quote from Hoosiers kept popping into my head during the game, “Let’s win this game for all the small schools that never had a chance to get here.” And if Gordon Hayward’s hail mary from half court at the buzzer had somehow bounced into the basket, it might have been the greatest win by David of all-time. Alas the shot missed. But isn’t it great that David had a chance?
Hometown Butler and their young coach
It was certainly noteworthy that not only was Butler the David in this drama, they were also playing in their hometown of Indianapolis. They were the first team to play in the Final Four in their hometown since 1972 when UCLA played in Los Angeles. Ironically, in the movie Hoosiers, the championship game takes place in Hinkle Fieldhouse on the campus of Butler University! Butler University is located six miles away from Lucas Oil Stadium, where the championship game took place.
The Butler team did stay in a hotel in downtown Indianapolis so they could participate in all the usual Final Four festivities. But during the game it was mentioned that eight of Butler’s players attended class on game day morning. Coach Brad Stevens arranged for vans to shuttle players to campus to attend their morning classes. What a refreshing thing to know – the student-athletes of Butler University were in class before the big game! None of the players had to worry about Tuesday’s classes because in honor of the basketball team, the school cancelled classes the day after the big game.
Butler’s coach also has a great story. At thirty-three years of age, he was the second youngest coach to coach in an NCAA Championship game. In comparison, Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski (Coach K) has been coaching at Duke for thirty years (meaning Stevens was three years old when Duke hired Coach K). After graduating from DePauw University in 1999, where he had a solid college basketball career, Stevens found himself working as a marketing associate for the pharmaceutical company Eli Lilly. He was still involved in basketball, however, coaching a high school and a club team. In 2000 he decided to pursue his basketball dream and he quit his job at Eli Lilly. Butler’s then head coach Thad Matta hired him to be Butler’s coordinator of basketball operations. Matta recalls Stevens as “a hungry young kid that was desperate to get into coaching. He had a great passion and was willing to take a risk to get into the coaching profession.” The next year he became an assistant coach at Butler, and then in 2007 was hired as the team’s head coach.
Duke’s Nolan Smith
Duke junior guard Nolan Smith had an extra burden in pursuit of the national championship. Thirty years ago at the 1980 NCAA Championship game in Indianapolis, Louisville defeated UCLA to win the championship. A key member for Louisville was Derek Smith. Derek would go on to have a lengthy professional basketball career.
After retiring, Derek was working as an assistant coach for the Washington Bullets when he, his wife Monica, and his two children Nolan and Sydney were on a cruise ship. Early in the day on August 9, 1996, eight-year old Nolan got upset when he lost a pick-up basketball game and he threw the ball off the ship into the ocean. Derek reminded his son, “if you’re going to play this game you have to have the right attitude.” A few hours later Derek, age thirty-four, collapsed and died from a previously undetected heart defect.
Nolan honors his dad with a tattoo on his right bicep. The tattoo reads “Forever watching,” then there’s an image of Derek Smith, and under that the words, “Derek Smith 1961-1996.” Hopefully Derek was watching as his son Nolan repeated family history by winning an NCAA Championship in Indianapolis, thirty years after he did.
West Virginia’s Da’Sean Butler
The West Virginia Mountaineers made it to the Final Four but lost to Duke in the semi-finals. With 8:59 left in the second half of that game Da’Sean Butler drove to the basket and fell awkwardly. He was writhing on the ground in pain and it appeared that this future NBA draft pick may have suffered a career threatening knee injury. On the television screen, with Butler clearly in physical pain and mental anguish, the West Virginia coach Bob Huggins literally got down on the ground and hugged Butler, cradling his head, stroking his face, and talking to him. Huggins face was inches from Butler’s and every time Butler tried to move his head to look at his knee, Huggins would move Butler’s face back to look at him. It was a powerful moment that showed the love Coach Huggins has for his players.
During the stoppage in play, while the trainers attended to Butler and his knee, the television commentators talked about Butler’s community service work. Then they told a great story to exemplify what a terrific person Butler is. You often hear about the close games during the NCAA tournament giving fans a heart attack…well in early March, seventy-four year old Agnes Channel, a diehard West Virginia supporter really did suffer a heart attack while watching West Virginia play their regular season finale. Three weeks later, West Virginia pulled off an upset over Kentucky to reach the Final Four for the first time in 59 years. And two days later, Butler went to visit Channel in the hospital. Channel, who’s been following the West Virginia run to the Final Four from her hospital bed with her lucky plastic basketball, immediately recognized the six-foot-seven-inch Butler when he came into her hospital room. Butler wished her a speedy recovery and thanked her for cheering on the team.
It appears that Butler tore his anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) and also sprained the medial cruciate ligament and suffered two bone bruises. He is scheduled for surgery. After hearing the story about him visiting the lady in the hospital, I know I will be rooting for Butler to make a full recovery so that he can have a successful NBA career.
Yes, there was a lot of great drama and many great story lines coming from the NCAA Basketball Championships. Enough to compel me take a break from writing about running and track.
With Valentine’s Day 2010 just a few days away, what better time to write about love and running.
After all, the story of meeting the love of my life centers around running. It was the spring of 2000 that Malinda wandered over to the join my group for a Thursday night track workout. She was in training for the New York City Marathon and Tyler Abbott suggested she do speed work with my group. She was only a semi-regular attendee for the rest of the year but sometime around the Christmas Classic and the DSE Christmas Blind Date Relays race, I started seeing her more and we began to talk. Next thing I know, I am driving out to run on the Dipsea trail, running the DSE Hangover Run, and going to Stockton for the Cal-10 ten mile race, all so I can spend more time with her. You could say our romance is one that started with running. Since we incorporated a running event (the Tying the Knot 7K run and 1400 meter walk, on 7/14/07) as part of our wedding celebration, we even got a mention in a Runner’s World article entitled, “Love and Running.”
We aren’t the only romance that blossomed thanks to Thursday night track. Nathan Wong and Leah Evans began attending track workouts in 2004 (Nathan in June, Leah in December). Nathan wanted to get faster and meet other runners. Leah, after some reluctance was finally convinced by Tomas to try the track workouts. By January 2006, Nathan the musician, and Leah the teacher, soon became Nathan and Leah, the couple. Three years later they got engaged (on a run, the Thursday before the 2009 Boston Marathon). They now live in Boston and are attending law (Nathan) and medical (Leah) school.
A former SHCP assistant coach, Mary Fagan, and her husband Mark Churchill had an even crazier wedding race than I did. The two hardcore runners actually met at a snowshoe race. Their four mile race (called “Mark and Mary’s Race to Tie the Knot”) took place the morning before their actual wedding and it was a competition. Every runner was either on Mary’s team (yellow shirts) or Mark’s team (blue shirts). Team scoring was a rather complicated system based on finish place in your age group, with bonus points for participating and travel distance to the wedding race. At stake? Last names. If Mark’s team won, Mary would change her name to Mary Churchill. If Mary’s team won, Mark would change his name to Mark Fagan. Later that same day, after the successful race, the minister closed the wedding ceremony by announcing that Team Churchill had defeated Team Fagan by ten points as he presented the newly married couple, Mr. and Mrs. Mark and Mary Churchill.
Love and running certainly go together. You can run with your significant other. You can meet your significant other at a running-related event, and you can celebrate your romance with more running!
I wonder who will be the next running romance?