Chanman's Blog


Cheering for Amy

Cheering for Amy_after the race_photo by Paul Merca

Amy Cragg after her 3rd place finish. Photo by Paul Merca.

Malinda and I decided to go out on the marathon course at the 2017 World Championships and watch and cheer for the women’s race. By the time we got on to the course near St. Paul’s Cathedral, the race leaders were nearing the halfway point. Great Britain’s Alyson Dixon had built up an early thirty second lead but there was a large chase pack of runners including Amy Crag and Serena Burla. By the time we saw the runners again, they were at the 30K mark and we noticed that Cragg was leading the front pack of about fourteen runners.

cheering-for-amy_leading-the-front-pack-midrace.jpg

Amy Cragg (nee Hastings) has qualified to represent the USA at five global championships since 2011 in three different events. She was fifteenth in the 5,000 meters at the 2011 Daegu World Championships. She was eleventh and fourteenth in the 10,000 meters at the 2012 London Olympics and 2013 Moscow World Championships. She was ninth in the Marathon at the 2016 Rio Olympics. Cragg is no stranger to competing in these big races. She has made steady improvements but hadn’t yet truly contended for a spot on the podium. Going into this race her personal best in the marathon was 2:27:03, only the twenty-second fastest time out of all the competitors. But that’s why they run the race.

We decided to move closer to the finish line to cheer. Malinda picked a spot on a tough uphill section that we later estimated was about one kilometer from the finish. “This is where she’ll need cheering the most,” Malinda reasoned as we found a spot on a barricade to tie our USA flag. I found a wifi signal and started to monitor Twitter for race updates.

When these last two tweets came through, I told Malinda to get ready because from the time stamps I could tell they were only one or two minutes away.

cheering-for-amy_waiting-at-the-hill-with-1k-to-go.jpg

Here came the lead motorcycle, then the truck photographers, and, after a small gap, the Toyota with the Seiko clock displaying the running time of the race on top. Chelimo and Kiplagat ran by, but I hardly noticed them. I leaned over the barricade and craned my neck to try to see around the corner. There they were, Cheyech with Cragg a few steps back. “Come on, Amy!” we shouted, “Dig deep!” She had a determined look on her face as she attacked the hill. At that point a man in a blue Nike shirt sprinted by and yelled to Amy, “She’s slowing, Amy. She’s all yours.” I looked at Malinda and said, “That’s Amy’s husband.”

 

Cheering for Amy_still in 4th

We quickly untied our USA flag and took off running, trying to keep up with the husband (Alistair Cragg). Alistair is a former elite runner himself and I was trying not to spill my coffee, so we didn’t keep up. Then I saw a bar and thought that we should go in and see if they have a television. Right as I got to the door, Alistair came out. A man wearing a red Bowerman Track Club shirt was with him. Since they were leaving, we knew there was no television in that bar so we didn’t even go in to look. We all took off running in the direction of the finish line. I started putting it all together and realized Bowerman Track Club shirt guy was Cragg’s coach, Jerry Schumacher. Somehow Jerry and I got slowed down by some slow moving pedestrians and Alistair and Malinda got ahead of us and out of sight. We passed another bar. I looked all around and didn’t see Malinda. I thought to myself, “Do I go in the bar or keep running down the street?” As I contemplated my decision and the possible ramifications of each option, I heard a voice shout, “Jerry, they got one!” We turned and saw Alistair pointing inside. So, it was Jerry Schumacher. But more importantly, The Liberty Bounds had a TV!

Jerry and I raced inside. I glanced around trying to figure out if Malinda was there or not. Initially I didn’t spot her but then I heard her voice, “She’s got it!” We were all staring at the television and screaming for Amy. “Where’s the finish? How much farther?” Alistair asked. “It’s just on to the Bridge,” I shouted back. I did compose myself to take this wonderful picture of Jerry, Alistair, and Malinda gazing at the screen.

Cheering for Amy_Alistair and Jerry

After Amy crossed the line in third, Jerry and Alistair hugged. Malinda bear hugged Ailstair and told him congratulations. Jerry pointed at Alistair and shouted, “That’s the husband of third place.” And then Alistair shouted, “And this is the coach!” I patted them on the back as they took off running towards the finish to join Amy.

Malinda and I looked at each other and said to each other, “Wow!”

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Men’s Olympic Marathon Trials Preview

Posted in Race/Meet Report,USA Track & FIeld by Andy Chan on October 25, 2007
Tags: ,

It’s just over a week until the Men’s Olympic Marathon Trials.  179 American men achieved the time standard (2:22) to qualify run at the trials.  134 of those 179 will toe the line on Nov 3.

There is some tremendous talent amongst this group.  People with Olympic marathon experience (Meb, Culpepper, Browne), people who wear the hat as the “future of US marathoning” (Hall, Ritz, Sell), and people with some very fast marathon PR’s (Khannouchi, Hall, Abdi).  My pick for a darkhorse is Jason Lehmkuhle (you heard it here first!).  I personally cheer for 4 people in particular: Chris Lundstrom (coached with me at SHC for awhile), Peter Gilmore (local guy who gets it done with no sponsor), Brian Sell (I’ve loved this guy since he threw down the gauntlet and led the 2004 Olympic Trials race for 20+ miles before fading), and Meb (because he’s such a nice guy and we sort of know each other from our UCLA days).

There is media overload on websites like LetsRun (http://www.letsrun.com/), FloTrack (http://www.flocasts.org/flotrack/index.php), and Chasing Glory (http://www.nyrr.org/races/pro/mens_trials/glory/index.asp).  But if you don’t have hours to scour through everything, I recommend two articles from American Track & Field editor Larry Eder.

A review of the past Men’s Olympic Marathon Trials:

http://www.runblogrun.com/2007/10/the_mens_marathon_trialsinfo_y.html

And Larry Eder’s predictions:

http://www.runblogrun.com/2007/10/134_marathoners_will_run_us_ma.html

The sentence from Larry Eder that I like the best is this:

The skills that it takes to win a city marathon around the world, and the skill set that it takes to win an Olympic or World Championship marathon medal are two entirely different skill sets.

I couldn’t agree more.  Running a successful marathon (whether it’s to get a fast time or to win a championship race) requires things like endurance, stamina, etc.  But running fast times at races like the London, Boston, Chicago, and Berlin Marathons, usually involves getting into a fast pace and holding that rhythm.  To win a championship medal, it requires dealing with pressure and having race tactics (the ability to surge, counter-surge, and change gears as the situation requires).  That’s what makes the Men’s Olympic Trials Marathon so intriguing.  The pressure is on and it will require mano-a-mano tactics to determine who finishes in the top 3 to stamp their ticket for the Beijing Olympic Games.

While some of you are lucky enough to be heading to New York to watch the race in person (and then run the NYC Marathon the day after, good luck!!), us stuck here on the west coast can still watch via the internet.  Nbcsports.com is supposed to be carrying coverage of the race online.  Race time is 7:30am EDT so set your alarm clocks!!

Weekend in Birmingham

    

Raymond Yu (Tower) and I spent the weekend of February 6-8, 2004 in Birmingham, Alabama.  Why?  Because for this weekend at least, Birmingham was the running capital of the United States.  On Saturday the city played host to the US Men’s Olympic Marathon Trials and on Sunday, the city would host nearly 3500 participants in the Mercedes Marathon and Half Marathon.  Birmingham got the bid to host the Marathon Trials because of their pledge to provide great hospitality, a spectator friendly course, fast times and the See One/Do One theme (the concept of piggy-backing the Trials with the community race the next day to get more attention for both events).  From my observations of the weekend, Birmingham succeeded in their promises.

     We were drawn to go to Birmingham because a friend of ours (fellow SHC coach Chris Lundstrom) was one of just 104 Americans to run a qualifying time of 2:22 or better to be invited to the Trials.  Also in attendance in the Lundstrom Cheering Section were his fiancé, physical therapist, father, step mother and high school coach.  Chris was able to secure us Family credentials which meant we were treated like VIP’s.  We caught a crowded shuttle to the start line with other nervous wives, girlfriends, parents and friends.  While the athletes warmed up in the 35 degree weather with 15 mph winds, us VIP’s drank coffee and ate Krispy Kremes in a warm hospitality tent.  Finally it was race time.  86 runners toed the line…America’s best and brightest in the Marathon event.  The energy and excitement was amazing as the gun went off.

     From the start, the runners ran 9 miles into town.  At that point they entered the “downtown loop”, which was 5.43 miles long.  They would run this loop 3 times and then head to the finish line.  Once we got dropped off by the shuttle in the downtown loop, Tower and I began to use our rental car to catch as much of the action as we could.  It was non-stop for the next hour as we would run from one block to another and then to the car, drive a mile, hop out, cheer, back in the car, drive, hop out, cheer, run to the next spot, etc.  In total we saw Chris 12 times in the loop.  And we were certainly not the only ones doing this.  Everywhere you looked you saw fans sprinting from spot to spot.  Someone in the lead truck would get the crowd cheering wildly as the runners approached.  There was live radio coverage so we were constantly able to hear updates on the leaders, their splits, the gap to the main pack, etc.  The water stops were particularly interesting.  At many major marathons you see “elite tables” where the elite runners in the race can have their own water bottles placed for in-race pick-up.  But since everyone in the field was elite, how would this work?  The answer: 13 elite water bottle tables with 5 or 6 water bottles on each. 

     The race unfolded in dramatic fashion.  The Big Three favorites were Alan Culpepper (2:09:41), Meb Keflezighi (2:10:03) and Dan Browne (2:11:35).  But early on Teddy Mitchell would take it out hard opening up a 125 meter lead.  He had such a big lead that the media truck chose to drive between Mitchell and the main pack so they could monitor both.  ’00 Olympian Rod DeHaven said on the radio he thought it was rather strange to go out that hard in the rather harsh conditions.  By mile 7 we had a new leader.  It was youngster Brian Sell who’s only previous marathon was a 2:19 effort just to qualify.  Sell received a huge ovation as he entered the downtown loop with a big lead.  Meanwhile our hero, Chris, was hanging tough with the main front pack but at 10 miles he began to cramp in his quads and was forced to ease off the pace after a 52:05 for the first 10 miles.  It became apparent Chris was having one of those off days but he was determined to finish what he started .  Like so many of us have done before, he fought through some difficult miles in the middle to get to that finish line at 26.2.  At mile 18, we caught up enough to see the leaders.  Young Brian had a 44 second lead and Tower and I began to speculate that he looked good and maybe could pull off a huge upset.  Just a few minutes later, though, we heard that the Big Three (Culpepper, Meb and Browne) were moving up on the kid, apparently the three agreed to work together to reel in Sell.  We listened on the radio to hear that the lead had shrunk to 15 seconds at mile 21.  By mile 22 the Big Three caught and passed him.  At this point Tower and I decided to cheer for Chris one more time and then sprint to the finish.  We found a parking lot overlooking the finish line and headed for the 2nd level for a better vantage point.  At the same time some small snow flurries began to fall.  It may have been cold and dreary out but none of the thousand of spectators at the finish were complaining.  The anticipation grew as first the media truck, then police cars arrived at the finish.  Then a roar came from the crowd as Culpepper and Meb came into view.  Culpepper would win in 2:11:40, with Meb 2nd in 2:11:45.  Clinching the 3rd and final berth on the US Marathon squad to Athens for the 2004 Olympics was Browne in 2:12:01.  The leaders ran 67 minutes for their first half and 64 minutes for the 2nd half.  Amazing.  Chris came in 54th in 2:26:59.

     After this we realized just how valuable the family credential was.  We warmed up after being outside for the past 2 hours plus with some hot food in the VIP tent at the finish.  Then we got 30% off our merchandise at the marathon expo.  Later that afternoon we attended the Awards Ceremony where the top 15 runners were recognized.  Amongst them included, 43 year old Eddy Hellebuyck (8th), Cal-Berkeley grad Peter Gilmore (9th) and the hometown hero Scott Strand (who helped design the course) in 15th place.  But the loudest ovation was not for any of these or for the Big Three but rather for young Brian Sell who showed so much guts and courage in leading this race for 15 miles.  It was very exciting to be around such a knowledgeable crowd of running fans who really appreciated how hard this kid pushed the Big Three.  And once again, the race officials fed us, this time free beer along with appetizers.

     Saturday night, we ate at a local Fish House.  Chris was re-fueling, while myself and Chris’ high school coach, Pat, were getting our pre-race meal in.  Pat and I would run the Half Marathon the next day.

     Sunday morning I rose at 5:50am (3:50am if your body is still on west coast time) and jogged to the race start line.  The temperature on the bank clock I ran by said 27 degrees.  At the start I met a guy named Eric who was also running the half marathon and had a friend who ran the Trials Marathon.  Remarkably we also had in common pretty similar race pace goals.  We ran together for 5 miles before we hit the hills.  At this point Eric pulled ahead of me and I began to focus my attention on things like my hamstrings that felt like cramping, the hills (I thought all of the south was flat), opening a packet of Gu, and my gloves, which were soaked from spilling water.  As the course neared its final 3 miles it flattened out enough for me to try to go hard again.  I was also encouraged by the distractions on the course – I broke through the BE&K Construction Wall at mile 8, then almost slipped on the “red carpet” at the Royal Mile (mile 9).  Mile 11 was supposed to be the Elvis mile but the King never appeared to cheer me home.  Instead I had the always supportive Tower to take my picture and offer encouragement.  In the end I finished in 1:21:38, 45th overall out of 2049 runners.  Better yet, that same credential got us out of the cold and into a warm hospitality tent where I drank a mimosa for the 2nd straight morning and re-fueled with salmon, bread pudding, and assorted other goodies.

     After a shower and a nap, we met up with Pat (Chris’ high school coach) and headed to the post-race celebration (Jim ‘N Nick’s Bar-B-Q Post Race Party) at the Boutwell Auditorium.  More free food –this time BBQ sandwiches, cole slaw and ice cream as well as a live band, free massages and kegs of Michelob.  And even though we didn’t win the Mercedes M-Class, we still had a great time.

     All in all it was a terrific weekend of running that only a running junkie could truly appreciate.  Thank you, Birmingham!