Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Vol. 4 No. 29 Some Musings and Random Thoughts about Boston, and Other Things

Well,  I got an eyeful of Boston yesterday.  Somehow being here in Canada (Vancouver Island)  makes certain sporting events more accessible on the tube.   I could watch the race from start to finish without having to listen to the talking heads on NBC, CBS, ABC, FOX and the rest.  The day before we found reference to the 1964 documentary of the Boston Marathon and were able to compare those days to the present.   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=69nWnL2mxbs That documentary was made by Harvard film students and they used Eric Segal the author of Love Story and the lesser known  The Games, both starring Ryan O'Neal as an interviewee.  Segal had lots of detractors in his time, but he did bring the marathon to the attention of the uninitiated public.  He was even a color commentator for ABC Wild World of Sports at the Munich Olympics.   Can you remember his kneeling down on the Munich course where it became a gravel surface in a park, picking up a handful of stones, letting them fall through his fingers and stating something like,  "This is a  point of international controversy, running an Olympic marathon part way on a gravel surface."    Anyway that Harvard documentary starts with Segal driving over the Boston course the day before the race with his graduate student who would be running his first marathon.  Segal had 4 Bostons under his belt.  It's all a bit whimsical, but a lot of the stuff is the same sort of thing one would be saying the day before a major event in one's life.  Exaggeration mixed with minimization, caching fear and anticipation.    On race day the film cuts  to Segal and the grad student being driven out to Hopkinton and being in awe of the fact 400 runners had signed up.  That kind of crowd was simply unfathomable in those days.  And it was truly unfathomable for the organizers, considering they gave physicals to every  runner the morning of the race.  They couldn't get everyone to the line in time, so the start was delayed.   It was cold, snowing, just a total crap day.     Of note  the course was opened back up to traffic long before the tailenders arrived.  Some were asking the film crew which way the course went when they got downtown.   The race was centered around the Lenox Hotel, and it was the Lenox doormen in full uniform who were working the finish line.  Again even the finish line was shut down before everyone got in.  Today a Cub Scout troop could put on a bigger race. 

Now for yesterday's race.  A couple of things come to mind, and I have not studied the results in depth yet.   It was an incredible crowd of 38,000 runners.  The only way to get them out 26 miles from downtown to start on a two lane street was to release them in waves of about 9,000 at 30 minute intervals.  It is mind boggling to think of the logistics of moving all those people and getting their equipment bags back to the finish line.  Every school bus in the area must have  been in use on Patriots Day.

We Stand Corrected:

At the risk of saying, ‘I heard it on NPR…”
I heard on NPR last Friday that the runner’s equipment bags would not be returned to them and that all clothing would be donated to charity. - Apparently, this was a risk mitigation strategy in light of last year’s bombing.
So, next year, when my buddy Alan Parker toes the line in Hopkinton by virtue of running 3:14 in his first marathon a few days ago in Louisville at the age of 45, he’ll have to lose the sweats, literally. – Way to go Big Al.
Rapper  (David Rapp, Denver, CO) 

They divided the wheel chair runners, elite women, and elite men into separate starting groups as well. 

Shalane Flanagan must have been under incredible pressure to perform in this race, she being a native of the Boston area, one of the great world class female runners, the first anniversary of the bombings, subject of a 60 minutes piece, and with the presence of a super women's field.  The only thing worse worse would have been a Sports Illustrated cover story.   She took it out hard at record and personal best pace, but she seemed to be noticeably 'pressing' to do that, a slight over striding.  There were seven or eight African women right on her butt  who  seemed to be under striding.  They almost looked like it was just another day walking to market for them.  They could have been carrying baskets on their heads as is the fashion in Kenya.   The TV nabobs missed the breaking point for Shalane.  I think it was in the hills, but all of a sudden there were only four Africans in the picture.  To her credit, Shalane did not pack it in completely, and though she slowed a bit, she still hung on and got a PR at 2hrs 22 min.  Rita Jeptoo was devastating in the last miles even running a sub 5 minutes on one of them.  She was the class of the field, and it was probably in Flanagan's strategy to run some of that finish capability out of Jeptoo.  It simply didn't work, and most likely would not have worked even had Flanagan kept the pace going through the hills, because Jeptoo maintained the pace that Flanagan lost.   

In the men's race, an incredible array of talent stepped to the line.  Credentials were impeccable.  Therefore Meb Keflezighi was a wonderful surprise.   He went off in the front row of runners from the start.  I don't think he ever looked at anyone's derriere the whole way well maybe Hall's a bit.   When the Kenyans let him go around ten miles they must have thought that at 39 years his winning career was over and that he would come back to them.   At one time he had a 1 min. 21 sec. lead.  A few of them reeled him back in the closing stages of the race, but Meb had kept something in the bucket for that challenge, so five seconds was the closest they got to him and it was an 11 second margin at the end.   Here is the example of having a plan, sticking to it and finding that you have guessed right as to what would happen.  Flanagan also had a plan, however this day the plan was the wrong one to win. The city of  Boston must have felt some vindication that they got the race run off safely, that an American won,  that the hometown favorite did well even though coming up short.  Simply a great day for the sport.

Other thoughts today.    On his website Human Limits  http://www.drmichaeljoyner.com/  Dr. Michael Joyner has some interesting ideas about how many years, how far and how fast we can perform well  as a species.

Several examples are cited, including  Bernard Hopkins who recently consolidated the world light heavyweight boxing title at the age of 49.  Michael Phelps is now serious about trying to swim in a fifth Olympics.  Ashton Eaton ran the 400IH in 50.1 in his first try at Mt. Sac last weekend, and Steve Way  a 39 year old overweight 214 pound smoker got fit and ran a 2 hr. 16 min. marathon at London last week.  I'm sure many of you can think of examples of other aging athletes making comebacks, performing well into their Masters age years, or being discovered outside the ranks and coming up with great performances such as Steve Way.  My thoughts on  talent identification go to my friend Bill Blewett who never broke 5 minutes for the mile in high school but walked on at the University of Oklahoma and set three one mile pr's in his first cross country practice.  He eventually ran a 4:02 mile and a sub 14 minute 3 miles indoors after college.    His son, a minor league baseball pitcher, had two Tommy John surgeries and was able to throw 97mph after the second surgery.  Bill wrote an excellent book on pitching called  The Science of the Fastball  and is working on another on distance running which I predict will be a fascinating book for all of us to read. 

I've recently been in touch with Ricardo Romo who held the mile record at University of Texas for 41 years.  His is an inspiring and fascinating story which we'll bring to you in the near future.   So keep checking in on us.  If you would like to be notified when a new posting is made, please contact me at irathermediate@gmail.com .    Title the message   track blog notification, so I'll know it is not spam coming in .  
Best wishes,
George Brose

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