Had it not rained on Nov. 12, 2006 in Harrisburg, Pa., I would have been in Chicago last weekend for the marathon. At least that was the plan, anyway. But the rain and bitter wind ruined my potential trip.
How could a November rain in Harrisburg ruin a trip to Chicago in October?
Let me explain:
The plan last November was to run the Harrisburg Marathon well enough to qualify for the Chicago Marathon’s sub-elite program. That’s the program that allows guys who are almost good marathoners to start close to the front of the Chicago Marathon in attempt to burn through the pancake-flat course fast enough to get close to an Olympic Trials qualifying time. Baring that, it’s a good way to develop American marathoners, though the sport seems as if it is in good hands with dudes like Brian Sell, Alan Culpepper, Ryan Hall, Dathan Ritzenhein, Khalid Khannouchi and Abdi Abdirahman (amongst others) holding their own against the best runners in the world.
Anyway, it takes a 2:22 marathon to qualify for the Olympic Trials and though there is no way in hell that I would be able to average the 5:20 miles it takes to do that, it would be a lot of fun to try.
But in shooting for a 2:36(ish) in Harrisburg last November, the 30-mph headwinds and raw temperatures had the last say. In fact, I didn’t even come close to running my target time even though I believe I ran pretty tough over the final five miles of the course in which I went from 12th to 6th place.
That part was fun.
But since then I trained hard through the spring and summer with my mind set on running well in October and/or November with a time that could get me in position to get into position to one day run well at Chicago.
Or something like that.
Then the baby came, and then I traveled around to write about the Phillies, which further curbed my training. There’s a reason why most sportswriters are bordering on obesity and it has nothing to do with the preservative, carbohydrate and fat-laden garbage they eat at the ballpark. Sometimes it takes more time to watch a guy run than to actually do it yourself.
Or something like that.
Nevertheless, it doesn’t seem as if there was anything fun about the Chicago Marathon last weekend. As some may have already read, the unseasonably hot temperatures turned the race into battle of attrition. In fact, it got so bad that the organizers had to stop the race when they were unable to properly take care of the runners on the course. According to published stories, there was not enough water on the course to take care of the runners on the course after four hours. Hundreds more suffered heat exhaustion and cramps because they were not properly hydrated or maybe trained for the race and the conditions.
Maybe there are too many people in the Chicago Marathon?
Believe it or not, marathoning is popular and it’s not just for the folks out there looking for good times. Over the past decade or so there seems to be a new breed of “runners” who run marathons in order to cross it off the “things to do” list. After pushing their body through 26.2 miles, is sky diving next?
Anyway, Frank Shorter wrote about the heat and what went wrong at the 2007 Chicago Marathon for The New York Times. But one thing Shorter and everyone else forgot to mention about the 2007 Chicago Marathon and the heat is this…
They moved up the race date.
In most years, the Chicago Marathon takes place during the third week of October. In most years, the third week of October makes for cool and comfortable temperatures that are perfect for running fast times on Chicago’s notoriously fast (easy) course. But for 2007 the race was pushed up to Oct. 7?
My guess is because the deadline for runners to achieve an Olympic Trials qualifying time was Oct. 7. In order to accommodate the handful of runners that wanted to go for one last effort to get that 2:22 on a relatively easy course before the Nov. 3 Trials in NYC, perhaps the race was pushed up two weeks.
If this is why the race was on Oct. 7 this year it’s not smart. Though I’m more interested in the fast runners and serious training and have little patience for the Oprahization of our sport, I understand where the bread is buttered. Shoe companies and sponsors go after the middle-of-the-pack and beyond runners because that’s where the money comes from. These are the folks willing to shell out top dollar for the fancy, high-priced shoes that no one really needs, or are willing to travel all over the globe to run/walk 26.2 miles over the same path that Phidippides may or may not have crossed at one point of history… or not.
Look, I’m not sure if that’s the reason why the race was moved up from its traditional date. And as a result, only one guy made the 2:22 to get into next month’s Trials. That's one person with a Trials qualifier and one person who died from heat-related stress.
Not exactly a fair trade-off, huh?
Meanwhile, what’s going on with the Chicago Marathon? Last year, as some might remember, Robert Cheruiyot slipped on the finish line decal and suffered a concussion:
So the big race is just a little less than three weeks away… anyone have a guess on who the top three will be?
It’s hard to sleep on Khannouchi despite the 65:04 half marathon he ran last week. I’d be willing to guess that the top runners will be keying off him if he takes the starting line.
Otherwise, it’s also difficult not to like Ryan Hall or Ritzenhein. Plus, Culpepper always comes up big in national competitions and Brian Sell seems like a really smart runner. Either way, it’s bound to be one of the most exciting Olympic Trials marathons in recent memory.
Next: going to the B&N
I love the Internet. I mean I really, really love the Internet. For a fan of sports that television doesn’t really have the time or patience for, the Internet is the greatest invention since fire.
OK, maybe the wheel.
Actually, the Internet has changed the mainstream sports, too. If a team or a league, etc. doesn’t have a top-flight web site it isn’t fulfilling its obligation to its fans. Even better than that, the Internet has changed the entire dynamic of sports (and news). Television and newspapers are nothing more than a delivery method – nothing more or less.
When there is important news, the first place most people turn these days is not the television, it’s the ‘net.
Nevertheless, I spent most of Saturday and Sunday morning tuned into sporting events that I never would have been able to watch under the old way of delivery. Thanks to the wonderful World Wide Web, I got to watch live coverage of The Ironman world championships from Kona, Hawaii on Saturday, as well as live coverage of Sunday’s Chicago Marathon.
In the past, I had been able to watch west-coast baseball games during the pennant races via the Web on MLB.com. Realizing that it was cutting out a segment of its audience, the NHL has followed MLB’s footsteps and is broadcasting selected games on Yahoo! and Comcast, the Web’s most popular sports site. That means if one wants to catch Columbus Blue Jackets games, one can.
Yes, thanks to the Web it’s a great time to be a sports fan.
But everyone already knows that.
Just imagine my Sunday morning delight when I got to watch reigning Boston Marathon champion and course record holder Robert Cheruiyot hold off my pick Daniel Njenga to win the Chicago Marathon in 2:07:35. How fun is that?
Interestingly, the chilly and windy temperatures made for slower times in Chicago this morning (they call it The Windy City for a reason, right?) so Cheruiyot’s 2:07:35 on Chicago’s slick and speedy course was actually slower than his winning time on a tougher Boston course this year. In fact, prior to the race American Brian Sell said that the windy conditions could add 5-plus seconds per mile. That doesn’t sound like much, but it’s very significant for runners looking for good times.
Luckily for Cheruiyot, his feet pitched forward to break the finishing plane before he had to be helped off the course.
You know it’s bad fall when a guy’s feet land last and his head lands first.
Nevertheless, it was a third second-place finish at Chicago for Njenga and a 2:10:48 for Sell, a Pennsylvania kid, who was definitely primed for a sub-2:10.
Sell was the second American finisher behind Abdi Abdiraham, who finished fourth in 2:08:55. That’s the second-fastest time by an American on a non-aided course.
Another interesting observation from watching the race on the feed from the CBS affiliate in Chicago was all of the men – American men – finishing the race as the top women were heading in. Ethiopian Berhane Adere won the women’s race in 2:20:42 in a duel with Galina Bogomolova, in which the pair had to weave around a pack of men digging for the finish.
According to the results, 36 American men met the “A” qualifying standards (2:20) for the Olympic Trials, while 15 more were under the “B” standard (2:22). All told, 117 people finished under 2:30, which makes me think Chicago is the course to run if one is looking for a fast time.
Better yet, the race will be broadcast on the Internet.
One of my most favorite sporting events in the world takes place today, and no, it’s not the opening game of the World Series or the Temple-Northern Illinois game.
Today is Ironman day. The day some of the badest men and women on the planet turn up on the Hawaiian Island of Kona to swim for 2.4 miles, cycle for 112, all to warm themselves up for a marathon.
Pretty damn cool.
To avoid confusion, though, it should be noted that an “Ironman” is any race that consists of the 2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike ride, and 26.2-mile run. The Ironman event in Hawaii is the sports’ world championship and, like the Boston Marathon or Olympic Trials, requires relatively strict qualifying standards for entry. That means the crème de la crème of the triathlon are typically in Hawaii for the event.
In fact, there are 22 Ironman events around the globe each year, including six in the United States. However, aspirants for Hawaii can qualify not only at the Ironman events, but also one of the shorter half-Ironmans or Olympic distance events (1.5K swim, 40K bike, 10K run).
Needless to say, if one were to qualify for Hawaii, one goes.
Unfortunately, The Ironman, as the Hawaiian race is known, is not televised until next month when NBC can edit and dramaticize the event. Needless to say, there are tons of human-interest stories at The Ironman, as well as the always grueling and exciting race for the World Championship. Aside from that, athletes that most would never hear about, like Dave Scott and the irrepressible Mark Allen have created careers out of their numerous victories in Hawaii.
At the same time, Allen’s wife, Julie Moss, became a legend at The Ironman. Moss’ claim to fame came in the ’82 Ironman when, dehydrated, she tried to crawl to the finish line to win the race only to be passed just before the line.
Words don’t do it justice:
So until I get to Hawaii (I have to learn how to swim without sinking first), my Saturday will be spent watching the race on the Internet before tuning into the first game of the World Series.
I think I’ll skip the Temple-Northern Illinois game.
Apropos of nothing, the USATF could learn a lot of promoting its sport and its athletes by copying the playbook of the World Triathlon Corporation. For that matter, so too could most of the major league sports. The Ironman web site is one of the best "league" sports sites out there.
Chicago eve For the endurance junkies out there, check out the ChasingKIMBIA site, which has been documenting a few of the contender's preparation for Sunday's Chicago Marathon.
I'm also standing by my predictions of a sub-2:10 for Brian Sell, a top 3 finish for American Abdi Abdirahman, and a victory for Japan-based Kenyan Daniel Njenga.
If you’re counting (and I know you are), that’s 5-0-1 in two weeks. That’s pretty good. Almost good enough to pack it all in, load up the RV and head out to Vegas. There I can stagger around from sports book to sports book, looking for the friendliest odds and least watered-down drinks as I try to stake my claim.
Until I get my feet under me, I’ll have to subsist on the complimentary drinks and 99-cent shrimp cocktail. I guess that means I’ll have to stop being a vegetarian, too.
Who says the high life doesn’t have its drawbacks?
Anyway, let’s go:
Eagles minus 5 over Tampa Bay How can go against a home ‘dog? Easy. The Bucs stink. It doesn’t matter that the Eagles are 3-7 against the spread in their last 10 games against a team with a losing record.
Temple plus 34 over Northern Illinois Yes, we know that this about the worst Temple football season ever… which is really saying something. But if they can’t stay within 34 points of Northern Illinois, maybe it’s time to stop playing football up there on North Broad. Give the football program’s money to the track and cross-country teams. How cool would it be if they built some trails that connect to the loops in Fairmount Park and Kelly Drive?
I say very.
Colts minus 9 over Redskins And it’s all over in Washington right about… now.
For the degenerate types who like the action, bet on Brian Sell running a sub-2:10 in Sunday’s Chicago Marathon. Sell won’t win, of course, but American Abdi Abdirahman should contend if his 61:07 in the Philly Half is any indication of his fitness.
However, there are four sub-2:07 runners in the field, not including defending Boston champion Robert Cheruiyot (he set the course record in April) is in the race along with 2005 Chicago and 2006 Boston runner-up Benjamin Maiyo. Maiyo likes to front run, but the pace at Chicago will be blistering since the course is pancake flat. In fact, at Chicago a curb on the sidewalk is viewed as a hill.
In this race, Daniel Njenga, 30, is the most intriguing. Unlike most Kenyan runners, he trains in Japan instead of the United States and hasn’t burdened himself with too much racing. Actually, Njenga typically runs just one marathon a year – though he ran two in 2004 – and has alternated between second and third places at Chicago going back to 2002.
With a 2:06:16 PR (2002 Chicago) in tow, look for the mysterious Njenga to finally break through.
New York is quickly approaching, too. Talk about a deep field...