We're kind of into the whole endurance sport thing here at Finger Food World Headquarters in Lancaster, Pa., U.S.A. We're big fans of all of it and follow it the way most people get into football or baseball. Truth is, we such big running geeks that we can recite training logs of some of the sports top athletes for the weeks leading up to a big race. Like how Alberto Salazar raced Henry Rono in a 10k match race days before winning the '82 Boston in the famous "Duel in the Sun." Or how Brian Sell ran 10 in 52 the day before finishing third in last November's Olympic Trials.
There are many reasons for our geekdom. For one thing, running, cycling, swimming and those types of things are the most egalitarian of all the sports. If a person want to be good at one of those sports, all he has to do is put in the work. Over time, the people who are consistent in working hard will get good results.
What I also like about those sports is you don't have to pass the ball. If a mistake is made, it's your own damn fault. No one has to worry about fielding errors or those types of annoyances.
Sure, there are errors in a race. For instance, over a decade ago I was in a 10k and running in second place well off the lead. Actually, the leader was so far ahead that I couldn't see him and there was no one within sight behind me either. I was in no-man's land... literally. But here's the thing - the leader had the local police leading the way with a pace car. All he had to do was follow the guide through the woods and hills of the course out in some nature preserve on the far northern edge of Lancaster County. Not only was the dude in the lead and winning easily, but also he had a tour guide.
Back in second place (or first loser) I'm grinding it out a hoping that every corner I turn is the last one. Finally, around 30 minutes into it I figure it's time to put down the hammer and run it in hard. Out there by myself I didn't know if anyone was gaining on me so I'm scared about losing second. But here's the funny part - there was no one out there to show me the way to the finish line. So running hard with eyes bulging and froth flying from my mouth, I missed the final right turn. Actually, the course wasn't marked so it wasn't like I missed the turn - the turn didn't exist.
About five minutes later I realized something was wrong, but I still worried that someone would catch me. So I kept hammering away and before I knew it I was somewhere in the woods of Lebanon County -- just running around and trying to find the finish line. It took another 30 minutes for me to find my way back to the car. So yeah, an error in running can cost another person a race.
Anyway, as endurance freaks this is a fun time of year. London, the Olympic Trials and Boston were piled on top of each other in successive weeks. That's like holding the conference championships and the Super Bowl without bye weeks with all the best athletes in the world in action.
Locally, the Penn Relays start today with the Olympic development 5 and 10 kilometer races set for tonight's Distance Night. The big-timers preparing to win gold in Beijing like 400-meter man Jeremy Wariner and sprinter Tyson Gay are in town for Saturday's marquee events.
Meanwhile, the road racing scene blasts into full gear, too. The always speedy Broad Street Run is next weekend, as well as a ton of smaller, local races. That goes for the multi-sport set, too. In fact, one-time Phillie Jeff Conine has joined our ranks as an endurance geek. After finally retiring from the Major Leagues, Conine has jumped into the triathlon and even got a special waiver to compete in October's Hawaiian Ironman.
Frankly, I think he should qualify like a real athlete, but you know, Major Leaguers often have special entitlements.
Anyway, Conine's new hobby was chronicled by The New York Times this week.
There is nothing like warming up for a marathon with a long swim and bike ride, huh?
Speaking of qualifying for big races, there was another story in The Times about the lengths people go to get into the Boston Marathon and why, as Gina Kolota writes, "Why is it so hard to enter?"
Here it is:
It isn't hard to enter the Boston Marathon. The fact is the qualifying standards are a little too fair. Soft, actually. Boston is good because it's supposedly difficult to get into. There should be standards sometimes.
Look, our sport is easy - if a person want to be good, all he has to do is put in the work. Over time, the people who are consistent in working hard will get good results. Even Jeff Conine.
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.