Repeats

I had the opportunity today to run down Memory Lane. I coach now. I still run. Just not like I did. Not as much as I did. Not as fast as I did. But every once in a while the kids I coach ask. What was the toughest workout? What was the hardest run? What was the fastest you ran a 1500? 5k, 10k, 800, 400, 8k? What was the best, worst, greatest, most miserable, painful, exhilarating?

Why did you stop?

I love it when they ask. Who wouldn’t? I get to go back in time. I get to relive some of the most important moments of my running life, really my life period. Today’s conversation was inspired by the awesome workout that Galen Rupp did on the Boston University track 15 minutes after his American Record 2 Mile. I never did anything even remotely close to what Rupp did. But I had my moments.

What I find fascinating is that my favorite memories to talk about are not the races. The workouts I did are what I like to talk about best. In fact, I only remember the briefest of snippets of my races, good and bad. Although I do remember far more of my worst ones than my greatest! It’s funny just what we decide to store away in memory isn’t it? It just seems odd to think that those workouts that seemed so gruesome at the time would hold such sway after all these years. I’m remembering a particular workout that I did in 2001 with some of my teammates on the Nike Farm Team when Vin Lananna was coaching us. We did an entire set of repeats. A full workouts worth. To be precise we did 2 x 800 then a 600, 400, another 600, another 400 and 4 200’s before one last little addition to the workout was mentioned by Lananna. We assumed the work for the day was done. It was not.

Lananna told us to get on the line. 200’s. more 200’s? Ok. Not a problem. A 200m interval if you are fit, really fit (which we were), is akin to batting practice for a major leaguer. You can do them just about all day. No fear.

Lananna filled us in on what we were to do to end the workout

You’re going to do 200’s. You’ll have 20 seconds rest.

Ok. That was new.

29 second 200. 20 seconds rest. Then a 28 second 200 .

This was taking a very different turn from where we thought we were going. We asked the obvious question, really the only question that mattered – How Many??

Just keep doing them until I tell you to stop.

We did 8. One of us did 10. Not me. 200’s were never the same for me after that. They were once the cute and cuddly repeat distance. Now they were something else. I experienced real distress that day. The 200 was not even the worst part. It was the rest that was so miserable. 20 seconds is just enough time for tired legs to start to feel like crap. Heavy, dead, crappy legs. Legs that needed to start moving again too soon and too fast. I hit the times for the most part. I kept the rest at 20-22 seconds. But it burned. It hurt – bad. I miss that.

I ran for 3 more years after that workout. Competitively. By 2004 though my body was having a tougher and tougher time staying healthy doing such intense work. I had given post-collegiate running a chance for close to 5 years. I stopped. It was time.

I can still get those feelings I got from that workout though. The times that cause that burn and hurt are slower. It takes fewer intervals too. But when I get there and the legs get heavy and the breathing begins to labor and my wheels start to fall off I enjoy it. I’m traveling back through time. Back to a place where I was young and fast. I was unafraid of speed. I was excited about great distances.

Then I’m back here and I’m laboring now on a run or I’m just telling a group of young runners about those 200’s. They get it. They are living and running those 200’s now. That is great. I’m happy to know that this sport keeps getting runners to take that line, hurting, and start another repeat and keep on going until it’s time to stop.

Until it’s time to start again.

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Sorry Kids. Monsters Do Exist & They Are Fast

Galen Rupp is not a scary name. Jordan Hasay is not a scary name. In fact, I can think of few names less scary. One name though that is less scary is Mary Cain. Makes me think about the sound of a baseball hitting a broken in mitt, and screen doors that don’t quite close and an apple pie cooling on a windowsill on a Summer day. Nice things. Nice names. Probably nice people. In reality, those names represent monsters – monster efforts, monster races, monster goals, monster excitement. The Dr. Frankenstein that is creating all of these monsters is Alberto Salazar. He went out a few weeks ago and opened his mouth about all sorts of record breaking attempts by his minions. He made good on those promises of big things happening around the indoor track at Boston University. The last three weeks have seen a 1k record attempt by Mary Cain and Treniere Moser, a 13:01 American Record in the 5k set by Galen Rupp, a 13:17 Canadian Record 5K by Cam Levins, an oh-so-close World Junior Mile record attempt by Cain which made her the 3rd fastest American woman ever at 4:24.11, Jordan Hasay becoming the 9th fastest American woman in the mile with her 4:28.37, and an 8:07 American Record 2 Mile by Rupp.

The races have been electric. If you love running, really if you love track & field, you should get a subscription to Flotrack Pro. For 19.99 a month or 149.99 ($12.50 a month) for a year subscription you get access to many of these races as well as behind the scenes looks at many elite athletes, training insight from some great coaches and trainers and last and not least coverage of workouts. Yup. Workouts. You get to watch elite runners work out. It is that perk, the workouts, that make the 149.99 worth it, assuming you are a runnerd. And the workouts that the Oregon Project have thrown down after these record attempts are terrifying.

The workout that Rupp did on Saturday night a mere 15 minutes after the 8:07 American Record has caused more of a stir than the actual record!

That’s right. He ended with a 4:01 MILE. Solo. After the American Record 2 Mile. After 4 other repeat miles. You get to WATCH the entire workout on Flotrack. Scary stuff but you know that the scariest movies are often the most fun to watch. This is fun. It does not matter if you are new to running and training for your first 5k or if you are in midst of some big time base work for your 20th straight Boston Marathon this is fun to watch. And it is inspiring.

After you watch these Oregon Project athletes compete at such a high level and then shake some hands, kiss some babies, sign some autographs, pose for some pictures and swig some gatorade they grind. They suffer. They hurt. They look pleadingly at Dr. Frankenstein, eh, Alberto Salazar, and hope for the pain to end with the “last one” being muttered by Coach. Watching this simple (but unearthly) workout take place you quickly realize that Rupp and you/I are light years apart when it comes to talent. You also realize that he, like you and I, feels the same as we do when the workout starts to overwhelm. You see that he has to psych himself to get going in-between intervals. You see that his legs go wobbly too. Granted his legs go wobbly in the midst of a 4:01.6 mile after an 8:07 2 mile and 4 repeat miles at 4:20 or faster. Let’s just say it takes less trauma to make my legs wobbly.

One of the great parts of our sport is that we can relate to the elites. They may cover ground faster but they cannot outrun the pain. In order to break new ground, reach greater heights, you have to be willing to flat out hurt. I will never know what it is like to dunk like Jordan but I can at least know the pain that Rupp feels as he gears up for another repeat. I’ve been there. It takes me longer to get there than it does Galen but I’ve been there, where it hurts. Where you battle doubt. Where you dig deeper hoping to find something, anything. And if you count yourself as a runner, a real runner, then you have experienced it too. Us and Rupp. Pretty cool.

Watching Rupp these last three weeks has been a blast for so many of us because I think it spoke to the monster we all have inside. Next time you hit the track or take to the starting line why don’t you think about letting that monster out and see how it feels.

Rupp already knows. And so do all his monster friends.

It’s Snowing Big. Let’s Save Running A Little.

It snowed. Looking outside now it seems like blizzard would be the best description of what transpired these last 12 hours. It’s absolutely stunning out there. It’s also cold out there. In here it’s warm, pleasant really. In here, the fireplace is a roaring inferno courtesy of a Duraflame log. Excessively descriptive, I know. But the last thing I want to do is give anyone the wrong impression. We may meet someday and with me writing about saving this and saving that I don’t want you expecting a guy who chops his own wood. What disappointment you would feel. No, better that you know I buy it by the case. And I struggle, mightily, when I lug the box of enhanced logs to my car through the Acme parking lot.

This snow has many of us in the Northeast trapped. Driving right now would not be smart. Running on the roads is out of the question. If you have a bike or a treadmill you best be putting it to use. And after that? You can only drink so much hot chocolate. I already binge watched every episode of Breaking Bad on Netflix. I could watch that Oregon Project post race workout on Flotrack again. Nah. How about we help save running? Help save it a little bit? Will ya?

Was that an echo or a roar of affirmation? Since this seems to be entirely up to me I will go with the latter. Sounds like you’re all in. Great. You need to be. We need to be.

Where to start? Anywhere, really. There are so many different ways we can help save and strengthen the sport. Which is good as well as depressing. Luckily I have thought this through and as a result I am prepared to narrow it down. I’ll just spin my Track & Field Circle (should be an oval) of Those in Need of Help and we’ll see where it stops….

It landed on the Running Mouths. They are the writers, the broadcasters and the bloggers. We (running fans) have some truly exceptional journalists on television, in print and online covering Track & Field. The first thing we can do is aknowledge who they are. Ato Boldon, Steve Cram, Tim Hutchings, Toni Reavis, and Steve Ovett are outstanding television commentators. They handle the flow of a race and the color needed to not only keep the viewer interested but also educated. More importantly the schooling these broadcasters give is not an elementary education. Most Track & Field broadcasters believe they have to explain running to an audience of meatheads. Newsflash! Meatheads are not watching the broadcast! We wish they were but they are not. We’ve made it too boring for them to watch. And even if they did watch they would not like being talked down to. If only the meatheads could listen to a meet with the right commentators. Boldon, Cram, Hutchings, Reavis and Ovett understand that the competition will do the majority of the work for them. They are there to add insight, commentary and maybe some expert opinion on the direction we should be taking this race. Each race has and is a story. The best commentators introduce the characters, set the stage, and then act as the narrator. These five get it.

Tim Layden and Dick Patrick, Curtis Anderson and Chris Lear are some great print journalists. They write about the sport for people who want to read about the sport. Sounds ridiculous, I know. But try to read an article about a race, any race at any level – high school to Olympic – written by someone who does not get it. It’s torture. It turns people away. It further delegitimizes a sport that comes across increasingly as illegitimate. With Layden, Patrick, Anderson and Lear the sport gets the respect it deserves when their ink hits the page.

How do you save Track & Field with this information? Contact these guys. I gave you the websites or Twitter handles for most of them. Tell them that you appreciate what they do. Better yet, follow them. Read their articles. Buy their books. See when they are commentating. Watch. Listen. Read. Enjoy. Just don’t stop there.

Make sure you let NBC, NBC Universal, BBC, ESPN, ABC that these are the ones you want to see back again and again telling the story. Let’s make that as easy as possible. Here are a few big hitters for you to start with.

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NBC Universal Sports, which was formerly known as World Championship Sports Network (WCSN), shows many of the elite European Track & Field meets. They have the following on their website:

Have suggestions, feedback or comments about the Network? Contact our Universal Sports Customer Support Line at 1-818-593-3978 and your call will be directed to the appropriate department.

Call. Thank them for showing Track & Field. Tell them you want MORE Track & Field and Running. Tell them you want the best commentators. Tell them. It’s one phone call. It matters. Everything matters.

While you are at it you might as well contact ESPN and tell them you want more Track & Field on ESPN 1,2,3, all of them, as well as more coverage in their magazine.

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Sports Illustrated was once a magazine that actually covered sports and not just basketball, baseball and football. You could count on a couple of covers every year that had a Track & Field athlete on it. No more. Let them know that you want our sport back in the magazine! Write the editor of Sports Illustrated a letter, a long one or a short one. Just write one.

You can use this email: letters@si.timeinc.com

Simple enough.

Was that so hard? No, I didn’t think so.

Now, imagine that you passed this along to two running friends. Then they each passed it to two more. Then those four passed it to two each. Then those eight passed it along to two each. All we would need is for that next group to pass it along to two friends each and NBC Universal Sports, ESPN and Sports Illustrated would each get over 120 messages TODAY asking politely for more and higher quality Track & Field, Cross Country, and Road Racing coverage! Steve Cram, Ato Boldon, Tim Hutchings and Toni Reavis would also gain 120 new followers on Twitter as well as 120 new readers of their blogs and articles.

What if we kept sending this info out? If 40,000 can commit to training for and then completing 26.2 miles through the streets of NYC and 500,000 teenagers can take to the line each year to race the mile I have to believe we have enough kindred spirits out there to rattle some cages.

Do you have a local newspaper? Do they cover Track & Field? Probably not. Write them. Enlist your friends to write as well. Do you read any of the Track & Field or running blogs out there? You should. Check out these two to start:

The Track & Field Superblog

Elite 800m Runner Phoebe Wright’s Blog

The snow will melt. The Duraflame Logs will exhaust their 180 minutes of flammable biomass. By then, we can do a little bit to help support, save really, Track & Field. I’ll throw other ways to help at you, don’t worry. There are websites and companies, athletes and stores, magazines and photographers that you, I, we can help. In doing so we will be saving and strengthening our sport. For now, though, we can focus on this one specific area. It may not be much but it’s something and on a day like today it sure beats shoveling.

Coming Up Millroses

When the Millrose Games decided to move the meet out of Madison Square Garden and into the New Balance Center/168th Street Armory for the 2012 meet I was disappointed. I fell in love with running during the 80’s. I remember watching Eamonn Coghlan and Marcus O’Sullivan win just about every Wanamaker Mile there was in front of sold out Madison Square Garden crowds. I remember the seemingly endless meet coverage on the MSG channel. More than anything else I remember imagining how exciting it would be to race at Madison Square Garden. (I was the first HS miler not invited to race in the Millrose HS Mile! Still stings.) Having a meet in the greatest arena there is seemed to legitimize the sport. Due to dwindling attendance at the meet which was due to boring races which was due to incredibly weak fields which was due to no one caring about Millrose anymore which was due to no one caring about Indoor Track anymore the meet finally left the increasingly barren MSG. I was pissed. I was frustrated. I was mostly sad. It seemed like yet another capitulation by our sport.

The meet organizers decided to move Millrose to the Armory. Even though the Armory has one of the fastest tracks in the world I kept saying it won’t be the same if it’s not at MSG. I was right. But not in the way I thought.

After attending Millrose each of the last 5 years (3 at MSG and 2 at the Armory)I have to admit that the quality of the meet has improved dramatically since the move. The fan experience has improved each year it has been at the Armory as well. Year two at the armory had the ushers being more polite, the athletes were treated better, the food offerings were improved, and Coogan’s is still nearby.

And the organizers have added some nice bells and whistles. There is a  great raffle that the organizers are having to benefit the Armory Prep College Fund. I was fully prepared to see some really weak offerings for the potential raffle winners. Instead, I saw 8 awesome prizes. You could win a burger and beer with Nick Symmonds at Coogan’s after the meet or a brunch with the Chairmen of the Boards Eamonn Coghlan or even an entire Millrose weekend with hotel and tickets included. It may seem silly that I am dedicating part of a post to a raffle. It’s not silly. The people at Millrose are trying to make their meet better on and off the track. That deserves recognition.

Let’s talk about the track part. Bernard Lagat, Nick Willis and Evan Jager in the (rarely run) 2000m, Nick Symmonds, Duane Soloman, Robby Andrews, and Eric Sowinski in the (rarely run) 1000m, young studettes Mary Cain and Ajee Wilson will battle in the 800m and the greatest athlete on Earth, Ashton Eaton, will be competing in two events, the 60m Hurdles and the pole vault. The Millrose Games will be a family affair for Ashton as his wife  just happens to be the World Championship Heptathlon Silver Medalist, Brianne Thiessen. Mrs. Eaton will  be competing in two events, the long jump and hurdles. Add to this already great meet the classic Wanamaker Mile and the HS relays and mile races. Really, what you have is what we have always asked for: a well run, compact, and exciting Track & Field meet…with beers.

What will we as Track & Field Fans do with this? If history is any indicator we will collectively yawn and then make sure we bitch about having to pay money to experience it. Any money at all to watch the meet online or in person is too much for us cheap bastards. Hell, $30 is too much for a raffle ticket, isn’t it? We want Track to be more slick and more exciting and more popular and less expensive – as if it could get any cheaper. We’ll pay $100 so we can run a 13.1 miles with other people on a road but we’ll protest $100 for ticket to one of the premier Indoor meets in the World. Hypocritical? Apathetic? Naive? Pessimistic? All of the above? Worse?

If the Millrose Games can turn around a dying meet maybe we can turnaround a dying fanbase. If you are from the tri-state area then try to attend. Buy some tickets. It’s worth it. If you can’t attend the meet then make sure you watch it on ESPN or online. Throw some cash at the raffle. Visit the sponsors at the bottom of the NYRR Millrose Games homepage. Make sure you READ and SHARE the articles you see about the meet. Talk about the Millrose Games. Do something because they are doing something. And that is what we wanted.

What happens when we get what we want?

See you at Millrose.

Mr. Rupp! Tear Down These Walls!

Finally! We have something, really truly something to be jacked up about in our fledgling sport of Track & Field!

According to Oregon Project Head Honcho/Coach Alberto Salazar and his star pupil Galen Rupp there are going to be some fireworks this Indoor Season. Yes, some real deal epic throw-down record attempt fireworks!

I am giddy, a little lightheaded now that I think about it. I may be in the early stages of shock, I’m not a doctor. I can’t really be sure. I am definitely euphoric though as I type this post. This is not like Track & Field. It seems as if the sport goes out of its way to be boring and impossible to engage with. Yet, this seems really exciting! Feeling woozy.

Check out these two awesome trailers about the Oregon Project record attempts. The first one can be found here. Great stuff right? Want some more? Check out trailer #2 here. Yes, baby yes!

There is actually some legitimate excitement being created in track & field! I know, crazy right?

It seems like each of the last few years Rupp has said he was going to go after a record. One year it was the 5k at Arkansas, another year it was the 2 mile at Boston, last year it was the 1 mile (3:50.92!!!). Each time there were momentary glimpses of what track could and should be: large crowds, high-pitched-crazy-person screaming, fanboys and fangirls swarming the rails, and kick ass racing.

The 2013 mile record attempt by Rupp was the single coolest indoor race I have seen since Eammon Coghlan got 18,000 fans to rise to their feet and cheer him to the first ever sub 3:50 Indoor Mile at the Vitalis Meet in NJ. That was not a typo by the way, 18,000. Here, watch the race by Rupp in Boston last year. Listen to that crowd, see the relentless drive by Rupp, and did you notice your heart rate jump? Now, here you can watch Eamonn Coghlan break the 3:50 barrier at the 1983 Vitalis Meet. These races are Track & Field at its best.

This year is going to be extra special thanks to Coach Salazar getting his entire stable of runners all hot and bothered for the Indoor campaign. Jordan Hasay, Mary Cain, Treniere Moser, and Cam Levins are also going after big time records this season. 2014 will have THREE record attempts in 24 days by Rupp alone.

Did you get that weird feeling there? Did you? Did you have a momentary flashback to Seb Coe and his infamous 40 Days? Huh? If you don’t know what I am talking about, well, that is part of what is wrong with Track & Field. We don’t celebrate our history because we don’t KNOW our history! Anyway, back to Rupp but be assured that the Seb Coe lesson is coming, and coming soon, to RUNonsense.

The first record attempts take place TODAY – Thursday,January 16, 2014 and Flotrack will have LIVE coverage. Mary Cain and Treniere Moser will go for Jen Toomey’s 2004 1000m American Record of 2:34 at 7:25 PM ET. At 7:40 PM ET Rupp will be going after the American Record in the 5k. The time to beat? 13:07! There is so much that is right about this. What I am really happy about is that the powers that be decided to have the record attempts back to back on the schedule.

Again, I am dizzy. Does this mean that someone associated with Track & Field thought about, actually thought about what would make for the most exciting experience for the FANS! What is next?  Onscreen info with AR and WR splits shown (like in swimming) so we can see if Rupp or Cain are on pace? I need to calm down and not be so greedy.

So, what do we do? I’ll tell you what we do! Watch the races! Sign up for the coverage on Flotrack, read the articles on the race, share any and all coverage on your Twitter, Facebook, Digg accounts. Blog about the races and the athletes and the coverage. Talk about it. Shout about it. Run some extra miles in anticipation of it. Run some extra miles after it. No matter what be EXCITED about it.

We, as participants of this great sport, we as fans of this great sport, we as salesman of this great sport have only reaped what we have sown this last few decades. The sport has been boring because we are boring. Well, not any longer. Rupp and Cain are getting ready to rock. The big cheese himself, Alberto Salazar, says so. Let’s get excited. Let’s get rowdy. Let’s spread the word that there is finally a party in Track & Field. Put on your dancing shoes spikes because tomorrow in Beantown we have a party to go to. Finally!

Run? Baby, It’s Cold Outside.

The Darkness comes early. The Cold clings. Sound ominous? It should. Winter running is ominous.

How do you get up and run in the morning during the Winter? They ask. Don’t they? How do you crawl out and run in this…weather? They ask. They ask. They ask. It’s so cold outside.

Cold, lonely roads. So dark. Those streetlights never really light the sidewalk the way we want do they? So we hug the curb, just off the roads crown. Every passing car heading towards you blinds and every car heading with you seems to get too damn close on those Winter mornings. The special ordered tights can’t keep out those hard icy roped winds. That chill hangs on to your insides like an Amazonian Candiru. And Slush. Awful. It’s not snow. Snow is beautiful. You can run and slip and slide all over some freshly fallen snow and not get too bitter about the run. Grey dirty slush just lies there waiting to attack your warm and dry shoes, waiting to satiate your suddenly thirsty cotton sock. Winter running is slush.

And those first moments after the alarm blazes, horrifying. Blackness except for those red coal numbers harassing you from the clock. No birds singing. They left months ago for sunnier, kinder confines. We’re left with the sounds of an occasional passing car…driving through slush.

How can one get up, out of bed and leave the womblike warmth of the now, finally, perfectly placed bed covers to run? Outside? Even the feet, both of them, are ensconced. Yes, ensconced, your feet are warmly ensconced.

How do we get up, and out, and run in the Winter?

They do, truly, want to know. They ask because they don’t understand. Because they don’t understand they ask the wrong question.

Why do we get up and run during the Winter? That is the question! Not how? How is sterile. How is a series of steps that offer no depth or passion behind the movements. Why?

The correct question should lead to a clearer answer. right? Can we explain ourselves? Can’t we?

We can try.

I’ve found when trying to explain running as with running itself coming close sometimes has to be enough.

Why do we run in the Winter?

Because while everything around us, the trees, the grass, the bugs, the leaves, is dead or sleeping, we remember we are alive and awake.

Because breathing cold hard air hurts and purifies us deep inside.

Because slipping and falling is part of the gig.

Because slipping and almost falling is a glorious victory and a reminder that we can still escape disaster from time to time.

Because the hot shower feels better on chilled skin.

Because a coffee or hot chocolate will blaze more.

Because we like being asked this question.

Because we like the battle against the elements, and the dark, and the battle within ourselves. We tempt and taunt and curse ourselves most of those mornings, don’t we? It’s not easy. It never is. Not even in the beautiful Spring or perfect Summer or glorious Autumn is it ever really easy. But, it’s really not easy in Winter. The personal victory of getting that run in, that conquest over ourselves, that better, stronger person we become when we do hit the roads in Winter, well, that is why.

That and all the rest that I can’t describe or remember or have not experienced yet. That and all the rest. That’s why.

So, as I get ready to fall into bed and collapse into sleep, as I get ready to embrace the warmth and solace of a Winter nights sleep I can’t help but shiver a little, no, alot, thinking about tomorrow morning’s mean, nasty run. It’s waiting for me, for you. Ominously.

Eugene is Pass Go

I read a really interesting blog from Dan McQuaid about Eugene being awarded the next EIGHT, yes eight, NCAA Outdoor Track & Field Championships. You can and should read his blog here.
Dan wondered whether the NCAA really achieves the goal of “emphasizing the fan experience” by placing the meet in the same location for eight, yes eight straight years. He admits that the “fan experience” in Eugene is great. But, he writes that the meet location will effectively price him out of attending considering he lives in the Midwest. Dan was able to attend the meet in Des Moines for around $100. Visiting Eugene for the NCAA meet would cost him close to $1000. Can’t argue with those numbers. But I disagree with him when he says the Eugene “monopoly” will not better emphasize the fan experience. I live in the Northeast. I, like Dan, am a teacher and coach. It will be expensive for me to attend the NCAA meet in Oregon. It would be expensive for me to attend the meet in Des Moines, or Baton Rouge, or Knoxville, or Sacramento, or Fayetteville, or Austin. So, I will do what I usually do. I will watch the meet on TV. That means I will join the overwhelming majority of track fans that actually watch the meet by sitting on a couch in front of our TV’s or increasingly on our laptops. And when I do watch the NCAA meet (and the USATF Champs) when it is NOT located in Eugene I will more often than not be welcomed to the broadcast by the site of 1000’s of empty seats. I know that I should only be concentrating on the performances but I don’t. I can’t. I see those empty seats and it depresses me. And I imagine it depresses those athletes competing too. They deserve, the sport deserves, we fans deserve the greatest possible stage to showcase the best Track & Field has to offer. That stage is not available everywhere. Dan mentioned Des Moines in his blog. Des Moines is a great example of a Track & Field friendly city. Yet, Des Moines could not deliver butts in the seats at USATF last June. They wanted to make a strong case for being able to host the Olympic Trials down the road and God bless them for that! We need cities that want the premier track meets. The problem was that Des Moines could not fill or even come close to filling their uncovered seats. It was a USATF Championship meet that served as the Word Championship qualifier and was the year after the London Olympic Games. Short of an Olympic Trials this was as sure a thing as you can get and they still couldn’t come remotely close to filling the place up on any of the days. Maybe the stadium was too big. Maybe. But it was the stadium that hosted the meet and to this formerly anorexic looking distance runner it was depressing to watch those oversized humans toss their metal balls in front of such sparse crowds. The shot putters and high jumpers and sprinters and distance runners should be competing in front of big and if possible knowledgeable crowds. It seems that being so close to Dan’s Chicago was not enough to make Des Moines a success. This sport needs success. It needs sell out crowds. If Track & Field was healthy then maybe it would only need Eugene every couple of years. But, Track & Field is not healthy. There are not nearly enough people like Dan who will drive over an hour and buy tickets to watch a Championship Track & Field meet. I wish there was. You can read this great post by the Track Superfan blog that looks at attendance numbers of some recent Championship track meets in the U.S.
Maybe this Eugene “Monopoly” will awaken fans from the Midwest and Southeast and yes, Northeast. Maybe having the meet in Eugene for 8 years will fire us up enough to put together a movement to host it in our own regions in a way that makes Eugene jealous! Maybe. But, so far, it seems like having it in Track Town, the real Track Town is the safest and healthiest move for the sport. I do know that I will enjoy watching the NCAA meet on TV or on my computer more seeing the big and loud and excited crowds. And I will tell you something else, I may only be a teacher and a coach and I may not have that much money, but I now know I have eight years to save up so I can take my family west, to Eugene, OR, a place known as Track Town USA to see the NCAA Track & Field Championships. And I know that my family will see it done right. That is the experience this fan wants.