Tag Archives: Flotrack

What’s Wrong With These Kids? Part I

I get questions. Seriously. People actually ask for my opinion. If you are not shocked by this I can assure you that my brothers, sister and parents are. I give them my opinion pretty much all the time on all sort of things. I don’t think they have asked for my opinion once in 38 years. I can’t really blame them – I’m the kid that stuck a Battleship game piece up my nose during the awesome 1980 Wimbeldon final between John McEnroe and Bjorn Borg. I’m still paying that one off. I was four years old! It fit. What’s the problem? The problem was getting it out. The whole family went for the hospital visit. No 4th set tiebreaker for the Bennett Family. No epic 5th set battle for the Bennett Family. No DVR back then either. Again, I was 4. We need to move on…as a family.

So, occasionally I get questions – mostly about running – How should I train for a marathon – what should I be having my 11 year old do – how much speed work is too much speed work – how long should a long run be – when did you start losing your hair?

One question that I get more than the others has to do with the quality of high school distance running. Why are these kids running so fast? Or, if you were like me and raced during the Dark Ages of US distance running – the 1990’s – then the question is one laced with a little bitterness – What’s Wrong With These Kids?

I figured it was time to at least attempt to answer this question, and a great question it is. I have to first say that I hold the right to add to this list as I see fit. I write off the top of my head. Which means I often leave things out and I tend to ramble. So, for the safety of your eyes I have decided to break this into 2 parts – #’s 1-5 and #’s 6-11. I imagine that this list will seem sufficient to me as I publish it and will seem lacking after I read it again a few days later. Let’s simply consider this a list as opposed to the list of reasons why I believe kids are so much faster and faster in such greater numbers than at any other time in US history.

We had way better music in the 90’s though. Like, way, way, way better.

Without further ado, I give you 1-5…

#1 – The Internet – The fact that teens can read about, hear about and watch other teens racing from around the country is in my estimation the most significant reason for….ready….I have a great word….ready….the RUNAISSANCE! Seeing is often believing and seeing a kid from New Jersey or Illinios run 8:45 for 3200 means the kid from California needs to get out the door and hit the trails if he believed 8:50 was going to get the job done. Reading about that State Meet 8:45 race 6 weeks later in Track and Field News while relaxing on the beach on July 4th did not have the same effect. Thank you Flotrack, Dyestat, Milesplit and Runnerspace! (And thank you Track & Field News for treating our sport like it was a legitimate sport and not just an activity to lose weight like some magazines did in the 90’s)

#2 – NXN – Man oh man did we have some great runs when I was in HS about a mythical national championship for XC. The Harrier Magazine and its US Top 25 list edited by Marc Bloom was the closest thing we had to that imaginary race we prayed for. We’d talk trash about Mead HS of WA and York HS of IL, and wonder aloud and angrily why someone didn’t put together a TEAM championship like Foot Locker had done for individuals. Enter Nike. This would have been #1 on this list (which is not in order of importance) but I realize that much of the press and coverage and build up in terms of excitement for NXN is done online. The quality of HS teams on the Boys and Girls side has risen dramatically in the last 10 years. NXN is to blame (if your team is falling behind) or to be commended (if your team has moved ahead) for being an integral part of that rise in quality.

#3 – NBIN and NBON These meets have been around longer than NXN. The New Balance Indoor and Outdoor National Championships have become the Track & Field meet of the season. In the past, like ancient history 1980’s, there were a series of Invitationals around the country where the elite of the elite HS runners competed in June. They have for the most part disappeared. The NBON and NBIN have now given a date, time and place for the elite athletes to have their showdown. If you get enough studs together you can make some real noise. Ask Oppenheimer.

#4 – Coaches that listened to Pearl Jam – If you ran during the 90’s there are a couple of traits that you picked up. One, you listened to Nirvana and Pearl Jam. Two, you ran slow but thought you were good. Three, you developed an inferiority complex about runners from the 70’s and early 80’s. Four, you went to college and got tired of Americans sucking on the world scene. Five, you eventually learned that you did not work hard enough in HS. Six, you realized that you could coach kids to work harder than you did and not make all the mistakes that the guys in the 70’s and 80’s made. Seven, you have an affinity for making lists.

#5 – Bob Kennedy He kept the light on when all around him the night was creeping in. Thank you BK. If you don’t know who he is shame on you. If you do but really don’t then take the time to learn. You can’t truly be great in this sport at any level if you are not a fan and a knowledgeable fan at that.

That does it for PART I. Click here to read PART II of What’s Wrong With These Kids

 

Warning! Read Before Running!

When my wife and I were expecting our first child I’m pretty sure we read just about every book and magazine article we could find on being a parent, the baby, the birth, the months leading up to, the months immediately after, the must have products, the must nots, and so much more that I can’t even remember. We were not nervous. We were not ignorant. We were just excited. Almost all the information was bunk, as it usually is, but we did enjoy reading about it all. Over the last 11 years I have joked with my wife, half-joked really, that we should write a book about what really happens when you become a parent. Guaranteed best seller.

Someday.

For now I am content with writing something for those people out there contemplating becoming a runner. So I asked myself what a non-runner needs to expect if he or she takes those first steps, if she does, in fact, become a runner. I’m going to steer clear of post-long-run-endorphin-crazed ramblings or talk of running highs or magical final straightaways right now. I believe it is best for newbies to experience those in the moment, in shock. I think it is best to let them know what happens, really happens, to all of us runners when we are not floating through glorious sun-drenched trail runs. If they think they can stomach this kick-ass sport after reading what comes next then give them their star and deputize.

They obviously could have taken on a far easier sport but have chosen instead to run. At least they will have been warned.

Here we go:

Sometimes people will crap themselves when they run. That person may be you.

Your new shoes will get dirty. Dodging puddles is a waste of time. Get your shoes dirty. Be done with it. This is not a Road Runner Sports Catalogue.

This is not a fashion show. That being said, it is also not a basketball game or the family backyard Thanksgiving touch football game. Buy some running shoes – real ones, from a running store for crying out loud. And ditch the knee length shorts. If you want to be a runner then be a runner! There are some really great companies out there that make some really great running clothes. They can make you look as cool as you can possibly look while basically suffering for extended period of time. You will feel better about yourself and you will feel like a runner when you wear the clothes made for runners by companies that cater to runners. Buy from those companies and from those stores.

So you may need to change your shopping and viewing habits. Support the sport by supporting those that support the sport. Universal Sports. Oiselle. New Balance. Brooks. Nike. Running Times. Track & Field News. Balega. Flotrack. Running Specialty Stores. They have all stepped up to help running and Track & Field. By paying them back you will be paying your sport back and in turn yourself. Champion and Wilson and Izod can have your business when they start doing business with your sport.

You will get aches and pains. Alot of them. Actually, it is rare that you will not have something bothering you at least a little bit. You don’t always have to take off because something is hurting either. Remember, there is a difference between hurting and being hurt. Knowing the difference is essential. So, realize now that YOU know yourself better than anyone else. Use running to learn about your body.

It’s usually your inability to understand yourself that gets you injured. It’s probably not the shoes, or the road, or the trail or the pace or Alberto Salazar or the hill or the wind or rain or snow or the article or the song that was on while you were running on the treadmill. Getting hurt is usually because of you. Staying healthy? You can take credit for that too.

A good massage for almost anyone other than a runner feels good. A good massage for a runner hurts. It does not hurt good no matter what John Cougar Mellencamp says. It is deep and painful and does not involve the massage therapist talking about Odwalla drinks while Enya is being played.

Sometimes you will pull a muscle except you won’t. It will only be a cramp. You will scream and embarrass yourself. You will be carried back to your car. You will contemplate quitting the sport. You will sheepishly be back running with the crew in a few days.

Ice baths are not fun. If the water is the correct temperature then your toes should feel like they are about to explode until they go numb. Ice baths may not be fun but they are worth taking.

You will get in shape to get in shape quicker than you will get in shape.

When you are finally in shape you will have runs that make you feel like you are in the worst shape of your life.

You will have a hard time dealing with the fact that improvement should be measured by the improvement on your crappy days and not the improvement on your good days.

Don’t run to lose weight. At least not the weight you measure on a scale. Running will not work for you unless you love it and if you are running for any other reason other than your love for it then running just won’t love you back. Try to use running to be a better runner. Believe me, you will become a better person in the process. And if that happens then those weights you want to lose both on the scale and off will disappear. Jacob Marley was not a runner. He should have been.

When you at your best you will be running on a thin line between greatness and sickness/injury.

Many of the runs you go on you will not want to do.

Many of the runs you want to go on will become runs you don’t want to finish.

Still want to be a runner? After all of this? Do ya?

I hope you do

We runners know these things because we learned these things over miles and miles and through aches and pains and the flu and bad races and terrible runs and goals not met. We’ve been through all of this. We kept running. We want you to know that we kept running. You need to know that. And if you really, truly want to be a runner, then you will need to learn these things yourself as you run your own miles.

No one said it would be easy. That was the one thing about running you already knew.

And isn’t that why you showed up in the first place?

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.

20140122-163647.jpg

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.

DownloadedFile

images-1

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.