Tag Archives: TrackTown

Hurts So Good. 

I only had a few goals.

One of them was to qualify for the Olympic Trials.

I was good. 

Maybe, I thought, even Olympic Trials qualifier good.

I was not Olympic good. 

I may have thought I was at one point.

But I wasn’t.

I eventually understood that.

When you do some strides with a 3:50 miler you can’t help but understand. 

I was okay with it. 

Because I knew that if I really busted my ass I could qualify for the US Olympic Trials in the 1500m. 

I could line up next to the best milers of this great country…and belong.

I could race knowing I earned my bib and my spot on the starting line. 

That was one of my mountaintops. 

I spent years and years trying to climb there.

I was close.

I could feel it.

The day the accepted entries came out I scrolled down the list. 

I had run 3:43.93.

I read the final time listed.

I read the final name. 

That’s not my time.

That’s not my name.

There would be no bib for me.

I hadn’t earned a spot on the line. 

I was only 24 years old. 

I knew I would run faster. 

I knew there would be another Trials.

I knew I would make it next time…four years later.

It’s funny. You don’t know you’ve just run the fastest you will ever run when you run the fastest you have ever run. 

You just think “I can be faster”. But I never did run faster.

And I didn’t make it next time. 

When the 1500m field gets called to the line at Trials, I see me there lining up alongside them.

But I’m really just up in the stands. 

A fan.

A runner.

I may not be on the line, but my heart still races every time I hear the gun.

The Olympic Trials is my favorite meet. 

Because it hurts a little every time I watch.

And I’m proud of myself that it does.

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.