One of the most amazing products I have seen in the field of running equipment sells for about a buck. At least that’s what I think it’s price is. This item is a life changer. It’s a worry stopper and a stress
reducer. Over the 25 years that I’ve been using this product, it’s also saved me countess hours
in actual time.
Over the years running shoes have gone the full gamut from $4 keds with hardly any shock absorption to shoes with enough space age sole and heel cushioning to support a small elephant and costing the price the price that I’vepaid at several times in my life for used automobiles. Now they seem to be heading full cycle back to a point where there is actuallya minimalist sect growing within the running culture that advocates a super thin sole made to resemble a shoeless foot . Go figure!
Clothing has evolved from racing in silk-like nylon and training in cottons to the latest breathe-right poly tech or whatevermaterial that hardly lets anyone know you’re sweating.Like in all other areas of life, technology has altered running. IPods and GPS watches have become nearly mandatory gear
for some runners. Used to be that people might have planned their runs around places where they could get a drink of wateror just go without to where some won’t venture out without a Fuel Belt or some other replenishment gadget.
A fully equipped runner in the eighties wouldn’t have been worth much to a ‘highway’ man looking for a robbery. Today’s runner might easily be hauling around over $1000 in gear and more considering smart phones.
The reason I didn’t know how much my amazing product cost is that it seems not to wear out. When I first got this item, I wondered how the manufacturer was ever going to make any money since it appeared it would last forever, so there would be no re-orders. I wondered, since I
received a bunch for free to use as a promotional give-a-ways, how this was going to turn out
but somehow it’s still going. They are probably on the cash counter in some kind of a jar or container at any running store.
The product ‘Squeezums’ —those little barrel shaped plastic widgets that you pass your shoe laces through and they become the knot.They have replaced having to tie and then double tie each shoe each day. Multiply that by daily runs for 25 years and that doesn’t even consider all the retying from knots that got loose.
Ever start off on a run and find somewhere along the line that you shoes felt too tight at the knot? Of course, this entails untying and then retying and wondering for a while if the effort solved the problem. With lace locks, this takes a few seconds and is no hassle–especially in coldweather where the feet often enlarge a little along the way and fingers are too cold to do a good job of tying.
How about at a race? Now your long laces are more imperiled by the unusual proximity of so many other feet. Being in the race business, I’ve watched more starts than most and I’ve witnessed many many folks stopping in the first 50 meters to re-tie. I’ve also heard the war stories after the race how someone would have done this or that but for the fact that they had to stop for a loose lace.
All this being said, I think the fact that I don’t see more people using them is astounding. With all the high tech gear and make-life-easier stuff, I would have thought lace locks would have become universal long ago. Personally, Iwould never think of going back to tying shoes and as a matter of fact I’ve pretty much lost the touch with the art, having no lace ups in my current wardrobe. Maybe that because tying shoes is one of the first lessons in manual dexterity that kids must learn, as adults they are reluctant to let go.
My first experience in dealing with race officials and administrators, did not go so well and probably had a long lasting effect on me. I was about 16 at the time, and a friend and I went to our first AAU hosted track meet with hopes of running the mile and/or half mile.
When we first got to the meet a 5K walking race was in progress on the track. Never having seen anything like that, a being nervous wise guys, the action cracked us up and we weren’t subdued in our reactions. After spending some time at that we spotted the registration table where we were told that to participate in the meet we needed to belong to an AAU Club and that the club person would be there shortly. After a while, the club person showed up. You guessed it, one of the race walkers, at whom we had been laughing.
Although the registration person had said it was a mere formality, Mr. Race walker made it into a rigmarole that’s end result was a wasted 40 mile trip, no racing that day and two embittered kids. I survived the encounter and went back in later weeks and competed in those summer meets and went on to spend years as an administrator. Over the 55 years since, I’ve met loads of really wonderful race walkers [they seem to produce a much higher percentage of administrators than their participant numbers would indicate]; many, many great administrators and officials——–as well as some pretty lame ones—-or at least ones that I’ve witnessed doing some weird things that I considered nearly evil.
Sometimes it’s not the call itself but the circumstances. An afterwards-gloating starter calling a false start on a slight movement in the high school championship two mile on a kid who just happened to be the only long hair on the line. A group of officials letting the race start before disqualifying a team for having 8 runners [7 is the limit] while the team’s coach with everyone’s knowledge was out on the course making the meet possible and unaware that a runner who had been sick allweek showed up at the last minute.
In the early days of triathlon, it seemed that just about every finish was marred by cross accusations of drafting by the top 4 or 5. This was especially true in the female division where guys didn’t seem to object to tailgating by a lady friend or could-be-lady-friend. Of course this behavior met with distain by those who were not so ‘fortunate’ as to have gotten into a pace line.
It was these raucous finish line scenes that went a long way in provoking the sport’s governing body into establishing some kind of officialdom. From the standpoint of a therapist, racer and director, I saw the situation as something that could be fixed with discussion and self governance rather than rule enforcers. I cautioned against this with the operative word to my arguments being punitive.
I had fears that rather than solving my problems as a race director and help the sport, punitive officials would create an us-against-them attitude in athletes. While this might exist to a degree, I am impressed with the amount of time triathlon officials ponder their observations about the infractions that going to assign penalty times. They take their task very seriously as I, the person tabulating the race results under a degree of pressure from race directors impatient to get the awards ceremony started, can attest having spent much time over the years waiting on them. I feel, for the most part, my early fears were unwarranted and the sport is better
I also predicted that as officials became part of the sport, the number of rules would increase. Just like government, any bureaucracy needs more laws to sustain the need for itself but in this case each addition has seemed to improve the sport from all angles.
The one about not riding a bike around the transition area before a race initially struck me as nitty-picky until I was nearly hit by a ridden bike while walking in such an area. One would only need to see one person’s bare head hit the ground before giving up any objection to the chin strap rule. I have actually witnessed a guy unsnapping his helmet strap in a misguided attempt to gain 2 seconds immediately prior to hitting a slight bump in the pavement which dislodged his front wheel and sent him head first to the ground. I believe that he had ridden the 12 mile course with his quick release loose. A fractured skull and who knows what-else was the result he got.
Officials have changed triathlon for the better. Haven’t seen any finish line cat fights in quite some time now but then again drafting is now legal at the top levels of the sport.
What’s your best Race Official story? Leave comments below..
Have you ever been running and found yourself completely in another zone–twilight type zone, that is. Without getting into definitions of aerobic and anaerobic exertions, my personal ‘zone’ has come a few times over the years when the ‘stars’ have been aligned. Well , perhaps not quite that esoteric but to the point of a definite combination of self awareness, personal fitness and geographic situation. Those elements are more typically the ingredients for a special run.
Never having been a comfortable swimmer, I have my doubts that such a state as I will attempt to describe is possible in the water and considering the inherrent danger which is involved in cycling, I know an out-of-body experience would not be possible for me.Out-of-body while running is the euphoric condition of moving along a brisk pace while, although very aware, not being part of the mechanics. The best way I can describe this is as a head moving along at the same rate of speed as the legs which are doing their thing at some distance below the head. While this is happening, the head is occasionally having thoughts regarding the absolute coolness of the situation and wonderment as to how and why it is happening.. The body is moving–feet, legs, torso, arms all under the direction of some magic influence that seems independent of the mind.Absolutely no strain or restraint–mind and body disconnected. Is some puppeteer at work here? Although it’s happened several other times, I’ll shortly describe one that happened years ago at a very high point in my running career. Other times were shorter and some during races lost their significance relative to that of the particular race.Most memorable was during a 7 mile run on Daytona Beach. After a 3.5 mile south segment at about 6.15 per mile , turned around to have a slight tail breeze and settled into a slightly faster pace. Six minute pace was just about my comfort zone. Being on the beach affords the opportunity to run freely without the hassle of intersections, driveways and vehicles. Along with being at peak form–which I’ve concluded allows one to smoothly train at their threshold pace–my stars were in line.
Being worry free is a key ingredient in this equation and this was a perfect day at low tide with very few people and beach chairs on the hard packed sand. Any cars on the beach were 20 yards away in the vehicle lane but served as my speedometer with the speed limit being 10 miles per hour –just 6 min pace.Within a half mile, I’m in the zone. Legs operating as if on their own, could go forever, a few glances at occasional cars moving at the same speed to my left as my guide. As each half mile [I knew the marks] passed, I wondered when I’d come back to earth.
My reverie, unfortunately, was broken in the last half mile when a van full of drunks rolled by as the shore line and the driving lane yelling nonsense—but that’s a whole nother story.
Generally speaking, for a person in his 40′s to be able to go out on regular training runs at 6 minute pace made for a pretty thrilling stage of my life as a runner but having a run like the one described herein for about 3 miles is something I’ll remember over the hundreds of races I’ve run.
Comfort zone, by the way, to me is the pace one could run at for 18 miles when racing, When running at that speed in training be it 6 minutes a mile or 10 minutes for a run 6 or so miles, it becomes the point where to pick up the pace becomes uncomfortable
Ever wonder why they have door prizes at races. The truth of that matter is that before the invention of timing chips, it used to take so long to manually compile results that something was needed to occupy the restless crowd until an awards ceremony could be put together.
These days good race timers have the results on-line before most of the contestants get home from the race and more expensive timers offer instant results posted as you finish and more.
In our society, instant gratification is something with which we all must consider and deal. People have taken impatience to new levels in every aspect of life. Having lived more than half my life without cell phones, faxes and the internet some of this ‘can’t wait’ attitude is almost humorous to me. After all I am someone who has actually compiled all the split times from a 600 person triathlon from a combination of tape recordings of passing bib numbers, hand written lists and time tapes by a process of manually subtracting one time from another. This was made available about a week after the event and sometimes mailed to the racers.
In those days most race results only got to be seen when certain publications like Florida Running and Triathlon came out or in the local newspaper if it was willing or was a sponsor. If you weren’t top three in a age group the likelihood of seeing your name in print wasn’t too good.
In the late 80’s and early 90’s getting a newspaper to make the effort to cover races or to take the time to retype the results for publication prompted me to become a racing columnist for the Daytona Beach News Journal. This gave the 25 yearly races that I was then directing a forum for results and me a place to rant and rave about what was right and wrong with the sports.
At the time I believed that getting results from a race a few weeks after it was over, lengthened the gratification period and thus added value. Joining forces with a photography company we had results along with newspaper clips sent to athletes with photo proofs. One was brought back to their performance long after the fact. This all seems archaic today when photos are on-line the same day.
Getting back to our discussion on instant gratification. With the today’s technology , why are there still glitches? 99% of the issues that slow up the production of race results are caused by the data presented to the timer/scorer.
I am continuously amazed by the number of people with names like Kim, Jodi, Lynn, Jordan, Morgan, Alex and other unisex handles that do not check of their gender. Sometimes I think they must like the attention. I mean, if you are a woman with a name like John and you’ve lived for 30 years or so, I’m certain that a race isn’t the first time that the gender question has arisen! In a road race fixing this is just a simple matter but if the results have been posted and the person who was listed as the winner of the sex change person’s group is now demoted we have the necessity of taking the time to answer their inquiry as to what happened. In a triathlon, the change is compounded by having to change wave starting times.
With the advent of the computer, we are aware that penmanship has become a lost art but some of the stuff that athletes present on entry forms makes one think that in their egocentricity they believe that everyone recognizes their scribble. Maybe that’s true at the office but not at the race. Trying to decipher whether it’s a 3 or a 5 not only takes time but if the guess is wrong, it skews the results. If a thirty year old is listed in the 50 group.
‘When the results were posted at the race, I was 4th, now I see that I’m 3rd , could you send my award?’ is another complication of inattention to detail by athletes.
Family members, especially husband/wife, wearing each other’s chips by mistake generally puts a woman in a very high place and playing havoc with the results until the scorer finds out. Oftentimes these are not as glaring as when a 70 year old is credited with the time of a 30. Recently I did have a situation where there were 6 couples in the same race that wore each other’s chips. One of these was one of the top women whose husband was doing his first race. Sorting through all that kind of stuff is why races hire timing companies and not try doing this themselves.
Most day of race staffing is done by volunteers. If your name is John Smith or Joe Jones, look at the label and make sure that your age and gender are correct. There is a fair chance that someone else in the race has the same or similar name. If you get the wrong number, of course your results are going to be wrong. Same thing is true with chips. We insist that you show your number before getting the Chip. That does not guarantee that the harried volunteer is not going to give you the wrong chip.
If you are entering an event that has several race options, make certain that you race the one which you entered. You generally cannot decide at the last minute to only do the 5K if you entered the 10K. Your time will appear as a super quick 10K and get everything confused even if you are not a super fast runner.
Each of the errors described above take at least 2 minutes to resolve at the end of a race. In a race with 10 errors, that’s a 20 minute delay and that is only from the time the errors are discovered. When your information is wrong it not only effects you, it effects the entire process
And now that all said and done, did you ever wonder why people cheer for someone who has just won a door prize. They haven’t really done anything. Could it be that the applause is just another nervous symptom of impatience
For a period of years, I wrote a weekly column on running for the Daytona Beach News Journal. I recently came across one I wrote in 1990 wherein I expressed the viewpoint that performance enhancing drugs should not be banned from track and field and road running. My logic at that time was that the efforts and methods in trying to stop them would be ineffective and create another bureaucracy that would become a major expense taking funds away from other programs essential to the well being of the governing body, USATF.
I reported then that there was a dark cloud over the sport which had come down on me in 1983 when Jarmila Kratochvilova of Czechoslovakia ran 1:53.28 for 800 meters and 47:99 for the 400. Oh so many years later, the 800 mark still stands but the 400 was eclipsed in ’85 by East German Marita Koch with a 47:60. Neither mark has been approached since. Coming from the ‘eastern bloc soviet drug system’ that produced marathon winner Waldemar Cierpinski along with thousands of others in various sport files made public after the breakup of the Soviet Union, neither person has credibility. Three years later Florence Griffin Joyner would take record breaking to the sublime with an un-drug-tested 10:49/ 21:24 combo for the 100/200 meters. At the time these monster marks by a relatively insignificant athlete wearing sexy self-designed attire cried out for belief. We wanted them to be legit in spite of the now infamous drug exposure of Canadian Ben Johnson at the same Olympics.
Consider this; all of the above marks remain on the books in spite of advances in steroid pharmacology that would see Balco labs develop undetectable stuff. In spite of the improvements in tracks, equipment, training methods, coaching and the advent of serious prize money these marks have withstood. Even at the height of her admitted enhanced performance, even Marion Jones never came close to Joyner’s marks.
In the early 90’s several Chinese women suspiciously broke the distance marks—-1500 meters to 10,000—and several of those remain on the books so the cloud has hardly been lifted over these past 20 plus years.
I highlite the women’s marks but one can certainly wonder about the possible use of substances enabling the training necessary to have produced many of the men’s distance records during the last decade but that’s not my point.
Would anyone say that the 40 year ‘war on mind altering drugs‘ has been a success? It’s corrupted the court system, spawned the world’s largest prison business, destroyed lives, and more but at the end of the day more people are using today and it’s my belief that the total amount of damage caused by the ‘war’ has been far greater than the damage caused by the drugs themselves.
The other drug war is being waged by WADA. The enemy has to meet three criteria; enhance or have the potential to enhance performance; poses a perceived or actual health risk; and is contrary to the ‘spirit’ of the sport
We all wanted to believe in Marion Jones—she was good looking, athletic and looked folks in the eye for years saying, ‘I’m clean.’ We all know the Lance story…….and would anyone be shocked if undeniable proof appeared….would people care? Baseball’s Bonds got a verdict on lying about what was a seemingly obvious use of something. He, along with baseball’s other performance enhancers , has gotten huge and produced statistics that were unworldly. Sure, his and Clemens marks are an insult to the rightful possessors of benchmark records for hitting and pitching but at the end of the day is the ‘possibility’ of stopping any of this worth another Gestapo.
If just like in the other ‘war on drugs’ , investigation and prosecution are arbitrary at best and selective at worst and If the fun-drug cops find it easier to get their busts in the ghetto where the chances of conviction are greater and the punishment is more severe for crack than for coke doesn’t it stand to reason that the performance –drug cops are more likely to investigate in New York, NY rather than Nairobi , Kenya amidst an armed revolution. Ever wonder how many out of competition drug test have occurred near Addis Abba, Ethiopia as opposed to say near Atlanta or Los Angeles. I’m sure volunteers are not lining up to fly into those troubled spots to test athletes.
By the way Cierpinski, to the best of my knowledge, still has his Olympic Gold, Frank Shorter is still second and my buddy Don Kardong has not moved up to 3rd in that long past Olympic marathon. Sooooooo, its my belief that for all the effort in another 20 years nothing will really have changed except some adult cheats will have suffered physically , many lives will have been altered by innuendo and accusations and the bur
Like it or not, we now live in a Prozac, Ritalin , Cialis, 5 Hour Energy world. When we are on the verge of having high school sports go to self-funding it is doubtful that any effective testing will happen at that level so any argument that this enforcement is aimed at youth prevention is hardly viable. Young people I know say that many of their friends juice for appearance. Every week at triathlon finish lines, I witness male bodies looking like they must have spent half their lives on a Nautilus rather than a bike or in a pool.
As a former substance abuser and a person who worked in that field as a counselor for years, I’m aware of the ramifications but when things have gotten to the point where more people talk about who’s juicing than know who won—it’s time for a change.
Recently Tiger Woods got a whole bunch of s_it for just a little bit of s_it. Don’t know if he would have received such scrutiny before his ‘scandal’ but I, for one, had never seen such media attention given to something like spitting.
Baseball players are constantly seen chewing and spitting. I think they may have some new rules about tobacco but who’s to say what that is coming out of their mouths. How about swimmers? Anyone watching soccer players?
Have you ever been out on a run, lost in your own personal reverie, oblivious of most of your surroundings other than how they relate to you putting one foot in front of the other when suddenly the urge to spit comes on and you launch one onto a nearby lawn? Out of the corner of your eye, you notice a human figure, a blur from that angle but within earshot. You wonder, as you move along, how that person felt about having their property spat upon.
Did they take it personally? Is it someone who thinks they know you because they’ve seen you running by their house for 30 years and suddenly there you are spitting on their property.
I recall someone that always trailed me in races saying that the slower runners had to run through all that faster-runner spit……that statement sort of stuck with me through the years and now that I’ve moved back some in the field, I haven’t noticed any difference in expectoration habits so far. Perhaps, because of hearing that long ago, I’m pretty conscious of what I’m doing if running in races or populated places. After all some places even have ordinances against letting loose on a sidewalk although I hardly think it gets enforced too often but it would be
Runners are expected to expectorate! We build up mucous along with the miles and it needs to get out. We have to clear the bronchial passages to take in more air.
Did you know that your spit can be a sign of how well hydrated you are? Clear saliva generally is a good sign while white can be a sign that you haven’t drank enough fluids. Sometimes runners are unaware of their hydration level and when low can be a step toward an injury related to fatigue. This is a useful tool.
After nearly 30 yrs of coaching women runners, I naturally made some observations. Generally speaking women runners are less likely to push themselves to the max for the purpose of finishing ahead of another female in a race. Oh I know plenty that don’t fit that bill. What I have also observed is that those who didn’t think twice about spitting on a run were the type that would be more likely to push harder. Since guys have likely grown up more in a less refined culture their habits in this area reveal little about their competitive spirit.
Next blog, pissing in the weeds……only kidding!
I first started a lifelong interest in track and field from running what probably was close to a 1,5 mile race around the perimeter of Cathedral Camp in Massachusetts about 1950. Although I do recall my chief competitor, I can’t recall who won. Just doing well was good enough for a nine yr old. From that time on, I paid attention to running news.
All of the few road races and track events were measured in yards and miles. The mile was the most significant race of them all. Sir Roger Bannister breaking of the 4 minute barrier in the mid 50’s is still regarded as one of the epic sport’s moments of the last century. Does anyone know anything heavy about the 1500 meters other than it is now competed at major meets. Back in the day, as they say, nearly every American sports fan knew what the record was for 100 yds. After all, that was the length of a football field. Americanos could relate. Three and six mile races were the norm for distance running
All this comes to mind after watching a webcast this past weekend of a setup 2 mile race at the Armory in New York where US mile record holder Bernard Legat would attempt to break Doug Padillia’ 21 yr old record of 8:15 and high school sensation Lukas Verzbickas attempting to best the 47 year old mark of 8:40 by Gerry Lingren. Lagat succeeded by 5 seconds, while Lukas, who is also a national triathlon champion, missed by three ticks.
Would I have even watched, had the distance been 3k. Probably, but I consider myself a track nut but most folks reading this can, at least, relate to the distance and times. In the same vein, many casual fans could relate to 7 ft high jumps; 18 ft pole vaults; 70 ft shot puts and 27 ft long jumps but how many can convert those to the metrics. People claim that the increase in the number of sports available to watch accounts for the diminishing interest in field events. I believe more of the blame falls on mystery metrics.
One of the weirdest infusion of metrics into the track world comes at the high school level. Tracks used to be 440 yds so it was 4 laps for the mile—start and finish same place. In the 80’s they decided to make them all 400 meters—this meant that there would be a slight difference in the start and finish of mile and two. Rather than have the tracks marked so that the mile and 2 mile could be contested, the authorities changed the official high school distances to 1600 and 3200 meters. The 100, 200, 400 and 800 were, at least, contested nationally and internationally. At the time , I argued againt this saying that the marks for mile and 2 mile would soon be relegated to obscurity. They said that woudn’t happen and for a few years they were included in the state meet programs—-no longer the case. The main logic in this drastic change was that the administrators felt that the coaches who direct the meets would not be capable finding the correct marks on the tracks to run mile and two—-so much for the value of a college education.
5K and 10K have now become part of the running jargon and with the increasing number of folks participating in running events they probably cause more Americans to think and speak in metric distance than anything else. It’s sort of an amazing phenomenon that we do everything in miles but race in meters. Ever hear a runner going out say, ‘I’ll be back in a while, just going out for a 10K’? I know, many folks, even many that run them, don’t know the mileage. U.S. runners want to know their pace per mile not their pace per kilometer.
When I first got into event management, I waged on a one man crusade against metric distance. My first endeavor was a Four Miler in 1981. I staged 7 , 8, 9 and 10 mile races. The Thanksgiving Ten Miler in DeLand is lone remnant of all that. Whenever I get the chance to influence the distances in a triathlon, I always forego the 5K in favor of the simple 3 miles.
If the race starts and finishes at the same place, having it be 3 miles instead of 5K simplifies the placement of mile markers. I’d venture to say that most of the inaccurately measured courses were so because of some quirk in the process of measuring that extra 1/10th or 1/5th of a mile that were made necessary to make a 5k or 10k instead of 3 or 6 miles. This problem compounds as the distance increases. The actual distance of a 5K is 3.1068560 miles.
Something to think about: When women only represented 20% of the running population, high school cross country had the fairer sex only running 2 miles while the boys ran three. This was, in part, due to the theory that no one would come out for the sport at 3 miles. 5K’s are the offshoot of that same thinking. Now that women make up well over 50% of any road race field, maybe it’s time to scrap the 5K and get everyone running 4 miles. What is that called; paradigm shift. I’ll do my part. When anyone calls us about wanting to put on a new race, I always suggest a 4 miler rather than 5K unless they are dead set on 5K. You might say, ‘then why aren’t there tons of 4 milers?’ Well, many people that call don’t have any real idea of the expense and effort that goes into staging a race from scratch and scrap the idea in favor of a bake sale or some other kind of fund raiser and of course sometime I just am not that persuasive.
Nothing happens until somebody sells something. An old axiom from my days in retail management. The cave man hunter had to sell himself on the idea of facing the prey and selling has been a common denominator throughout history.
Without corporate sponsorship, many of the races we sometimes take for granted, would cease to exist. Sponsors make a decision to get involved with a race for a variety of reasons. Sometimes the decision is made out of a feeling of civic responsibility to promote a fitness related event in their community. Many others make the decision with the goal of product or brand recognition and eventual sale in mind.
I always believe in trying to support the businesses that I see sponsoring races and the sport. Knowing that GATE gasoline is a longtime sponsor of a major race in Jacksonville, I’m more inclined to stop at one of their stations if a choice occurs. Because it was involved in another race, I’ve been buying Chi Chi’s salsa for over a decade. I could go on and on.
I’ve always been a supporter of the running stores that support racing and races. Track Shack in Orlando is one that has been doing that for 30 years while employing knowledgeable folks who are really tuned into the sport. No-brainer there for me.
You know these stores in your community……buy stuff there! Sure there may be a better deal at some discount store or some facility in buying on-line but if there are no local run-by-runners stores, we are all worse for the fact. As a plus going to these stores is generally a fun experience.
Here is a little known running contribution that I found out about a few years ago. Philanthropist and track and field aficionado Irwin "Ike" Belk. Mr. Belk has carried his love for track & field from his days as a high- school record holder into the State House and the boardroom. The one- time half-mile state record holder in North Carolina, Mr. Belk has gone on to be perhaps the biggest individual philanthropist in the sport of track and field, building more than 30 tracks throughout the country and served as a Board member for the USA Track & Field Foundation. At one point he also was the largest individual donor to the U.S. Olympic Committee.
Mr. Belk is President of The Belk Group, Inc., and retired president of the Belk Group of Stores, which operates 250 department stores throughout the Southeast. For some reason, I liked Belk stores before learning about this and since they have been my exclusive department store choice.
Where is this going? Get ya thinking….maybe! I can remember when running related products consisted of shoes and shorts. Now, it’s a major business.
After having just gone through another Christmas season of consumerism my curious mind wanders to questions of buyer and seller motivations. Do those often-abstract ads sell NIKEs? Is price the biggest deal? Is there any end to the amount of marketing and product that will be spawned by the simple activity of putting one foot in front of the other faster and/or better and/or longer?
Bottom line------support people and places that support your sport.
When I was a boy hearing the older folks talk about the good old days—-well maybe the Great Depression and World War I weren’t exactly good—-I’d think that I certainly would not fall into the pattern of talking about the past to any youngster when I got older. Well, here I am, pushing 70 and I feel forced to talk about the good old days. Don’t stop reading, I won’t go all the way back.
Just back to the early 80’s in road racing. A time, when, to win your age group 15-19, 20-24 all the way to 45-49 at nearly any central Florida 5k took a 16 something time. Running 6 minute pace in those groups hardly even insured an award. . The first race I directed was a four miler and had 400 finishers; 60 ran under six minute per mile pace.
Six minute pace wins many 5K races today, overall.
More people are running in them and there are probably three times as many races today as there were ‘back then’, and one might conclude that the proliferation of races has diluted the quickness of the fields. I guess, in a way, some of us ‘old timers’ talk about those good old days to feel good or better about our own running accomplishments as we slow down with age.
With me, it’s not a case of the older I get, the faster I was. It’s more of a puzzle on how this phenomena has happened. Personally, I’m tickled to have been part of the generation that spawned rock and roll in the fifties. I think Elvis broke out with Blue Suede Shoes in my freshman year of high school and soon enough to be a part of ‘the sixties’. I’m gladder still to also have been part of the ‘running revolution’ of the early 80’s.
What inspired a bunch of us to work so hard to get to run so much faster than today’s norms. A question I’ve posed to many guys I ran with in the 80s was ‘would we have run as fast if we could have won running slower. What I meant is that there were then a few who had continued running at a high level after college and continued into their late thirties and forties. Those were the elites. Barry Brown, Bill Stewart, Bill Rodgers and Frank Shorter were the national stars. Joe Burgasser, Dave Storey and Jerry Slaven were among the Florida stars fitting that bill. Then there were the rest of us who started again in our late thirties. We saw the challenge and got on the bandwagon but how did we run so fast. Maybe we thought we could catch up with some of the ‘elites’. After all we were in the same races!
Boston Marathon historian Tom Derderian, thinks that we baby boomers trained so hard because we were heirs to the warrior mentality inherited from our World War II fathers [mine was WWI] combined with a new consciousness of the 60’s and 70’s which turned us into idealistic people who were well suited to the rigors of brutal training. In speaking of the field at the 1982 Boston Marathon in his epic book, A Duel In The Sun, author John Brant believes that the majority of the runners in the race ‘were riding that double wave.’ Having been in that race, I’d have to agree.
Derderian also believes that if you ask a good runner today what the primary aim of their training is, they will answer that it is to avoid injury. Thirty years ago it was simply to run fast. I am certainly aware that there has been a long- awaited upswing in the caliber of elite American distance runners in the last several years. The several high level training groups in Oregon, California, Michigan, Minnesota and New York have produced a record breaking group of U.S. runners but what has happened at the local level.
While training for a marathon, I wonder how many 42 year olds are doing weekly track workouts that include up to 16 half miles with as little as a 200 meter jog as intervals during weeks that averaged 70 miles. This leading up to a Boston run that would be a failed and debilitating race there [planned on running 2:37 and died in last 5 at 8 min pace for a 2:45] and be pissed at my performance enough to run 5 miles the very next day at 7 min pace, 8 the next at 6.30 pace and back to a hard interval workout the next en route to racing 5 miles on the fifth day in 28:40] Nearly all my marathon training had been sub 7 min pace so these were slow runs but this was surely not the Rx for injury prevention that’s so adhered to today. Not only that, but I am amazed to note that my last long run 2 weeks prior to that Boston was a 2:54 marathon in an around Mount Dora staged by the Lake County Sheriff’s Department as a trial run for what they thought would be an annual event at a better time of year than April in Florida.
Could today’s runners who seem to me like they should be running faster be the possible victims of not having been crazily motivated baby boomers. For me, running was my passion. It was something I was good at and would go to any length to get better. Are the Galloway—easy marathon programs and all the new gadgets creating a bunch of racers who look for the painless route to success? Fuel belts and gel packs were not part of the plan back in the day. A drink of water at 11 miles into one of those 22 milers thru Winter Park at 6:30 pace with a bunch of guys my age would suffice.
Another thing is that 30 yrs ago, good runners were coming out of college with a desire to continue phase into road racing. At any given time, there are a thousand male college runners capable of running 5 minute pace for 5 miles cross country. For the most part, graduation marks their end of competition. Look at the times in the 20-29 group at most runs? Where are all the fast graduates? I think they might be burned out by the rigors of cross country, indoor track and the spring outdoor track.
Knowing that I ran quite well with no special physical skills except a small frame just makes me wonder why I see so few people doing as well today. I’d been able to push myself to the limit but sensible enough to back off when my body told me to. Hence, I’ve had very few injuries over thirty years but I just wonder.
What’s wrong with track and field in the United States?
Amazingly there are at least twice as many folks running in road races today as there were in the first running boom which occurred in the early eighties. Probably less than a tenth of these runners have any more than a passing interest in anything about the sport of Athletics which is the international name of Track and Field which is actually the base root of the ‘sport’ of running. Syllogistic logic would suggest that with this dramatic increase in running participation, the interest in track would increase—not the case. Many of the major track meets that existed 25 years ago in the US, no longer happen.
How many of our current running population are even aware that over the course of this summer, one of the toughest world running records—the men’s 800 meters—was broken twice by the same man. This record that had only been broken once before over a course of 30 years in spite of onslaughts on all of the other distance marks such as the men’s 5k mark which had dropped 23 seconds over the same period of time. When I was a young guy, all of my peer group would have know about this likely split and here we are in the age of instant communication and no one is talking about this amazing feat.
There is certainly news coverage of drug suspensions. Every time the governing body of the sport or the drug testing agency issues a notice of finding or suspension. Wonder why that always gets attention? Is a drug suspension more interesting to the general population than a world record.
Getting to my point begs the question, why aren’t all these new running people—-and believe me it is a very new group at the races—–interested in track. I mean, if some latest Runner’s World training thesis has you running something like 4x 800 intervals at 4 minutes in your quest for a sub 24 min 5k, wouldn’t this fact generate some interest in the 800 as an entity.
With a sports information overload generated by the internet and a wide assortment of TV stations disseminating just about everything about sport, wouldn’t it stand to reason that track would have gotten a generous slice of the pie? After all, nearly all of the basic competitions are related. Who can run the fastest, longest, jump the highest, throw the longest are all questions that face people from their earliest play roots. High school track is one of the highest participation sports.
Track and field has an interest spike in the US every four year for the Olympics but other than that—not much. This was once a nation where a track meet with the USSR vs USA was just about the hottest sports event in the country. Just about anyone with any interest in any kind of sports knew what the world record was for 100yds. Today, ask any number of people, at a football game, what the WR is for 100 meters and you might find someone who knows.
One thing that certainly caused a reduction in track interest was the advent of the metric distance into the sport. What was that? About 20 years ago and try and find anyone who knows how long that a 5K is that hasn’t run one. Everything else in our country is measured in miles, yards, feet and inches except track distance and the subsequent road race distances. We are not going to adopt the metric system here period. Even the beloved Mile has been relegated to metrics. Where once the most significant accomplishment in all of sports was breaking 4 minutes for the mile in 1955 by Roger Banister, today who can name the time or person holding the mark today, except track nuts like myself; never mind what the height is for the high jump…..2.40 meters American record 2.45 World………..
While all the ball sports have risen in fan popularity and knowledge, track has diminished somewhat in conjunction with the advent of metric distances but that’s surely not the only reason. College basketball had Dick Vitale. Say what you want but he revolutionized the way that his sport was presented. For over twenty years, by game time he had inside scoops on all the players, their families, coaches and added a zest for their playing and the game itself that may have drove some people crazy but sure enough made college hoops a multi-billion dollar item for the NCAA and ESPN….think Final Four/ March Madness. All the while this was going on Track and Field on TV suffered through dull boring commentators who often seem to have not done any homework on the athletes nor could call an exciting race.
Listen to Phil Liggett and Paul Sherwin call the final sprint any day on the Tour de France and then listen to a track race on TV. Those bicycle guys actually increase my heart rate but I’ve heard college kids in the at the O’Connell center at UF call a better race than any one of the ‘TV people’ who seem to always get the track announcing jobs in spite of poor performance. They even do the marathons. Dwight Stones showed some signs of being a TV character but he seems to have either been stifled or has lost the flair over the past few years. I’m sure there is a ‘track Vitale’ or Liggett out there just languishing in obscurity. Go figure.
I spent over twenty years involved with track’s governing body in the US. During that time, I spoke at one time or another, to about every supposed mover and shaker in USATF about this and was pretty much met with indifference. Looking for an opportunity question the organization’s role in bad media was one of the reason’s I stuck at it so long but I guess my personal charisma was insufficient to cause any of these folks to take any steps. At one point I served on a national communications committee but none of our suggestions were moved on.
Recently, USATF has made some news—-albeit, not positive—-for firing it’s CEO for no apparent reason just after giving him a $140,000 raise. I had moved on from my administrative committee position [Masters] before he was hired so I never met him but his writings seemed to indicate a person to buck the establishment. I came to believe over the years that the only way that TV would change is by suggestions from a very strong USATF CEO because most of the people within the volunteer core either think things are fine since it doesn’t interfere with their personal agendas or they have no real interest.
Each year at the USATF annual convention the National Hall of Fame has its induction ceremony. A chance to be part of and even meet some of the greatest performers of all time, literally a track fan’s utopia happening usually in the same location. What amazed me about this, and perhaps it tells something about the organization, was the large number of important administration people who chose not to attend. Maybe they aren’t really fans of the sport they administer.
Hall of Fame night was always the convention’s highlight for me but then again, I’m a guy who considers the Prefontaine Meet in Eugene a bigger event than the Super Bowl.