Marble Falls’ gift to the world of running—Leo Manzano—is in tomorrow’s 1500-meters semifinals at the World Champs in Moscow. Like so many Austinites, I sent Leo a message of support, but with a warning: Don’t jaywalk any of the mean streets of Moscow while out on a run.
I know all too well the consequences of that.
In 1980, I was a young running journalist, covering the Moscow Olympics. It was my first international trip and the first of what would be four Olympic Games. To this day, it remains my most memorable Olympics, but for all the wrong reasons.
Back then, the Soviet Union was a pretty repressive place and, of course, the United States boycotted those Games, having something to do with an invasion of Afghanistan. (Hmm.) A few American journalists (including Jim Dunaway of Austin) and track nuts still went anyway and many of us felt we had targets on our backs.
I certainly did.
On my first full day in Moscow, I left the massive Rossiya Hotel (right across from the Kremlin, along the Moscow River) for a morning run. Once outside, it began to rain so I hustled back to my room for a jacket. There, patiently going through all my stuff was a blue-jacketed goon who wasn’t at all perturbed when I caught him red-handed. He just motioned for me to sit down, while he examined all my vitamins, running shoes and books.
The track competition didn’t start for several days so I volunteered to cover some basketball games for a friend of mine who worked for Associated Press. When I mentioned to the AP guy about my little friend who had been searching my room, AP wrote a story about it, and other Americans who had been harassed in Moscow. The article created quite a stir back home and evidently in Moscow. The blue-jacketed goon would visit my room every other day whenever I left to run.
A few days later, track and field started. After one boring morning session of qualifying heats, I decided to run back to the hotel along the river with another reporter. The road that runs along the Moscow River had been cleared of all traffic during the Olympics, but we still stayed on the sidewalk that borders the river. As we approached our hotel, we looked both ways and darted across the street in front of the high walls of the Kremlin.
Two soldiers walking in front of the Kremlin, hooked our arms, stopped us in our tracks and began shouting at us. I knew we had committed a mortal sin so we waved our press badges in the soldiers’ faces and tried to apologize which did absolutely no good. Our press hotel was nearby so they took us there and stuck us in a room until a press liaison who spoke English could be summoned. When she finally arrived, it was explained that what we had done—jaywalking–was considered a very big deal in Moscow and we were subject to arrest.
Arrest? For jaywalking? I did that every day back in the US of A. I wasn’t going to spend a minute in some gulag for running across a street and neither was my friend, a former Olympian who worked for a much bigger magazine than I did. He told her to get someone from the American Embassy down here—pronto.
Eventually, someone from the Embassy came by and told us to simply apologize and pay the fine (i.e., bribe) and we could be on our way. There were other incidents that happened during my Olympics, but that intolerance all came flooding back to me while reading about Russia’s anti-gay legislation and how it may affect athletes and spectators at the Socchi Winter Olympics February 7-23.
Thank goodness for athletes like Nick Symmonds. He called out the Russians after finishing second in the 800 meters in Moscow on Tuesday. Symmonds dedicated his silver medal to his gay and lesbian friends and said, “As much as I can speak out about it, I believe that all humans deserve equality as however God made them. Whether you’re gay, straight, black, white, we all deserve the same rights.”
Just don’t jaywalk.
O More World Champs. Nine current or former Longhorns have competed (or still are) competing in Moscow. Senior to be Danielle Dowie, who competes for Jamaica, ran the 400 hurdles but didn’t make it our of prelims. Junior Ashley Spencer is in the 4 x 400 relay pool. Former UT athletes competing include Olympic silver medalist Manzano (1500), Trey Hardee (DNF in decathlon), Dylan Armstrong (a Canadian who throws the shot), Samyr Laine (who represents Haiti in triple jump), Michelle Carter (fourth in the shot), Alexandria Anderson (seventh in the 100) and Chantel Malone (of the British Virgin Islands in the long jump).
O Conley Sports, which owns the Austin Marathon and Half Marathon, launched a new marketing campaign yesterday called RunAustin. “We need to blow our own horn, let the world know that we have some of the best running events—not just great trails, a fit population, great running stores and terrific training programs. The part of the message that gets left out is, ‘Look at these terrific, iconic running events,’ ” said John Conley who, along with his wife Stacy, owns Conley Sports. Their company also directs such major races as the 3M Half Marathon, IBM Uptown Classic and the Statesman Capitol 10,000. The RunAustin campaign will have a video promoting Austin as a running and racing destination. In the future, there may even be a RunAustin race series. Ideally, said Conley, many of the Austin races could pool resources to get better deals on equipment needed for races. (That was one of the reasons for having affiliated races be part of the Austin Distance Challenge, but that hasn’t happened yet.) For more info, go to www.run-austin.com.
O Matrimonial notes: Austin Parks Executive Director Collin Wallis got married last Sunday to Michelle Krejci in Crested Butte, Colorado. Michelle is the new Executive Director of Innovation and Development for AISD. Also last Sunday, top masters runner Nancy Dasso witnessed her eldest daughter—Cecilia Chard, a recent graduate of SMU—get married to longtime boyfriend Samuel Mosley. Congrats to all.
O Today is the due date for tri queen Desiree Ficker. She has had to curtail her running, but DesFick reports she’s feeling well and anxiously awaiting the birth of her first child—a daughter—along with her husband, Matthew Berry. Still feeling well enough to go for a “Due Date Run” as posted to her Twitter account this morning: @DesFick.
O There are a bunch of flatlanders from these parts entered in the Leadville Trail 100 which starts early Saturday morning (August 17), but there isn’t a faster runner (male or female) than Allison Macsas. A 2:40 marathoner and Olympic Trials qualifier, this is her first ultra of any length.
O Other Central Texans entered in the Race Across the Sky: Ryan Beard, Matt Bush, Dave Coats, Ted Davison, Carrie DelBecq, Adam, Detwiler, Huw Edwards, Josh Geisinger, Jason Lippman, Pete Mehok, Brian Petersen, Steve Richard and Paul Salazar, all from Austin. Also entered is Greg Wilkerson of Manor and Denver Fredenburg of Dripping Springs. A big contingent from San Antonio is also running: Russell Broyles, Tyler Curiel, Doug Ratliff, Dave Martin, Mark Keenum, Elizabeth Howard, Rebecca Gartrell. Keith Gartrell, Sara Flores-Valdez, Lorenzo Sanchez, Miguel Valdez and Rolando Vasquez.
O BTW: Jen Ohlson did the Leadville 100-Mile mountain bike race last weekend and finished strongly in 11:02.
O Our two Ultramen—Devon Kierman and Andrew Gale—both finished the three-day Ultraman Canada this week. Gale finished 12th in 27:43 and Kierman was 22nd in 31:58. Both were still standing.
O At the Falmouth Road last weekend out on beautiful Cape Cod in Massachusetts, there was also a road mile. The top 10 guys all broke four minutes and in 10th place was Duncan Phillips in 3:59.75 who listed his hometown as the ATX. Never heard of him but some sleuthing by Eli Asch of Conley Sports revealed that Phillips, a University of Arkansas grad, has run a mile as fast as 3:56 this summer. He also ran a 3:59 in May in Los Angeles. Phillips, who is originally from College Station, won states in the 1600 and cross-country for A&M Consolidated and moved here a few months ago to train with Leo the Lion (Manzano) under the watchful eye of Ryan Ponsonby.
O Steve Sisson coached the UT women distance runners for seven years, but the former UT All American was not hired by new Texas head coach Mario Sategna to run the combined men’s and women’s distance program. Says Sisson, “I’m done with collegiate coaching—at least for the next year.” Sisson is one of the three owners of Rogue Equipment and also coaches the Rogue AC (its elite team) so his plate is full right now.
O BTW: Former Austinite Scott MacPherson, who dominated road running while living here for two years, has moved from Michigan to Columbia, Missouri. His fiancee Casey Jo Magee is a gymnastics coach with Mizzou. ScottyMac’s next race is the US Marathon Champs at Twin Cities on October 6.
O What I’m listening to: “Sweetheart of the Sun,” by The Greencards. The official release date of their great new album–their sixth–is August 20th but it’s already on sale at Waterloo Records. (They’ll be at Threadgill’s on September 27th.)
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