That the sport of track and field is on life support in this country isn’t exactly a newsflash. But it’s in such a moribund state for a variety of reasons that hardly anybody under the of age of 60 cares about it anymore. What with all the drug scandals, widespread cheating, the arcane events (race walking, hammer throw?) and the absurdity of tainted world records, it’s little wonder that track is utterly irrelevant. The only time it even matters is once every four years when it gets network television treatment.
But I have a solution for the apathetic state of the sport: More beer miles.
That’s right. If the folks at USA Track & Field gave a hoot about promoting their sport and developing some interest among the Millenials, they would stick a beer mile into each and every major meet and national championship. Not to mention the smaller meets that are dying off faster than Rick Perry’s Presidential aspirations.
The Beer Mile World Championships last Wednesday were a clear example of what’s wrong with track—no excitement, no buzz, nothing innovative—and what could be right by adding a beer mile to the most important meets (excitement, buzz, innovation) and attracting a new fan base.
Before you poo poo this concept, the first thing you must consider is track needs to do something radical such as beer miles to rescue it. Can you imagine for one minute, if a nationally important meet such as the Texas or Penn Relays, added a beer mile? Instead of one more heat of the 4 x 200-meter relay or one more flight of the javelin, these meets could have an action-packed, unique race which TV would gobble up, sponsors would love —and so would the fans.
All the proof anyone needed for the energy this event can generate was on display at the world-class Circuit of the Americas. I’m betting of the 3-4000 people who were there, only a handful give a hoot about track or would even consider going to a meet such as the Texas Relays. But they were outside in the cold, cheering wildly for the beer milers because it was…fun. Loads of it.
I’m not suggesting that doing something as simple as adding a beer mile would cure all that ills track, but it would be a start at attempting to attract another demographic that, at this point, couldn’t care less about the sport.
Clearly, this is never going to happen. The old fuddy-duddies who run track would never consider something like this. Too bad. If I was the high commissioner of track and field in this country, the first thing I would do is make it mandatory that every meet and national championship added a beer mile.
O While we’re at it, I have a few suggestions for the Floriani Brothers (FloTrack) and their next Beer Mile World Championships. Keep it at Circuit of the Americas, but start it at 7:30 or 8 p.m. It started way too early and navigating Austin traffic at rush hour meant many people missed the start. Also, consider moving the entire event to the weekend (SXSW?). And add music. A kick-ass band would have added so much.
O This is a little late, but David Fuentes PR’ed in the San Jose (California) Silicon Turkey Trot 5-K on Thanksgiving Day. The former St. Ed’s star who runs for Team Mizuno ran 14:15 to place 19th overall. (Fuentes is running the National Club Cross-Country Championships on Saturday at Lehigh University in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania.) Matt Cleaver of Rogue ran 14:38 in San Jose and Tia Martinez was seventh woman in 16:07 in the same race.
O Martinez, who recently left Rogue and her coach Steve Sisson, might join up with John Hayes’ group for training and coaching. But she and Hayes, the former UT men’s coach, haven’t reached an agreement yet. Hayes is putting together a solid group of pros (Leonel Manzano) and post grads, but is coaching only one other woman (Jenn Hall).
O Kelly Williamson rebounded quickly from her Kona Ironman disappointment where she was 19th . In the Cozumel IM two weekends ago, Williamson finished third. (Three days later she ran the Beer Mile.) In Cozumel, Kelly’s 9:24.41 was 17 minutes faster than Kona and her 2:57:02 marathon split was the fastest of the day among the women and only four men had faster run splits.
O The Foot Locker National High School Cross-Country Champs are Saturday in San Diego and New Braunfels’ Paige Hofstad, second in the Texas state meet, who shocked herself by finishing second in the South Regionals and the Nike Nationals, is considered one of the favorites. (Her sister Mia runs at Rice.) Abby Gray of Alamo Heights, who was 10th in the South, is also running as is Alex Rogers of New Braunfels (second in the state who has signed with UT) and Carter Blunt of McKinney. Grant Fisher of Michigan is the defending champion, but he will be tested by Matthew Maton, a former Austinite, who only finished third in his regional. But Maton, who now lives in Bend, Oregon and is ticketed for the University of Oregon, has already run 14:45 this year.
O Congrats to Diana and Keegan Ferguson on the birth on Tuesday of their son Finnick. Diana, who used to work for Conley Sports, is the manager of Pure Austin.
O Collin Murphy, a local Ironman and a very tough runner, is pulling up stakes and headed to Spokane, Washington after 15 years in the ATX. An engineer at Dell, Collin has taken a new job at F5 Networks. Good luck.
O Another Collin—Collin Smith—who won the Decker Challenge on Sunday in his first half marathon left the next day for a European holiday in Prague. Smith is planning on running the Aramco Houston Half for his second half.
O Speaking of Decker, the numbers were down this year due, ARC prez Nick Schultz, believes, from a crowded race schedule. Last weekend was San Antonio Rock ‘n’ Roll and this weekend is Dallas and the BCS Marathon in College Station. All good points, but Decker is getting squeezed without any good options for a different date in 2015. And to top it off, Distance Challenge participation is down roughly 30 percent for the 2014-2015 series.
O Tons of Austinites headed down 35 for San Antonio. Leading the way (among Austin peeps) in the marathon was none other than our very own Ashish Patel of TxRP (and Team Mizuno) who finished third overall in 2:40:59 and even picked up some Texas-only prize money. (Ashish and Kelly’s baby boy is due on December 31st.) In the half marathon, Jeff Sadler of Rogue ran 1:09:03 to finish sixth with Kip Chemirmir coming in 44th in 1:22:25.
O The California International Marathon in Sacramento is a favorite with Austin runners looking for a PR and Amy Baker of Rogue certainly got her’s. Baker killed it in Sacramento and ran 2:50:06 to place 46th among the women. Elizabeth Northern of Ft. Worth ran 2:42:02 to finish 22nd. John Potts of Georgetown had an incredible race. The 56-year-old ran 2:48:46 and—believe it or not—finished second in his age group to some 55-year-old from Canada (Dave Stephens) who ran 2:44:59.
O Robyn Dodge went all the way to Belize for the Placencia End of the World Marathon and for the second straight year won the women’s division.
O The trail head at Auditorium Shores on the Butler/Lady Bird Lake Trail has officially reopened after a long delay. The trail through the construction zone never really closed during the $2.2 million renovation project which will mean a wider trail, better bathrooms and a bigger parking lot. The parking lot and new bathrooms aren’t opened quite yet.
O What I’m listening to this morning: “All The Roadrunning,” by Mark Knopfler and Emmylou Harris. Favorite: “This is Us.”
Have any news for me? If you have something, send it along to email@example.com.
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