That Houston is the best, most prestigious race (marathon and half marathon) in Texas is incontrovertible. This isn’t exactly a newsflash as Houston is one of the five best marathons in the country. Houston has hosted two Olympic Trials Marathons (the first was the women’s Trials in 1992) as well as numerous USA half marathon championships as it will once again on January 19th.
In 2012, Houston did the unprecedented by hosting both the men’s and women’s Olympic Marathon Trials on the same day in the same race. What had been thought to be unworkable, Houston worked it to perfection and pulled off both Trials races seamlessly the day before its own marathon, half marathon and 5-K
It was such a colossal undertaking–putting on five races in two days—that the Houston hierarchy wasn’t sure they ever wanted to do it again. In fact, the Houston organizing committee was so worn out that initially they decided not to bid on the 2016 Olympic Trials. Left unsaid, was the difficulty of dealing with USA Track & Field.
Anyway, something changed and Houston was one of three cities—Cincinnati and Los Angeles are the other two—which placed a bid to USA Track & Field to host the 2016 Marathon Trials again.
I don’t mean to make this a Houston love fest, but I’ve been to almost every Olympic Marathon Trials since 1980 and most have been completely unremarkable events, attended by a few thousand interested family and friends. The first women’s Olympic Marathon Trials in 1984 in Olympia, Washington was an exception, but more typical was the ’04 men’s Trials in Birmingham, Alabama where the police and the parking meters outnumbered the spectators.
Houston was different. Held the day before the Houston Marathon on a spectator-friendly course, there were big crowds, plenty of prize money and recognition of the runners. What it didn’t have—and was slammed for—was national media attention.
But such criticism is a joke, cited by the ill-informed. There is no national running media. Doesn’t exist. Influential newspapers such as the New York Times, Chicago Tribune, Boston Globe and Washington Post used to cover these things, but no longer do. Heck, even the Austin Statesman didn’t see the Marathon Trials as newsworthy enough to send someone down to Houston even though two Austinites ran.
To be clear, the national running media today consists of a few bloggers, websites such as Let’s Run and FloTrack), a couple of reporters from Running Times and Runner’s World and a handful of a few others scattered about. All that counts is TV and NBC provides a packaged show of the Trials.
Anyway, the USATF decision on the city to host the Trials was supposed to be announced last week, but all that happened was Cincinnati was eliminated from consideration, leaving LA and Houston still standing. The fact that LA hasn’t had an important marathon since the 1984 Olympics doesn’t seem to be a factor. The two factors that do count are visibility and national media attention which, I’ll point out once again, is a joke. (When the 2008 Trials were held in New York City, there wasn’t any more coverage than when it was held across the river in 1988 in Jersey City.)
Houston was given credit for doing a commendable job in 2012, hosting both races on a single day and raising the necessary money for meaningful prize money, expenses, etc. I’ve been told Nike and NBC are firmly in Houston’s corner.
That might not be enough.
A well-connected friend of mine who was at the annual meetings in Indianapolis said he doesn’t know when a decision will finally be made by USATF but “It’s turned into a massive political fight.”
Everything does. My educated guess is the fight is between the Long Distance Running Committee and the USATF hierarchy. The LDR Committee undoubtedly is in Houston’s favor (the members were at the ’12 Trials and saw the job Houston did), while the powers at the top are in love with the glamor and prestige of LA.
A decision needs to be reached very soon, but nobody seems to know when that will happen. It would be helpful to athletes, sponsors—not to mention the Houston Marathon Committee—if that decision could be reached before the 2014 Houston Marathon and USA Half Marathon Champs.
O Last word on Houston: The 2014 USA Half Marathon Champs are in Houston again and it will have a decidedly Austin tinge. Some of the folks I know are running include Tia Martinez, Scott MacPherson (who doesn’t live here anymore), David Fuentes, Rio Reina, Rory Tunningley (his first half marathon) and from San Antonio, Jose Munoz.
O MacPherson, who now lives in Columbia, Missouri with his fiancee who is a gymnastics coach at the University of Missouri, has been in town getting some PT and training under his coach, Steve Sisson. ScottyMac was at the Decker Challenge, cheering on his Rogue teammate Erik Stanley and said he misses having good people to train with. “In Columbia, there really isn’t anyone I can do hard workouts with together. Not like here where there are so many good runners.” MacPherson, who ran at Arkansas but is originally from Plano, is planning to run Boston in April (hoping for a 2:12) and then will spend two years gearing up for the US Marathon Trials in either Houston or LA where he believes he can run 2:10 which would put him in contention to make the US team.
O News of the Schlotzky Bun Run’s demise may have been premature. It might still happen and might still be in the spring, but it might be a 10-K, rather than a 5-K. If it happens, it will definitely have a new beneficiary and a new organizing group. The previous organizers (the Young Men’s Business League) is talking about starting its own race which will benefit the Sunshine Camps of Austin. Got all that? And good luck starting a race downtown as the permitting has become difficult, if not impossible, for new races.
O The New Years’ Day RunTex to RunTex run has been an institution for 18 years, but there was fear that the run would go the way of RunTex (kaput). Fortunately, Rogue has stepped into the breach and will host the run. It will start at 9 from the REI at the Gateway Shopping Center (where the run has always started) and basically follow the same north-to-south, 13-mile route with the finish at the new Rogue location (opening in mid-January) at 410 Pressler, along West 5th Street. The run is absolutely free and, as is traditional, there will be black-eyed peas and collared greens with beverages supplied by the good people at Hops and Grain. For more info, go to the FB page: https://www.facebook.com/events/1441155832774957/. Thanks to Rogue for keeping this great tradition alive.
O Big congrats to Jared Carson and Megan Betts on their engagement. Jared, who used to manage the north Rogue location, works for Asics and Megan is a sales rep for Adidas. Could lead to some interesting dinner conversation.
O The Foot Locker Cross-Country National Champs—essentially the national high school championship—is Saturday in Balboa Park in San Diego and Texas is well-represented with Frank Lara of Houston in the boys race. In the girls race, Natalie Rathjen of Dallas is on the South team as is Devin Clark of Spring Branch. One of the favorites for national honors is Matthew Maton, a junior from Summit HS in Bend, Oregon, who won the West Regional last weekend. Maton, the son of Michelle Maton (herself an NCAA cross-country champion), lived in Austin until moving to Bend four years ago.
O Bummer about the cancellation of the MetroPCS Dallas Marathon last weekend (the Memphis Marathon was also canceled) due to the crippling ice storm that hit the Metroplex. Neither marathon is offering a refund, but Dallas will at least be mailing race shirts to everyone who registered. Dallas will also be offering some type of registration fee break in the 2014 race to registered ’13 runners.
O While I was freezing my ass off at Decker (actually it wasn’t too bad), it was even colder and windier for the Scott and White BCS Marathon in College Station. In the half, Henry Lelei, a former Aggie, won in 1:08:18 with Jeremy Daum of San Antonio second in 1:11:31 and Scott Kimbell, late of Austin, in third in 1:13:28. Natosha Rogers, another Aggie, won the women’s title in 1:22:15 with Hannah Steffen of Austin second in 1:22:33 and Florence Ngetich third in 1:23:15. Craig Ottman of Austin won the marathon in 2:38:56, Abraham Rutto was a whisker back in second in 2:38:59 and Benny Rodriguez of Laredo, on the comeback trail, finished third in 2:44:09. Lee Toowey of Austin was—I think—the first masters in 3:00:17. Nora Colligan of Austin took the women’s division in 2:54:36 with Leslie Canter second (2:58:27) and Leah Jabbour third (3:00:58). In 14th place, was Mrs. Hops and Grain—Meg Hare—in 3:27.
O Liza Galvan of San Antonio was one of the many Central Texans scrambling to find another race after Dallas was canceled. At 4 a.m., she got up and drove to Laredo for the Laredo Kick-Asphalt Half Marathon. Only trouble was when she got to Laredo, discovered that her racing shoes were left in the bag she was going to take to Dallas. Fortunately, she and her daughter wear the same size and Galvan commandeered the shoes and still won in 1:19:32 which placed her second overall to David Rodriguez of Corpus Christi who won in 1:12:49.
O BTW: San Antonio is hosting the ’13 USATF National Junior Olympic Cross Country Champs on Saturday (December 14) at the National Shooting Complex. About 4000 runners are expected to compete in age groups from 8 and under to ages 17-18.
O Tons of Austinites journeyed up to Sacramento last weekend to what has become a favorite BQ winter race—the Cal International Marathon. Not sure how many got their BQs, but fastest Austinite was 41-year-old Jim Fitzpatrick who ran 2:57:15. Walter Smith was close behind in 2:58:52. Sarah Orozco had the fastest clocking of the Austin women in 3:00:31. Matt Sorenson clocked 3:03:16, Kevin Babb ran 3:05 and Philippe Bochaton was right behind Kevin in 3:05:27. Farshid Parandian ran 3:05:39. Kelly Patel of the TexasRunningPost staff PR’ed in 3:08:18.
O The bloom may be off the Rock ‘n’ Roll series of races. Two were canceled this year, due to a decline in registration and San Antonio’s numbers were half of what they were in the first year of the race (’07). Owned by a private equity firm, someone had to walk the plank and Competitor’s president and CEO—Scott Dickey—was replaced on Tuesday by Paul Walsh who is chairman of Competitor’s board. Dickey was just in Austin last week where he took part in a seminar at The Running Event.
O Our old buddy Mason Reay, who recently ran a 16:35 PR, was in town last week for The Running Event as part of his duties as CEO of Nuun. But Reay is now stepping down from Nuun after three years of growing the brand. Bummer.
O I promise not to write about Lance Armstrong every week, but he makes such idiotic statements that are just impossible to ignore. His latest? Mr. Former Yellow Jersey, who shows not one scintilla of contrition, tells ESPN The Magazine that he feels he was singled out and stripped of his seven Tour de France victories because he was an “asshole.” He said, “Do I think I made a lot of mistakes? I know I did. Do I think I was way too adamant and forceful in the denials? Absolutely. Was I way too aggressive when it came to getting in people’s face or contesting their version of events? Yes. But, at the same time, was I singled out? Yes. Only time will tell which aspects of this have been fair and honest. For the first time in my life, I just gotta have real patience which is not my virtue.” My take: People are tired of his non-denial denials. He abused the trust of so many millions of fans and cancer survivors, defrauded the sport and sponsors of millions and millions that the best thing for him to do would be to take his medicine and shut up.
O What I’m listening to this morning: “Live” by Alison Krauss & Union Station. Every song on this recording is a gem.
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