- The Washington Times - Sunday, June 15, 2003

If life were perfect, I would be running with my father today.

That’s what runners do to commemorate Father’s Day.

But life isn’t perfect, so while I will enjoy my hour run in the park today, my father will be on my mind, some 500 miles away in Cape Cod.

I am thankful that while a child in the ‘70s, I would accompany my father to the town track to watch him run four full laps. It seemed like a marathon to me, although I realized years later when I was a high school freshman that he was just running a mile.

I would carry one of those old stopwatches with the sweep second hand and yell out his splits after every lap from the top of the stadium, like a big-time coach.

It was my father who encouraged me to run, bought me my first running shoes, drove me to track meets and road races and ran with me on the streets of my hometown until he no longer could keep up in my latter prep years.

His great goal was a marathon, long before it was cool to be a marathoner. He broke four hours at Ocean State at age 55.

But since then, his running career has ceased. My parents moved away from New England, and he lost his focus. For the past decade, he has been caring day and night for my ailing mother, and he has lost his will.

Today, back in New England six days shy of 74, he has lost his energy to run, walk or even drive long distances. So today, Dad, this run is for you.

Abdi to run New York — One of America’s top 5,000/10,000-meter specialists, Abdi Abdirahman, told The Washington Times last week that he is stepping up to the marathon distance this fall. Abdirahman described his plans for the rest of 2003 after placing ninth in the 3,000 meters at the Oracle U.S. Open in Palo Alto, Calif.

“I will run my last 10,000 meters at the U.S. Nationals (June19-22 in Palo Alto) before focusing on running my first marathon in the fall, the New York City Marathon,” said Abdirahman, a former Somalian who became a U.S. citizen Jan.28, 2000.

Abdirahman follows a number of top U.S. 10,000-meter runners like Alan Culpepper and Dan Browne who have stepped up to the 26.2-mile distance with some success. The 5-foot-11, 130-pound runner has personal bests in the 5,000 (13:19.85) and 10,000 (27:42.93) and was 10th in the 10,000 meters at the 2000 Olympic Games.

Richard Finn, publicist for the New York City Marathon, said he was not aware of Abdirahman’s intentions, but he did say that the Tucson, Ariz., resident ran in the USATF 8K championships in April in New York City and enjoyed his stay there.

“We’d be very excited to have Abdi run in the New City Marathon,” Finn said, adding that marathon officials will be at the U.S. Nationals on June20 to make an announcement concerning other U.S. athletes and the marathon.

Another interesting story to note from the Oracle U.S. Open last weekend was the breakthrough performance of former George Mason University standout Michelle Ballentine. The 28-year-old Jamaican-born Ballentine outkicked heavily favored Regina Jacobs in the home stretch of the 800 meters, breaking the tape in 2:01.62.

Ballentine’s best 800 to date was at the Modesto Relays in April, a runner-up effort in 2:02.30.

“I knew I was in good shape to run 2:01, but I still need to run 2:01.30 to get a spot on the Jamaican team for the World Championships,” said Ballentine, who trains in Queens, New York. The Jamaican championships are scheduled next weekend, with the Worlds in late August in Paris.

College stars — Youngsters with ties to the Northern Virginia area who scored at the NCAA Outdoor Track & Field Championship this week in Sacramento, Calif., include Centreville High School graduate Rickey Harris of Florida (second in the 400-meter hurdles in 48.83), Bishop O’Connell (Arlington) graduate Patricia Soman of Ball State (ninth in the long jump with 20-4), Gar-Field High graduate Sheena Johnson of UCLA (first in the 400-meter hurdles in 54.24) and Woodbridge High graduate Dawn Cleary of Virginia (sixth in the 3,000-meter steeplechase in 10:00.09).

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