- The Washington Times - Sunday, June 8, 2003

PALO ALTO, Calif. — The Weather Channel just flashed a daunting statistic on the screen in my hotel room here: So far this year, the Washington area has had just five weekends without precipitation.

Luckily, USA Track & Field chose the West Coast for its five-meet Golden Spike Tour this year.

Not to rub it in for my few remaining friends at home, but the weather here at Stanford University, the site of yesterday’s Oracle U.S. Open track and field meet, is a 15 on a scale of one to 10. In other words, perfect plus for runners.

Dry and in the 70s during the day, high in the 50s in the evening, cool breezes, dry, sunny, clean air and dry.

Did I mention dry?

It is easy to spot the East Coasters — just look for their newly sunburned faces. Trust me, there still is a sun up there.

The meet attracted some of the biggest names in the track world as many U.S. athletes prepare for the USA Nationals at Stanford from June19 to 22. The top finishers at Nationals go on to the Worlds in Paris from Aug.22 to 31.

Road to Athens — In a span of 10 days, world marathoner record-holder Khalid Khannouchi laid out his plans for the next 15 months — starting with the Chicago Marathon in October and hopefully ending with the Olympics in Athens next summer.

On May27, Khannouchi committed to returning to Chicago, the site of four victories, including the fastest marathon debut ever in 1997 (2:07:10) and the then-world record in 2000 (2:05:42). He sliced another four seconds off that record in London last year.

The 31-year-old former Moroccan was in the race of his life in May2000 to secure his American citizenship in time for the U.S. Olympic Marathon trials in Pittsburgh. He won that race, too, with a week to spare but sadly withdrew from the trials with a hamstring injury.

Khannouchi told race organizers that he will train in Albuquerque, N.M., to prepare for the Oct.12 Chicago race, where the winner will earn a record $100,000 first-place payout.

Then he announced Thursday that after Chicago, he will turn his focus to the 2004 U.S. Olympic trials marathon Feb.7 in Birmingham, Ala., where he should not have to run particularly fast to qualify for Athens. The closest the other U.S. marathoners have come to Khannouchi is Alan Culpepper’s 2:09:41 and Dan Browne’s 2:11:35.

Who wants to be a millionaire? — This year’s IAAF Golden League will pay out $1million to any athlete who goes undefeated in all six of its track and field meets in Europe. The prize money, doubled from last year, will be shared if more than one athlete goes 6-0.

Movin’ on up — Marla Runyan’s debut at the New York City Marathon last year surpassed most people’s expectations. The legally blind 34-year-old Eugene, Ore., resident placed fourth in 2:27:10. This year she is hoping to crack the top three at the 34th running of the Big Apple race Nov.2.

“Fourth was a great debut,” she told race organizers last week, “but this year I am running for a spot on the podium.”

Two months ago, Runyan was disappointed with her 2:30:28 Boston Marathon finish. True, it was fairly warm and humid that day. But one thing that is captivating about the 2000 Olympic 1,500-meter finalist and five-time Paralympic gold medalist is that she prepares well for every race and, except for Boston, has rarely failed to meet her own high expectations.

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