Monday, August 3, 2009

If you could design a course titled Running 101, there would need to be a place on the syllabus for the history of the sport.

Place these names at the top: Bill Rodgers, Frank Shorter and Joan Samuelson.

Everyone must thank these pacesetters and others like them for making the sport so prevalent that you can find road races every week without driving far from the D.C. area.

It amazes me when I hear stories like I did at the Utica Boilermaker in New York a couple of weeks ago that runners were passing Bill Rodgers with no clue who he was.

For the record, he won the Boston Marathon four times in the 1970s, the New York City Marathon four times, and even the Cherry Blossom Ten Mile Run four times. His best shot at an Olympic medal was in 1980, the year he made the team. Then President Carter kept the U.S. team at home.

Shorter won a lot of marathons and road races in his day, too - most notably the gold medal in the marathon at the 1972 Munich Games. He followed that effort with a silver at the 1976 Olympics in Montreal.

Samuelson helped lead a world of women into sports with her gutsy point-to-point victory in the inaugural women’s Olympic marathon in Los Angeles in 1984. She won the Boston Marathon twice and Chicago once.

Even more impressive is that some 30 years or so later, long after their peaks, the big three are still running. Their next stop is next weekend at the Falmouth Road Race in Massachusetts, where all three have had success.

They are followed there by some of the biggest active names in the running world. Defending champions Tadese Tola of Ethiopia and Edith Masai of Kenya headline the 37th running of Falmouth on Aug. 9. Tola will be challenged by two-time Falmouth runner-up and 2004 Olympic silver medalist Meb Keflezighi. Others include Moroccan Riduane Harroufi, fastest at the recent Utica Boilermaker 15K and the past two Cherry Blossom Ten Mile Runs.

Energizer bunny - Michael Wardian of Arlington, the 2009 USA 50-kilometer champion, placed second in the USA 50-Mile Trail Championships last weekend in Crystal Mountain, Wash. He ran for 6 hours, 51 minutes, 50 seconds.

Back in the slump - When Reston’s Alan Webb scratched in the 1,500 meters at the USA National Outdoor Championships in June, his season ended on a sour note again. The main injury was a troublesome left achilles, but a sore hamstring added to his misery.

Who’s the best? - You will find some disagreement amongst the organizers of the World Marathon Majors over which of the big five is the world’s best marathon - London, Boston, Berlin, Chicago or New York.

For the first time in its history, the Association of International Marathons and Distance Races chose its “Marathon of the Decade” - and the first winner is Berlin. The award is based on flat Berlin’s unparalleled series of world records in the past decade: six world records in the men’s and women’s races from 1998 to 2008, including the current record of 2:03:59 set Sept. 28, 2008, by Ethiopian Haile Gebrselassie.

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