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Sunday, January 28, 2007

Boston Indoor

My thoughts on the Reebok Boston meet and its TV coverage...

Race of the day: women's 3000 meters. Although it was not close at the finish, Shalane Flanagan was right on Meseret Defar until the bell. That took some big brass ones. After crossing the finish, Defar looked literally ready to puke. While I think ballsy racing is much prefereable to fast times, Flanagan was able to do both. She took six seconds off Regina "BALCO" Jacobs' AR; the "real" record was set a full 16 years ago. Kim Smith was well back in third and beat Anne Audain's 1982 outdoor national record.

Trend: USA men's milers. Webb ran well. Nick Symmonds ran the 800 in an OK time but in an impressive manner. Across the pond, Bernard Lagat ran well too. I know Webb and Lagat will be in the Wanamaker Mile on Friday night and I certainly hope Symmonds is there too. How long has it been since we've wondered which American might win the Wanamaker?

This Week's TV Complaint (and yes, I have enough for a whole season): Use of graphics. The people doing these broadcasts have done at least a few things right; we got WR pace updates on the bottom of the screen during Dibaba's successful record attempt. We got a "Coming Up" timetable twice. But they're still ignoring the fact that this sport is called track and field. Before every attempt in a field event, we should get a leader board on the screen. Small and unobtrusive, maybe highlighting the name of the competitor about to make a throw/jump. Unless we know the distance needed to move up in the competition, it's just a bunch of guys throwing or running around with a big pole. It should be ridiculously easy to do this on a live broadcast, and with 20+ hours to edit the videotape there's absolutely no excuse for this level of amateurism. A preteen could do it on YouTube.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Yet Another One Bites the Dust

On Wednesday, it was rumored over at Lets Run that Ohio University's men's track program would be eliminated. On Thursday, the official announcement came (men's swimming and women's lacrosse got it too) followed by a press conference. I sat on this one for a few days so I could try to find out a bit more.

The usual reasons were given: finances and Title IX. The AP wirestory ran all over the state said it was necessary to "meet a federal requirement regarding athletic scholarships", which isn't what was said either in the release or at the press conference. Only participation proportionality was cited. Either way, it's a canard; cutting a women's sport does not improve any kind of male-female ratio. Furthermore, the AD's hand was not forced on the issue, as federal regulations give schools a number of options. And an early story on Swimming World's website said OU was already in compliance with Title IX, although its reference is nowhere to be found at the student newspaper's wesbite. My best guess is that university administrators told the students to do a re-write.

As far as the money issues go, I'd really like it if an accountant would get involved in this, because the numbers each side uses are widely different. OU's AD Kirby Hocutt said the university could save as much as $685,000 per year from the cuts. However, the numbers filed with the federal Office of Post-Secondary Education showed a total operating budget of only $223,854 for the affected sports, not all of which has even been cut (XC is included in track totals). Hocutt referred to a $14.7 million annual budget, while his numbers sent to the feds show $16.7 million; Hocutt said the total 3-year deficit is around $4 million, while his numbers sent to the feds have balanced books.

Regardless, the best-case scenario has these cuts closing only half of Hocutt's financial gap. Nor does he mention the revenue OU will lose from these cuts--the NCAA distributes some of its money to schools by the number of sports and scholarships they offer. OU will lose out on over $70,000 sent from Indianapolis.

However, when anyone does future financial figures at a state university in Ohio it looks very bleak. Athletic departments are immune to this except for one glaring hole: scholarships. Tuition in Ohio costs 47% more than the national average. A full scholarship now costs well in excess of $10,000, whereas mine at BGSU fifteen years ago was less than half that.

The 800-pound gorilla in all of this is football, as with every school that makes these kinds of cuts. OU's situation warrants some special mention. Long a bottom-dweller in the MAC, OU's football program made many changes over the past few years. In 2001, the track was removed from Peden Stadium, the field lowered, and seating increased at a cost of $2.8 million. In 2005, OU hired Frank Solich (currently paid $262,172 annually), the former head coach at Nebraska. Just two months into his first season, he got into some hot water. OU became a regular on conference football broadcasts and just this year went to its first bowl game in 38 years.

To which the ordinary person responds, "Hey! They're making a lot of money now!" Actually, not really. The MAC's TV contract revenues are split equally among all conference members regardless of whether they're featured or not (and hosting a TV crew can sometimes add considerable expense). The same goes for the bowl appearance; OU pays its bowl-related expenses and then turns over the remainder of the $750,000 payout to the conference to again be split up equally. The only way to recoup increased football spending is through home ticket sales, merchandising, or going on the road and getting blown out by a big-time powerhouse. It will take OU a long time to get an additional $2.8 million out of that, just like BGSU is still paying off its $2.2 million stadium upgrade (which oddly enough occurred a few years before they killed off sports too).

Part of all this is the "stepping-stone" status of the MAC. It's Division 1-A, but barely. No one in a decision-making position takes a career job in a MAC school. If an AD upgrades the status of the football program while not appearing to run the school broke, he instantly makes himself more appealing to a big-time university. If he ticks off the locals and alumni and leaves the place a wreck, it's not his problem because he's not going to be there. As a friend on the inside once said, D-1 athletic departments are snakepits.

UPDATE: An anonymous poster at Let's Run gives his version of events.

Big Meets set for this weekend

The real indoor season kicks off today with a pair of meets: the Reebok Boston Indoor Games (on ESPN2 tommorrow, 3:00 to 5:00 PM) and the Norwich Union International (aka Five-Nations) in Glasgow (live at 9 AM at Add in tomorrow's Osaka Ladies Marathon, where the traditionally powerful Japanese women's squad will be selected for August's World Championships, and you've got a pretty good weekend. For minor-league affairs, Trackshark's got the collegiate action covered and Dyestat has the high schoolers.

The five nations in the Five Nations meet are the US, Great Britain, Sweden, Germany and a Commonwealth all-star team (one athlete per team per event). Surprisingly, the USA sent a decent number of top athletes to Scotland despite the meet being on the same day as the Boston meet. If we sent our very best in each event the competition would not be close, but under these circumstances it could be very tight and very interesting. I'll enjoy watching it.

Anti-Doping News Update

A little over two weeks ago the IAAF announced four suspensions, with a suprising name listed among them: Lydia Cheromei. There had been some discussion that it was related to fertility treatment; the IAAF just confirmed it to be the case.

Friday, January 26, 2007

Anti-Doping and Politics

A few days ago USA Today ran a cover piece on outgoing US Attorney Kevin Ryan. He essentially created the BALCO affair and is the lead prosecutor.

Why is he outgoing? Well, he's being forced out. As in "asked to resign". This is highly unusual in the middle of a presidential term--so much so that the Senate scheduled a hearing on the matter yesterday. Turns out somebody slipped a provision into the renewal of the Patriot Act a few months ago that allows the President to name whoever he wants as repleacements without Senate approval. Ryan is one of 11 who have been forced out; almost all have been investigating and prosecuting...Republican politicians. Just a coincidence, I'm sure.

Ryan doesn't fit the mold, apparently. Your guess is as good as mine as to why he's out. BALCO will go on, and while it might not be prosecuted as well as it was it might also get better. Time will tell.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Corrections and Retraction

When I started this blog last summer, my intention was merely to express my thoughts as a fan and share them with other fans. I was shocked to find out mine was the only English-language fan blog dedicated to our sport; other sports have thousands.

Never in my life did I intend it to stir up controversy or get people mad. Well, that changed this morning. Normally I get anywhere from five to fifty hits a day; today I’ve had 234 so far.

On January 6 I wrote a post about Derek Woodske’s two-year suspension and some connections I thought were a bit odd. Apparently last night someone sent a link to it out via e-mail; most spent less than one second viewing it, but a few left some rather heated comments and two threatened libel suits. This post is an attempt to address those issues.

When writing about public persons, to prove libel the plaintiff must show that the writer knew his statements to be false or had reckless disregard for the truth. These are fairly high hurdles to get over, and furthermore neither applies here. Still, I'd like to address the issues.

My original statement was that Woodske was given a two-year suspension for refusing to take a test, which is a factual statement. I did add a statement that was unclear: that it "counts just like a positive result". By this I meant it earns the same penalty. While my statement might inferr wrongdoing, the same is true of the story issued by the AP and reprinted by hundreds of newspapers worldwide. My statements were no different and cannot be held to a higher standard.

As my statement regarding Jud Logan is concerned, my statements were limited to his career ending in a 1992 doping ban from a positive test for clenbuterol. This actually is in error; he resumed throwing at elite levels in 1997. An astute reader pointed this out and I admitted the mistake. As far as the doping ban, that is a factual statement. Logan himself issued a written statement at the time, referring to clenbuterol as a "safe alternative to steroids" and claiming he stopped using it in February (his positive test was in July). At that time Dr. Don Catlin said "It's unusual for any drug to be around the body for months" but did admit there was no research in this particular case to know for sure (T&FN, October '92, p. 87). In any case, Logan freely admitted using the drug as a performance-enhancer.

Aside from the triviality noted, none of my statements were in error--all check out factually. The retraction I'd like to make is the tenor of the post rather than the facts contained in it. Considering the BALCO and Sprint Capitol affairs, I'm of a cynical mindset these days when it comes to elite track and performance-enhancing drugs, and this attitude isn't unique. I noted the coincidental nature of these events and speculated as to whether they may be connected or not. This is where I have offended, and I apologize and regret the error.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Anti-Doping News

Hind Dehiba (French NR holder in women's 1500m) apparently caught doing the "Michael Vick" at Charles de Gaulle airport in Paris.
Judicial officials said Dehiba was carrying vials of human growth hormone when she was stopped Monday by customs officers at the airport. She returned from a training session in the United States, accompanied by her husband and another unnamed runner.
Husband and coach Fodil Dehiba was also detained, along with the other mystery athlete. He was caught with thirty-one prescription medications.

Rumor has it that the USA, along with Holland, is the best place to get the juice.

TV and online video

WCSN indoor schedule
All live (with on-demand video archived if you miss it):

Jan. 27, 9 a.m.
IAAF Five Nations Meeting (USA, UK, Russia, Germany and a European all-star team)

Feb. 3, Noon
IAAF Indoor Grand Prix: Stuttgart

Feb. 4, 8:45 a.m.
IAAF Indoor Grand Prix: Ghent

Feb. 10, Noon
IAAF Indoor Grand Prix: Valencia

Feb. 17, 9:30 a.m.
IAAF Indoor Grand Prix: Birmingham

Feb. 20, 1:30 p.m.
IAAF Indoor Grand Prix: Stockholm

Feb. 23, 2:45 p.m.
IAAF Indoor Grand Prix: Paris

Yes, the last two are during standard work hours. Try telling your boss "Hey, at least I'm not surfing the web for internet Larry in accounting!"

Yesterday USATF announced its 2007 TV schedule. I noticed an interesting and uplifting angle in the press release--they included NCAA championship coverage in the broadcast list. They haven't done this in the past, as those are technically NCAA shows and not run by USATF. Apparently, they figured out that promoting NCAA track is a winner for USATF.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Big News -- The Sport Moves Forward

The IAAF announced yesterday that Zurich's Weltklasse Golden League meet will have some major changes in store for 2007. No appearance fees, more prize money, and NO RABBITS. This announcement has set the message boards on fire.

Some reactions...

"yeah, right - there'll be a work-around, I bet. Someone WILL take out the pace, and he'll also finish, albeit behind the field."

"I think if you asked, the majority of athletes would tell you they would rather come 8th at Zurich and run 3:31 than win and run 3:35."

"Zurich is the best track meet in the world. Why change it? Different meets serve different puroses. Zurich compiled the best athletes and the fastest conditions to produce world leading times."

"This is one year. If it degrades the quality of the meet, they'll reverse it."

"I wonder if any of the other big European meets will follow suit. My guess is that nobody will do that until they see how it works in Zurich."

"This will result in some very fun finishes but probably not a lot of fast times."

"Sounds like the organizers have decided to screw the top athletes and keep the money for themselves. So, guys like Asafa and Bekele go from where the top guys are maybe getting $100K in appearance fees, to where less than that is aplit among everyone in their event."

"If the performance money is good enough, enough of top runners will probably show up. Moreover, if the prize money is significantly better for better placings, the competition could be more intense. I guess we're all curious to see how this works out."

"As for "getting real", is it really too much to ask that one lousy meet on the entire European circuit actually be a race?"

In general, a lot of this devolves into arguing about whether fast times are more interesting to watch than close competition. Personally, I go for the latter, and if the powers-that-be want to expand their fan base they better take the sport in that direction. At the very least, this is the best hot-stove league action track fans have had for a while.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

My, how times have changed...

...and those of my generation don't even know it.

I' ve been reading some fascinating posts by Mike from Arizona and his "Mystery Coach" at his "Champions Everywhere" blog. Mike was kind enugh to e-mail me two articles on running form, one written by Bill Bowerman and the other by Arthur Lydiard.

The first was published in Sports Illustrated way back in August of 1971 (when I was about 11 weeks old). First of all, it struck me as very different to see an 8-page coaching article in SI. When I began to read the text, it became obvious that whereas today's ESPN-addled sports fan is primarily expected to passively watch sports, the sports fan of 40 years ago was assumed to be someone who participated as much as he watched. And back then, you actually did see SI covers dedicated to hunting and fishing--a strange thought now, since those activities are not spectator-friendly (just ask Harry Whittington).

Now, if you were brought up in that environment, had tough-as-nails parents that lived through the Depression and World War II, and had unprecedented amounts of lesiure time, then your generation just might start to produce lots of top-level distance runners. The Baby Boomers actually did this, and once their generation passed out of their prime athletic years it was all over for the USA.

While I'm definitely a Gen-Xer and my older brother is a Baby-Boomer, I was raised in exactly that kind of environment and my attitude towards running and training was out of step with the 80s and much more in tune with the 70s. In fact, I became a runner in the 7th grade (1983) because of the vaguely (but safely) counter-culturish aura it had from the earliest days of my memory. I work extremely hard at running, and sometimes I think it's a useless endeavor considering my abject lack of talent. But that's the kind of thinking you get in a post-Reagan Revolution America, the idea that immediate success is the only thing worth having. Nowadays it's quaint and odd to believe that struggling for success through ups and downs is a reward in itself.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Fascinating article

One of today's best links. Give it a while, it starts a bit slow but gets better.

I consider myself well-up on the history of track, in this country and others, and I was totally unware of this guy, Delano Meriwether, and his story. Absolutely fascinating.

Worst of 2006

I know I'm about 3 weeks behind the times, but give me a break...

I stumbled across a post called the 50 Most Loathesome People in America, 2006. Right there at #34 is Barry Bonds:
Charges: Literally a fraud through and through; a walking lie in flesh and blood. The idea that any coach, owner or MLB exec couldn’t tell Bonds was juicing when he pulled a slo-mo Incredible Hulk routine over the course of a couple of years, doubling his home run average at an age when most athletic careers are winding down, is a bad joke. So is the fact that the SF Giants are looking to get another year out of Bonds, now 42, three years after Bonds was exposed to the world as a chemical freak, and they don’t give a s**t what he’s on. Record breakers fill seats, after all, even if they’re misshapen mutants. But don’t hate the game, folks; hate the player—especially one who gets busted doing speed and fingers a teammate, falsely or not.

Exhibit A:
"It’s called talent. I just have it. I can’t explain it. You either have it or you don’t."

Sentence: Liver tumors, jaundice, fluid retention, high blood pressure, shrinking of the testicles, reduced sperm count, infertility, baldness, development of breasts, paranoia, extreme irritability, delusions, and impaired judgment.
Before you follow the link, be forewarned: it gets very rough. Not for those who take offense at much of anything!

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Steeplechase wipeouts

Nothin' like a good dip in the water. Let's Run has a collection.

WCSN info

Are you a WCSN fan? (And if you're not, and reading this blog, why the heck not?) I think it's awesome that I can get ALL the major track action via the internet.

Over at the Track & Field News message board, a young intern from the company has been giving us some inside info. Most exciting is their plans for a 24-hour TV channel! You can see a sample TV schedule for this week here--they are already broadcasting via satellite, but do not yet have any distribution deals with cable or satellite TV companies. But I don't think it's crazy to hope they'll have one by summer.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Ryan Hall Half-Marathon

This morning, Ryan Hall broke a 20-year-old American Record in the half-marathon with a stunning 59:43. It's set the message boards (the old men and the young punks) abuzz. He won by over 2 1/2 minutes and beat the living hell out of Oly silver medalist Meb Keflezighi.

So what exactly does 59:43 mean? Putting aside the inexactness of road courses (note that last year's USATF 10-mile championship was certified but later found to be notably short), here are Hall's splits.
10k: 28:21 (4:34 pace)
9 miles: 40:56 (4:32 pace) / 12:35 for 2.79 miles (4:31 pace)
Finish: 59:43 (4:33 pace) / 18:47 for 4.11 miles (4:34 pace)
Remarkably well-paced.

Using the ARRS' records, how does this compare? It's 36 seconds off the World Record (59:06 by Paul Kosgei last April). It's tied for 11th on the all-time world list. The Portugese tables rate it equal to a 2:05:18 marathon and a 26:56.1 10k (which are probably overstatements). For a guy looking to step up to the marathon, it's very promising.

It is pretty darn good, but it's not like an Olympic medal or World Championship or World Record or anything, all of which have been done by US runners of late. So why are the guys over at Let's Run jumping around like a bunch of Kansas City faggots? Well, I'm betting few of them can remember the last time an American-born WASPy type was competitive with the best in the world, and the flavor of that place is a bit Archie Bunker-ish.

Video is here.

James Madison track cuts update

Way back in September, James Madison University announced it was cutting ten sports and (falsely) blamed Title IX. On Friday, a student group made its case against the cuts to the school's Board of Visitors. More or less, the students were politely told to shove it, and these cuts were going forward. It sounds oddly reminiscent of Bush's "listening tour"--pretend to take input, but in fact the already-decided plan of action will be implemented regardless.

What makes this battle interesting is the bull-headedness of the university's leadership. When other schools have sought to make cuts and useed Title IX as a smokescreen, they've at least been wise enough to couch it in wishy-washy language that doesn't use any specifics. JMU's leadership did otherwise:
On Sept. 29, the school announced it would drop seven men’s teams – archery, cross country, gymnastics, indoor track, outdoor track, swimming and wrestling – as well as three women’s teams – archery, fencing and gymnastics – because the school was not in compliance with Title IX, the 1972 law designed to guarantee equal opportunities for men and women.

JMU President Linwood H. Rose said then and again Friday that the school’s only option to comply with the law was to make sure its offerings were proportional to its enrollment...
First of all, it is ridiculous for anyone to assert that these cuts are solely for the purpose of balancing male/female numbers, since three of the ten affected sports are women's teams. But also, as I've pointed out before, current DOE regulations give institutions the option of using any one of three methods for showing compliance in the area of participation. Proportionality is not required, which student board member Stacy Fuller aknowledged:
Fuller said women’s equestrian and water polo both have interest in becoming varsity sports, which would prevent JMU from meeting the third prong of the law, allowing schools to demonstrate it meets the interest of its student body.

Rose and Damico said JMU also can’t meet the second prong, which says that a school is in compliance if it demonstrates progress in the area of expanding opportunities for women.

Rose said JMU doesn’t have a continuing history of adding opportunities for female athletes, in part because Madison started as a women’s college and had a healthy complement of women’s sports from the beginning.
The first of these two assertions proves the mendacity of the second. If two women's teams wish to become varsity sports, then it most certainly is possible to add opportunities for female athletes. The truth is that the athletic department decision-makers do not wish to spend any more money on women's sports, as women don't play football or men's basketball. I find it highly unlikely that either of those two programs have been asked to share the sacrifice.

The affected students are vowing a lawsuit. These kinds of actions generally go in favor of the universities; they simply play to "run out the clock" and the students give up once they're out of school. But if something does come out of this, JMU could get a serious black eye. JMU is a state school and Virginia does have a Freedom of Information Act, and the behind-the-scenes paperwork cannot possibly match the public statements.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Anti-Doping News

The IAAF just announced four suspensions. None really qualify as "news" except Lydia Cheromei. The old farts discuss...

The UK's Business Weekly reports a new highly sensitive mass spectrometer could take the 2012 London Olympic drug testing to a new level.

Saturday, January 06, 2007

TV Listings

This is what I've got so far. Feel free to post any additional broadcasts.

Sunday, January 28
12:00 AM, Fox Sports Net
P.F. Chang's Rock N' Roll Arizona Marathon & 1/2 Marathon

3:00 - 5:00 p.m., ESPN2
Reebok Boston Indoor Games

Monday, January 29
12:00 AM, Fox Sports Net
P.F. Chang's Rock N' Roll Arizona Marathon & 1/2 Marathon

Friday, February 2
7:00 - 9:00 p.m., ESPN2
100th Millrose Games

Saturday, February 3
2:00 - 3:00 p.m., NBC
100th Millrose Games

Monday, February 5
12:00 PM, Fox
P.F. Chang's Rock N' Roll Arizona Marathon & 1/2 Marathon

Tuesday, February 6
12:00 AM, Fox
P.F. Chang's Rock N' Roll Arizona Marathon & 1/2 Marathon

Sunday, February 11
1:00 - 3:00 p.m., ESPN2
The Tyson Invitational

Saturday, February 24
3:30 - 4:00 p.m., ESPN Classic
SportsCentury: Florence Griffith Joyner

Sunday, February 25
4:00 - 6:00 p.m., ESPN2
AT&T USA Indoor Track & Field Championships

Saturday, March 17
6:00 AM, ABC
Rodes City Run

Saturday, April 28
1:00 - 3:00 p.m., ESPN2
Penn Relays

Saturday, May 19
5:00 - 7:00 p.m., ESPN
adidas Track Classic

Saturday, June 2:
11 p.m. - 12:30 a.m., ESPN2
Reebok Grand Prix

Sunday, June 3
1:00 - 2:00 p.m., CBS
Reebok Grand Prix

Sunday, June 10
4:00 - 6:00 p.m., NBC
Prefontaine Classic

Friday, June 22
8:00 - 9:00 p.m., ESPN2
AT&T USA Outdoor Track & Field Championships

Saturday, June 23
2:00 - 3:00 p.m., NBC
7:00 - 8:00 p.m., ESPN2
AT&T USA Outdoor Track & Field Championships

Sunday, June 24
1:00 - 3:00 p.m., NBC
AT&T USA Outdoor Track & Field Championships

Wednesday, July 4
7:00 a.m., Fox
Peachtree Road Race

Anti-Doping News

EDIT: Please see the new post, "Corrections and Retraction".

The Canadian Centre for Ethics in Sport announced two doping suspensions on Thursday. One of them was a former Canadian hammer throw champ and current Adams State assistant coach named Derek Woodske. Woodske refused to take a test in November, which counts just like a positive result.

There are a number of interesting items in this story. One of them is the fact that Canada even has a national sports-ethics program. Another comes from the other drug bust, a lifetime ban handed out to a top bobsledder--which indicates winter Olympic sports are a big enough deal in Canada that an athlete is willing to risk a lifetime ban. But the really interesting item is US-based.

Woodske came to Adams State after serving a stint as a volunteer assistant at Ashland University while throwing in Eagle head coach Jud Logan's Ashland Elite program. Logan, as you may recall, ended his career with a doping ban in 1992 (clenbuterol), just as his coach Al Schoterman's career ended with a 1984 doping ban. Woodske was not the first hammer-thrower from Ashland Elite to earn a doping suspension; John McEwen was caught up in the BALCO/THG sweep of 2004 and linked to fellow THG-user Kevin Toth. And Adriane Blewitt, a D-II national record setter while at Ashland, was diagnosed in late 2003 with Hodgkin's lymphoma, an rare type of cancer.

Now, in Logan's defense, none of these athletes tested positive while actually in his program but after they left. Blewitt's disease is most common among people in their early 20s and there's no known link between it and performance-enhancing drug use. But the whole state of affairs does arouse some suspicion, and forgive us if the last few years has left us in a cynical mood.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Track & Field News Annual Issue

It just came in the mail today. This is one of the few issues that I spend a lot of time looking through. It's mostly stats and rankings, and so leaves little to write about.

One item did catch my attention, simply because of the awkward and misleading way it was written. Referring to the #1 and #3 world-ranked pole vaulters:
Top-rated Australian vaulters Steve Hooker and Paul Burgess say they will swear off love until 2008.
You have to read a bit further before you realize they're talking about women, and not each other.

Monday, January 01, 2007

Starting off the year right

Last night my wife & I tried something different to ring in the new year. We did a midnight 5k. The usual activities don't hold much appeal for us anymore. When you live in a college town, most of your friends are out of town over Christmas break, and anyway living near college students tends to make partying somewhat less attractive. Last year we took off to Key West for their rather wild New Year's celebration, but this year we were up for something a bit more calm.

The race actually started at 11:45 PM, with the idea that you start in one year and finish in the next. It was DARK. I've literally never run that late before...except when I was drunk, in trouble, or both. I did a track 10k at 10 PM once--this was a far different experience. My touchy achilles tendon is a bit tight today.

There are two major New Year's races, the São Silvestre in São Paolo and the San Silvestre Vallecana in Madrid. In the Madrid, the Eliud Kipchoge bettered the official road 10k world record in 26:55. Even if the IAAF ratifies it, the ARRS most certainly will not since the point-to-point course is significantly downhill.

Side note: Both races are in honor of Pope Saint Sylvester, a 4th-century pontiff whose feast day is December 31. This is appropriate for running, since he succeeded Pope Saint Miltiades...and a different Miltiades led Athenian forces in 490 BC at the Battle of Marathon.