Monday, November 28, 2011

My 2 Spikes Worth: Why Foot Locker and Nike Cross Nationals can coexist

Facing the choice, Edward Cheserek chose Foot Locker 
For years, I've been a staunch supporter of the Foot Locker Cross Country Championships. Being from Charlotte, I grew up around Foot Locker South. I ran it, my dad was the announcer and I even did my high school senior project on "the only true national championship in high school sports." When Nike came in, I wasn't sure what to think, but I didn't like the idea of watering down a unique event like Foot Locker.

At first, when Nike branded their new championship, "Nike Team Nationals," I didn't think twice. Cool, a national team championship. Being on a high school team that finished top five in the state three times in my four years, I liked the idea. Then Nike changed their tune. "Nike Cross Nationals" was the new name and they wanted it all. Why wouldn't they? Cross Country is the third most participated sport in high school sports (behind swimming and track), and that's a lot of consumers. It seemed like just last year that they may take over what Foot Locker had built, but after attending the Nike Cross Southeast Regional this weekend in Cary, NC, I see that Foot Locker is alive and well, but that Nike has indeed carved out a cool niche that is indeed their team factor.

There are a few major differences that I have observed from comparing the two championships that give both a great deal of viability and show why both can exist:

1. Multiple Locations
Having multiple venues caters to (almost) everyone that wants to participate in a post-season meet. Nike is set up more like the NCAA system, with eight regional championships (plus auto qualifiers from the California state meet). This particularly serves runners in areas like Texas, who host the Nike Cross South Regional, but would have to travel all the way to Charlotte to compete at Foot Locker. That's certainly not in everyone's budget and it's nice that Nike Cross Regionals are more spread out. Foot Locker only has four. Aside from New York (which hosts Foot Locker Northeast, Nike Cross Northeast and Nike Cross New York) and North Carolina (which hosts Nike Cross Southeast and Foot Locker South), the regional meets are held in different states, to make travel as easy and as affordable as possible.

2. Nike is a true team championship, qualifying for the regional alone is impressive
At the Nike Cross Southeast Regional, I saw some the best teams I've ever seen in person. Having to qualify as a top 20 team is not something to be taken lightly. Like winning a state championship, this is an accomplishment in itself. The team that won the meet on the boys side, Belen Jesuit (aka the Miami Magis), is by far the most impressive high school team I've ever seen. Their top five went 14:58, 15:32, 15:50, 15:52 and 15:56 on the honest Wake Med course. The winning girls team, Tatnall (aka Wilmington XC Club), went 17:11, 17:53, 18:16, 18:16, 18:31. Unreal! The fifth girls individual qualifier ran 18:22, which tells you all you need to know about how good Tatnall is and how much of a team competition, and not an individual competition Nike is. Also, their were only five races and the meet was much, much smaller than the Foot Locker meet 150 miles west. What lacked in quantity (with all of Foot Locker's grade races), was made up with the quality of the teams participating in the championship race.

3. Foot Locker is the true individual championship
It seems that the top preps were going back and forth for a few years, but it looks now that the best of the best (not affiliated with high performing teams), are choosing Foot Locker again. Why? Foot Locker is a true individual championship. 40 of the best boys and girls in the nation compete every year at historic Balboa Park in front of the top collegiate coaches in America, as well as their families, friends and rabid running fans. The course is excellent for sorting out the best of the best and the presentation is second to none. On the regional level, there are freshman races, sophomore races, middle school races, etc. It's all about the individual, and it gives everyone a chance to shine that may have been tucked back on their team all season. Here in North Carolina, two time Foot Locker National Qualifier, Thomas Graham, has chosen to forego racing in his hometown of Cary, NC, where Nike Cross Southeast is held, to race at Foot Locker South. That dream of making it to San Diego drives many individuals to Foot Locker; to follow in the footsteps of Chris Solinsky, Meb Keflezighi, Jordan Hasay and the many others that have stayed at the Hotel Del Coronado en route to prep glory.

Whichever your preference... both will be broadcast free online over the next few weeks. Nike Cross Nationals will be broadcast at 12:30 eastern, this Saturday, December 3rd, at NikeXC.comFoot Locker will be live at 12:00 eastern, next Saturday, December 10th at http://footlockercc.com

I'll be excited to watch both!

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Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Web Runner: Some Thanksgiving week articles worth a read

Turkey Trot Clip Art is always good
It's been an exciting week in the running world, and judging by the increased traffic to the site, there are some bored people out there. Sitting around at work, waiting to go home for the Thanksgiving holiday or waiting for NFL games to get cranked up?

Personally, there will be no turkey trotting for me this year, but I will get to run by the North Fork Reservoir in Black Mountain, NC, where the Hunger Games was recently filmed.

Whethere you're running or not tomorrow, here are a few articles I've tweeted out over the past few days, with a few more new ones, for good measure. If there's a good running story, please email it to me or tweet it at me! I'll be adding stuff all week long...

  • Coach Jason Vigilante has left the University of Virginia. Former Cavalier, Ryan Collins, who transferred to Wisconsin (and won the NCAA team title Monday), has a very poignant quote, possibly about the situation. "I was planning on staying but then a bunch of different stuff happened, and I was able to graduate," Collins told a Madison reporter. "I just kind of needed a new place, new environment (and) some new experiences." While nothing has been set straight yet, the situation is extremely intriguing, as Vig currenly coaches Alan Webb, as well as Robby Andrews, and UVA is in the process of getting a brand new track facility. (Richmond Time-Dispatch link / Let's Run thread)
  • UPDATE: Per Track and Field News, via Webb's agent, Ray Flynn, "Vigilante will likely continue to coach Webb." (link)
  • Alan Webb talking about his training and future. Says he's ready to compete and is fascinated with longer distances, but has no immediate plans to move up, as he's not 30 yet. Says Bernard Lagat is his template (of sorts) and that he was inspired this summer by Jenny Simpson's and Matt Centrowitz's performances at Worlds. Nothing on the Vig situation though (Running Maryland link). Webb will also be the Nike Running athlete at NXN Southeast this Saturday in Cary, NC.
  • House of Run recapped said NCAA Championships as well as the rest of the week in running. (link)
  • Sadly, doctors had to amputate the frostbitten feet of Marko Cheseto, the All-American runner from the University of Alaska Anchorage, who suffered severe frostbite during a two-day disappearance earlier this month. (Anchorage Daily News link)
  • Toni Reavis thinks distance racing has hit the wall. Outside Magazine's Peter Vigneron thinks otherwise. Both make some salient points and Reavis in particular takes The Competitor Group to task for running a race series that's anything but competitive. I couldn't agree more. (Reavis link / Vigneron link)
  • Have you seen "Marathon Boy" yet on HBO? My review is all spoilers (link)
  • Tim Jeffreys is following the McMillan Elite team as they train for the Olympic Trials Marathon. He is posting a documentary series of videos on Vimeo. The second episode just dropped. (Jeffreys' Vimeo page)

I hope everyone has a happy Thanksgiving! Happy Turkey Trotting!

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Sunday, November 20, 2011

Battle Royale: 2011 NCAA Division I Cross Country Championships are Monday

Tomorrow is the 2011 NCAA Division I Cross Country Championships, which are held in Terre Haute, Indiana (home course for Indiana State). The event will be broadcast at noon eastern on NCAA.com and will once again, be packed with many exciting individual and team battles.

Here's a few that stand out:

Men's Individual Contenders
-Arizona's Lawi Lalang has not lost this year. He truly hasn't been challenged. He is a freshman though, so it may not be as easy to win this one as some people think. Expect some competition from the guys below.
-Iona's Lenny Korir was fourth last year. He was four seconds behind Oregon's Luke Puskedra. He should challenge Lalang and won't be afraid to inject some speed in the pace, if it dawdles.
-Puskedra has been top five twice and has run well all year. Expect top ten at the absolute worst. Like Korir, Puskedra is not afraid to push it, if needed.
-NC State's Ryan Hill has had an excellent season and has only lost to one person. That man is Lawi Lalang. Hill finished second to Lalang at Griak and at Wisconsin, before winning ACC's and the Southeast Regional. Hill can kick with the best of them and should go top five (Disclaimer: he was my top pick in my fantasy draft. 5th overall).
-Stanford's Chris Derrick has always been consistent. Similar to Puskedra, he's seasoned and ready to go. This year, an individual title is on his mind and expect him to lay it all out there.
-BYU's Miles Batty is great over every distance. Coach Ed Eyestone has him raring to go, and like Hill, he can kick from far out.
-NAU's Diego Estrada runs excellent with a chip on his shoulder. He'll look to throw down one more good one in a field of strong competitors tomorrow and will be the dark horse of the group.
Can the Cowboys make it three in a row?
-The big enigma is Oklahoma State's German Fernandez. He's run excellent all year and a conference  title should give him the confidence to go for it. He may be conservative with a team title on the line, but you never know what's coming, which makes him intriguing.

Men's Team Contenders
-Oklahoma State has won two in a row and is primed for a third win. Fernandez has run strong all season. Colby Lowe has been excellent as usual. Tom Farrell will lead the rest of the group to a potential three peat.
-Wisconsin has looked effortless all season. Will their pack finish far enough towards the front to give the Cowboys a run for their money? Mo Ahmed will lead the way with Maverick Darling, Ryan Collins, Reed Connor and Elliot Krause all needing a strong race for the Badgers to have an honest chance.

Women's Individual Contenders
-Villanova's Sheila Reid is the favorite to repeat here, as she has looked untouchable once again this year. She may get some competition from Oregon's Jordan Hasay and North Carolina's Kendra Schaaf, but she'll be hard to beat down that last straightaway.
Who will leave smiling tomorrow?
-Hasay has beaten Reid before and can beat her again. Will she have it today? When she's on, she's one of the best. It'll likely come down to that last 500.
-Schaaf has been here before and she looks the most ready this year to make a run at the title. Unlike previous years, Schaaf has been hanging with the pack and running reverse splits from the first 3k to the second 3k, consistently. Expect her to make a move mid-race as being in a kicker's duel with Reid and Hasay won't be in her best interest (Disclaimer: she was my top pick in my fantasy draft. 3rd overall).

Women's Team Contenders
-Florida State has been dominant all year with a minimal spread. Expect Karen Harvey's women to improve on their runner-up finish last year.
-Villanova will have the benefit of getting the low stick from Reid and from the always excellent coaching from Gina Procaccio. Expect them to make Florida State work hard to take the title belt from them.
-Georgetown may be the hottest women's team right now. Have they been racing too hard? Emily Infeld will lead the Hoyas to a podium finish at minimum.

As with Cross Country, expect the unexpected. It should be a wild ride. Stars will emerge and some will buckle under pressure. Let's hope for some great weather and some honest races!

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Saturday, November 19, 2011

Film Major: "Marathon Boy"

Fame and fortune have led to many tragic downfalls. None are quite as evident as the reality inflicted in Gemma Atwal's extremely captivating documentary, "Marathon Boy." The old aphorism, "the road to hell is paved with good intentions," couldn't ring more true in the handling of "child prodigy," Budhia Singh. Although, as the film wears on; sometimes good intentions are better than the alternative; bad intentions.

The idea of anyone under the age of 18 running a marathon is pretty farfetched here in the United States. For the most part, I would imagine this would ring true internationally. So the thought that Budhia Singh had run 48 marathons by the age of four seems pretty sick. Who would put him up to this?

Coach Biranchi Das
The answer to that question was his adoptive father, and coach, Biranchi Das. Das ran an ophanage by the name of Judo Hall and coached the best judo competitors in India. Das took Budhia on when Singh's birth mother could no longer care for the child. Das allowed her to visit Budhia whenever she wished. Das also took in many orphans over the years and claimed to never take any government assistance to help pay for their needs.

As Budhia began to gain more fame and notoriety, his mother began to get the idea that Das was gaining large sums of money from other countries for Budhia's performances. Ultimately, she kidnapped Budhia from Judo Hall and threatened violence against Das if he were to try and get him back.

This is where the idea of who the villain is begins to change. To the average person, watching Budhia complete the 42 mile run from Puri to Bhubaneswar was more than exhausting. It comes off as borderline child abuse when Das encourages him to run another 1.8 miles to the stadium. When Budhia pukes up all the water and looks unresponsive, you feel like maybe he does need to be taken from Das.

Budhia was a true child star
Then you see the alternative as he lives in the slums with his mom and her brainwashing boyfriends. They convince Budhia to tell authorities that Das abused him. Das was jailed. Ultimately, those claims were proven false and Das was acquitted of all wrongdoing. Not long after his release, Das was murdered (at Judo Hall). Many think that it stemmed Das's rise to power and potentially was linked to the government. His killers have been jailed for life, but conspiracy theories live on.

As for Singh, he has continued running and has been given a scholarship to continue attending private schooling. He's still only nine years old, so it will be some time before the rest of the world sees if he truly has the talent to become an Olympic marathoner.

"Marathon Boy" was funded by HBO and BBC Storyville and is on HBO and HBO On Demand right now. I highly encourage checking it out. There's a trust fund to save Judo Hall in Das's absence as well. Pick up "Marathon Boy" on Amazon.com here.

Check out the Marathon Boy website here and their Twitter account here. There was an excellent follow-up article on Budhia a few weeks ago on CNN.com as well.

Here's the trailer:


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Monday, November 14, 2011

Guest Post: The Lowering Trend of Marathon Times

Geoffrey Mutai made a mockery
of Boston and New York course
records in 2011
Today's guest post is by Sarah Charles. Sarah owns and manages her own exercise education site, Exercise Science Degree. She considers herself to be a fitness guru and enjoys writing articles about staying healthy and fit.

The first marathon of the modern Olympics in 1896 was won by Spiridon Louis, with a time of 2:58:50. Since then, marathon times have continued to get faster and faster. A century ago, the men’s times came in just under 3 hours; now the ultimate goal is to run a race under the 2 hour mark. Kenya's Geoffrey Mutai holds the best marathon time at 2:03:02, which he ran at the Boston Marathon. (Note: This time has not been considered for the official world record due to factors of elevation and Boston course measurements). For a visual representation, see this interactive graph showing the lowering trend in marathon world record times for both men and women.

Why have marathon times improved so much in the past 100 years? A 2010 article from the Journal of Applied Physiology called, “The Two-Hour Marathon: Who and When?” , noted that the adoption of high volume and year-round training in the 1950s has shaved 16 minutes off the world record time, falling between 1 and 5 minutes each decade. The report also notes other factors that have come about in the past few decades, such as increased prize money and competitive opportunities to become a professional athlete. In addition, there have been significant improvements in running gear, as well as our scientific understanding of athletic performance.

2011 Chicago Marathon winner, Moses
Mosop, thinks he can run 2:02
As far as physiology is concerned, we have learned that many factors go into deciding how well a person can run a race. Through a combination of genes and training, a person’s maximal oxygen intake (VO2 max) values, lactate threshold, and running economy all play into his or her performance. Oxygen intake can be affected by age and gender, but also fitness level and training. Similarly, running economy (how efficiently a runner uses oxygen at a given pace) is affected by fitness level and training, along with various factors related to their running technique and environmental conditions.

Thus, it is easy to understand why improvements in our understanding of sports physiology have contributed to the significant improvement of marathon times. We have a better idea than ever before of how runners can improve their times. For an example, take the knowledge that interval training helps increase a person’s lactate threshold.

While outstanding running economy seems to be much more prevalent in elite runners than high VO2 max values, scientists still have much to learn about the relationship between them. As the world’s best marathoners continue to pursue that elusive 2-hour mark, who knows how marathon times will improve in the next 100 years?

To inquire about contributing a guest post to writing about runningemail me for more info

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Friday, November 11, 2011

My 2 Spikes Worth: The not so mysterious case of Lukas Verzbicas

World Champion Triathlete, National Champion Runner
When you heard the news yesterday that Lukas Verzbicas had dropped out of the University of Oregon to focus on the triathlon full time, how surprised were you? Me, a little surprised, but not shocked. While I hate to see someone with so much running talent partially abandon his running career and head for the dark side that is the triathlon (kidding, of course), I am rational enough to understand why.

While Verzbicas had dominated the prep running scene in the United States for the last three years, his times don't measure up to what's going on internationally. In the triathlon, they do. One of the biggest factors that had to have been looming in his mind while he slogged through at few disappointing 8k's this fall, was the fact that just a few months earlier, he had won the World Junior Championship in the Triathlon.

"Decided to pursue my olympic dream and dedicate myself fully as a triathlete with the intention of making the 2012 USA Olympic team." 

Verzbicas reunites with Step-Father/Old coach in CO
While Verzbicas had committed to running full time earlier in the spring when he accepted a scholarship to run at the University of Oregon, he had not, at the time, claimed a World Championship. Also, over the summer, his step-father, and former co-coach, Romas Bertulis, was named head coach at the Elite Triathlon Academy in Colorado Springs, CO. The stars were aligning for a way out, if the whole collegiate running thing didn't go the way that Verzbicas had hoped. Unfortunately, for running fans, it didn't, but something tells me the wheels were in motion the day that Bertulis accepted the job in Colorado.

One of two races as an Oregon Duck
So what now for Verzbicas? He mentioned that his immediate goal is to begin training for the 2012 Olympics. One question I have is, could it not have waited two weeks? He will suffer some well deserved backlash for leaving his fellow Oregon Ducks a few days before regionals to follow his dream. Also, as Competitor's Mario Fraoili mentioned yesterday on Twitter, Verzbicas is not a US Citizen. While I am sure this is something that can be fast-tracked (no pun intended) for someone like Verzbicas, it is still a hurdle. Between that and moving up the ranks in the complicated Olympic qualifying process that the USA Triathlon has, he'll have his hands full.

Will Gatorade come calling?
And what about the sponsors? Who will be first aboard? Will Nike, the underbelly of the school he just shunned get into the Triathlon game, step up and be the first? I doubt it, at least not yet. Verzbicas is an undeniable star, but his abrupt exit from the running game will rub many fans the wrong way. There's been a lot of initial backlash from the community that doesn't necessary "get the triathlon."  If the Triathlon continues to grow, Nike will likely get more involved, but my guess is that his early options will be more along the K-Swiss or Newton level, with obvious potential opportunities with Gatorade, GU, Speedo, Trek, Specialized, etc.

Personally, I can't blame Verzbicas for doing what he's best in. I don't like the timing, but as Hunter S. Thompson said, "When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro." I don't think there could be a more fitting quote about the subject, as with all the speculation over the past few days before the announcement, things were most certainly weird. I certainly wish Verzbicas the best and hope he does make the 2012 Olympic team. It will give me more of a reason to follow the sport, but don't expect there to be a whole lot of coverage here or adoption by most US running fans. I've run and followed the sport of Track and Field for twenty years. I will watch the Ironman replay when it's on NBC. That's how I, and many, many running fans feel about the Tri. I hope Verzbicas realizes this when the throngs of running fans begin to look for the next big thing and let him do his three a days in peace.

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Monday, November 7, 2011

Track and Field Athletes Association members use celebrity on Twitter for greater good

The Track and Field Athletes Association (TFAA) has been looking for an identity over the past few years. $100 annual dues and lack of membership plagued it's existence until Nick Symmonds decided to write an open letter and start a Facebook group. One of the most active voices on Twitter in the sport of Track and Field is Ann Gaffigan. If you're a track fan and on Twitter, you've probably had some interaction with Ann. Her passion for the sport is as great as her knowledge and her bounty of ideas. It's no wonder that she was the one that urged Symmonds to join the TFAA and to offer his opinions on how to make it viable.

Very soon, Symmonds was championing the group (TFAA) on his Facebook group (which is now over 6000 vocal members). And today, the TFAA got to show what they were made of. Yesterday, distance darling, Lauren Fleshman, was told to remove her temporary tattoos of her company, Picky Bars, from her arms before starting the NYC Marathon. Picky Bars is her company. It's a start-up that she, her husband and Stephanie Rothstein started. We're not talking Nike or Gatorade or GU. We're talking about a Gluten-Free Nutrition bar (company) that she makes herself. PS, they're very good. I was one of the first customers. This seemed pretty unjust and the TFAA has rallied around her.

If you were on Twitter today, you probably saw a member of TFAA's message about the subject.

Quite frankly, it was awesome. Although Track and Field isn't the NFL or MLB or the NBA, it still has stars, and the stars came out. Everyone from David Oliver to Sara Hall to Matt Tegenkamp to Doc Patton to Maggie Vessey was spreading the word that #WeAreUSATrack&Field. If Rainn Wilson selling tacos is worth $12,000, the combined celebrity of the TFAA world has to be worth a few ears.

It's a great step in the right direction and I applaud all of those involved. To learn more about the TFAA, check out their website or just tweet at Ann Gaffigan!

TFAA is now open to everyone and is only $20 a year! Click here for more information on membership.

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Saturday, November 5, 2011

NYC 2011: Can Gebremariam hold off the Mutais?

Gebre Gebremariam, feeling the flow
Gebre Gebremariam put on a show last year in New York and made a mockery of the competition, and the Marathon in general, with a big win on "doubled 10k training." In his debut, on arguably the most challenging Marathon Major course, Gebremariam was flawless. The 2010 runner up was Kenya's Emmanuel Mutai, who is considered one of the favorites again this year. Mutai also will have the weight of making the Kenyan Olympic team on his shoulders, something that will be a very tight competition within the competition.

Since NYC 2010, Gebremariam has seen some challenges and the Marathon has seen some changes. Multiple 2:03's have been turned in, and Kenya has taken to the forefront, dominating the 2011 World Championship Marathon and leaving Gebremariam's Ethiopian countrymen in their wake.

The biggest question about the 2011 NYC Marathon has got to be, will the Kenyans go out at a breakneck pace on the challenging NYC course? If they do, will Gebremariam and his countryman, Tsegaye Kebede, go with them? Can someone run in the 2:05 range on the NYC course? And can Meb Keflezighi run under 2:10 in a pair of Skechers?

Geoffrey Mutai will likely lead the Kenyan charge with former Galen Rupp American 10k Record Attempt-pacer, Matthew Kisorio, making his Marathon debut after a strong 2011 track season in tow. Expect both Mutai's to set the pace with Kisorio right on their shoulder, with Kebede and Gebremariam right in the pack. It's going to be quite the show, and luckily, we can watch it on Universal Sports, UniversalSports.com (for free) and the Marathon Mobile App starting at 9am eastern.

Finally, on the American front, Meb Keflezighi is taking a big risk running NYC so close to the 2012 Marathon Trials, but as a return champion, who is likely getting a very nice appearance fee, can you blame him? This will be his first Marathon as a member of Team Skechers, and it will be interesting to see what he's got in the tank. He ran great at the San Jose Half and I don't think he'll fall out of the top seven. It's hard not to get excited about the debuts from Bobby Curtis and Ed Moran as well. Both have been great 10k runners and will look to make the Olympic Team in that event, but both should battle for top ten finishes tomorrow, as they likely will run more within themselves than some of the pack upfront, and will pick off stragglers as long as they respect the Marathon!

Keitany hopes to raise the roof in Manhattan
On the Women's side, last year's bronze medalist, Mary Keitany, looks to be the cream of the crop. Keitany finished behind Edna Kiplagat and a strong finishing Shalane Flanagan, in her debut, then went on to win the 2011 London Marathon in a very fast 2:19:19. 2011 Boston Marathon winner, Caroline Kilel, is a proven hill runner and could emerge if the late hills of Central Park slow Keitany. Also, Kim Smith could do something special as long as she doesn't try to run away from the field early, like she did in Boston. The three will likely run together and then make a go of it in the last 10k.

On the American front, the most exciting debut is certainly Lauren Fleshman. Fleshman is a runner's runner and is easy to pull for. She's been battling some injuries, but appears to be a perfect fit for the stage of New York. Let's hope she wakes up feeling good and can run the race competitively.

Also in the field is the ageless Jen Rhines. Rhines can do it all and I would expect nothing less than a top ten finish from her. She's strong, consistent and well trained for a course like New York. USATF 25k Champion Molly Pritz rounds out the showcased debutantes, and should be capable of something in the 2:30-2:32 range.

Official writing about running Predictions:

Men
1. G. Mutai
2. Kebede
3. Gebremariam

Top American: Keflezighi (6th)

Women
1. Kilel
2. Keitany
3. K. Smith


Top American: Jen Rhines (8th)

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Friday, November 4, 2011

The Skechers Field Test

Meb Keflezighi wins the San Jose Half 
Marathon in the Skechers GOrun
When it was announced on August 1, 2011 that former Olympic Silver Medalist and 2009 New York Marathon champion, Meb Keflezighi, had signed a shoe deal with with California-based Skechers, I, and many other running fans were intrigued. A few weeks went by and when I was on my annual running vacation to Boone, NC, I decided to send an email to the publicity team at Skechers and see if they were interested in a review of their running shoe line.

Surprisingly, I got an email back within 10 minutes. After a few conversations, a new pair of the Skechers ProSpeed were on my doorstep a week later. Unfortunately, before I could get to my test drive, I was injured. Fast forward a month, I was healed up and ready to go for a spin in the new kicks. Here are my thoughts:

Colorful Skechers boxes
Skechers ProSpeed
Presentation: At first glance, the box makes some pretty aggressive claims, but upon further review, they're pretty harmless. The box says the ProSpeed "promotes mid-foot strike" and also that running "strengthens muscles, increases calorie burn and builds endurance." Fair enough. As you can see, the boxes are pretty detailed, and the inside has more information as well.

Fit: This was my biggest question. How would the ProSpeed fit compared to standard running shoes? The shoe definitely sits up a little bit. It also has an interesting hollow gap underneath the arch. So how does it feel? It feel like a support shoe with an arch-cupping orthotic. It's a snug fit and has a nice locking tongue. My only issue is how high you seem to sit up, but that's part of the goal with the way it promotes your foot to land forward.

Run: Considering my first run in a month was in the ProSpeed, I was a little worried, but they actually felt pretty good! I wore the ProSpeed for two weeks straight and did runs ranging from 3 miles to 10 miles with good results. I hit the roads and the trails, equally, with no signs of distress on the shoes. Post-run strides felt springiy and my legs had good life at the end of long runs. The only con was that it does indeed promote mid-foot strike, which left me with sore achilles. Nothing some eccentric heel drops couldn't fix though. If you are already a mid foot striker, you will likely have no issues, but I tend to hit the heel a little more than I like.

I'm obviously fascinated with the minimalist line.
From left to right, Nike Free, New Balance Minimus,
Skechers GOrun, Brooks Green Silence
Skechers GOrun
Presentation: Like the ProSpeed, the GOrun box is pretty fascinating. The claims are "ultra-lightweight, Resalyte custhioning, integrated OrthoLite insole, GOimpulse sensors, and mid-foot strike." The GOrun is Skechers foray into the minimalist movement and is doubling as their racing flat. Meb did mention on Twitter that his GOrun's have been customized, as I assume is the same with any shoe company and their sponsored athletes. I know David Oliver has custom spikes that Nike doesn't sell, so this is nothing new. I would be interested to know what his mods are though!

Bottom of the GOrun's
Fit: The fit is pretty snug on the GOrun. I found them to run a little big, but they are nice and snug through the forefoot (thanks to locking tongue). The heel fit is similar to other minimal shoes. That being a little loose to along the foot to move. I have the Nike Free 3.2's, the New Balance Minimus Roads, two pair of the Brooks Green Silence (that I train and race in) and a pair of the Brooks Pure (Project) Cadence, that I run in as well, so I am pretty accustomed to the ins and outs of this kind of shoe. The GOrun has some similarities to all of them and is a little meatier in the midfoot, which lends it to go as a racing flat and not just a minimalist shoe.

Run: What sets the GOrun apart from other minimalist shoes is the thicker sole. I did a three mile fartlek on the track with them, with a few miles warmup, drills (A-skips, karaokes, high knees, butt kicks) and then cooled down a few miles on the grass and was very happy with the results. There is a little responsiveness to the GOrun that isn't there in other minimalist shoes. I know Meb has had some say in the design of the shoe, so more than likely, this was his input. The shoe breathes well and doesn't move much once you start running. Judging by the initial feedback I have received on this shoe, people are very interested, so feel free to email me directly for more specific information about the fit and run of the shoe. Addendum: The GOrun is as comfortable shoe as I have ever worn when going sock-less and running on grass/wood chips. It always is easy to get dog crap off of if you find yourself stepping in it!

For more information on the GOrun, go to the Skechers site here and via a nice YouTube piece here.

Final Thoughts on Skechers Running Shoes: It's a good start. Are the ProSpeed and the GOrun going to start taking market share from Nike, Brooks, Asics, New Balance and Mizuno? Probably not just yet, but lets hope their commitment is long enough to see some improvement in product development. The GOrun specifically is a nice shoe, and I imagine they'll only get better with Meb's input. Their stock is up and they had a nice article on MarketWatch today about their journey into the crowded running shoe market.

Meb Keflezighi won the San Jose Half Marathon in the GOrun and will be running the New York City Marathon this weekend in them as well. If he can make some noise near the front, like he did with his win in 2009, it will provide a great deal of awareness for the brand. As he gets older and away from competing, hopefully he'll really dig into the development of the shoes, as it seems like he's already involved on that front.

Also, more sponsorship for athletes is a good thing, so lets hope that Skechers will continue with that commitment!

Can't find Skechers at your local running store? Buy them (at a discount) at Amazon.com here!



Check out my review of Meb Keflezighi's book, "Run to Overcome," here

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Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Road Rage: Dathan Ritzenhein leads the NYRR Dash to the Finish Line field

Ritz will look to break the tape Saturday
(TrackAndFieldPhoto.net)
It's been quite a while since Dathan Ritzenhein has raced. He'll officially end his racing hiatus Saturday at the New York Road Runners Dash to the Finish Line 5k. The course is being dubbed by NYRR as "flat and fast" and should fill a good void for those that want to be a part of the weekend, but not run the full 26.2. It's a similar effort to what the Boston Athletic Association has done with the BAA 5k, the day before the Boston Marathon.

Ritz will have his hands full with former Olympians, Lopez Lomong (1500) and Matt Tegenkamp (5000), but the darkhorse of the competition is 2011 USA Running Circuit Champion, Ben True. True has been very consistent all year and should not be overlooked!

On the Women's side, Deena Kastor is the featured competitor, but the heavy favorite is Oregon Track Club's Sally Kipyego. Kipyego has been on fire this year and has the hardware (from Daegu) to prove it. Also toeing the line is American 5000 record holder, Molly Huddle, who is coming back from injury, as well as the always consistent, Magdalena Lewy-Boulet. Aside from the fight between Huddle and Kipyego upfront (if Huddle is healthy and fit), the B-story will be the competition between Kastor and Lewy-Boulet, as both will be competing in the Olympic Trials Marathon in January. Kastor is the US Marathon record holder (2:19:36) and Lewy-Boulet has the third fastest time going into the trials (2:26:22). Between these two, Shalane FlanaganKara GoucherDesi Davila and Amy Hastings, it will be an exciting race for the three spots to London.

Official writing about running Predictions:

Men
1. True
2. Teg
3. Ritz
4. Lomong

Women
1. Kipyego
2. Huddle
3. Lewy-Boulet
4. Kastor

Update: According to Spiked Up, Psyched Up, here's the rest of the field. Out of the rest, I like Aaron Braun, Scott Bauhs and Ben Bruce on the Men's side for top possible top five finish and Amy Hastings, Lisa Uhl (nee Koll) and Angela Bizzarri on the Women's side.

Men
Chris Thompson (GBR)
Andrew Bumbalough
Evan Jager
Brandon Bethke
Aaron Braun
Scott Bauhs
Brian Olinger
Ben Bruce
Harbert Okuti (UGA)
Brett Gotcher
Christian Hesch
Bobby Hartnett


Women
Lisa (Koll) Uhl
Amy Hastings
Liz Maloy
Angela Bizzarri
Sara Hall
Julie Culley
Frances Koons
Meghan ArmstrongPeyton
Caroline LeFrak
Ashley Higginson
Nicole Schappert
Stephanie Rothstein
Maggie Infeld
Lesley Higgins
Renee Tomlin
Cheryl Anderson


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