2013 Chicago Marathon recap

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When I began training for the Chicago Marathon back on July 1st, I made 3 goals for myself.  I wrote these goals on a note card and taped that note card right inside my bedroom door.  It became a contract that I made with myself.  One that I saw every day.  Plain and simple: finish in the top-15, finish as one of the top 3 Americans, and run faster than 2:13.

Those were my 2013 Chicago Marathon goals: difficult, but attainable.  I ended up accomplishing 2 of my 3 goals, as I finished 13th overall, was the 3rd American behind Olympians Dathan Ritzenhein and Matt Tegenkamp, and was at least within sniffing distance of the 3rd one by running 2:13:52.  However, I’ve become so accustomed to reaching the race goals I set for myself over the past few years, that I would be lying to you if I said that I wasn’t initially disappointed when I finished.

It was a perfect morning to run.  There wasn’t a cloud in the sky – which resulted in a sun burnt nose – the temps were in the low-50s, and the wind wasn’t too strong.  The Chicago Marathon hadn’t seen a day this good in many years.  As such, it would have been foolish to not take a risk and go for it. I trained all summer long to be in a position to run aggressively in October and that’s what I did.

I ran the first 10k with the large group being towed along by Matt Tegenkamp’s pacers – Chris Solinsky and Alistair Cragg.  When their pace quickened, I settled into a nice rhythm with fellow American Sean Quigley and we rolled through the halfway mark right where I wanted to be, 66-flat.

Running with Sean Quigley close to the race's mid-point.

Running with Sean Quigley close to the race’s mid-point.

Closing in on the finish. Battling it out with one of the Japanese runners.

Closing in on the finish. Battling it out with one of the Japanese runners.

Around 30k though, things started getting tough.  I had been feeling good, running well, moving up since the halfway point, but I began getting cramps up high in my hamstring heading into the final 10k.  When you realize during the race that you still have another 32 minutes of being on your feet, your mind immediately gravitates towards all of the possible ‘oh shit’ outcomes.  My biggest concern?  Making sure that I didn’t have to walk up Michigan Avenue!

My saving grace was that I had people to compete against over that final 5k.  I had slowly gained ground on two Japanese runners, and rather than worrying about whether or not my hamstrings were going hold up, I began focusing on trying to beat them.  I probably would not have run as fast if it weren’t for simply wanting to beat those two guys.

After the thrill that was the last mile in Boston, which was easily the most enjoyable mile I have ever run, the last 2k in Chicago was a true grind.  I can remember the exact moment in the race when I knew a sub-2:13 performance was off the table.  At 35k, I was still on pace to run 2:12:45 (1:50:04 at 40k; 1:50:06 needed for 2:12:45) but I was running on fumes at that point and holding 5:04 pace became unrealistic.  That realization was incredibly deflating.  Two years ago, when I was still sporting a PR of 2:18, I would have been over-the-moon-excited to even be talking about the possibility of running something this fast.  But my expectations have changed and I felt like all of the pieces were in place to accomplish my time goal, which is why I was so disappointed right afterwards.

However, now that I’ve had some time to digest everything, I’m finding it easier to focus on what went right, as opposed to what went wrong.

For starters, it was a good ending to a great year.  A year in which I started the season with a win at the Mississippi Blues Marathon (2:16:38), had two top-15 finishes in consecutive marathon majors (10th at Boston, 13th at Chicago), and lowered my PR by almost 2 minutes (I started the year with a 2:15:38, ran 2:14:38 in Boston and then 2:13:52 in Chicago).  In the past decade, there have been a total of 7 American runners who have finished in the top-15 of two major US marathons (Boston, Chicago, New York) in the same calendar year (*Jason Hartmann has a chance to be the 8th person at New York in a few weeks).  4 of the 7 are past Olympians and the other two have represented the US on World Championships teams.  Then there is me; I am one of those 7.  That’s hard for even me to believe!

My consistency during training has translated into a very consistent year of racing the marathon.  Being a marathoner is not easy and I’m proud of the year – really, years – that I have been able to string together.  And I’m confident that there is plenty more in the tank.  I probably have 4 more marathons to run prior to the 2016 Olympic Trials and each one of those will be opportunities to see how far I can take this thing.  I’m starting to believe that 2:11 is a realistic goal for myself in another two years and 2:11 starts putting you the ballpark.

But more important that the race itself was what we were able to accomplish for the Richard Family.  I write ‘we’ because none of this would have been possible without the generosity of you all.  By achieving my goal of running a PR, we were able to raise almost $5800 for the Richard family. When things got tough during the latter part of that race, I definitely gained some strength knowing that I had to finish strong to win the CharityBet.  As promised, I will chip in an additional $500 for running under 2:15, which will bring the grand total to $6399.  There are not enough ‘thank yous’ to be said for those of you who donated – family, friends, friends of friends, and complete strangers.

Craig Leon: A Run for Martin (2013 Chicago Marathon) from WendyCity Productions on Vimeo.

And a big shout out to my mom and her students at Hicksville High School, back in Ohio, who raised over $1500 themselves!  I don’t care where my travels take me in this world; the kindness and goodwill of small-town Ohio are unmatched.  Ohio proud!

Hicksville High School doing some serious fundraising!

Hicksville High School doing some serious fundraising!

So, what’s next?  I’m going to take the rest of October as recovery.  I’ll be bypassing runs for ElliptiGO rides, as I’ve found that to be the best way to work out the post-marathon kinks without being on my feet.  And you couldn’t ask for better fall weather in the Pacific Northwest right now, so I plan on taking advantage of it.  I won’t race again until the Club Cross Country Championships in December, which will be held in Bend, Oregon.  I’m excited about doing cross country again and can’t wait to race alongside my Team Run Eugene teammates!

That’s how I’ll close out 2013.  I am truly thankful for all of the support from here in Eugene, to back in Ohio, and everywhere in between.  It’s been a really fun year!

Race Splits provided by Garmin

  • Mile 1 – 4:59
  • Mile 2 – 5:01
  • Mile 3 – 5:01
  • Mile 4 – 4:54
  • Mile 5 – 4:58
  • Mile 6 – 4:57
  • Mile 7 – 5:04
  • Mile 8 – 5:01
  • Mile 9 – 5:01
  • Mile 10 – 5:06
  • Mile 11 – 5:10
  • Mile 12 – 4:58
  • Mile 13 – 5:09
  • Mile 14 – 5:05
  • Mile 15 – 5:01
  • Mile 16 – 5:05
  • Mile 17 – 5:00
  • Mile 18 – 5:08
  • Mile 19 – 5:06
  • Mile 20 – 5:08
  • Mile 21 – 5:06
  • Mile 22 – 5:12
  • Mile 23 – 5:15
  • Mile 24 – 5:17
  • Mile 25 – 5:15
  • Mile 26 – 5:30
  • Last .2 – 1:13
  • 2:13:52
  • Chicago Marathon: Pre-Race Thoughts

    I’ve spent the past 13 weeks training for a singular purpose: the Chicago Marathon.  During that time, I have logged more than 1,500 miles, on various Mizuno shoes, to prepare for the opportunity to become a better marathoner.  And this coming Sunday morning is when all of that preparation meets opportunity.

    There really are few better places in the world to train during the summer months than Oregon.  Cool, sunny mornings make getting out the door every morning for those hard workout sessions and long runs incredibly tolerable.  The last 3 months of training have me more excited than ever to race a marathon.  My confidence is bolstered as a result of the quantity and quality of the workouts and runs I’ve completed during this training period.  I’m so much stronger and fitter than I was coming into last year’s Chicago marathon, which was shown by last tune-up race: a solo effort 64:39 half marathon win at Medford.  I would not have been able to do that a year ago.

    Weeks to go

    2012

    2013

    13

    114

    107

    12

    123

    110

    11

    130

    126

    10

    111

    130

    9

    100

    141

    8

    90

    103

    7

    124

    130

    6

    123

    100

    5

    92

    133

    4

    130

    131

    3

    104

    101

    2

    99

    111

    1

    81

    100

    Total

    1421

    1523

    Average

    109

    117

    But being a successful marathoner takes more than just having a few good months of training.  It’s about being able to string together several of these types of training blocks.  Fortunately, I’ve been building on the successes of each previous segment ever since moving to Eugene and my race performances reflect this.  In the time since running last year’s Chicago Marathon, I have won a marathon, setting a course-record en route, finished 10th place at the Boston Marathon in a personal best time, and have lowered my half marathon PR by nearly a full minute.

    I owe a lot of my successes these past two years to my support team.  When you find yourself not worrying about some of the trivial day-to-day doldrums and surround yourself with positive people and influences, you can focus completely on the things that lead to better performances.  So thank you, better yet, a million thank yous to Mizuno; Team Run Eugene; Cooperative Performance and Rehabilitation; Michael Donawa, LMT; Eugene Running Company; Garmin; ElliptiGO; and my family and friends.  You have all played a huge role in making an impossibly difficult task relatively easy.

    2013 has easily been the best season of my running career.  It won’t be complete, however, without a great performance on Sunday.  I feel like all of the pieces – physical and mental – are in place to run a fast time and take another step forward in my career.  As I leave Eugene, I’m not putting any limits on how fast I can run.  I owe it to myself, and everyone who has supported me, to go for it.  What “it” is, I’m not sure.  But I know that come Sunday, I’ll be ready to go!

    Finally, as many of you know, this race has become more to me than just another marathon.  I have partnered with CharityBets.com to help raise money for the Richard family, whose lives were so deeply affected by the marathon bombings in Boston this past spring.  You can get involved by placing a charitybet on my performance.  The faster I run on Sunday, the more money we can raise.  With your help, and amazing generosity, over $3700 has been pledged as of Friday morning.  Additionally, I will be contributing $250 if I run under 2:18, $500 if I run under 2:15, and $1000 if I run under 2:13.

    If you aren’t familiar with their story, 8-year-old Martin was killed in the blast, his 7-year-old sister lost her leg, his mother sustained brain trauma, and dad suffered hearing loss.  You can read more about how and why I got involved with this by reading my previous blog post.

    As I mentioned in my interview with the Eugene Register-Guard last week, the Richard family’s recovery will be a marathon and I want them to know that we in the running community intend to be their on-course support. Please consider giving a small donation or placing a charitybet (performance-based donation) to help support this family as they continue to recover from this life-altering event.  The betting will close 15-minutes prior to the start of the race, which begins at 7:30 am CDT.

    Godspeed.

    Important Race Info

    There are several ways to keep track of me on Sunday.

    • You can sign-up to receive text message updates directly from the Chicago Marathon by going here.  Note, you must register by 11:00 pm CDT on Saturday, October 12.  I will be bib #28.
    • Thee Aadam Soorma

      Thee Aadam Soorma

      The best way to keep track of me will be to visit my twitter page, @cleonrun.  Once again, good friend, social media savant, and one-of-a-kind personality, Aadam Soorma will be on-site, live-tweeting splits and race happenings, as seen through his eyes.  Soorma, a former OU teammate of mine, provided the same entertaining services at the Boston Marathon in April and has graciously offered to do the same this weekend.

    • If you are more of a Facebook-type, you can head to the Team Run Eugene page.  Coach Ian Dobson will also be out on the course Sunday morning and will provide some updates as well.  That’s right, I finally get to introduce Mr. Dobson to the marathoning world!
    • Television coverage will be provided by the local NBC affiliate in Chicago.  They will be streaming the race live on Sunday morning.

    One of the benefits of living and training in Eugene is that you are surrounding by very knowledgeable fans of the sport, both in the community and in the media.  I sat down with one of the sport’s best journalists, Curtis Anderson, before I left.  All bias put aside, he wrote a very nice piece on my how I’m feeling as I enter Sunday’s race.  You can read it here.

    The forecast for Sunday is calling for mostly sunny skies, temps in the low 50s, with little wind out of the north.   If it holds, you’ll have 47,000 happy runners.

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    The 2013 Chicago Marathon elite roster

    Elite athlete roster
    (as of September 20, 2013)

    Men

    Name                               Country                   Personal best                         Bib #

  • Moses Mosop                   KEN                   2:03:06                                     2
  • Dennis Kimetto                KEN                   2:04:16                                     3
  • Ayele Abshero                 ETH                   2:04:23                                      4
  • Emmanuel Mutai                KEN                   2:04:40                                 5
  • Sammy Kitwara                 KEN                   2:05:54                                     6
  • Tariku Jufar                  ETH                   2:06:51                                         7
  • Atsedu Tsegay                 ETH                   Debut                                         8
  • Dathan Ritzenhein             USA                   2:07:47                                   9
  • Mike Kigen                   KEN                   2:08:24                                     10
  • Yoshinori Oda                 JPN                   2:09:03                                     11
  • Micah Kogo                   KEN                   2:10:27                                     12
  • Zersenay Tadese               ERI                   2:10:41                                     13
  • Matt Tegenkamp                USA                   Debut                                     14
  • Merkebu Birke                 ETH                   Debut                                     15
  • Tesfaye Sendeku               ETH                   2:11:18                                     16
  • Michael Shelley               AUS                   2:11:23                                     17
  • Eliud Ngetich                 KEN                   2:11:59                                     18
  • Kenji Higashino               JPN                   2:12:13                                     19
  • Hiroaki Sano                  JPN                   2:12:14                                     20
  • Hirokatsu Kurosaki      JPN                   2:12:22                                     21
  • Yoshiki Otsuka                JPN                   2:12:51                                     22
  • Hiroki Tanaka                 JPN                   2:13:09                                     23
  • Norihide Fujimori             JPN                   2:13:11                                     24
  • Sean Quigley                  USA                   2:14:12                                     25
  • Mike Morgan                   USA                   2:14:22                                     26
  • Mike Sayenko                  USA                   2:14:27                                     27
  • Craig Leon                   USA                   2:14:38                                     28
  • Luke Humphrey                 USA                   2:14:39                                     29
  • Matt Dewald                   USA                   2:17:42                                     30
  • Chris Pannone                 USA                   2:18:05                                     31
  • Stephen Muturi                USA                   2:18:15                                     32
  • Eric Loeffler                 USA                   2:18:36                                     33
  • Chris Siemers                 USA                   2:18:48                                     34
  • Brandon Mull                  USA                   2:19:21                                     35
  • Dastaho Svench                ISR                   2:20:07                                     36
  • Dan Kremske                   USA                   Debut                                     37
  • Jared Ward                   USA                   Debut                                     38
  • Pius Nyantika                 KEN                   2:15:50                                     39
  • The Chicago Marathon: A Run for Martin

    The day was Monday, April 15th.  Patriot’s Day.  Marathon Monday.

    Like the 27,000 other runners, it began with a bus ride to Hopkinton for the start of the 117th running of the Boston Marathon.  It was a cool but perfectly sunny Spring New England day. Over the next few hours, I had the incredible fortune of experiencing the highest of runner’s highs – a 10th place finish at the grand daddy of all marathons.  That elation, however, was soon replaced by chaos and terror.  Bombs.  Blood.  Sirens.  SWAT teams.  Words that no one involved in the sport could have imagined being associated with a race.

    It was a restless flight back to the West Coast that next morning.  As I sat there reading through the various newspapers, trying to still come to grips with everything that had transpired the previous day, I was overcome with a feeling of apathy.  Running seemed so inconsequential.  In the days and weeks after the attacks America learned about those whose lives were suddenly and dramatically changed that Monday afternoon.  Each face had a story.  And each story was heartbreaking.  But no story affected me more than the one of the young Martin Richard, the 8-year-old boy who was killed in the blast, and his family.

    web-martin-richardsThe Richard family, like so many others, watched their father/husband sneak out the door for training runs in preparation for his marathon.  Mr. Richard trained while juggling both his job and family responsibilities.  And with each and every run he logged, Mr. Richard taught his kids, whether they realized it or not, about setting goals and working hard to achieve those goals.

    When Patriot’s Day came around, the Richard family – Mom, Martin, and daughter Jane –  made the trek down towards the finish line so that they could watch their dad complete this monumental task.  I can only imagine the joy in Martin’s heart as he waited for, and then watched, his dad come running down Boylston Street.  He must have been so proud.  That was his dad out there, kicking butt!

    People aren’t supposed to die at races.  Especially kids waiting to watch their dads finish the Boston Marathon.  I’m not a dad, but that might not always be the case.  And if there are ever little Craigs energetically bouncing around this ball some day, I hope that I will be able to share the joy of running with them.  It was the father-son part of the story that really hit home with me.  Being able to play sports with – and against – my dad growing up were among some of my favorite childhood memories.  Sadly, Mr. Richard no longer gets to have these moments with Martin.

    In the days after Boston, I vowed to myself that I would do something to help the Richard family in my next marathon.  I didn’t know the what or the how, but as timed passed, the answers to those questions became more clear thanks to the help of CharityBets.com, Boston Globe reporter, David Abel, and Richard family friend, Larry Marchese.  At the Chicago marathon in 3 weeks, I will run, very literally, for Martin and the Richard family.  The better my performance, the more money we can raise for the Richard Family Fund.  But I need your help.

    Let me give you a brief rundown of what I hope to accomplish.  I have partnered with the website CharityBets.com to help raise funds for the Richard family.  If you are wondering what the heck a “charitybet” is, well, it’s exactly what it sounds like.  A “charitybet” is a performance-based donation.  In this case, donations that will be based on my performance at next month’s Chicago Marathon.  There are 3 different ways that you all can play along:

    1. Flat Donation:  This means that regardless of how I perform, you agree to donate X amount.
    2. Over/Under: You agree to donate X amount regardless if I run faster than 2:14:38 or not, and if I run faster than my goal time you will increase your donation to X.  For example, you commit to making a flat donation of $10, and then if I go on to reach my goal, you will donate $35 dollars.
    3. Progressive Donation: You place a bet based on how much faster than 2:14:38 you think I can run.  Think of this as a a sliding scale: the faster I run, the more money you donate.  You can choose the time increments and amounts.  An example would be for every 10 seconds faster than 2:14:38, you will donate $5.

    I thought it made sense to set the “betting” bar at 2:14:38, my time from this year’s Boston race and my current marathon PR.  It’s an ambitious goal, but I have confidence in my training, and in my ability to make this happen.  I know that many of you might have already made donations to the OneFund or other charities, but I hope that you will consider playing along as a favor to me.  No amount is too small.  I’ve set a goal of trying to raise $1,500 but I think we can do better!  Also, your donations are tax deductible.

    Help me honor the legacy of Martin, and help the Richard family, at this year’s Chicago Marathon.  Over the next few weeks, with your support, we can play a small role in the Richard family’s return to their “new normal”.  And you better believe that on October 13th I’ll be full of run with some of that Boston Strong mojo at my back and under my feet!  Let’s go do something special, together.

    To make a charitybet and play along, follow the link below:

    https://charitybets.com/users/322-craig-leon

    Rogue Run Half Marathon: Final Fitness Test

    My training for next month’s Chicago Marathon has probably been the strangest buildup to any marathon for me.  I have been hard at work these last three months logging miles and completing workouts, but the lack of racing and modifications to my training regimen have made it difficult knowing exactly where I am fitness-wise.  Although I can point to a few workouts that would probably indicate that I am marathon-ready, they aren’t the kind of benchmark workouts I have done in the past where I could sit down and easily compare workout A to workout B.  Also missing was the direct feedback that I normally get from racing.  I couldn’t read too much into my 20k performance in New Haven because of the weather and I cancelled my trip to Philadelphia for last week’s Rock n’ Roll half marathon.

    photo[1]

    So here I was 3 weeks out from a marathon, and though I suspected my fitness to be in a good spot, I still couldn’t tell anyone with 100% certainty that I was ready.  Until yesterday, when I was able to defend my title at the Rogue Run half marathon by running my 2nd-fastest half marathon of my career (1:04:39), and a full 3-minutes faster than I ran at this same race in 2012.

    To be honest, the performance was somewhat unexpected.  I had just come off a pretty high volume week of training (131 miles) and was aiming for marathon goal pace (something in the 66-minute range).  bilde

    Unlike last year, however, I was up against some good competition and it was clear early in the race that a 66-minute effort was not going to be good enough to win.  After a 4:59 opening mile, I aborted my pre-race plan.  What followed was an amazingly consistent race (see splits below).  I was being closely followed up through 7 miles or so, but was able to slowly pull away over the final 10k.  At one point around mile 8, I thought about trying to go after a PR, but ultimately decided against it, figuring that it didn’t make sense to go to the well this close to my marathon.  After the race, David Laney (2nd place finisher) told reporters that I was “like a metronome”.  Music to a marathoner’s ears with just a few weeks of training to go.

    Now I can say, with 20 days remaining, that I am ready for Chicago.  When I look at the consistent training that I have put together over the past year, it gives me the confidence that a fast time is possible under the right conditions.  There is no way that I would have been able to run a solo 64:39 half marathon 1 year ago.  I just wasn’t strong enough to be able to do that.  What a difference a year makes.  I’m heading to Chicago with great fitness and a ton of confidence.  For any runner, that’s a recipe for success.

    Watch out Chicago, I’m coming for you!

    Mile Splits Powered by Renee Gordon’s pink watch (because I left my Garmin in Eugene):

  • Mile 1 – 4:59
  • Mile 2 – 4:59
  • Mile 3 – 4:55
  • Mile 4 – 4:55
  • Mile 5 – 4:50
  • Mile 6 – 4:52
  • Mile 7 – 4:53
  • Mile 8 – 4:56
  • Mile 9 – 4:54
  • Mile 10 – 4:55
  • Mile 11 – 4:57
  • Mile 12 – 4:45
  • Mile 13 and .1 – 5:43

  • No more Rock n’ Roll. No problem.

    A few weeks ago, the Competitor Group (CGI) announced that it would be, with immediate effect, eliminating any and all elite fields in North American events.  What does this mean exactly?  In a nutshell, CGI, which is responsible for putting on all of the Rock n’ Roll races across the country, will no longer be investing its money into the professional side of road racing.  The decision stunned many in the running community, especially those who view this as a profession.  I’ll share some of my thoughts on CGI’s decision, and what it all means, later in this post, but the more immediate concern for me was deciding whether or not to run this Sunday’s previously scheduled Rock n’ Roll Philadelphia Half Marathon.

    When I committed to running the Chicago Marathon, it was my intention from day 1 of this training cycle to run in Philly.  It’s one of the most competitive half marathons in the US and it comes exactly one month before Chicago; perfect timing for one last hard tune-up.  Because of what has transpired over the past few weeks, I have chosen to pull the plug on racing at Philly this weekend and will consequently take a financial hit in the process.  However, I believe that it is more important for me to stand alongside many of my fellow competitors and boycott any CGI events going forward.

    When you are six weeks out from a marathon, I can tell you the last thing you want to worry about is reconfiguring your already-thought-out-and-well-planned training schedule.  But alas, that’s what I have been doing.  I’ve spent too much time (because in my mind, even spending one minute is too much) over the last week figuring out how to change my plane ticket, finding a substitute tune-up race, and working with coach Ian to re-write my training schedule.  If you know me, then you might be able to imagine how frustrating this process has been, as I hate amending schedules and plans.

    Despite the emergency audibles of the past week, I am happy with how things are working themselves out.  The most important issue – finding a tune-up race before Chicago – was resolved earlier in the week with help from the folks at the Rouge Run Half Marathon in Medford, Oregon.  Not only were they able to get me registered for their race after the deadline had passed, they have generously upped their commitment to elite runners by increasing their overall prize purse.  In theory I’ve solved two problems in one: finding a substitute tune-up race, while hopefully recouping some of the lost revenue of not going to Philadelphia.  And with the help of Ian, I now have a revised schedule that I believe in for these last 4 weeks of training.  So…crisis averted!  Time to spend the next month focusing on the tangible tasks that will help me run fast in Chicago.

    Now, let me turn my attention to CGI and its decision to discontinue supporting elite runners.  At the end of the day, this is a business.  As such, they are entitled to run their business how they want.  Keeping this in mind, I hope they fail…miserably.  And here is why.

    I have never been a fan of the Rock n’ Roll races, which is why I avoided running their events until last year.  In my opinion, they charge participants a small fortune to enter and give them very little in return.  Sure, they throw a few local back-alley-bar-weekday-cover-bands out on the course and give you some C-list headliner as a post-race concert, but these “luxuries” simply masquerade the event’s deficiencies.  In my experience, the Rock n’ Roll races have been unorganized and do very little to give back to the communities that graciously host its events.  More specifically, CGI has all but ruined Philadelphia’s once proud race.

    The success of the Rock n’ Roll series is due in large part to fantastic marketing (something that our sport, and those who run it, could take note of).  But you can only play the spin game for so long, which is why in addition to dropping its support for elite athletes, CGI also announced last week that it would be discontinuing 2 of its races that were under-performing (a.k.a not enough feet crossing the finish line).  People in the running community are starting to figure out that maybe they don’t prefer the “corporate” race over their local events.  After all, the majority of runners don’t necessarily want or need all the bells and whistles.  The LetsRun.com folks released an editorial this morning saying just that.

    Despite my distaste for CGI, I do think the discussion amongst the running community in the aftermath of its decision has been extremely productive.  After the initial fiery ball of internet anger was unleashed at CGI, people eventually began to talk productively about how to prevent these things from happening in the future.  The dialogue changed from CGI-bashing to appropriately examining the responsibilities required of elite runners in adding value to an event – read Toni Reavis’ blog post.  Whether a race is providing prize money and/or appearance fees, that money should not be considered a charity.  The days of showing up, running fast, and leaving are long gone.

    One of the most unique aspects of our sport is that elite runners compete alongside everyone else.  That “town meets gown” atmosphere is what makes our sport so awesome.  The responsibility of connecting the competitive with the recreational falls on both elite runners and race organizers.  Elites need to make themselves available for expos, appearances, media requests, meet and greets, and post-race awards.  It disgusts me when I see runners show up to races, lock themselves in their rooms, and express very little gratitude to those who make doing what we do possible.  At the same time, race organizers need to continually find ways to bridge the gap and build connections between elites, race sponsors, and the masses.  As we learned last week, a race isn’t required to fund elite athletes.  Although, I will contend a race that doesn’t present awards to its top finishers isn’t really a race at all; it’s an organized run, as there is very little emphasis competition.  But I digress.

    Another talking point that surfaced from last week’s dialogue centered around athlete marketability.  There were some really great observations made about how, ultimately, athletes in our sport are responsible for building their own brand – read Josh Cox’s blog post.  There are plenty of successful examples out there of which to model from, but ultimately the effort needs to be uniquely you – or in this case, me!  I’m fortunate enough to have some prior background knowledge and experience in this area, so I understand how to create, build, and use this platform.  I also worked as a member of the media growing up, so I am keenly aware of the value media exposure can provide elite runners.  Additionally, the internet and social media has made it easier than ever to keep people clued in, but making a haphazard attempt at doing so will only result in failure.  There has to be plan!

    Lastly, understand that professional running does not need CGI, or its Rock n’ Roll events, to survive.  The sport was fine prior to its existence and it will be just fine going forward.  Sure, am I upset to see opportunities for elite runners to make money racing disappear?  Of course.  But many of us were not relying on these races for support in the first place.  In the three Rock n’ Roll races I competed in last year – Dallas, Portland, Philadelphia – I made a grand total of $750.  Only 1 of those 3 races actually provided me with a hotel room or travel assistance.  I guess what I am trying to say is that CGI put very little into its elite program to begin with – confirming Ben Bruce’s assumption.  If this was the kind of support every race provided, then I wouldn’t waste my time chasing my dreams because I’d be B-R-O-K-E!

    The reality is that there are plenty of events, race organizers, sponsors, and runners around the US and world who see value in the competitive aspect of the sport.  So to those in that group, thank you!  And to those of you in the industry who I have had the privilege to work with and get to know, a million thank yous!  I get to live out my dreams because of you.

    I’d like to end by publicly thanking a few of the races and race directors/elite coordinators that I have worked with over the past couple of years.  Thank you for giving me such wonderful opportunities!

  • Boston Marathon – Mary Kate Shea, Mike Pieroni, the B.A.A.
  • Chicago Marathon – Jeremy Borling
  • Mississippi Blues Marathon – Bryan Lagg
  • Rogue Run Half Marathon – Darren Ravassipour, Laura Weiland
  • SACtown 10-miler – Kevin Pool
  • Saint Patrick’s Day Dash – Alan Bonney
  • US 25k Championships / Fifth Third River Bank Run – Greg Meyer
  • US 15k Championships / Gate River Run – Richard Clark Fannin
  • USA Half Marathon Championships / Grandmas Marathon – Sarah Culver, Scott Keenan
  • US 20k Championships / New Haven 20k – John Tolbert