Since 1982 I've written a newsletter, Running Commentary. A new issue appears here each week, and material is archived.

Tue, 30 Oct 2001 08:53:49 -0500

Good News Among Bad


Just when we thought the news could get no worse, it did. Right after the jarring events of September 11th came two accidents directly involving runners.

These stories from two western states were all but lost in news from the east. But there are no small tragedies.

Eight young men from the University of Wyoming's cross-country team died in an auto crash (apparently caused by another Wyoming student later charged with driving drunk). Reducing the victims to a number doesn't feel right, so the least I can do is name them: Cody Brown, Kyle Johnson, Joshua Jones, Justin Lambert-Belanger, Morgan McLeland, Kevin Salverson, Nicholas Schabron and Shane Shatto.

In Utah, a father of four, Olympian and former national record-holder at two road distances died in a boating accident. Paul Cummings ran the 10,000 at the 1984 Games and held U.S. marks for the 20-K and half-marathon. He was 48.

Amid the reports of death and destruction, we need to hear some good news right now. I don't pretend that it's important news, or that it can or should make us forget the bad.

You might call this good news trivial. But dwelling on trivia for a change can be therapeutic.

-- Haile Gebrselassie of Ethiopia looks toward the most-awaited marathon debut ever (as early as next spring). History's greatest track 5000/10,000 runner will step onto the roads and up in distance at next month's World Half-Marathon Championships.

-- Paula Radcliffe has won many fans for her pace-pushing tactics (which often leave her just out of the medals) and for her outspoken stand against drugs. Those fans cheered when the Brit set a world road 5-K record of 14:57.

-- Deena Drossin isn't waiting until her track and cross-country racing go downhill before trying a marathon. She'll debut at New York City this fall. On Labor Day she ran the fastest U.S. half-marathon ever in an all-women's race with 1:10:08.

-- Americans Milena Glusac and Dan Browne each won two national road titles, two weeks apart. They backed up their half-marathon victories with repeats at 20-K.

-- You might know Rich Hanna as co-author of the Ultimate Guide to Marathons. You can now think of him as the most successful running writer -- as a runner. He claimed a silver medal at the World 100-K Championships.

-- An American won at a world meet at a distance longer than one lap of the track. Anthony Famiglietti led all steeplechasers at the World University Games.

-- The most rapidly evolving race is the women's steeplechase, and Elizabeth Jackson has figured most prominently in the U.S. evolution of that event. She set American records five times this year, starting at just under 10 minutes and dropping to 9:41.94.

-- Sue Ellen Trapp has replaced Lynn Jennings as the woman to win the most national championships in a single event. The recent 24-hour title was Trapp's seventh. Big story here: her age of 55.

-- Shirley Matson became the first woman over 60 to break 6:00 in mile, running 5:58.69. Ten years ago she had come within a half-minute of becoming the only American woman over 50 to break 2:50 in the marathon.

-- Chasing the Hawk, Andy Sheehan's book about his father and himself, tops this week's best-seller list for running titles -- even though this book is only incidentally about running.

-- The Farm Team, a club based at Stanford, has brought together three of the country's top distance coaches. Jack Daniels, formerly of Athletics West and Cortland State, and Frank Gagliano, from Georgetown and The Enclave, join Stanford's Vin Lananna.

-- Road racing keeps growing in the U.S., with the shorter races expanding faster than the longer ones. Total number of finishes at the four most popular distances in the year 2000: 5-K -- 2.8 million (12-percent increase over 1999)... 10-K -- 1.1 million (up by 10 percent)... half-marathon -- 458,000 (eight-percent jump)... marathon -- 451,000 (plus four percent). For the first time, the half moved ahead of the marathon in size.

-- Despite the devastating blows to their host cities, the New York City and Marine Corps Marathons will go ahead as planned this fall.

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