Monday, November 4, 2013

Pittsburg, Monterrey, Costa Rica ...

There has been a noticeable tone of negativity in the running world lately as people from around the country have weighed in on the decision of Competitor Group to eliminate funding of its elite athlete program.  Most of the articles and opinions I’ve read raised solid points, and I do believe Competitor Group has deserved its criticism.  I don’t really have much to add to the conversation, so instead of focusing this blog on an organization that doesn’t want to help runners, I would like to recognize some of the amazing groups that make professional distance running possible.  Since this list includes most of my racing schedule this fall, I thought it would be worthwhile to give praise where praise is do and unveil my racing schedule at the same time.  Also, this list isn’t comprehensive.  There are many more races that deserve a shout out.  However, I lose interest in a blog that is over a page, so I don’t want anyone to leave mid-blog. 

My first race this fall was the EQT Pittsburgh 10-miler this past weekend put on by Three Rivers Marathon, Inc. and the Steel City Road Runners.  These folks generously fund a full and half marathon, a road mile and have added a 10 Mile this fall.  Additionally, they have announced a grant program for developing athletes.  Most importantly, they see the value in connecting the elite runners with the public.  For example, while the elites were in Pittsburgh, we met with the local running group for a run as well as a high team that had just finished their season.  I think this is the future of road running – trying to find ways to mingle the elites with the local running community to promote the race and enhance the appeal of those who pay to run.  In what other sport can the public compete at the same time and in the same arena as the professionals?  Three Rivers recognizes the value of elites and is dedicated to helping us while also improving the racing experience for other runners.

Two weeks later, I’m set to run the Big Sur Half Marathon in Monterrey, CA.  The race organizers in Monterrey earned much respect from me two years ago.  I had placed 4th in their race in 2011 finishing behind Ezykias(?) Sisay who later tested positive at another race for deer antler spray or whatever drug cheats are taking these days.  By the time the results from his failed drug test were in, the prize money had already been distributed to the top finishers.  The race didn’t have to take any action.  However, they took Sisay out of the results and sent checks to the runners that would have finished in the money had Sisay not run.  I doubt they were able to find Sisay to reclaim their first place prize purse, but that didn’t stop them from re-distributing the prize money.  I have a lot of respect for those that do the right thing when they don’t have to, and I’m honored to be running their race again this year.

Next, I’m returning to Costa Rica for a half marathon in San Jose.  This will be my second time racing in Costa Rica, and I hope it’s not the last.  The atmosphere at races there rivals that of major U.S. sporting events.  The other runners are excited about the elite race and winners spend the next hour after finishing taking pictures and signing autographs.  Given the enthusiasm for the elite race, organizers in Costa Rica have made a concerted effort to bring in elites and offer decent prize money as well.  Again, these organizers see the value that elites can bring to a race, and recognize that an elite competition can improve the overall experience of the race as a whole.  The professional running scene needs these individuals to survive, and thankfully we have many in the U.S. and around the world.   

I have a couple more races after Costa Rica and will talk about those next blog.