London Postcards: Scenes from the 16th IAAF World Championships

Screen Shot 2017-08-14 at 8.51.25 AMFinal leg of the men’s 4×100 relay

Has it been five years already since the Olympics returned to London?

In the wider world, a lot has changed for Great Britain and for the rest of us since 2012, but it seems like only yesterday that we were watching the planet’s best track and field athletes – Bolt, Rudisha, Dibaba, Farah – amaze and delight us during the Athletics portion of the London Games.

But impressions can be deceiving. The world of Athletics has changed, too. Although many of the same athletes were competing in the same Olympic Stadium over these last two weeks for the 16th IAAF World Championships, at some point, a few of these formerly invincible runners became mortal, yielding the podium to newcomers. At some point, other runners and jumpers and throwers stepped out of obscurity to win unexpected titles. Some fans called it the “Bizzaro World Championships,” and felt that the world of Track and Field had been turned upside-down. I wouldn’t go that far, but there were definitely events that shocked fans of the sport. Continue reading

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Field Guide to North American Tracks: Bob Heath Track, Lyndonville Vermont

Lyndonville_track Continue reading

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What is happening to American Runners?

Chart by Jens Jakob Anderson and Ivanka Andreeva Nikolova,

When it comes to running, I live in a bubble. I spend some part of every day running, or coaching, or writing, or thinking about running. My social life revolves around running. I frequent running websites. I stream obscure races and meets from around the world to my laptop at odd hours of the day and night. I am writing this in my dorm room at a running camp.

All of this makes it hard for me to see the big picture: to see that people like me represent a very small fraction of the running population of this country. Vastly more people run for health or recreation than for prizes, and those people likely do not obsess over intervals, tempo runs, and weekly mileage.

The fact that I have spent a lot of my life trying to get better at running, and trying to help others do the same, also makes it hard for me to understand the following recent phenomenon: American runners are slowing down. Or, to put it more precisely, average race times across a variety of standard race distances have been slowing steadily for at least two decades. Continue reading

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Slowing down faster



A couple of days ago, I observed a milestone that I had been dreading for a while: I turned 59 ½. Continue reading

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IAAF’s misguided idea for sanitizing the record book


…We want to change the concept of a record and raise the standards for recognition to a point where everyone can be confident that everything is fair and above board.”
— European athletics president Svein Arne Hansen

“It is a heavy handed way to wipe out some really suspicious records in a cowardly way by simply sweeping all aside instead of having the guts to take the legal plunge and wipe any record that would be found in a court of law to have been illegally assisted.”
– Paula Radcliffe

“There’s no record I’m 100 percent sure is clean and no record I’m 100 percent sure is dirty. But […] some are a heck of a lot more suspicious that others. If the records are reset, there will absolutely be some clean athletes who lose records.” – Alex Hutchinson Continue reading

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An Unremarkable Summer Evening

IMG_3883The Harvard outdoor track at twilight

Is it a trick of memory, or was there a time when I wasn’t so dull and listless in the afternoons? I feel sure that when I was younger I had the vigor to fill the day with useful activity, to be productive from the time I arrived at work in the morning, until quitting time at five or later. And then — because one has dreams beyond work — I still had the desire to throw myself into a good run or workout before heading home for a late supper. These days, I’m happy if I manage a few good hours in the morning where I can maintain enough focus and energy to take on life’s everyday tasks, and maybe sneak in a run before the urge for a nap becomes too great.

I thought of that last Thursday as I drove into Cambridge late in the afternoon, watching all the cars leaving the city. I was on my way to join an impromptu workout at the Harvard Track, and recently these late-in-the-day workouts have been tough. Normally, by the time 6:30 p.m. rolls around, I’m struggling not to crash, and it’s not an hour when I usually accomplish anything that requires more than token mental effort. Even my relatively easy sessions on the track require more than token mental effort, and so I regarded the imminent task with some trepidation. Continue reading

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Field Guide to North American Tracks: MDI High School

Summer Schedule: Who knew retirement would be so busy? I’m going to try a new schedule of posting every Monday, perhaps more often for special occasions like the World Championships or for multi-part stories like the most recent one. Feel free to throw praise or money my way to try to guilt me into posting more often. 


The MDI H.S. Track: Home of the MDI Trojans

On a typical summer day on Maine’s Mt. Desert Island, the parking areas near Eagle Lake fill early, and by mid-morning, an overflow of hundreds of vehicles line the sandy shoulders of Route 233, a two-lane highway that connects downtown Bar Harbor to the East with Somes Sound — a natural fjord that divides the island into two large but unequal lobes — to the West.

Millions of visitor come to Mt. Desert Island every year to experience the beauty of Acadia National Park, and Eagle Lake is one of the more popular access points to the many miles of dirt carriage roads that loop through the interior of the park. Anyone wanting to hike, bike, run, or ride in horse-drawn carriages through Acadia finds their way to the carriage roads.

Approximately two miles West of the Eagle Lake parking lot is the entrance to MDI High School. For the locals, the high school is a center of activity and civic life for much of the year, but by late June, it’s pretty quiet. A few cars are parked in the teacher lots. There are a handful of maintenance vehicles in the large lot in back of the school. On this Tuesday afternoon, there is exactly one car occupying a space within shouting distance of the tennis courts, and beyond that, the MDI High School track. That car is mine. Continue reading

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