Tadese Feels Good, Ready to Tackle Bekele Again

Story written by Eric.

Don't blame Zersenay Tadese if he prefers the taste of gold over silver or bronze. He's risen up in the athletics world and can afford to be picky over which one he appreciates over another.

Tadese, the returning IAAF World Cross Country gold medalist from Eritrea, earned his stripes under oppressive and life-threatening conditions in Mombassa, Kenya last March.

Tadese, now 26, took the Kenyan heat and humidity by the neck and fired up his own storm on the course, breaking Kenenisa Bekele's stride and spirit along the way to win his first world championship and ending Bekele's stronghold at the top at five-consecutive wins.

The two powerful men who both possess an amazing supply of strength, will-power and determination, will be back at it again on Sunday, facing off together over the long course race in Edinburgh's Holyrood Park in the 36th edition of this early-season fitness test during the Olympic year.

Bekele, who is attempting to win a sixth title and break a tie he holds with two legends - John Ngugi and Paul Tergat, both of Kenya, is focussing on a one-off race this time around after winning 10 gold medals in the past 12 men's events contested over both the long- and short-course events.

Bekele was on target last season to make a serious late-race bid to break away from the field - which was collectively suffering from exhaustion and severe heat loss, but was unable to shake off Tadese, who crept up to Bekele and would not be intimidated by the 24-year-old Ethiopian multiple world record-holder.

Bekele made a hard move to shake his rival, who had never before defeated him on the fields, but paid a heavy price in the race and was forced to abandon his plans to repeat as champion and to continue on with regular training for two months following that endeavour.

Tadese, on the other hand, had an opportunity to shake off the field at his calling and dictate a race pace from up front which punished any pursuers not already within an armshot of him.

The reward? A golden opportunity he would never forget.

Tadese was no slouch on the cross country course prior to winning last year's world championships, nor was he a lightweight on the track.

Having won the 2006 World 20km championships, Tadese also brought 12.59,27 and 26.37,25 personal bests also set in 2006 to keep his focus up with Bekele and to block out the heat - something he had been working on at his training base in Spain.

Both men are looking forward to tomorrow for different reasons.

Bekele, who has raced sparingly this season - recording a world-record in the 2-mile indoors in Birmingham (8.04,35) and a 12km cross country victory on this very Edinburgh course in January, is attempting to regain the crown which eluded him last year and set himself as the overwhelming favourite to win the Olympic 10.000m crown in August in Beijing.

A victory over his rivals would mean that Bekele's forced withdrawal last year was due solely to the elements, and not to being outdone by his rivals.

A loss, on the other hand, would keep Bekele on his competitors' radars and make him even more vulnerable to defeat than he was when he had to dig down deep in Osaka's 10.000m final at last summer's IAAF World Track & Field Championships.

Tadese, whose season has been derailed by two losses in three cross country competitions - including a tick in the ledger against Bekele in Edinburgh, is out to run his own race and compete his best against the entire field, not just Bekele.

"It’s not a matter of fearing anyone," he told the IAAF on Saturday. "I just run my own race."

A race is what the fans lining up the course in rainy conditions will get from two fresh athletes who both know the feeling of victory and the pursuit of near perfection as they tread over water holes, through the mud and push their bodies to their limits for about 34 minutes of time.

Tadese lost a close one to Bekele on 12-January, with the steely Ethiopian stating afterward that it was a very important victory for him. The race was contested over a 9,3km layout on this very site.

Bekele, the world record-holder at 5.000m and 10.000m, looks to be a favourite in a race up to 12km, or the distance contested at the World Championships.

Tadese, on the other hand, has virtually snuck up on the world, having run 58.59 over the half-marathon distance to win last year's IAAF Half Marathon World Championships in October and set a national record in the process. His 10.000m ability may now be faster than the listed 26.37,25 he was able to set in finishing second to Kenyan Micah Kogo in Bruxelles.

The combination of improved track times and excellent road times may hold a slight advantage for Tadese over a longer distance, but Bekele, who has continually demonstrated excellent sprint speed at the end of long track races, may yet pull one out against anyone in the field who is near with only a surge and a kick the only thing separating the victor from the finish line.

At any rate, the vibes are hot, the athletes are cool, and the fans hope the weather warms as the senior men and women as well as the junior division athletes embark on a mission which should last each participant a lifetime.

This is a first-of-a-kind for many of the junior athletes, who are 19-years-old and younger, and is meant as a stepping stone for them to make their way to the senior ranks.

Bekele was 9th in the 1999 junior division in Belfast, and came back to win the 2001 junior title in Ooestende.

The Kenyan men's senior team will have five athletes who are making their senior debut.

IAAF World Cross Country Championships
Holyrood Park, Edinburgh, Scotland
Race Times:

13.00: Women's Junior Race. Start List.
13.30: Men's Junior Race. Start List.
14.05: Women's Senior Race. Start List.
14.45: Men's Senior Race. Start List.

Zersenay Tadese's Cross Country and Road Racing Merits:

20 Kilometres
  • 1st IAAF World Road Running Championships 1 f 56:01 Debrecen 08/10/2006
Half Marathon
  • 2nd IAAF World Road Running Championships 1 f 58:59 Udine 14/10/2007
  • 12th IAAF World Half Marathon Championships 7 f 1:01:26 Vilamoura 04/10/2003
  • 11th IAAF World Half Marathon Championships 21 f 1:03:05 Bruxelles 05/05/2002
Senior Race
  • 35th IAAF World Cross Country Championships 1 f 35:50 Mombasa 24/03/2007
Long Race
  • 34th IAAF World Cross Country Championships 4 f 35:47 Fukuoka 02/04/2006
  • 33rd IAAF World Cross Country Championships 2 f 35:20 St Etienne - St Galmier 20/03/2005
  • 32nd IAAF World Cross Country Championships 6 f 36:37 Bruxelles 21/03/2004
  • 31st IAAF World Cross Country Championships 9 f 37:10 Lausanne 30/03/2003
  • 30th IAAF/Sport Ireland World Cross Country Championships 30 f 36:37 Dublin 24/03/2002
Kenenisa Bekele's Cross Country Merits:

Junior Race
  • IAAF World Cross Country Championships 1 f 25:04 Oostende 25/03/2001
  • 27th IAAF World Cross Country Championships 9 f 26:27 Belfast 28/03/1999
Short Race
  • 34th IAAF World Cross Country Championships 1 f 10:54 Fukuoka 01/04/2006
  • 33rd IAAF World Cross Country Championships 1 f 11:33 St Etienne - St Galmier 19/03/2005
  • 32nd IAAF World Cross Country Championships 1 f 11:31 Bruxelles 20/03/2004
  • 31st IAAF World Cross Country Championships 1 f 11:01 Lausanne 29/03/2003
  • 30th IAAF/Sport Ireland World Cross Country Championships 1 f 12:11 Dublin 23/03/2002
  • IAAF World Cross Country Championships 2 f 12:42 Oostende 24/03/2001
Long Race
  • 34th IAAF World Cross Country Championships 1 f 35:40 Fukuoka 02/04/2006
  • 33rd IAAF World Cross Country Championships 1 f 35:06 St Etienne - St Galmier 20/03/2005
  • 32nd IAAF World Cross Country Championships 1 f 35:52 Bruxelles 21/03/2004
  • 31st IAAF World Cross Country Championships 1 f 35:56 Lausanne 30/03/2003
  • 30th IAAF/Sport Ireland World Cross Country Championships 1 f 34:52 Dublin 24/03/2002

Stats courtesy of IAAF


Anti-Doping Pressure Rising?

Story written by Eric.

UK Sport is putting together a new task force which it hopes will hit the anti-doping initiatives it has squarely on the head, drive out cheats, shore up the sport's fragile image with the public and prove to be a good opportunity for athletes, trainers and medical professionals in contact with each other to report suspected anti-doping violations according to a report in The Guardian.

John Scott, head of the United Kingdom's anti-doping authority, said that UK Sport currently attempting to develop start-up national anti-doping organisation independent of UK Sport that will place a much larger emphasis on intelligence gathering and investigation than current anti-doping measures in place.

"What we want to do is demonstrate through rigorous pre-games testing that we are doing everything that we can to prevent anyone who is cheating going to the Games," Scott stateed. "Whether it will be 100% successful we don't know but we are sending out very strong messages to discourage people."

The apparent message which will be sent out to athletes is one which sounds like it comes straight from a British spy novel.

The new agency, which will be functional before the Beijing Games begin, has a goal of having athletes keep an eye out on other athletes on the track and in the locker rooms; trainers keep a look out for irregularities in their groups which could signal one of their members breaking an anti-doping rule; and for medical staff - including trainers, doctors and anyone else who treats athletes to break out a state of what it is considering complacency and speak up when suspected drug abuse has occured.

"Tests will be planned using our intelligence-based testing approach which focuses the allocation of tests around where they have a maximum impact in terms of detection and deterrence," said Scott on the UK Sports home page (link).

"Whilst the overall aim is to test everyone at least once, obviously those in more high-risk sports or disciplines can and will be tested more often. Essentially there is no limit to the number of times we might test any individual athlete."

It all sounds good on paper to a certain degree, though there are some inherent risks involved as well as a margin of payback which must be factored in to the equation as well.

A track and field agent approached me two years ago regarding a prominent athletics group in the United States which had been notorious for what he considered breaking anti-doping rules.

Had the UK Sport inititiative been in place then, perhaps a few of the group members would have been caught earlier - and even more of them rounded up and suspended than the nearly dozen or so who ultimately were.

However, had this particular person had a bone to pick with the particular trainer or any of the athletes for whatever reason, he could have used this against the group and began submitting anonymous claims to the relevant agency to have the group investigated.

UK Sport will need to have a procedure in place which will weed out false claims and be able to truly understand which ones are of true significance. It will also need to be able to handle non-analytical positives whereby one athlete may make a claim that another athlete has spoken about illegal drug use or methods, has employed them and/or has requested the same of the athlete.

UK Sport is hoping that this initiative will gain thorough support from the groups it intends to market the idea to, and that the sport's image will clean up as internal accountability between the atheltes, trainers and medics becomes better. Their aim is to have a clean team compete in Beijing, and they hope that all finalists will have had deposited either a urine or blood sample prior to the Games.

Dwain Chambers' name naturally surfaces when discussion about catching cheats in sport - specifically in the United Kingdom - arises.

Chambers was part of the BALCO scandal which netted his main rival, Tim Montgomery, a ban from the sport and a stripped world record-title and time and netted Chambers a lifetime Olympics ban from his governing body.

Chambers travelled to the United States to train with Ukrainian Remi Korchemny, and became part of BALCO's illegal drug organisation.

UK Sport has been consistently and more openly in pursuit of information Chambers may have which can connect dots between other athletes and BALCO; other athletes and unknown suppliers; trainers and suppliers; and potentially medical staff with whom Chambers may have been in contact whilst under the doping regime. The belief is that Chambers has more information to provide the anti-doping pursuers than that which he has been fortcoming.

Victor Conte, BALCO's founder, has on occasion - and in no uncertain terms - stated that he would not ever reveal the identities of athletes who were caught up in the BALCO debacle but who had not been publicly brought to light. Chambers, who may have information on one or more of those athletes - or their trainers - from his time in California, would be a good asset to tap into, say UK Sport.

Conte and Chambers have both been willing to help out the cause of cleaning up sport, but Chambers' request appears to have too steep a price for UK Sport, namely re-instatement into the Olympic opportunity should he have the opportunity to qualify.

Will the new initiative find favour with other athletes who, unlike Chambers, have not been caught in a net of deceit, but have perhaps chased athletes who have been suspected of doping?

I don't believe the programme will have the stirring success it is attempting to achieve at the on-set, but it does have potential to be of terrific benefit in the longer run in the lead-up to London 2012.

The Beijing Games are only four months away, and, according to Conte, most world-class athletes who are doping (whether or not that is a large percentage of the athletes, themselves, or a smaller one is up to debate) finish their strength cycles in March. Any athletes who should test positive in the next few months would have done so by slipping up and using past the expiration date, so-to-speak.

On that front, there is a small hope that some cheats may get caught if they are left out to compete without any preparation on how to mask their drugs.

However, this is an apparently small percentage of athletes, and the fight to catch them will be more costly than the reward - though preventing any Olympian from shaming their nation before millions of people may be a just cause to make such pursuits.

Given time, more means and better opportunity to reach the inner circles in which athletes travel, the UK Sports initiative can have a greater effect of persuading athlete "A" to discuss with authorities the illegal events he (or she)
knows that athlete "B" is employing to gain an advantage over their competitors.

Two of last year's surprise doping tests on Bulgarians Venelina Veneva and Vanya Stambolova netted positive results following what is believed to be a tip by an athlete or their trainer on their out-of-competition whereabouts.

Veneva had long been suspected of taking performance-enhancing drugs, but had never had an analytical positive result, hence leaving her performances simply up to speculation in the absence of proof.

There are other anti-doping measures out here in the EU which attempt to help athletes who compete clean to turn in those who they suspect are dirty. WADA has an initiative which permits athletes to leave anonymous tips, as well as does the IAAF - the governing body of track and field in the world.

Due to the lack of reporting on how athletes are caught, it is impossible to make a guesstimate on how successful the programmes are, however.

UK Sport's goal is to promote the highest standards of sporting conduct whilst continuing to lead a world-class anti-doping programme for the UK and being responsible for improving the education and promotion of ethically fair and drug-free sport, according to its website.

Ceplak Banned Two Years

Jolanda Ceplak, the world indoor 800m record-holder who tested positive for EPO at a meet in July 2007, has had a two-year ban upheld by her athletics federation, AZS, reports stated on Thursday.

Ceplak, who is 30, has likely lost an opportunity to ever compete for a gold medal in any future Olympic Games, as she will be 34 when the Games head to London four years from now.

Older age has not always prohibited athletes from achieving amazing results, but it has been a hindrance more than athletes have been able to defy it.

Ceplak set her current world indoor standard of 1.55,82 six years ago in Wien, and set her outdoor best - 1.55,19 - later that outdoor season at Heusden-Zolder.

Ceplak finished 2007 with a 1.59,86 run at Lignano Sabbiadoro.


Itching For An Athletics Career? Try London 2012

Story Written by Eric.

Do you finally have that spring itch tapping against the better of your senses right now as the depths of the winter have finally succumbed to longer daylight hours?

The signs aren't difficult to recognise because that unsettling feeling usually crops up around Christmas and makes you more and more restless after the Superbowl and March Madness pass on by.

That itchy feeling crawls up the walls of your personal satisfaction, and it typically appears at times when your peak interest in a particular sporting event has just expired.

When you're high on life and sports you're happier at work. When you're not "in season" you may find yourself simply going through the motions until something else rekindles that fire or provides you with that kick.

I think we all do it at some point during the year, with some of us having more noticeable "sessions" than others, depending on what part of the year our sport crowns its champions.

My particular ebb-and-flow line is perhaps more even than are others, as I have three peak seasons in the sport of athletics per calendar year, but I have a great career that gives me flexibility to wander into things imagined by some, but not really real.

The Athletics in the News subscriber base around the globe is growing per day, and folks' interests and opportunities to participate in the sport are as varied as are their locations.

Are you as a reader of this site an aspiring athlete who has a burning desire to make it big as a professional in your desired sport, but don't know yet if your dreams will materialise?

Perhaps you have been a great armchair fan who has thought about what "the life" would be like, but gave up the gossamer mind fiction for the 8-5 reality - or, worse, 11pm-7am.

Maybe there's a remote possibility that you've considered a career in athletics, but you've either not known where to look for such open positions or lacked the right connections and never gave it much thought.

Or, even better, perhaps some of you here are aspiring sports writers looking for that one break to make it into a consultative setting covering a live event for a professional team.

Do any of the above describe you with relation to your interest or passion for sport?

I am an HR Analyst who has worked for 14 years in the United States, the United Kingdom, and here in my home country, Sweden on various large-scale projects and made a volume's worth of hiring decisions over the years.

I've always had the desire to translate my work experience into the sport of athletics, but have never really had that opportunity until now. More on that later.

I've volunteered as an anti-doping officer in my sport of passion, track & field, but have never earned a salary in the industry in any way, shape, or form.

Anti-doping work is very challenging to find if you're unable to move to the governing body's headquarters—Monaco in my case. Those volunteer stages take place at either the World-, European-, or national-level championships.

I bumped into a particular sports recruiting site three years ago and decided to peruse the open jobs they had available. I wasn't looking to change careers, but rather stumbled upon a particular job board whilst doing HR recon for a client.

Nothing at that exact moment piqued my interest, but I did submit my e-mail address for NHL and NBA job alerts.

I'm pleased to state that I've not been bombarded back to yonder with irrelevant positions, but have actually gotten wind of quite a few entry level to executive positions which could have turned into great careers had I been willing and ready to make such a move.

You may be remarkably surprised if you've not previously taken a close look at career sites marketing sports-related positions.

If you've not previously given much thought to putting your time and energy where you can actually make money enjoying yourself, take time to look at a site like Monster or Teamwork Online and discover what actually does await you in the professional world of sports.

Would you like to be an sports analyst for an NHL team? A web developer for a professional basketball organisation? A Marketing Coordinator for an NFL team? Careers like these and others are out there for the taking, so to speak.

If you're reading this site with any regularity, you've passed the sniff test and have gained a great appreciation of this sport inside and out.

If you're feeling the need for change or are simply interested in knowing what else is out there besides the job you may currently be undertaking, do visit a sports-related recruiting site today. There are more than 800 positions advertised on one site at this very minute. The list continues growing (and shrinking) every day.

If you fancy the need for change and are up to the task of putting your skills where your passion is, try venturing down a path in a sports-related field. The rewards and benefits of doing exactly what you feel is your calling should far outweigh the trouble it may take to submit a CV.

You may not be playing golf with Tiger Woods, but you may find yourself rubbing elbows with him instead.

And, if that's not what fancies you - this is a sports site about track and field after all, here's a grand opportunity which you certainly must consider if you are looking to work on a large project, have an excellent reference on your CV and/or add an incredibly large client base to your business in the future.

Are you ready for the big secret?

London 2012 is its name.

Lord Sebastian Coe, chairman of the London Organising Committee of the Olympic Games, is quoted in today's Yorkshire Post (link) as stating:

"With over £6bn of contracts available, businesses need to act now to make the most of the opportunities available between now and 2012.

"Delivering the Games is a massive logistical operation, requiring goods and services from a large number of firms.

"Businesses the length and breadth of the country will win contracts and gain a huge amount of experience of what it takes to stage and host big sporting events."

If you're not likely located in England or planning on moving to the country in the next quarter or so, do consider making a unique business proposition to London 2012 to take advantage of the stream of opportunity available to businesses and their supporting Olympic ventures.

And, if you're simply interested in working on a London 2012 project, click here to learn more about the excellent positions they will have available throughout the phases of development up through the closing ceremonies.

A key example of the types of opportunities they have available is:

  • Head of NOC and NPC Relations and Services: Opportunity for an individual to lead the team responsible for establishing the plans and managing NOC and NPC relations on key activities such as Pre-Games Training Camps, Olympic Village and Paralympic Village requirements, the Chef de Mission Programme and visits.

If you're a leader and love this sport, this could be a fit for you.

Athletics in the News is taking advantage of the open door by presenting a business opportunity to London 2012 which will keep fans entertained in the Olympics long after the closing hours.

I love this time of the year, because it's the upswing following traditionally long winter months, the sun begins to set later in the day, and athletes and fans begin making their ways to tracks and stadiums all around the globe in search for the right harmony between performance and entertainment.

This is an especially impressive time of the year, because the Olympic hand-off has now gotten underway between Athens and the new host city, Beijing. An Olympic spirit is in the air, semi-retired folks will make one last attempt to (re)gain glory once demonstrated but never really captured and others will dream of things which seem too good to be true.

That's why I encourage you to make a difference to yourself and search around for a fit which may suit your interests, passions and skill sets. Strange things happen in Olympic years, so why shouldn't a bit of magic happen for you?


About Track, News, Sharks and Things in Between

Story written by Eric.

When was the last time you made a re-discovery of something you knew was right under your nose, but had never really taken a peek to see it take off and flourish?

A recent jaunt over to Trackshark.com, a site created and run by Tom Borish - a man who sped to 21,29/47,22 sprint bests as a collegian, was more than a mild surprise to me during the NCAA Track and Field Indoor Championships.

I've always associated Trackshark as a specific niche market for collegians, so naturally I migrated there to search for information leading up to the two-day meet in Fayetteville.

What I got sucked into when I arrived was an entire new world of fandom which I had never before been part of in the several championship seasons I'd spent perusing other websites and bulletin boards.

The posters there were passionate. That's a great start when attempts to create synergy between what they have and what I had to bring. They were also possessed an incredible sense of knowledge and understanding, as the folks whom they were discussing were in fact their own peers.

Finally, one stark difference between my engagement with folks there and anywhere else on the internet is that looking in on the NCAA Indoor Championships felt like I had joined one huge, global party and everyone was celebrating great things happening in the sport.

Have you ever had one of those spectactor moments when the x's and o's were all perfectly aligned and information and results were published instantaneously through a live blog with scores of participants?

I experienced that at Trackshark thanks to a commitment Borish made to keep his faithful informed, involved and in complete touch with the throws, jumps, vaults and times young adults were achieving at the Randal Tyson Indoor Track Center.

Track & Field News, the "Bible of the Sport", had the only live journalist on-site providing up-to-date information via a blog which Dave Johnson was able to submit a total of 10 times each of the two days he was there.

The coverage was excellent. Splits, lanes, names and times were all accounted for from one event to the next, and the results were put up timely.

Track & Field News prided itself on being the only source actually on site watching the events unfold, and certainly they had every right to feel proud of that fact.

However, insofar as the NCAA permitted the events to be broadcast live through a link on the host university's sports site, anyone and everyone watching from around the world - including yours truly at god-awful times of the night - had an opportunity to update anyone else caught outside of the meet and away from a clear video stream.

Trackshark and Track & Field News, two successful and incredibly strong sites rich with information, commentary and expertise, provided an incredibly wealthy experience for any fan who happened to switch between the sites in search of the latest on Bianca Knight, Leonel Manzano, Scott Sellers or anyone else wearing university colours and ready to put their best foot forward on the national stage.

Track & Field News had an entire message board dedicated to meet.

Each event contested - heats and finals - had its own thread, and each thread was updated immediately after the main moderator there received the results from Johnson.

Their pre-meet form charts provided fans an opportunity to learn who was picked to finish in which spots, and the information proved to be useful where I lacked certain thoroughness on given athletes.

Garry Hill, the print magasine's Editor and a Chief Officer, was able to successfully flip-flop between heats and finals and keep fans updated on the turn of events by appropriately labelling thread titles and providing concluded events with a designated symbol easy to identify them as being such.

The service was greatly appreciated, and the fans on the site were also a top-notch, highly knowledgeable group who stated afterward that they appreciated the efforts and long hours put in by Hill, Johnson and any associates who were helping to bring the meet "live" through written words.

Trackshark also had one page which it dedicated to the meet, but went a step ahead of Track & Field News by having the story of the meet unfold in a live blog which posters took advantage of participating in once Borish let loose when the meet got underway.

Track & Field News migrated its board into the Current Events forum, and, unfortunately, I believe they lost out in being able to continually tell a story as it happened from the first event to the last.

One can search on the forum for keywords or take the time to attempt to look for the symbols used to signify finals had been contested, but the entire NCAA event seems to have disappeared as quickly as it arrived.

Trackshark's NCAA page is still active, though it takes two efforts to get to it.

Nevertheless, Borish's two blogs serve the public well insofar as one gets a feel of the meet through his own description of the events, and one captures the mood and feel of the atmosphere by reading comments others were making as the events were underway.

I spoke at the beginning of today's entry of being more than surprised at Trackshark when I payed them a visit about 10 days ago for the first time in perhaps two years. I've been there in the past to peruse week-end results and to search for photos following big meets, but hadn't taken a look at their message board after having been loyal to mainly one on the internet the past four years.

If you're a fan of the sport, and have a moment or two available to read about the collegiate scene, do take a gander over to the forums and lurk for a while; you don't have to jump straight in and put in your two cents, but you can find some very interesting and fascinating gems written by athletes and fans alike.

A place like Track & Field News can benefit from having more senior athletes take time to contribute a few topics of interest to the message boards, as it would help their subscribers and board contributors feel an even closer one-ness with the folks whom they discuss but rarely meet.

Allen Johnson made a few comments on a thread written about him before jetting off to Valencia to eventually win a silver medal in the 60m hurdles at the IAAF World Indoor Championships, and Brandon Couts has been another US star who has frequented the message boards.

I'm sure more would come if word got out that folks really wanted to hear what they had to say - something they begin doing as high schoolers at Dyestat, and continue to do as collegians at Trackshark.

USA-based Dyestat, a site which has a majority handle on the high school scene, has a strong mix of contributions from stars-on-the-rise as it does from fans who enjoy watching them compete.

Mixing stars together with their fans on an anonymous message board can lend great support to the sport, as fans can gain a deeper, more satisfying understanding of the people who are competing on their television sets and at stadiums near them between January and September year-in and year-out.

Mixing together people's experience gained from participating in an event and keeping it in one spot to live on past its shelf-life also has its benefits.

Perhaps sites can learn a valuable lesson from one another's strengths and apply that to their own the next time a championship comes around.

In the meantime, I'll continue enjoying all I can from any place where discussion is good, people feel like home and everything track, some things field and a little of mustard in between is what's on tap for the evening.

Trackshark's two-day blog was a great asset to the NCAA championship experience. The blog, put together and moderated by Tom Borish, was a timely and lively event-by-event coverage piece which allowed fans from around the world to chip in during the height of the meet and discuss ups-and-downs with others in a live environment.


Conservative Overdose: How A High School Trainer Can Hold Back Too Much

Story written by Eric.

I had a high school trainer whose approach to athletic development was an eight-year one: The first four years of high school were meant to tease you into learning what your strengths were, and the following four years of university running were meant to have you develop a bonafide strategy to utilise those to their fullest potential.

This likely sounds like nearly every one of your own experiences, with the only difference between yours and mine being the location of your school and name of your trainer.


I competed in a very difficult league my final two years of high school, one which ultimately produced a world junior record-holder the year after his graduation (my grade-12 season).

It was also a league which placed three of five cross country state meet qualifiers and had two state 1.600m finalists to showcase to patrons who had both payed (Cerritos College) and had lined up the Woodward Park course to cheer on their favourite Division I athletes and teams my grade-12 season.

Making it out of league was tough enough. Having to race the same guys in a dual meet, league meet and, ultimately, at the section championships just to get to state was a tall order, and one at which I only succeeded twice my last year before going on to bigger and better things at university - or at least that was the plan, anyway.

I'm sure you've got great war stories to share of your own - and, by all means, please do so at the bottom of this blog, as it would be great to read about your own personal experiences as well.

My trainer made several correct moves in the four years and eight seasons I was under his care. He must have, otherwise our team would never have nearly won the Northern California Cross Country Championships my grade-10 season, and we'd never have put up four-consecutive individual varsity men's league champions in my years there.

He helped two kids ahead of me - and one in my own class - break 15.00 for 3-miles, running 14.30, 14.32 and 14.48, respectively in the same race my grade-10 cross country season.

Moreover, I don't believe I'd have progressed as nicely as I did, from running a 11.18/5.18 double in my first-ever races (grade-9) to finishing my grade-11 season with 1.57,0/4.21,0 personal bests.

He even managed to help me dip under 2.00 my grade-10 season and establish a record (1.59,7) for that grade which has not yet been broken in the 22 years since I borrowed a teammate's spikes and placed second at the league finals.

He was a very wise man, was the trainer, but I wondered then - as I have done on occasion following that chapter two decades removed - if he held back too much in his attempt to ease us through high school, and, yet, had pushed too hard on another end - and here's why.

Magically, I got by the first three seasons on less than 35 miles a week. I never ran on Sundays, and I was never asked to, either. Everything I accomplished in track was done by running "pace", and never anything faster. He discouraged picking up the "pace" in practice sessions, and I only recall a single workout where the 400m splits in a repeat session ever dipped below 64-65 seconds.

Having run a 4.21,0 my grade-11 season was done off of pace workouts like 8x400m with 2.00 rest at 65 pace, or 4x800m at 2.20 pace with the same recovery.

For strength work we did do some hill repeats (our high school was located next to a steep incline approximately 400m long which led to an entire canyon of mountains which appeared to take one to the end of the world if one dared to run that far - which I never did) like 6x600m inclines at 1.40 pace with a jog back down for strength, but I never hit the weightroom like other kids in the league were doing.

I changed plans on my own the summer leading up to my last fall season with the team.

The previous two summers were spent running summer track here, there and out yonder, keeping the same base as I'd had through the spring and contesting a distance 100m less than I had to during the school year.

My final summer before graduation was spent running longer distances, and running every day - something unique to me, and something which I'd not discussed with the trainer. I found myself covering greater distances in my fartlek sessions, and entered the fall campaign in excellent shape.

Then injury struck me. It was untimely and, it seemed unnecessary.

I had pushed one particular workout a bit harder than I had in the past, because my new strength level seemed to afford it, but developed tendonitis in my right knee a few days later after dropping my easy runs from 7.20 pace to 6.45 pace - something which felt natural and which the body seemed to crave.

I was out for three weeks, and, when I returned was put on a slowman's workout plan to ensure the injury didn't re-occur.

In short, I didn't find myself recovered until the 2-Mile Postal Championships - an event run on the track. I ran a 17-second personal best that day in Los Gatos, CA, and finally saw light at the end of a long, three-and-a-half year struggle to be a good cross country runner.

Two weeks later, I dropped my personal best on our home course - a 3,1 mile hilly one which sucks the life out of any runner exercising bad pace judgement during the first 1km - from 17.24 to 16.33 - a time which isn't fully appreciated if one hasn't run the course. The time bode well for high hopes to place at the sectional finals two weeks later, and it was the third-fastest ever run by anyone in my school's history.

Four weeks following my Postal race, I had managed to place second in league and second at the section championships, but I was out of medal contention at the state meet, running 45 seconds slower than I anticipated I would.

I was at the top of the lead pack and in great command of my own race during the first mile, running alongside David Scudamore and ahead of Louie Quintana and eventual winner Bryan Dameworth until something happened to me which would eventually become the story of my high school career and hold me back the first year of university as well: well-meaning pace work would always fall short in the end when competitiveness was meant to take over and push me over the top.

I died a terrible death the final half mile - not so much due to a lack of training, but because my body's efforts to stave off a cold were insufficient -- a sign that I pushed myself beyond recovery the week leading up to the first-ever cross country state meet.

Has this ever happened to you?

For some odd reason after running a 16.33 5km three weeks prior and a 15.09 to get to state, I fooled myself into believing that I was on target to run 15.15 on Woodward Park's storied course, and, with that, likely earn a top-three placing on the podium. I truly wanted to compete with Dameworth and Goshu Tadese, but my sense of pace was slower than was theirs.

I mentioned that this lack of adaptability hampered me in track as well, and it surely did at all the wrong times.

I was invited to compete in the Arcadia Invitational 1.600m in April after having run a solo 4.20 at a meet in Northern California; I'd won by 12 seconds after running "pace" the entire way around (66-64-66-64). In fact, the fastest workout we'd done up to that point was 8x400m in 66!

A kid from Southern California kicked me long into the shadows of the evening when he stopped the clock just under four minutes 10 seconds after the gun sounded. I got boxed in, pushed and then pulled to 63-2.07 splits - 13 seconds faster than my pace workouts, and three seconds too fast for the open 400m workouts we had been doing before the meet. I finished with a new personal best - another 4.20, but had not fared well against the best in the state of California.

Two weeks later I set another personal best at 3.200m, running 73-69-69-73-73-73-69-69 for a 9.24,0 at UC Davis. The "pace" workout was just at the clip we'd been practicing on the track, 4x2.21 for 800m, but I was a miler, not a 2-miler. The personal best was good for the journal books, but wasn't going to do me a whole lot if I couldn't translate that into a faster mile.

My trainer wasn't into the long, hard workout schedule, nor was he a fan of much speedwork, either. His idea of getting turnover into my legs was to triple in most dual meets (1.600m/800m/4x400m), with the latter two races either run un-evenly or at a fast chase pace.

By the time the state final rolled around at the beginning of June, I had run 50 races that final season, and none of them faster than "pace". My qualifying round was run in 64-63-64-63, which was equal to the two 2.07 800m times I ran with 10 minutes rest in a workout the prior week.

The state final, as was Arcadia, was a gun-to-tape barn-burner which hurt my tired and untrained legs, as they attempted to run at 2.06 "pace" and negative split with the 2.01 effort the winner was able to negotiate the second half of the race.

Like the state cross country meet, I fell off the fast finishing pace and failed to medal in the state 1.600m final.

My trainer fulfilled one duty in keeping me hungrier for better things as I entered university, but I believe he fell short in providing me the tools necessary to actually compete at my best on a championship level - one which the university athletes were competing on in "B" races.

I believe the best of trainers have a focus on making an athlete competitive, keeping them focused on the fun which running and racing bring and taking them up to a moderated level on par workout-wise with the collegiate choices available to them.

My trainer had the best of intentions and was a fairly knowledgeable student of the sport. Unfortunately, he applied too much pressure on the break pedal and not enough on the gas.

The result was a career which saw me take 1.03 off my first mile time, but one in which I did not win one, single, solitary gold medal from league through the state meet my final three years - or six seasons.

High school was about having fun as well as developing mind and body, but the tendency is to feel as though one fell short of their goals if the point was simply just to make it to a state meet or two.

Photo Credit: Mike Sadler (Image on BBC)