Tuesday, 28 April 2015

Thoughts on London, Payton Jordan and Team Sponsorship vs Individual deals.

What's up my running friends? I don't even have to ask if you are all training hard and racing as I'm sure you are all hammering at this time of the year. Because this was a rather uneventful week in terms of training I'm going to skip doing a recap and talk about a few things that have been on my mind. Please feel free to jump in the conversation on the comments section below after reading. I'm a serious fan of the sport but my opinions may not always line up with everyone else's but I certainly want to hear other peoples thoughts and corrections if I misspeak or am off the mark on something. I'll be back to normal with a training recap next week as we are only 3+ weeks out from Ottawa race weekend and I'm poised to run a 30 minute 10km there. The following Sunday then is the half marathon champs in Calgary. I'm a little nervous of the elevation. Does anyone know how much the 3000ish feet above sea level that Calgary is effects half marathon performances? I'd like to run something in the 1:08 range but if it's going to be a factor then I'd like to know so I can manage my effort from the gun and run a smart 1:09 and hopefully catch some of the people who fall off the pace. Anyway, onward to some running talk.

Eliud Kipchoge, the most under appreciated/underrated runner in the world.

I needed to talk about Eliud after his performance at the London Marathon this past Sunday as it, in my mind anyway, solidifies his place in history as one of the top 5-10 distance runners of all time. Before I break down what exactly he has done during his illustrious career let's look at the London Marathon. Billed as "The Clash of the Champions" it was hyped to be Kipsang, the former world record holder, defending champ of London and number 1 ranked marathoner of 2014 vs. Kimetto, the current world record holder, first man to run 2:02 and defending Berlin champ. It seemed that the build up and media that London was trying to generate was really to hype this clash/showdown. If you got a chance to see the 4 minute clip they posted on YouTube you know what I'm talking about. They tried to take a page from boxing's play book especially now with Manny vs Floyd finally happening and the commercials that bout is putting out in the media.

I noticed immediately that there didn't seem to be as much publicity given to the likes of E. Mutai, G. Mutai or Kipchoge, all of whom are studs in their own right and with an average personal best of mid 2:03. 

Anyway, as the race played out and we got to see the battle at the end with Kipchoge and Kipsang it was clear that the best man won. We know Kipsang is known for having a tremendous finish at the end of marathons. We need look no further then NYC 2014 when he absoluptly dusted Desisa and made it look like he was standing still the last 400. (Desisa is a two time Boston winner and is in his prime). So to see Kipchoge put the boots to him and run around 1:37 for his last 600m in a 2:04 race....let's just say we know who the best marathoner in the world is right now.

Why I say/think he's under appreciated is that, here is a guy who is 30 years old, coming into his prime years as a marathoner and has been at the very top, I mean TOP, of the game since he was 17 years old. At age 18 in 2003, he beat the best 5000m field ever assembled at the world championships in Paris. Sure, London called this the best marathon field ever, and it was, but I'm sorry Wilson Kipsang, Dennis Kimetto, Emanuel and Geoffrey Mutai in their 30's aren't in the conversation with a prime Bekele, Hicham El G, Gebremariam, etc.... At 18 he took down this incredible field with a vicious final 400m. I'll link the video below.

I won't just sit here and try to convince you why he should be in the conversation for one of the best runners of all time but I'll list his PB's, tittles and let you decide for yourself. Before doing so however, think about this for a moment. He's beaten the world record holder over 1500m (granted it was in a 5000m), 5k/10k and the record holder over the marathon. The only scalp left to collect is Tedese over the half and as it stands right now if they faced off over 13.1 my money is on Kipchoge. Lastly, how many guys in the world who have run a 3:33 1500m and a 3:50 mile can say they can take down a 2:02 marathoner?

1500m/mile - 3:33/3:50
3000m/2mile - 7:27/8:07
5000m - 12:46 (number 7 on the all time list!!)
10000m/10km road - 26:49/26:54
HM - 59:25
Marathon - 2:04:05 (capable of much, much faster!)

A bronze and silver medal from the Olympic games and a gold, silver and bronze(indoors) from the world championships.

I also want you guys to have a look at this 1500m from Brussels in 2001. I thought we were getting the 1500m depth and talent back to this kind of level the last two years with Kiplagat and Kiprop running 3:27's but watching this, we are not there yet. Look at this battle between Lagat and El G. 

Canadian women set to battle over 10000m in Palo Alto.

This weekend is the always epic Payton Jordan invite. I could do a whole post about the meet and races but I'll reserve that for another day. Let's look at our girls going after some standards/spots for the Pan Am's and WC's. 

Rachel Cliff - 27 and coming off a nice 5000m PB of 15:33. I'm a big fan of Rachel and I think she is suited to the track. If you've seen her run you'll notice she is up on her toes and sort of springs/bounds very lightly. If she was going against the other girls on the roads for a 10km I wouldn't like her chances as much but on the track I think she can hang with any of them. Based on her 5000m time and the fact that I think she's more 1500/5000 as opposed to a 10000m/HM runner I'm going to say she has a shot at running 32 mid to high in her first try at the distance on the track.

Natasha Labeaud - 27 and coming off a great season in 2014. We have seen a couple good races from her so far this year running 16 flat for a 5000, 56 for a 10 mile and 1:15 for a half. She is definitely more of an endurance based runner with bests of 15:50/32:43 over the 5 and 10. I'm going to say she runs right around her current PB. She seems to be making the transition to the Marathon as her main distance but I suspect she can come through 5km in under 16:30 and keep it going to run something in the high 32 minute range.

Natasha Wodak - 33 and hot off a 32:34 Sun Run and 1:11:20 NYC Half. She's the veteran in this group but she's also been setting PB's this year so it's certainly possible we see a big one from her this weekend. I don't know that she has the high end speed to run under 32 minutes. She has run a super impressive 8km and split a sub 16 5km en route but other then that she hasn't broken 16 minutes for 5km so I'm going to say she runs a strong race and comes home with something around 32:10-32:15. This is going to be a big season for Natasha and I'm psyched to see her run her next Marathon. All things point to sub 2:30!

Lanni Marchant - 31 and obviously ready to roll a fast 10km. She ran 32:11 on the track at the Stanford Invite and 31:48 at Yonge Street. I chatted with Lanni at the hotel last weekend while we were getting taken to the start line and she is in 10km mode right now. It's definitely possible and within her to see something under 32 minutes. In her last 10000m she did all the leading in the chase pack as she knew going with Shalane would be a suicide mission. So provided she can just hop on a train with a group going out in 31:30-31:45 pace I think it's fair to say she's ready to go sub 32.

Rachel Hannah - 28 and I like to call her the X factor of this group of 5. Rachel is a sweetheart and had an amazing season last year running PB's over every distance she ran. Behind Lanni, she is the one to watch. She beat Lanni at the 10km champs last year on the roads but there are a lot of things to consider about that race. Lanni had run two marathons already at that point and was in a high mileage week as she was a month out from STWM. In Ottawa last year they raced and had a fantastic back and forth over the last 5km with Lanni just holding Rachel off. In my mind, Rachel is the other girl who has the ability to go sub 32 if she has a good day. She is ever improving, training with a great group and this is her time to really throw down a fast 10km. I predict somewhere between 31:50-32:10 and that it's a toss up between her and Lanni for the first canuck across the line.

Official predictions.

Lanni - 31:5X
Rachel H - 31:5X
Natasha W - 32:1X
Rachel C - 32:4X
Natasha L - 32:5X

I wish you all good luck and I'm rooting for all of you to kill it! :). As Lanni likes to hastag #MakeYourLegsGoFast

Team Sponsorship more lucrative then individual deals for most Elites?

I recently watched a video interview with the coach of the newly formed "Hoka One One Northern Arizona Elite" - Powered by Training Peaks . That's a mouthful isn't it? Anyway he talked about something that I've wondered about for a long time. The state of sponsorship in track and field/road running. (Video is linked below)

Now I'm one of these people who only likes watching something that is quality. This is true for all sports I watch, Hockey, Track and Field, MMA, etc. So I get really annoyed with sub par sports as entertainment. I feel like we have a huge problem with over-saturation in almost all of the major sports in north america. Take the NHL for example. The NHL is basically a brand first and foremost who cares about the bottom line. So the more teams, games, and merchandise that is sold the better. The problem is we, the audience/consumer of said product suffer from their greed in the form of very poor hockey. Don't get me wrong, I love hockey, and have played it at what I would say is a higher level then my running at one point. But there is just too many teams and not enough talent to fill the rosters. Every team needs 4 lines and from what I can see this leads to some pretty bad players making it to the big leagues. (Obviously this is just my opinion and it also means I wasn't good in the grand scheme of things either if I didn't go past Major Jr.). But I know for a fact I'm right in saying that hockey would be SOOO much better with 12-18 teams. We wouldn't have as many filler players for lack of a better word, we wouldn't have each team playing as many games and therefore every game would mean more and we as fans would be even more invested. Sadly, the dollar rules all and I'm sure we will see a couple more expansion teams sold to the tune of 500 million dollars within the next couple years.

I want to mention this as I feel like Athletics as a whole can be so much bigger. We are fortunate to have a sport that only the truly elite make it to the big shows/stages like the Diamond League Meetings and global championships. The problem is we aren't capitalizing on it and the athletes aren't getting paid what they are worth. There is no way some plug who rides the pine in the national hockey league should be earning a base salary of 900K with about 1% of the athletic ability of some of the track and field stars who are training like animals, ranked in the top 5-10 in the world and aren't even earning 10% of that number for certain events.

So how can we correct this? To be honest I don't know enough about the business end of the sport to draw up a good idea but we need to get this fixed ASAP. And I think one way of doing it is to set up teams/training groups that have a tittle sponsor similar to the Nike Oregon Project. You see kids all over the place rocking NOP singlets and shirts and cheer for Rupp, Levins and Farah. They get behind the team and thus behind the brand. This helps the brand get more exposure then sponsoring one individual athlete who maybe races 10 times a year max. With a stable of athletes you have people racing almost every weekend at different events. There is a team/brand recognition and it's a win-win for the athletes and companies that sponsor them.

What would really help is if we start getting the big companies involved that aren't really directly associated with the sport like Apple, Samsung (Other then the diamond league) or car companies like Lexus or Audi. Let's get a bigger piece of the pie and make it so that our athletes are getting what they are worth. 

Now "worth" is a tricky thing to compare from sport to sport as you are only worth what you can negotiate. But if the athletes could come together and devise a better plan in conjunction with the governing bodies and broadcasting entities as well as blue chip sponsors......well then we would be really making some headway and at least the athletes could try to maximize their earning potential more.

Alright, this has gotten super long, I'll stop here. Again, these are just my opinions and ideas. I'm no expert and would love to hear what you all think about this type of thing.

I'll see you all next week with a training update and more ramblings,

DF, over and out.

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