Lap 143: Sponsored by New Balance
Every running shoe review uses the same few descriptive phrases (that tend to contradict each other) to remain as inoffensive as possible – no one is willing to commit! “They are soft, yet responsive!” Or “You can wear them for your hard days, or when you want to recover!" But the best is that they are “lighter and faster” than ever, as if any runner can accurately distinguish the differences between a single ounce or millimeter.
In an effort to do none of that, let me tell you something about the New Balance Fresh Foam x 1080… I like them. I use them for running seven-minute pace from my house, and for walking to my car to drive somewhere else to go run seven-minute pace. They’re workhorses, and about as reliable of a shoe as you can ever ask for. When someone new into running asks me, “What shoes should I get?” then the New Balance 1080s are my go-to recommendation because everyone likes them and that theoretical person probably will too.
Making 4.748 Mile PB jokes is an American tradition 🦃
Don’t blame the Manchester Road Race for establishing the early wakeup on Thanksgiving precedent. While the central Connecticut, off-off-distance race has been around since 1927 and is the go-to destination for professional runners who don’t want to spend the fourth Thursday in November with their families, it did not start the tradition of a Thanksgiving morning footrace.
That dubious honor instead goes to the Buffalo Turkey Trot, which was first contested in 1896 and is the oldest continually run race in North America. This year’s 8K event was won by Mikey Brannigan (24:58) and Gabrielle Orie (27:23).
But back to Manchester… There's only one place to test your mettle against the best trotters while contending for $7,000 in first-place prize money (or if you finish a bit further back, a couple of hundred dollars from the local running store that I forgot to collect seven years ago).
As far as local news channels running coverage goes, few do it better than Fox 61 – they show the entire race, which is a relatively low bar. And to capture the lead men is one thing, but they do a damn good job of finding Weini Kelati every year weaving in and out of much taller traffic. Although she did not quite conquer her previous course record of 22:55, her third victorious finish took 23 minutes and 21 seconds, a comfortable 38 seconds over runner-up Annie Rodenfels, who had won the USATF 5K earlier this month over Kelati. Did Weini find her fitness since then or is more if you come at the Queen of the Hill, you best not miss (this is a reference to a popular television episode of The Wire from 2002, for my more senior, dated prestige-TV-loving readers).
The Manchester Road Race is gaining quite a reputation as a romantic getaway for runners who love to run and lovers who love to run. Last year, the men’s champion Conner Mantz enjoyed his honeymoon with a tape-breaking victory, and this time around he made his best effort at causing heartbreak. But for the USATF 5K champ Morgan Beadlescomb, not having to run a 2:07 marathon last month played to his advantage in the final quarter mile – he got away from Mantz by three seconds to win in 21:12.
Afterward, as a bonus prize, his now fiancée Lexi succumbed to the rizz of a champion by accepting his proposal of marriage. To be determined what he spends the other half of his prize money on. (Sorry to those same older readers I addressed in my last parenthetical… gotta try to connect with the younger generations, too – and I guess also, sorry to members of said younger generations for being a dorky suburban dad and using your vernacular.)
The NCAA All-Merber Team 🧑🎓
Photo: Johnny Pace | @pacephot
It’s been over a week since the NCAA Cross Country Championships and now that the dust has begun to settle on our reaction to the winners, let’s look further down the descending order list.
Before the track season starts this weekend, I thought it’d be fun to pick out some individuals whose seasons I was impressed with, and put them on a watch list… I’m still workshopping the “All-Merber Team” moniker, but just to be clear, this section isn’t going to congratulate runners who finished 98th… twice… at NCAAs.
It’s a fun exercise for me to dig into the year’s results a bit and pick out who I’d guess are rising stars in the sport. Maybe my idea of fun is different than yours, but if even one of these 14 athletes has a breakout season then I will stand on top of a mountain and shout about my genius. And if the other 13 flop completely, you will NEVER hear about it!
What should you do with these expert analyst picks? If you’re in charge of a shoe company’s budget then I’d offer each of them a long-term contract with very little base pay, large bonuses, and no freedom to get out of it. And if you are not in control of any money, then hopefully you’re one of the runners getting a shoutout and will make any exclusive future pro contract announcements via this newsletter.
The Guys That Kyle Is Watching Closely
Devin Hart (Texas) – Saying that you think the guy who finished 11th at NCAAs is going to have a good track season isn’t exactly the boldest pick. But Hart ran 13:29/28:07 at Stanford in the spring after finishing 51st in cross country and his grass running improved significantly in his first season since transferring to Texas. Extrapolate that trajectory out another seven months and I like where he is headed.
Ethan Strand (North Carolina) – Any time a 3:55 miler and ACC 1500m champion continues to improve over 10K then I think that strength might portend for his signature event. Strand was 45th at NCAAs and improved his cross-country finishes across the board this fall. And as much confidence I have in him, I have even more in Coach Miltenberg’s ability to patiently convert young talent into long successful careers.
Liam Murphy (Villanova) – This Wildcat has proven that in a tactical race he is capable of outkicking anyone in the NCAA. The next step is doing it in a fast race, too, and it looks like he’s now got the strength to match the closing speed – he jumped from 92nd in 2022 to 14th in Charlottesville.
Perry Mackinnon (Syracuse) – We like big jumps when considering prospects! The Canadian was 124th at NCAAs in 2022 while competing for Cornell and finished 19th last week. The impression that I get is that he’ll make a great marathoner one day, because Syracuse seems to churn out great marathoners. Also, the ability to immediately thrive in a slightly different part of Upstate NY seems promising.
Jason Bowers (East Tennessee St) – After winning a couple of NAIA titles last year, Bowers transferred into Division I and finished 22nd at NCAAs. Need I even say more? Originally from South Africa, he is ETSU’s first male cross country All-American since 1994.
Ben Rosa (Harvard) – The word on the street is that this guy crushes workouts with Graham Blanks and that’s some good company to keep. He went from 15th at Heps and 251st at NCAAs last year to 3rd and 47th. His 1:54 800m personal best doesn’t really scream “wheels,” but no doubt the dude is strong as hell after 11 straight weeks of 20+ mile long runs.
Ethan Coleman (Notre Dame) – Hot take: I think the kid who ran 8:49 for 3200m as a junior and was the New Balance Nationals 5000m champion will be good at running. Coleman was 48th at NCAAs in his RS freshman season and kept improving as the fall continued. That makes him the top American from the 2022 high school class.
Photo: Johnny Pace | @pacephoto
The Ladies That Kyle Is Watching From A Respectful Distance
Chloe Scrimgeour (Georgetown) – 158th to 59th to 8th – yup, that’s prime “All-Merber Team” This Section material. Scrimgeour first earned an All-American certificate last spring in the 5000m and her rise to prominence has been super consistent. The next step is contending for wins and that will happen in the next 12 months.
Sydney Thorvaldson (Arkansas) – From third at Nike Nationals in 2020 to 11th at the 2023 NCAA Championships, it took a few years for Sydney to find her groove in college. But if there is one thing worth betting on, it’s the talent and toughness of people from Wyoming. She stuck her nose in it early and was not afraid of leading the chase pack.
Rosina Machu (Gonzaga) – Sometimes you can just watch someone’s stride and get a gut feeling. Now a sophomore eligibility-wise, Machu finished 16th in her first NCAAs appearance. Prior to that, she won a few Idaho state championships in high school and – I’m always rooting for those with inspirational stories – spent a good portion of her childhood in refugee camps with her family staying safe from war in Ethiopia.
Carmen Alder (BYU) – We must refuse to let one race put a damper on how we view an entire program. I would follow Coach Diljeet Taylor to the ends of the Earth, and there is an army of women who agree with me. Alder won Pre-Nationals and was the top Cougar at Regionals so she went out with intent, but faded to 246th. She could have dropped out, but did not, and that’s the type of grit that makes me a believer because there were so many places and excuses to walk off that course.
Jenny Schilling (UVA) – I knew I had stumbled upon a diamond in the rough for my top prospects list when even her roster page didn’t have any results or background information. While in her third year of school, this was Schilling’s first season of NCAA running. Last spring she won the Charlottesville 10 Miler in 57:33 and shortly after started working out with the team. She improved every single race, ultimately finishing 39th at nationals as an All-American in her first season as a walk-on.
Gabija Galvydyte (Oklahoma St) – The Cowgirls needed a big performance from their 800 meter star to get on the podium at nationals and she delivered, finishing in 48th, after moving up steadily the whole race from 192nd at the first kilometer. A former 400m hurdler from Lithuania, she ran 2:00.87 for 800 meters to finish 2nd at nationals last spring. The prediction here is not that she’ll have a good collegiate season – that’s expected. There is a bigger meet this summer that will showcase the value of a good fall base.
Kimberly May (Providence) – There is more to the cross country season than NCAAs and that’s why I am still buying stock in this Kiwi. After finishing 2nd at Big East and Regionals, she went for it in Charlottesville but faded in the second half. Happens to the best of us! But the fitness grew and I am still fired up about her 4:11 anchor leg and who she had to beat to bring the Friars their first 4 × 1500 Penn Relays wheel since 1991.
LAST CALL FOR THE OLYMPIC TRIALS!!! 🔔
You know the friend that waits until the last night before the final day of school to do his seven book reports? Well, they have an entire marathon dedicated to procrastinators just like them!
Now technically, the Olympic Trials qualifying window slams shut at midnight on December 6th, but I really can’t imagine anyone’s going to pull off the standard on the Monday or Tuesday after the California International Marathon. So for all intents and purposes, CIM marks the end of one of the more controversy-laden lead-ups to the Marathon Trials in recent memory.
Now a bit over a year ago I would have probably made a quip about how this race is technically too downhill to be official (according to World Athletics), but having run it I can now attest that it’s not flat. While there is certainly a descent, there is also plenty of undulating along the way. Best of luck to the huge pack going for it and please for the love of God… take the tangents! (Entries, tracking/results)
As it stands today, there are 200 men and 159 women who have qualified and 2:18:00 and 2:37:00 remain the targets for the next batch. We can analyze the final tally in a week’s time!
How much is a PB worth to you? 🤑
Photo: Justin Britton | @justinbritton
Hopefully, my willingness to discuss trivial topics that I know nothing about and have little to no experience with can inspire you, my dear reader, to have the courage to speak with similar gusto. The first and only time that I can recall paying for a race entry fee myself was this past spring for the Brooklyn Half Marathon. Apparently, there is an expiration date on when people will stop caring about your 1500m personal best from 2015 – who knew?
It stung having to shell out my own medium-earned money to get a bib number. But that didn’t stop me from showing up late, getting caught behind security lines, and missing the start of the race.
I’d like to think my lone experience paying the ultimate price (a little over $100) helps me empathize with the 479 athletes entered to race a 5000m at Boston University for this weekend’s christening of the indoor track season. The $100 entry fee for each of these athletes has certainly garnered some attention. The price tag has more than tripled since pre-pandemic times, which is outpacing inflation worse than a 400 meter runner rabbiting an 800. If you don’t have the funds for the 25-lapper, then may I suggest hopping in the 3000m for $75?
The reality is that 97% of the athletes competing aren’t paying this (not a real statistic). Their schools or sponsors are. The difference of an extra $50 won’t deter many athletes who willingly spend $200 on shoes for the slightest edge. If this is an opportunity to run fast, then it’s worth the extra cash. Stop buying avocados if you can’t afford to go!
But realistically, at a certain price point then a disparity between the haves and have-nots will form, with schools with smaller budgets unable to attend. That said, travel and lodging costs remain a much greater barrier to equity than entry fees. And if geography is not an issue, there are plenty of other 200 meter banked tracks with less bounce and within an hour of Boston to choose from.
This is supply and demand. The best of the best are going to race each as much as they can on the magic boards of BU, and that leaves fewer spots open for the rest of us. In order for the meet to run smoothly and accommodate the couple of thousand competing athletes, there needs to be some sort of limit on total entries before the fire department comes in with their dalmatians and boots everyone outside.
Boston University deserves to fund their entire program based on its track. This is a better business model to support a niche sport than most MBAs could ever come up with. But I bet if you asked any shark worth their salt, they’d say to keep raising those prices – that’s capitalism, baby!
One aspect that is sure to ruffle feathers even more is that the entry fees do not guarantee acceptance into the field, and even if not accepted, or if an athlete scratches, BU keeps the money. I feel bad for the coaches who enter their squads, only for them to all come back from Thanksgiving sick because they were too excited to see their old high school pals on Blackout Wednesday.
But as a former meet director of an elite meet that did not have an entry fee, I still occasionally wake up in a cold sweat as I recall apologetic text messages from top athletes scratching a few days before the Long Island Mile. Oh, how badly I wanted to send them a Venmo request for $100 for their transgression!
Putting on a track meet is a huge headache and those who do it deserve to be paid. And $100 is a small price for a university to pay for your new personal best as you finish sixth in the third heat of the Sharon Colyear-Danville Season Opener, the Catalina Winemaker of December track meets!
The meet is on Saturday, December 2nd, and will be streaming on Flotrack. (Schedule and Entries) It makes sense for college kids whose crosscountry season just ended to extend training a couple of weeks to lineup in an attempt to knock out an NCAA qualifier. The field is basically a rerun of Charlottesville but on the track and will include Graham Blanks, Parker Valby, Oklahoma State, Northern Arizona, NC State, and some professionals!