Friday, December 16, 2011

Three Days of Sun


Last week I had the privilege to spent three days in sunny San Diego as an honorary captain for the Footlocker Cross Country National High School Championships presented by Saucony.  As a former finalist to this meet, it was amazing to go back and be apart of such a great event and watch the country’s top forty high school boys and top forty high school girls compete for a national title.  Running the course the day before the race bought back vivid memories of my own two visits to Balboa Park, where the championships has been held for all but seven years of it’s thirty-three year history.  Reminiscing to a time when I knew nothing of running- just a naive kid from Maine who ran twenty-five miles a week and whose eye’s where opened by the likes of Chris Solinksy’s reported hundred mile weeks to what it takes to compete at the highest level.  This year the race media focused on the showdown between two individuals: the senior, Futsum Zeinasellassie from Indiana and the rising star, Edward Cheserek, a junior from New Jersey.  Both boys entered the race undefeated for the year and held impressive accolades.  Staking each other from the start of the race, it quickly became a two man duel as both boys battled each other to the line, throwing surges upon surges and separating themselves from the rest of the field by nearly half a minute.  In the end, Cheserek crossed the line first by less than one second to claim his first national title.  But the real prize, the true display of excellence, came later that night during the awards ceremony when Cheserek excepted his award and made a speech to the crowd.  In his broken English, he described how he came to the race wanting nothing more than to win the race and beat his rival.  But over the course of a few days, he was able to meet Futsum and learn that Futsum was no different than himself, becoming not rivals but fast friends.  Cheserek then pulled Futsum onto the podium to have his friend share his spotlight, claiming that the friendship he gained this week in meeting Futsum was more important and meaningful than any national championships.  Footlockers has always been the pinnacle of high school running and it was great to be able to come back to the race that opened my eyes to the possibility of professional running and to watch the next generation of elites compete.  I look forward to the time when I toe the line myself with one of these raising stars in the future.

Until next time,
Ben

Me with the Northeast crew showing off their "team t-shirts"


The night before the race there was an athlete panel for Q and A's

Abbey Leonardi from Maine finishing 4th and becoming the first Mainer to finish in the top ten since 2003

Eventual winners: Molly Seidel and Edward Cheserek

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Winter Has Arrived

The other morning I awoke to a frightening sight.  Winter had arrived in the middle of the night, and with a thick blanket of soft wet snow covering everything in sight, the thought of a mid-week long run seemed both treacherous and daunting.  Bundled up in layer upon layer of warm clothes, I laced up my winter treads (thanks Saucony for the crampon"esque" running boots) and away I went.  Dodging snowplows and weaving through snowflakes, I was able to successfully complete my adventure.  But as I returned home, back to the warmth and serene climate of the house, the troubling afterthought entered my head- winter has arrived.  This will be my world for the next month before I escape to warmer weather.  My shoulders dropped in dread.  Luckily, after a warm shower and some food in the belly, I realized this isn't the case.  Eventually the snow ceased, compacted, and returned to an acceptable level.  The weather warmed (slightly) and things have returned to a adequate winter training climate.  But the storm made me fearful of what lies ahead and sent me off in a flutter to figure out my winter escape plans.  Hopefully the worse of the weather will hold off until after the new year, and until after I have already left for somewhere warm.


Until next time,

Ben

Snow!

Sunday, November 13, 2011

A New Deck of Cards

Things have changed since the last time that I have blogged for ITA, but since I don’t wish to harp on the past, I only would like to say that I am honored and thrilled to become a member of ITA National and to be able to continue my training here in the Upper Valley.  To mention just a few notable occurrences since my last post; my middle school cross country team rounded out a great first season with their stellar performances at the State Cross Country Meet and planning is currently taking place to construct a track program for the kids this spring.  It is heartwarming and compelling to witness such a positive and energetic interest in running, and I hope to be able to continue to spread that positive vibe to more and more kids in future seasons.  Other important happens include my signing of a new sponsor, Saucony, which I am very excited for, as well as my time spent down in New York City for the ING New York Marathon.  The New York Road Runners put on a great marathon every year (largest marathon in the world) and I was invited down this year as an honored guest to take part in the festivities and to ride in the lead vehicle for the race.  The vantage point of the lead vehicle and being able to watch the runners only mere inches away- was nothing less than awe-inspiring.  Watching the men’s field crush the previous course record by minutes showed just how impressive the world’s elite marathoners truly are.  The experience definitely gave me the marathoning flu- instilling that marathoning will be in my (distant) future.  For now, my training is very relaxed as I am coming off a long season and just getting back into the swing of things after abstaining two weeks from running.  But through all the changes, I am staying the course and look forward to a bright future with ITA National.  I am truly blessed to be able to be apart of such a great organization, and I wish to thank everyone who helps make it possible.  Thank you.
Until next time,
Ben

Rocking an interview 
A motley bunch of runners (from L-R: Dathan Ritzenhein, Matt Tegenkamp, Lisa Uhl, Deena Kastor, Sally Kipyego,  Sara Hall, Molly Huddle, Brett Gotcher, me, Chris Thompson)