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There is something afoot in American Long Distance Running

THE WEDNESDAY COLUMN

2001-03-28

There is a something afoot in American long distance running today that is renewing the faith of fans here and is making these days very exciting ones for everybody involved in the sport.

Fueled by last years disappointments when for the first time in recent memory only one American woman and man qualified for the Olympic Marathon, national and private and corporate interests are now joining forces to get American long distance back on the right foot. Everybody involved is no longer hiding their heads in the sand to say that things are all right for long distance running in this country.

The days when Bill Rodgers, Frank Shorter, Alberto Salazar, and Joan Benoit Samuelson were winning Olympic medals and setting world records are now just distant memories. Its true that with emerging opportunities for African, Asian, and former Soviet-bloc runners, distance running is truly an international sport, and Americans have failed to keep up.

While we recognize that reversing the American decline is a long and complex process, we believe that a key component is creating opportunities for our countrys best runners to shine on the world stage.

Here in New York, we put on the worlds most celebrated road race, the New York City Marathon, offering runners unprecedented media and fan exposure. So we have decided to take a leading role in the giant undertaking by giving this countrys best men and women marathoners the opportunity to test themselves against the worlds best by hosting the United States Mens and Womens National Marathon Championships as part of the 2001 NYC Marathon on Sunday Nov. 4.

Each of these events will be a "race within a race," with the top American male and female runners lining up alongside the best in the world and competing for more than $100,000 in American-only prize money, as well as the overall prizes.

We e counting on top American runners to respond by committing to run New York, and to rise to the occasion with the best U.S performances weve had here in years. (Historical fact: The NYC Marathon hosted the U.S. Womens National Championships twice, in 1975 [Kim Merritt], and 1978 [Marty Cooksey]; the race has never hosted the Mens National Championships.)

To help get more and more American runners to the starting line of our race and other major marathons around the world, we at the NYRRC are working closely with the Running USA group, which is part of our national governing USA Track and Field body, to give them the proper coaching and opportunities to get better. We are doing this with the Team USA program. This national program features marathon and long distance running camps in several locations for our top prospects to come in and train together as a group with some of the best coaches available in this country. This system has proven to be a winning one already for Japanese and Kenyan runners so there is no reason not to believe that we should have similar success in this country.

On a local level here at the NYRRC we are seriously exploring the idea of beginning a running camp to help encourage and give similar opportunities to the best runners from

We are not the only ones doing something. The private sector is taking an active role in developing and encouraging new, young American long distance runners with the Discovery America program featuring the world famous coach Dr. Rosa at the helm. Under Dr. Rosas teachings, groups of young American runners have gone into marathon training camps both here and in Kenya with results of his work already showing up in the results.

For the first time in a long time, it is good to be an American in the sport of long distance running!

Allan Steinfeld
Race Director
New York City Marathon


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