Patriotic running

Happy 4th of July! I know some of my non-US readers won’t be celebrating tomorrow, but for most of my readers, tomorrow is all about red, white and blue; hot dogs, watermelon and potato salad; time with family or friends; and fireworks.

For many of you who run, tomorrow is also about racing hard to earn the aforementioned picnic fare without a guilty conscience. I did my “firecracker” race this past weekend, but I know that – at least here in the South – there are any number of July 4 races before the running calendar goes quiet through the worst heat and humidity of summer.

You know who else is racing hard right now? Our US elite runners. The 2013 US Track and Field Championship happened two weeks ago, and we’re in the process of figuring out which of those championship winners and runners-up will represent the United States in Moscow at the World Championships August 10-18.

It’s not a simple road, but for those who earn a spot on the team, it’s an opportunity of a lifetime to do some patriotic running. My husband and I watched a new show called USATF 36, in which gold medalist Sanya Richards-Ross talks about putting on the USATF tee shirt for tough workouts: “It’s my inspiration … this is why I do it.” She works hard to represent our country well, and wearing the USA Track & Field jersey reminds her that the end result of representing our country is worth the pain and effort.

There are two other athletes, though, that I want to focus on in particular this week. The first is Leo Manzano.

Leo Manzano carries the flag after making the 1500m U.S. team to the 2012 Olympics

Leo Manzano carries a US flag after making the 1500m US team to the 2012 Olympics

I became a Leo Manzano fan when I saw him run at the 2008 US Olympic Track & Field trials in Eugene, Ore. He runs with heart and with guts. He’s often the shortest guy on the track, but he doesn’t let that hold him back. I’ve forgotten where I read this, but one writer described him as running with “schoolyard abandon.” I can’t tell you often I think of this phrase as I’m out slogging through a run. That expression always makes me smile and makes me try a little harder in my own run.

At last summer’s London Olympics, Manzano earned a silver medal in the 1500 meters. A silver medal. Second in the world. His sponsor (the indomitable shoe company of the big swoosh) rewarded his efforts by dropping him. Yep, the Big Swoosh dropped our Olympic silver medalist. Inconceivable!

But Manzano hasn’t let that hold him back, either. He’s still working hard, hoping to represent our country well in the World Championships. Check out this video of a recent workout and see for yourself what an inspiration Manzano is (there is some salty language in here).

Manzano still has some hard, fast running to do between now and Moscow, though, and it’s not a guarantee yet that he’ll get to go. Why? Well, for those of you who don’t know, there are qualifying times each runner must achieve in order to go to the World Championship (or the Olympics). It’s not simply enough to come in first, second or third at the US Championship; a runner must get a fast enough time in a race by July 20 in order to compete in Moscow. The full explanation can be dizzying (there’s an “A standard” time that’s super fast and a “B standard” time that’s slightly slower but also really fast, and there’s a set combination of runners with A and B standards who can represent a country), but the powers that be have decided that the A/B standard is the easiest way to narrow the field of potential competitors.

Here’s one of the best summaries of who could make up the US team in several key races. Needless to say, I’m pulling for Manzano to make the team. And whether he does or not, maybe my favorite shoe company (Mizuno) could give Manzano a contract. After all, “Manzano for Mizuno” has a fun “schoolyard abandon” kind of ring to it.

A hometown hero ignored?
The second runner I want to introduce you to is Ryan Hill. He just graduated from NC State University (go Pack!), and he’s looking for a shoe contract. A lot of people, even those in the track and field community, don’t really know much about him because he’s still so young. Even the local paper published in NC State’s own town hasn’t said a peep about his running recently. But those who do know of him will tell you that runners competing against him would be foolish to ignore his “ninja kick,” his ability to come from far back in the field toward the end of the race and finish well.

Ryan Hill competed in the Olympic trials last year but didn't win one of the coveted spots to go to London.

Ryan “Ninja Kick” Hill competed in the Olympic trials last year but didn’t win one of the coveted spots to go to London.

Hill came in third in the 5000 meters at the US Championships. Watching the race was one of those rare moments that my husband and I stood in front of the TV jumping up and down and yelling. Even our dog couldn’t sit still with all the excitement going on.

This interview right after the race shows his surprise at finishing third and may endear him to you for his humility and drive.

I can only imagine how he felt when his interview got cut short because a woman came up to him and said, “I need to get you to the medal stand.” However, Hill is in the same boat as Manzano and must get a fast enough qualifying time for his race in order to go to Moscow.

Either way, we should all be proud of these great Americans. They are working hard to achieve their dreams and inspire others. They are our champions and our flag bearers.

Questions for runners and non-runners alike
Whether you love track and field events or only pay attention to it during the Olympics, I hope you’ll take a little time to check out some of the races leading up to Moscow.

Let me leave you with a few questions. First, how will you celebrate tomorrow? For those of you running a race, I’d love to hear about it. Whether you run or not, go to the beach, enjoy a picnic or cookout, happy 4th!

Also for those of you runners out there, I have a post in mind for next week but would love your input. Have you ever cheated in a race: intentionally or unintentionally? Cut the course? Registered as the opposite gender or in an age group that wasn’t yours and then accepted an award as a result of being in the wrong category? Or have you lost out on an award because of someone else cheating? Did you alert the race director or not? You may comment anonymously if you want to protect your identity. I look forward to hearing from you!

4 thoughts on “Patriotic running

  1. Another happy update: Ryan Hill earned the “A” standard in a 5,000m race yesterday in Heusden (Belgium). So he’ll get to represent team USA in Moscow in August. I’m thrilled for his accomplishment and look forward to seeing how he does against the world’s best.

  2. I’m happy to bring you this update: Manzano and Lomong both earned the “A” standard this past weekend at a meet in Paris. Manzano finished in 3rd in 3:33.14 (a season best for him), and Lomong finished later in the pack with a season best 3:34.55. They both needed to run at least 3:35.00 to earn the standard, and now they’ll get to represent USA in Moscow. To see the race, check out http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TzvOvRfOz1w&feature=player_embedded. Manzano is wearing all black, and Lomong is in all light blue. Exciting racing!

    Still waiting to hear whether Ryan Hill will earn the “A” or “B” standard for his 5,000m race. I’ll keep you posted.

  3. Thoroughly enjoyed reading this posting……..I may become a fan yet…may surprise you and hubby someday, cheering you on at the finish line. Love, Elaine

    • Track and field is definitely inspiring to watch. You should get to see some good coverage for the World Championships on NBC and Universal Sports (a premium channel that not all cable providers offer).

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