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Category: Track and Field

They're going the distance to bring back the mile

Mile

There can’t be a better day than the 50th anniversary of the first sub-four-minute indoor mile to note the formation of a group dedicated to restoring the mile as a competitive event in this increasingly metric world.

On Feb. 10, 1962 Jim Beatty added to the lore of the mile by running it in 3 minutes 58.9 seconds at the Sports Arena, beating the existing indoor record by 2.5 seconds. But over time, meters replaced yards and the mile became a somewhat neglected event. The Olympic distance is 1,500 meters.

“There is just something about the mile that makes it special and different than other events,” said Ryan Lamppa,"  a founder of the running industry group Running USA and founder of Bring Back the Mile, a group dedicated to reviving that distance at all levels.

“No running distance, or field event for that matter, has the history, the appeal, the magic of the mile. Think about the continued impact of Roger Bannister’s first sub-four-minute mile, which still resonates today throughout the world.

“Also, the 1,600 meters at the high school level makes no sense in the context of the sport because beyond U.S. high school the event doesn’t exist.”

Lamppa said he has enlisted an impressive array of supporters, including former milers Jim Ryun, Marty Liquori and Ruth Wysocki, and he has started a website, bringbackthemile.com. The site contains a form that can be sent to state high school federations supporting the return of the mile, and it has a video of Beatty’s record run.

Beatty, who ran for the Los Angeles Track Club, is alive and well at 77 and living in Charlotte, N.C. According to a story in the Charlotte Observer, he drives a car whose license plate reads “1st3:58.9.”

-- Helene Elliott

Photo: Lakers center Andrew Bynum runs on a track in August. Credit: Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times.

Boston Marathon officials say Geoffrey Mutai's winning time should be world record

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Geoffrey Mutai ran the fastest marathon ever at Monday's Boston Marathon, but his time is not recognized as a world record.

Race officials hope to do something about that. They say they will apply to the International Track and Field Assn. to have Geoffrey Mutai's winning time of 2 hours, 3 minutes and 2 seconds certified as a world record.

International Assn. of Athletics Federations rules say the Boston course is ineligible for world-record status because it is technically downhill. The race's route also is not a loop course and allows for a tailwind, which is frowned upon by the governing body.

But Boston officials say the event's 115-year history shows the course is not artificially fast.

The sanctioned world record is 2:03:59, which is held by Haile Gebrselassie. It was bested Monday by Mutai and runner-up Moses Mosop (2:03:06), both Kenyans.

ALSO:

Geoffrey Mutai of Kenya wins Boston Marathon in record time

Marathon great Grete Waitz dies of cancer at age 57

Kelly Gneiting sets Guinness World Record as heaviest man to finish marathon

-- Chuck Schilken

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Photo: Geoffrey Mutai of Kenya crosses the finish line to win the men's division of the 2011 Boston Marathon in a time of 2:03:02. Credit: Adam Hunger / Reuters

Marathon great Grete Waitz dies of cancer at age 57

Ljwt8qnc Grete Waitz had never run 26.2 miles before she set a world record at the New York City Marathon in 1978. Her husband, Jack, had to talk her into even attempting the race, something the Norwegian runner said she regretted around the 18-mile mark.

“I was hurting. I was mad. I was angry," Waitz said in 2008. "I told Jack: ‘Never again.' "

Waitz would go on to win the New York City event nine more times and set world records three more times. She died Tuesday at age 57 after battling cancer for six years.

A former Oslo schoolteacher, Waitz had competed in the 1972 and '76 Olympics in the 1,500 meters. She took part in the first women's Olympic marathon at the 1984 Los Angeles games and took the silver medal behind Joan Benoit.

“She will be remembered as one of the best marathon runners of her time,” International Olympic Committee President Jacques Rogge said of Waitz, who won the gold medal in the marathon at the 1983 world championships in Helsinki, Finland.

Waitz also won the London Marathon twice and the Stockholm Marathon once, in addition to five titles at at the world cross-country championships. The International Track and Field Assn. called her “one of the brightest flames” of modern athletics.

“The dedication, perseverance and fortitude with which Grete carved out her athletics career on the track, across the country and on the road is an example to us all, as is the positive way she tackled the illness that beset her life in recent years,” International Assn. of Athletics Federations President Lamine Diack said.

ALSO:

Officials say Geoffrey Mutai's winning Boston Marathon time should be world record

Kelly Gneiting sets Guinness World Record as heaviest man to finish marathon

-- Chuck Schilken

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Photo: Grete Waitz acknowledging the crowd after winning her fourth L'eggs Mini Marathon in New York's Central Park May 31, 1982. Waitz, the Norwegian runner who won nine New York City Marathons and the silver medal at the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics, died in Oslo, Norway Tuesday after a six-year battle with cancer. She was 57. Credit: Suzanne Vlamis / Associated Press

Carl Lewis announces candidacy for New Jersey Senate

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Carl Lewis is one of the best track and field athletes of all time, with nine Olympic gold medals, including four in the long jump.

Now we'll see how he does making another jump -- from athlete to politician.

On Monday, Lewis, 49, announced his candidacy to represent the area around his hometown of Willingboro in the New Jersey Senate. He will run as a Democrat in the 8th Legislative District, which is currently represented by Republican Dawn Addiego.

Lewis said he hopes to inspire people, encourage communities and improve educational opportunities for children. After his news conference, the Track and Field Hall of Fame member headed to Willingboro High School, where he has served as a volunteer track coach for four years.

Let's just hope that when he's out campaigning and finds himself with a microphone in his hand, he resists the urge to start singing.

ALSO:

Video: Star athletes using sports for good

Agoura's Johnathan Cabral dominates 110- and 300-meter hurdles at Arcadia Invitational

-- Chuck Schilken

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Photo: Carl Lewis declares his candidacy for New Jersey State Senate in front of the Mount Holly Courthouse on Monday. Credit: Peter Foley / EPA

Video: Star athletes using sports for good

Many sports figures make enough money to feed small countries and they often act as though they rule them, so, at times, it can be hard to remember what sports are really about.

But 48 star athletes haven't forgotten.

Marcus Allen (pro football Hall of Famer), Edwin Moses (gold medal-winning hurdler), Tony Hawk (legendary skateboarder), Mark Spitz (gold medal-winning swimmer) and Nadia Comaneci (gold medal-winning gymnast) are among a group of athletes who donate their time to the Laureus Sport for Good Foundation, a London-based group that has backed more than 80 programs that help facilitate sports as a means for social change with disadvantaged youths. 

The organization has raised more than $50 million and helped more than 1 million children in 40 countries. Programs have included joint basketball games for members of the Crips and Bloods in Virginia and soccer games for youths in the slums of Sierra Leone.

According to a recent study commissioned by Laureus, for every $1.41 invested in youth sports projects, the cost that is typically paid for police, courts and victims gets reduced by $10.

As onetime South Africa President Nelson Mandela once said, "Sport has the power to change the world. It has the power to unite in a way that little else does. It speaks to youth in a language they understand. Sport can create hope where once there was only despair. It is more powerful than governments in breaking down racial barriers. It laughs in the face of all types of discrimination."

-- Melissa Rohlin

Sally Meyerhoff, marathon winner, dies in bicycle accident

Sally Meyerhoff, who won P.F. Chang's Rock 'n Roll Marathon in January, died after being struck by a pickup truck while riding her bicycle Tuesday afternoon.

A spokeswoman for Maricopa, Ariz., said Meyerhoff was killed instantly. Police are investigating the accident.

Meyerhoff's marathon victory in Phoenix earlier this year was her first. She had qualified for the 2012 Olympic Marathon Trials.

-- Chuck Schilken

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Southern California native to run coast to coast on live TV

Dean_400 Runner Dean Karnazes is about to set out on what he calls "without a doubt the most intense endeavor I've ever undertaken.”

For a guy whose running resume includes 50 marathons in 50 days in all 50 states, that's saying a lot.

But running a mere 26.2 miles every day for less than two months is nothing compared with what he's setting out to do Friday from Disneyland. His plan is to run from California to New York, a trip of nearly 3,000 miles that will require up to 14 hours daily and an average of 50-60 miles a day.

And he's doing it on live television. The nationally syndicated show “Live! With Regis and Kelly” will be tracking his progress all the way, starting with a live sendoff during Friday's broadcast. A bus carrying a production crew will follow Karnazes, enabling the show to check in with him almost every day.

“We plan to document this entire journey,” executive producer Michael Gelman said. “We're a live show, and this is going to be a live, real-time drama. We're really going to cover it.”

Karnazes is expected to cross a finish line at the "Live!" studio in Manhattan around May 11. Before that he will pass through 17 states and Washington, D.C., and expects to go through some 12 pairs of running shoes.

“I think uncertainty is part of the appeal,” said Karnazes, who was born in Inglewood and grew up in Diamond Bar and San Clemente. “I never feel certainty when I start one of these endeavors, and I feel doubts along the way. Let's face it, the stakes are high this time. There are a lot of eyeballs following this thing. I've kind of put myself in a scary situation and I've never felt more intimidated.

“But I've never felt a tingle like this. Let's get out there!”

A second bus carrying Karnazes' trainer and support team as well as his home base will also be on the road with the 48-year-old runner and fitness advocate.

Along the way Karnazes will also update his blog, make various media appearances and a series of charity running events benefiting Action for Healthy Kids, starting with a 5K run in Riverside on Saturday.

-- Chuck Schilken

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Photo: Dean Karnazes, left, is shown with hosts Regis Philbin and Kelly Ripa on Monday's episode of "Live! with Regis and Kelly." Credit: Disney-ABC Domestic Television / Associated Press

Rescued Chilean miner to run in New York City Marathon

Pena_300 While trapped in a collapsed mine nearly half a mile underground for more than two months, Edison Pena would jog in the unblocked tunnels, sometimes up to six miles a day.

He just may have been trying to pass the time, but now it appears those workouts will serve as training for one of the best-known races in the world.

Pena has sent word through the Chilean consulate that he is accepting an invitation to run in Sunday's New York City Marathon, New York Road Runners Club President Mary Wittenberg said at a luncheon Monday.

The club, which organizes the annual race, had extended the invitation to Pena upon hearing of his dedication to the sport. The invitation was for Pena to participate in some capacity -- maybe riding in a lead car or holding the finish tape -- if he wasn't up for the grueling 26.2-mile run.

But Wittenberg said Monday, “He absolutely, 100% wants to participate.”

Pena also ran a 10.5-mile leg of a triathlon in Chile on Oct. 24. He was one of 33 miners who were trapped underground for 69 days after the Aug. 5 mine collapse.

He became known as "The Runner" for his daily workouts.

"NYRR wanted to send a message of great support and admiration to Mr. Pena for the heart and soul and fortitude he showed every day by running in the mine," Wittenberg said earlier this month. "He inspired a lot of us, and we just want to say, 'Way to go, well done, we're thankful you had running to help you through such at tough time.' "

-- Chuck Schilken

The Associated Press contributed to this report

Photo: Edison Pena at the Piedra Roja Triathlon, held in Chicureo, Chile, on Oct. 24, 2010. Credit: Danny Alvea / EPA

Caster Semenya is having trouble finding sponsors after gender controversy

Caster_500 

The investigation surrounding Caster Semenya's gender may be over, but her troubles have not ended.

After becoming the first black South African woman to win gold at a world championship in Berlin last August, and being labeled the country's "Golden Girl," companies are hesitant to back the 19-year-old whose reputation has been tarnished by a gender controversy and 11-month layoff from competition.

Semenya’s competitors accused her of being a man, but after gender tests, she was cleared to compete as a female athlete. Still, her manager Tshepo Seema said she can't find a sponsor "because of the negative publicity." Rumors circulated at the time, with some claims in the media that Semenya had been found to be hermaphrodite, which the International Association of Athletics Federations, the organization that had ordered gender tests, distanced itself from. Family and supporters of Semenya in South Africa took umbrage at the claims. Still, the taint from the episode lingers.

"We have been to various companies, motor companies, cellphone companies, restaurant chains, a whole range of companies," Seema said, "but we can't get sponsorship because of the negative publicity in the last couple of months. It's not good for Caster."

In an attempt to directly appeal to fans, the world-class athlete launched a cellphone text-message campaign in September to raise money. A message gives 70 cents to her cause.

"My promise to the nation is that through excellence and resilience I will strive to live up to the reputation of being known as the Golden Girl," Semenya said.

-- Melissa Rohlin

Photo: Caster Semenya. Credit: Anja Niedringhaus /Associated Press.

World Champion sprinter Allyson Felix to take some time off

Olympic gold medalist Allyson Felix has decided she will not compete in another track meet for the rest of the year, choosing instead to take some time off before she starts training again next month.

The 24-year-old Los Angeles native won eight of the nine 200- and 400-meter races she competed in this season and became the first athlete to win two Diamond League trophies in the same year after her victory in the 200-meter race at Brussels in August (see video above).

Still, the three-time World Champion in the 200 meters wasn't completely satisified with her season.

"Although I didn't run as fast as I would have liked to, I foucsed on getting through the year healthy and winning races," Felix said. "Off years are tough, without having a major race to focus on but I had fun trying new things this season and learning more about my events."

Felix plans to hit the weight room in October before continuing her on-track training in November. Until then, she plans on returning home to Southern California.

In addition to keeping up with everything USC football-related, the Santa Clarita resident is planning to host a special benefit 5K race and 1K kids-grandparents walk co-produced by the Santa Clarita Valley Senior Center Foundation on Oct. 3.

For more Olympics-related news, check out The Times' Olympics blog.

-- Austin Knoblauch

Some Friday Jazz by Victor Conte: the 'BALCO Bebop'

 

Victor Conte, the notorious founder of the steroid-distributing operation known as BALCO (Bay Area Laboratory Co-Operative), has returned to his musical roots to produce a jazz number he's called the "BALCO Bebop."

A video accompanying the music has been made by Conte, showing photos of BALCO headquarters in Burlingame, Calif., of Conte with his former clients Barry Bonds and the all-time home run king's trainer, Greg Anderson.

Conte, who served four months in federal prison for distributing steroids and laundering money, is also seen holding a container of nutritional supplements while posing with his former band mates in "Tower of Power." The most clever photo shows Conte with a bass over his right shoulder and a barbell in his left hand.

Conte delivered the music and video to The Times Friday and added a note, reading:

"BALCO Bebop is a song that was inspired to be written as a result of spending a wonderful day at a MLB game between the SF Giants and Chicago Cubs. As always, they played "Take Me Out to the Ballgame." I decided to write an up-tempo, happy and fun tune that attempts to capture the pure spirit and enjoyment of being at a baseball game. Some have joked that it sounds like "Take Me Out to the Ballgame on steroids," but that's not the case. We are all drug free musicians who simply love America's game."

-- Lance Pugmire 

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