Movie Review — McFarland USA #running #moviereviews

running-advice-bugIt isn’t very often that a good movie about running comes along. McFarland USA is indeed a movie about running and it’s a very good all around movie too. I think you runners will enjoy it.

Disney's McFarland USA

Disney’s McFarland USA

McFarland is the underdog story of underdog stories, as a newly formed team of high school cross-country runners from an impoverished farming community face pretentious rivals in the first-ever California State Cross-country meet. Set in 1987 in the rural town of McFarland, California, we go along for a ride with a bunch of young runners that are long on natural talent and work ethic, even while they are not taken seriously by their rivals. The story is about forming a team, working hard and winning against all odds.

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As with all sports movies, there’s more to McFarland than running. In truth, this story is maybe half about running. The other half of the movie is a story about cultural integration, family dynamics and understanding. This story is where we build our relationship with both the running coach and his students and that’s where this film really shines. McFarland is a picture with a lot of heart and its from that heart that we develop a deep affection for the runners and really pull for them as they try to win. We care about the team by the end of the film, because we care about the characters and really want them to succeed. This is the level on which McFarland succeeds as a movie as well.

McFarland features a somewhat typical fish-out-of-water premise to begin with: a teacher and coach moving to a small, rural town in which he and his family are pretty close to the only non-Hispanic residents. He’s blessed, in true “couldn’t have been written better if it were fiction” style with the last name “White” which quickly gets him the nickname “Blanco.” While the first act of the movie unfolds a little slowly, it’s nice to see that the outsider is not riding in on a white horse of infallibility. Quite the contrary, he’s the bud of many jokes and makes some big mistakes early on. This really is a story of learning that works both ways. By the end of the second act, this movie is hitting on all cylinders and we are invested and pulling for the team.
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Racing — What does flat and fast really mean?

running-advice-bugRace organizers love to use the terms “flat and fast” to describe race courses. Those terms are designed to bring in runners looking for good conditions to run a fast time or perhaps are personal best. But does flat on a elevation chart really mean flat? And is flat always fast? That’s my topic today and the answer is “no”.

This weekend I picked out a race to run the way I often do at this time of year, by looking through the race listings and trying to pick one that’s close to home. I was just looking for a workout and wanted some competition to spur me on through a quality run. There were two races close to my house, so I had to get down to the finer details in choosing. I ended up picking the one with those magic words: “flat and fast”. This event race course even suggested that it might be a “good course to set PR”. The later language is always something that makes me very skeptical, because honestly the place for a PR is on a track, but I’ll come back to that in a minute.

Indeed, looking at the course map and elevation chart, it did look flat and it had another aspect that can lead itself to be fast — few turns. But when I arrived at the site and began to run my warm-up, I quickly figured out that this course wouldn’t be either flat or fast.

Bumpy vs. Hilly
We all know what it means for something to be hilly: those long inclines or declines climbing over something. Think Boston Marathon or Nike Women’s Marathon. You look at those courses on a map and you see actual topographical features that are being traversed. Everyone would agree that those suckers are hilly. But a piece of flat ground on an elevation map can take on another aspect, that which we might call “bumpy”. If you’ve ever played golf (or run a cross-country race on a golf course) on a flat piece of ground, but found your quads burning walking up and over short rolling bumps, you’ll know what I’m talking about here.
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Racing — Thinking and racing, not such a good thing

Coach Dean Hebert

Coach Dean Hebert

Coach Dean Hebert joins us this week to handle a couple of reader e-mails. Here is an inquiry that is common to many runners:

I am a 15 yr old soph. I have been running for 2-3 years. Last year as a freshman I ran a 4:42-1600m I also ran a 10:23-3200m in track. I am currently running about an 18 minute 5000m in XC. I am a Mathematics nerd and when I run track it’s easy for me to know where I am and what I need to finish. It isn’t the same in XC. It is a lot more random for me and I don’t have a clear gauge in my brain. All of the guys I can beat in track are beating me by a minute to a minute and a half. My coach says I have the endurance and says to quit thinking so much. Have you ever heard of this and do you have any suggestions PLEASE. League and State are coming up and I am the fifth man and really need to improve.

Ryan – well, hats off to your coach – he’s right. In the world of mental game coaching we work a lot with “thinkers.” I know this VERY well since my college coach told me more than 30 years ago – “you’re a thinker and that’s why you’re not beating him.” So from one thinker to another here’s your answer.

Let’s start with a basic premise that has to be made very clear. Practice is the time to perfect – perfect your form, calculate splits, hit splits, think about race strategies and tactics. Racing on the other hand is time to race. Period. Though there are some thoughts of course that go on during a race they are purely race-related. That means you can think about covering someone’s moves or making your own at a given point in a race or being smart and tucking behind someone to draft on a windy day. Notice the difference? It is more about reacting and doing… not thinking. Form means nothing – just win ugly – what counts is the win. Later on analyze and work on form, etc.

The problem with thinkers is that they over analyze what is happening. While they analyze they lose the intensity of competition. Lose a step, then it’s two and three… often then it gets your mind to think about being behind; that feeds on itself in a bad downward spiral.
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Cross-country — Ethiopia’s Gebremariam wins; Kenya takes title at World XC Championships

AMMAN, JORDAN — In a thrilling finish, Gebre Gebremariam came from behind to outkick his rivals to win the 2009 World Cross-country Championships in Amman today. The Ethiopian Gebremariam knocked off his competition in the final sprint to take the individual title, while Kenya won the overall team title for the 22nd time in 24 years.

Gebremariam finished the 12KM long-course cross-country circuit in 35:02. A pair of finishers came in just two seconds back. Moses Kipsoro from Uganda and Zersenay Tadese of Eritrea finished second and third respectively in 35:04.

gebre-gebremariam-wins-2009-wxcc-champsThe first Kenyan finisher was Leonard Komon in fourth place, followed by Mathew Kisoro (6th), Mark Kiptoo (7th), and Moses Mosop (11th) to give Kenya the team title. The scoring was so close that it came down to a tie-breaker between Mosop and 12th place Feyisa Lilesa for Kenya to edge out the Ethiopian delegation. Kenya has not had an overall winner since Paul Tergat won the title in 1999.

After winning the Junior title in 2002, Gebremariam won the Senior Long Course bronze in 2003 and double silvers – both Long Course and Short Course – in 2004. Since 2005 his results have been mixed and last year he placed only 17th in the Long Course race.
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News — Team USA Wins Big at 2009 NACAC Cross Country Championships

CAPE CANAVERAL — Clara Grandt (Morgantown, W.V.), Ryan Hill (Hickory, N.C.) and Stephen Pifer (Eugene, Ore.) won their respective races to lead Team USA to three team titles Saturday at the 2009 North America, Central America and Caribbean Athletic Association (NACAC) Cross Country Championships. Nearly 100 athletes representing nine national federations competed in the fifth annual event at the Chain of Lakes Park in Titusville, Fla.

The day of racing began with the junior women’s 4 km as Emily Pritt (North Canton, Ohio), ran 13:18 to finish third, leading Team USA to a second-place finish behind Team Canada. Genevieve Lalonde led Canada to the team win, in 13:00, to finish 17 seconds ahead of Natoya Goule of Jamaica.

Molly Grabill (Poway, Calif.), Colin Ellis (Dallas, Texas), and Rolonda Jumbo (Santa Fe, N.M.), finished in ninth, tenth and 11th running 13:35, 13:40 and 13:47 respectively to complete the team score for Team USA. Canada scored 16 points for a 14 point win over the U.S., Jamaica finished third with 74 points.

In the junior men’s 6 km Team USA was grouped together at the front of the pack after the first 2 km loop and gradually separated themselves from all but Canada’s Mohammed Ahmed. Over the middle and final laps, Hill and Ahmed began to duel for the lead with Ryan Prentice (Normandy Park, Wash.), Griffith Graves (Abingdon, Va.), and Eric Fernandez (Ballwin, Mo.), close behind.
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Cross-country: Keflezighi, Brown win 2009 USA Cross Country Championships

DERWOOD, Md. – 2004 Olympic men’s marathon silver medalist Meb Keflezighi (San Diego, Calif.) won his third national cross country title while Emily Brown (Minneapolis, Minn.) won her first at the USA Cross Country Championships on Saturday at the Agricultural History Farm Park in Derwood, Maryland.

Defending junior men’s champion German Fernandez (Stillwater, Okla.) won his second consecutive title and Neely Spence (Shippensburg, Pa.) won the junior women’s 6 km.

In addition to the national titles up for grabs, the open and junior men and women qualified to represent Team USA at the IAAF World Cross Country Championships March 28 in Amman, Jordan.

Keflezgihi takes men’s title
Keflezighi jumped to an early lead in the open men’s 12 km, leading a chase pack of five after the first 2 km loop. The pack included Beijing 10,000 meter Olympian Jorge Torres (Boulder, Colo.), 2008 U.S. cross country team member Ed Moran (Williamsburg, Va.) and 2008 NCAA 5,000 meter champion Bobby Curtis (Ardmore, Pa.), with Olympic steeplechaser Anthony Famiglietti (Knoxville, Tenn.) beginning to lose contact.
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Cross-country: Rice wins Jr Olympic Cross Country Championships; San Diego wins club titles

INDIANAPOLIS – Paige Rice of Oregon CC claimed her third straight national cross country title and the San Diego Southern California Road Runners captured four national team titles Saturday at the 2008 USA Track & Field National Junior Olympic Cross Country Championships at Pole Green Park in Mechanicsville, Va.

The USATF Virginia Association, Hanover County Parks & Recreation, the Richmond Metropolitan Convention & Visitors Bureau, and the Sports Backers (Richmond Region Sports Commission) played host to the event that featured nearly 2,000 age-group youth athletes from around the country. The Junior Olympics were contested over the challenging landscape of Pole Green Park, which consists of a 232-acre area in Hanover County. Temperatures on Saturday hovered in the mid-40s, with light winds.

On Saturday, athletes aged 8 to 18 battled it out for boys’ and girls’ titles in five age divisions. The USATF Junior Olympic program age divisions are bantam (10 and under) racing over 3 kilometers; midget (11-12) racing 3 km; youth (13-14) racing 4 km; intermediate (15-16) racing 5 km; and young men/women (17-18) racing 5 km.

The 2006 bantam girl’s winner, Rice dominated the field in the midget girls 3 km race for the second consecutive year, crossing the finish line first in10 minutes 36 seconds. She finished 13 seconds ahead of runner up Anne Charles of the San Diego Southern California Road Runners.

Additional girls winners included Julia Pounds (Palo Alto Lightning/Pacific Assoc.) in the Bantam division 3 km race, Avery Evenson (unattached/Mighigan) captured the Youth division 4 km title, Kelsey Lakowske (Fairchild Flyers/Colorado) was victorious in the Intermediate division 5 km race and the Young Women’s group 5 km race was won by Elizabeth Brandon (YMCA Team/Snake River).
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Cross-country: McMillan Elite; Boulder Running/Adidas win USATF National Club Cross Country Championships

SPOKANE – McMillan Elite and Boulder Running Company/Adidas easily took the respective men’s and women’s titles Saturday at the USATF National Club Cross Country Championships at Plantes Ferry Recreation Park in Spokane, Wash.

Saturday’s races were held under windy and blustery conditions, with a light dusting of snow that accumulated the night before. Temperatures were in the high 20s with the wind chill making it feel at least 10 degrees colder for the 900+ participants representing America’s top post-collegiate club teams vying for top honors and bragging rights as the nation’s top cross country team.

As the afternoon progressed, the wind picked up dramatically, and the temperature dropped to the mid-teens by the conclusion of the open men’s 10-kilometer race.

Two-time NCAA Division II cross country champion Scott Bauhs, representing Transports adidas Racing Team eased his way into the lead in the open men’s ten kilometer race, then held off a late challenge by Andrew Carlson of McMillan Elite to win his first national championship as a professional, clocking 30:47 to Carlson’s 30:49.

Bauhs, an Olympic Trials qualifier this year at 10000 meters, and a member of this year’s world cross country championships squad, took the lead shortly after the mile mark, while hotly pursued by several members of the winning McMillan Elite squad.
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Racing: Rupp named athlete of the week by USATF

Galen Rupp, University of Oregon

Galen Rupp, University of Oregon

INDIANAPOLIS – 2008 Olympian and University of Oregon runner Galen Rupp has been named USA Track & Field’s Athlete of the Week after winning the men’s individual national title Monday at the 2008 NCAA Division I Cross Country Championships in Terre Haute, Ind.

Rupp out-dueled Samuel Chelanga of Liberty University down the stretch to win his first NCAA individual title in leading his University of Oregon teammates to the NCAA team championship for the second consecutive year.

Over the final loop of the course, Rupp was content to let Chelanga lead until the pair hit the final straight away. With about 400 meters to go, Rupp made his final push and pulled clear for the title.

This marks the second consecutive week that Rupp has been named USATF’S Athlete of the Week. He previously earned the distinction on November 18 after compiling his second straight NCAA West Regional title on November 16 in Stanford, Calif. Rupp crossed the finish line in a blistering 27 minutes 41.24 seconds for the win on a course that was just 85m shy of 10,000 meters. With his victory, Rupp became the third Oregon runner to win back-to-back Regional titles, joining Jim Hill in 1982-83 and Karl Keska in 1995-96.
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Cross-country: NCAA Division 1 Championships to be broadcast live

UPDATE: For post-race reporting, click here.

Galen Rupp, University of Oregon

Galen Rupp, University of Oregon

The 2008 NCAA Division I Cross Country Championships will be hosted Monday for the sixth time by Indiana State University at the LaVern Gibson Cross Country course in Terre Haute, Ind. This year’s races will be streamed live from 12:00 – 1:30 p.m. ET November 24th, 2008 on CBS College Sports. Click here to go to the broadcast.

On the men’s side, 2008 Olympian Galen Rupp of the University of Oregon, who finished as the runner-up in 2007, is a pre-race favorite following his astonishing win last weekend at the NCAA West Regional Championships where he ran 27:41 on a course just shy of 10 km. With five All Americans and seven runners who have participated in the NCAA Championships in the past, the Oregon men are considered one of the favorites to the men’s team title.

Challengers to Rupp include Liberty’s Sam Chelanga, a third-year sophomore from Kenya via Farleigh Dickinson who is 5-0 this year, and Oklahoma State’s German Fernandez, the 2008 Big 12 champion. Challenging Oregon for the team title should be Oklahoma State, Stanford and Wisconsin.

The dominant Sally Kipyego of Texas Tech looks to win her third consecutive title on the women’s side. Kipyego is undefeated in cross country over her entire collegiate career. The Washington women are favored over Stanford to win the team title heading into competition on Monday. Five of the Huskies women competed in either the U.S. or Canadian Olympic Trials last summer and they placed five runners in the top seven at last week’s West Regionals. Top teams to challenge Washington include Oregon, Florida State, Princeton and West Virginia.
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