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Top Ten Stories of the Week
1/11/2020

These are the top ten stories based on views over the last week. 

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The general entry ballot opens for the 40th Annual Great North Run

Famous half-marathon from Newcastle to South Shields celebrates landmark edition in 2020.

The general entry ballot for the world’s biggest half-marathon, the Great North Run, is now open.

The famous event will add another milestone to its rich history when it is staged for the 40th time on Sunday September 13, having been the first event of its kind to welcome home one million finishers back in 2014.

First staged in 1981 with 12,000 runners, the iconic half-marathon has grown to now accept 57,000 entries, with over 200,000 supporters estimated to line the route which takes runners from the center of Newcastle to the coast line of South Shields.

Organizers say the 40th Great North Run – GNR40 – will be a celebration of the landmark staging and the people and places that have made the event great, with the race again set to be broadcast live on BBC television for four hours.

Last year saw four-time Olympic track gold medalist Mo Farah continue his winning streak with a sixth consecutive victory, while Brigid Kosgei – who would go on to break the marathon world record in Chicago – became the fastest ever female over the half-marathon distance, clocking 64:28.

In 2020, a series of activities and experiences are planned to celebrate the 40th staging, including a specially commissioned film charting the history of the event.

The Great North 5km will also take place and the Junior and Mini Great North Run will again transform the  Newcastle Gates Head Quayside into a sea of runners.

Runners can register for the Great North Run ballot at www.greatrun.org/north. The ballot will close at 9pm on Sunday February 9.

(01/08/20) Views: 344
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Video game icon Mario and flying cars could be part of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Opening Ceremony

Mario, the famous plumber who stars in numerous Nintendo games, is in line to take "center stage" with organizers hoping to deliver a message of peace.

At Rio 2016, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzō Abe dressed up as Mario in the handover segment of the Closing Ceremony.

Other Japanese characters including Hello Kitty, robotic cat Doraemon and footballer Captain Tsubasa also appeared with Tokyo 2020 expected to again highlight Japan's famous cartoon industry.

According to Kyodo News, one idea is for rival characters to shake hands in line with the Olympic Truce.

The message of peace could also be displayed by the release of paper doves.

People riding in flying cars might be used to highlight Japanese innovation, meanwhile.

This could also see hydrogen, a next-generation energy source, used as the fuel which lights the Olympic cauldron.

In what would be another example of organizers using the Games to promote the disaster-hit region of Fukushima, a plant from the prefecture may produce the hyrdrogen.

Around 16,000 people died after an earthquake and tsunami caused an accident at a nuclear power plant there in 2011. 

The Japanese leg of the Olympic Torch Relay will begin in Fukushima with some using the term "Reconstruction Olympics".

Baseball and softball matches will also be held there, while flowers grown in areas affected by the earthquake will be used in bouquets for medal winners. 

Japan's fight against natural disasters could also be a theme of the Olympic Opening Ceremony, which will be held at Tokyo's New National Stadium on July 24.

Mansai Nomura, a famous Japanese actor, is the creative director of the Opening and Closing Ceremonies for both the 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games.

He has been tipped to coordinate the events together as a "four-part series", instead of them being separate entities. 

(01/03/20) Views: 302
Dan Palmer
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Armino rallies to retain Xiamen Marathon title

Ethiopia’s Medina Deme Armino waited patiently until the last 500 metres to launched her powerful charge, successfully defending her title at the Xiamen Marathon, the first World Athletics Gold Label road race of the year on Sunday (5).

The 22-year-old Armino cut 73 seconds from her personal best to win in 2:26:12, making her the fourth multiple women’s winner in the 18-year history of the race following China’s Zhou Chunxiu (2003-2005) and fellow Ethiopians Mare Dibaba (2014-2015) and Fatuma Sado (2013, 2018).

It is also the second straight year for Armino to improve her career best in Xiamen, but her winning mark was still more than six minutes shy of Dibaba’s course record of 2:19:52 set five years ago.

Helped by three male pacers, a leading group of nine stayed together for most of the race. After the leaders passed the 35km mark in 2:02:40, 2018 Dublin Marathon winner Mesera Hussen of Ethiopia began to push ahead and the leading pack soon became scattered.

Hussen pulled clear before 38km with Armino trailing around 100m behind as the sole chaser. But the surge seemed to drain too much energy from Hussen, who slowed gradually after 40 kilometres with the defending champion narrowing the gap metre by metre.

When Hussen reached the 500 metres-to-go mark, her pacer stopped. Armino seized the opportunity to speed up and soon overtook her rival. She never looked back before wrapping up her fifth marathon title in eight races.

It is the 11th consecutive women’s title taken by Ethiopians in the southern Chinese city.

Hussen finished second in 2:26:28, improving her PB by some two minutes. Afera Godfay, also from Ethiopia with a PB of 2:22:41, took third in 2:26:42.

Two-time reigning champion Dejene Debela failed to defend his title in the men’s race as his countryman Birhan Nebebew, third last year, built a sole lead after a fast 10km split from 30km to 40km and took the top honours in 2:08:16.

Nebebew’s victory also marks the fourth year in a row for Xiamen Marathon to witness an Ethiopian double.

The race was paced by a group of 10 to the 10km mark in 30:04. After another five kilometres, the leaders were cut to eight and the eight-man pack ran together to reach 20km in 1:00:39 and 30km in 1:31:35.

Kenya’s Kennedy Cheboror was the first to quit the leading group, then followed by Morocco’s Mohamed Zianni and Abdisa Duber of Ethiopia.

The 25-year-old Nebebew tried to pull away near the 35km mark with only Reuben Kerio of Kenya and Ethiopian veteran Girmay Birhanu Gebru managing to keep up with his pace.

The leading trio kept pushing ahead and the in-form Nebebew waited for three more kilometres to launch another charge. Gebru followed him for a little while but Nebebew soon cut the binds between them.

With a comfortable lead in hand, Nebebew never met any real threat afterwards. He broke the tape in style and knelt down to kiss the course to celebrate his first international marathon title.

Kerio, who improved his PB to 2:07:00 last October, overtook Gebru to settle for the second in 2:08:46. The 32-year-old Gebru, a 2:05:49 performer, finish third in 2:08:52, his first sub-2:10 mark since 2015.

 

(01/05/20) Views: 161
Vincent Wu for World Athletics
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Terry Patterson says he's completed more than 10,000 miles running races

"It really keeps your heart running good, it keeps your breathing down, and it keeps your weights down," said Patterson. 

His first marathon was in 2002, the Cherry Blossom Road Race. He got the marathon bug and started looking for races in other states.

One of the most memorable races was in Disney World. 

"I was running against a lot of people and I ran with a lot of people, and they told me about the 50 states and they told me what I had to do," said the 65-year-old Patterson. 

18 years later, he completed 83 marathons, 33 half- marathons, and more than 1,000 miles in smaller races like 5Ks and 10Ks. He's completed marathons in all 50 states.

He says Little Rock, Arkansas was his favorite. He did a 5K and a marathon there.

Medals and ribbons all over his house from winning his age division at 65.

"I do get a lot of accolades for how old I am and I do brag about how fast I can run," said Patterson. 

Patterson says whenever young people see him running here they do a double take.

"It really helps me feeling good, feeling young," and Patterson. 

He ran a 3-hour, 52-minute marathon in Seattle last fall and qualified for the Boston Marathon in April.

He says his wife is his biggest helper. She runs with him and travels to his races and posts photos on his social media page..

"My wife is my cheerleader, my number one fan," said Patterson. 

He's signed for another 12 marathons in 2020 and says he hopes to sign up for his first international marathon in China.

Patterson says his next marathon will be at the museum of aviation on January 18th.

(01/03/20) Views: 131
Abby Kousouris
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I didn’t know Ultra running was even a thing until recently says a Pulitzer Prize winner John Archibald

I didn’t know ultra running was even a thing, until recently.

And then I read about a guy in Kansas last year who was about to complete a 50 kilometer race when, before he could cross the finish line, he was struck by lightning and killed on the spot.

Ouch. 

I thought at first it was the saddest thing I’d ever heard, a guy running for hours, pushing himself beyond limits I could fathom, to die in a flash before he could reach the end.

But the more I thought of it, the more I thought I might be wrong. Maybe it was just the opposite. Maybe it was a beautiful, poetic way to exit this realm, testing one’s body, stretching one’s will beyond earthly bounds. The race couldn’t break him. It took a bolt from the sky.

I couldn’t even define the sport, much less participate in it, for my knees hurt when I drive 26 miles in a comfortable car. Ultra running is anything longer than a marathon, really. The sport is a global phenomenon, and big in Alabama, too, from the Bearly Ultra, a 27-mile trail race sponsored by the Birmingham Ultra Trail Society – or BUTS – to 50 mile and 100 mile races across this state.

It seems so surreal, so impossible. I knew Birmingham was home to Micah Morgan, one of the best ultra runners in the country, because I’d read how she finished the Badwater 135, a 135-mile race that starts in Death Valley, Calif., and ends impossibly at the summit of Mt. Whitney, the tallest mountain in the lower 48 states.

But I’ve come to see the people who are committed to ultra running, and they are very real. I look across the office at my colleague, Bob Sims, who entered a couch-to-5k program eight years ago when he couldn’t run a single mile. Last year, at the age of 62, he ran in two 100 mile races.

That’s remarkable.

I see my colleague Anna Beahm, who started running in high school to get her mind and body right but was driven to longer distances for the joy of competition, for the sheer badness of doing something 99 percent of humanity cannot or will not do. She ran four ultra races last year – three 50ks and a 50-miler.

I can understand those things. Even if I will never be a 1 percenter.

What I didn’t get, until I talked to BUTS president Lisa Booher, was the depth and the breadth and the complexity of the ultra running world in Birmingham. I always thought of running as a solitary exercise, a plodding one-foot-in-front-of-the-other fight against boredom.

“I think that’s why you have to have friends,” Booher said.

Which was not as pointed or personal as it sounds now.

“I fell in love with the running because of the competition,” she went on. “I kept running because of friends.”

That’s what I really didn’t get about this exercise in super endurance and hyper drive. It can be a form of moving meditation, as Booher puts it, a time of self-discovery and exploration. But running 50 or 100 miles requires more than a solitary soul.

It requires a crew and volunteers and an understanding that simply competing in events like these amounts to a part-time job. It takes support and sustenance and friendship. It requires conversation, often, mid-race, about anything but the running itself, or the pain, or the shoes. It requires a community.

It’s a good thing Alabama has one of those. An ultra one.

John Archibald, a Pulitzer Prize winner, is a columnist for Reckon by AL.com. His column appears in The Birmingham News, the Huntsville Times, the Mobile Register and AL.com. Write him at jarchibald@al.com.

(01/03/20) Views: 88
John Archibald
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Canadian Malindi Elmore recovered from injury is getting ready to race in Houston

The 2020 Houston Chevron Marathon is less than two weeks away, and while it’s technically an American race, it also serves as the winter running event of choice for the many Canadian runners. For the 2020 edition lots of Canadian elites are heading south of the border to try and run fast times, but a race we’re particularly excited to see is Malindi Elmore’s.

Elmore shocked Canadian runners a year ago when she ran a 2:32 marathon debut in Houston, which she would later describe as “a fun family project.” Since her debut, Elmore’s cranked out several impressive times, including a 1:11:08 half-marathon and a 32:44 10K. The original plan was to run the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon, which doubled as the 2020 Olympic Trials. Elmore pulled out one week from the race due to a hamstring injury.

Elmore was targeting the Olympic standard of 2:29:30 and the automatic qualification spot that came from winning STWM. If she was successful, she would have qualified for her second Olympic team, 16 years and two babies after qualifying for her first (she competed in the 2004 Olympics for the 1,500m). The runner still has until May to run standard and put herself in the conversation for the Olympic team, but making the 2020 marathon squad will be harder than ever.

Canada can send up to three runners, but with Dayna Pidhoresky’s spot already guaranteed, Lyndsay Tessier’s top-10 finish at the World Championships acting as the equivalent to standard and Rachel Cliff knocking off the year with a new Canadian half-marathon record, the Canadian women’s road scene is deeper than it has been in years.

If Elmore is able to run under standard (2:29:30), there will be four Canadian women who’ve achieved it. And that’s not including Emily Setlack, who was only 18 seconds off at STWM. It’s far from cut-and-dried when it comes to who will be making this Olympic marathon team. There were years when Canada was excited to send one runner, and now there will likely be a marathoner, with standard, who won’t make the team.

But personally, Elmore isn’t overly concerned about the standard. “My goal is to run as fast as I can run, and if I perform how I think I’m capable of, it’ll land me within standard.”

The runner says that this build has been a little different than her first, due to her past injury. “Returning from injury wasn’t too bad, it took me about four weeks. That’s a pretty quick turn-around, all things considered. It was certainly a shorter build than I anticipated because I wasn’t starting from scratch.” Elmore was still working with the fitness she’d gained leading up to Scotia. She says she was very happy to see Pidhoresky and Hofbauer’s performances at STWM. “It was a really exciting race to watch. I was really happy for them and really happy to see how well they’d done.”

When asked about how Canadian running has changed over the past 20 years, Elmore says that connectedness is the biggest difference. “There’s a connection between runners and the public now. I felt much more alone doing my training and racing in 2004. Running was my personal story that I shared with people closest to me but it wasn’t available publicly the way things are now with social media.”

Elmore jokes that when she ran her lifetime personal best in the 1,500m she didn’t know for about an hour, because the results weren’t available. Then, she couldn’t tell her loved ones until she got back to the hotel and made the collect call home. “Now I put a workout up on Strava and get immediate kudos. I think there’s a greater awareness of what people are trying to achieve and what they’re doing to get there. It’s easier to build and maintain a community through technology where we can cheer people on from a distance.”

(01/07/20) Views: 67
Madeleine Kelly
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Past Champions and Olympians will Headline NYRR Wanamaker Mile Men’s Field at 113th NYRR Millrose Games

Olympian and 2018 champion Chris O’Hare of Great Britain, 2017 champion Eric Jenkins of the United States, four-time Olympian Nick Willis of New Zealand, and world championship medalist Filip Ingebrigtsen of Norway will headline a talented NYRR Wanamaker Mile men’s field at the 113th NYRR Millrose Games on Saturday, February 8 at The Armory’s New Balance Track and Field Center.

The signature event at the NYRR Millrose Games has taken place every year on the men’s side since 1926 and will be broadcast live nationally on NBC for the fourth consecutive year from 4:00 p.m.-6:00 p.m. ET, in addition to streamed live online on NBC Sports Gold.

“Already one of the greatest mile races in the world, the men’s 2020 NYRR Wanamaker Mile is expected to be one of the best with past champions, Olympians, and rising stars all lining up in front of a national audience,” said NYRR Millrose Games Meet Director Ray Flynn.

O’Hare won the 2018 NYRR Wanamaker Mile after building an insurmountable lead on the last lap and crossing the line in 3:54.14. In New York, he has also finished as runner-up at the New Balance 5th Avenue Mile three times, most recently in 2018. The Scotland native represents Great Britain on the world stage, having won a bronze medal in the 1500 meters at the European championships and competing in the event at the Rio 2016 Olympics.

“I have always loved having the NYRR Millrose Games and the NYRR Wanamaker Mile in my racing schedule,” O’Hare said. “When you look back at the athletes who have competed in the NYRR Wanamaker Mile, it goes to show the nature of the event. It is without a doubt, the most prestigious indoor mile race in the world and I can’t wait to step on the start line and go to battle with my fellow competitors.”

Jenkins won the 2017 NYRR Wanamaker Mile in a last-lap sprint against Olympic 800-meter bronze medalist Clayton Murphy. The year prior in New York, he narrowly defeated Olympic 1500-meter champion Matthew Centrowitz to win the New Balance 5th Avenue mile by one-tenth of a second. Last year, Jenkins finished third in New York at the USATF 5 km Championships in Central Park.

Willis has finished as runner-up at the NYRR Wanamaker Mile three times (2009, 2015, 2016), was third twice (2008, 2014) and took sixth last year. As a four-time Olympian, the University of Michigan graduate and Ann Arbor, MI resident won the silver medal in the 1500 meters at the Beijing 2008 Games, carried New Zealand’s flag at the London 2012 Opening Ceremony, and returned to the podium with a bronze medal in the 1500 meters at the Rio 2016 Games. In 2019, he won a record-breaking fifth men’s title at the 5th Avenue Mile, adding to his previous victories on Manhattan’s most famous thoroughfare from 2008, 2013, 2015, and 2018.

Ingebrigtsen coached by his father, Gjert, won the 1500-meter European title in 2016 and a world championship bronze medal in the distance in 2017.

(01/07/20) Views: 65
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British athlete Katarina Johnson-Thompson is set to compete at the Glasgow Indoor Grand Prix

World heptathlon champion set to compete at the Glasgow Indoor Grand Prix, Anniversary Games and Gateshead Grand Prix in 2020

After winning world heptathlon gold in Doha, Katarina Johnson-Thompson has confirmed that she will compete at three world-class events in the UK next year: the Müller Indoor Grand Prix Glasgow, the Müller Anniversary Games and the Müller Grand Prix Gateshead.

With all eyes turning to Tokyo and the 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games, the British record-holder will kick-start her year in Scotland at the Indoor Grand Prix on February 15.

Come the summer, the 26-year-old will head to London to compete at the  Anniversary Games on July 4 and 5, with an appearance at the Müller Grand Prix in Gateshead coming after the Olympic Games on August 16.

“It’s amazing to know I’ve got three great events and some real testing competition in the diary for 2020,” said Johnson-Thompson, who scored her British record tally of 6981 points to take the heptathlon title in Qatar.

“I’m really looking forward to performing in front of British crowds, with the Müller Indoor Grand Prix Glasgow and Müller Anniversary Games being vital preparation for the Olympics.”

She added: “The support I received from back home both during and after my competition in Doha was crazy. It really shows how lucky I am to compete for Britain and that the British fans really are the best in the world.

“It’s going to be amazing to compete on home soil on three occasions in 2020, with these fans cheering us all on.”

(01/06/20) Views: 60
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Toronto Marathon champion Magdalyne Masai has set her eyes on running the Boston Marathon

The 26-year-old has only run three marathons and though she has little hope of making the Kenya team to the Tokyo Olympics, she will not pass the chance to have a dry run in March in the Japanese capital should organizers of the city marathon invite her.

However, it is the challenge of Boston Marathon that Magdalyne Masai, a former world cross country bronze medalist, is keen to conquer in 2020.

"My management has not got the invitation yet. But it will be a great step if I get a chance to fight against the best in Boston and gain the experience it comes with," Masai said on Monday.

The younger sister of former World 10,000m champion Linet Masai won silver at the Hamburg Marathon last year against a strong challenge from the Ethiopians and is also the winner from Hefei Marathon, in China.

"China was my first debut in marathon and I loved it because I went on to win in Hefei. It gave me the stage to showcase my talent in marathon and since then, I have been improving. Now I am ready for the big-city marathon and Boston looks a great place to run," she said.

Magdalene said out of the three marathons she has competed, Toronto remains her favorite.

"I know people will talk of London, Chicago, New York, Boston, Tokyo and Berlin but I prefer to start in Boston because of the magical experience people talk about. I want to experience it first hand," she noted.

Masai credits her elder brother Moses Masai, who is currently battling a career-threatening ankle injury, for motivating her to take up running. Though her sister Linet has played a part in her career, Magdalyne feels Moses is the cornerstone in the short marathon rise she has experienced.

"Moses always asked me to go for it. There is also former Commonwealth marathon champion Flomena Cheyech and former track star Sylvia Kibet who have helped me a lot," she added.

In 2016 she changed from the track to the road races with a debut at Ostia Half Marathon clocking 67:30. A year later she was fourth at the South Shields Great North Run in England clocking 1:10:39. She has also run in Lisbon (Portugal) and Belfort (France).

However, it was in Hefei in China that she launched her career in the marathon, and she won against a strong challenge clocking 2:28:20. And from China, Masai now targets to conquer the world.

"The Tokyo Olympics are coming a little bit earlier and I may not have the experience to be considered. But I want to represent Kenya in next Olympics," she added. Enditem

(01/07/20) Views: 56
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Eric Finan is dealing with a broken toe, heading for the 2020 Olympic trials

The injury is the result of a mountain bike incident, but it sounds like only a minor setback for his training to run the marathon in the 2020 Olympic trials in Atlanta, Georgia, on Feb. 29. He’s optimistic that he’ll soon be running 100 miles a week again.  

Finan has made many major life decisions based on running, and when he runs at the trials on Leap Day, he’s accomplishing a goal that he once thought had disappeared years ago. 

Before moving to Eugene in 2015, Finan attended University of Cincinnati because he wanted to pursue engineering while also running in a competitive collegiate conference. After graduating in 2012, he wanted to run in a post-collegiate group, but because he was injured during the last part of his fifth season, he says those running groups didn’t want him. 

He worked in Cincinnati for a year and got healthy. In 2013, he ran the U.S. Half Marathon Championships in Minnesota, finishing in 1:04:42. He attracted the attention of Team USA Minnesota, so he moved to Minneapolis to run with the group. 

But after again suffering some injuries from the higher-intensity philosophy of the coach there, Finan says he decided to run with Team Run Eugene, so he looked for work in the area. 

Today, Finan is coached by Tim Sykes, who was a volunteer assistant coach at the University of Oregon before moving to Western Kentucky University for a full-time coaching job.  

A self-described realist, Finan says he’s not expecting to make it in the top three on the U.S. team that would compete in Tokyo. Judging by the results from the 2012 Olympic trials in Houston, to make the team he’d need to finish under 2:10 — meaning he’d have to run a 5-minute pace.

He’s setting the bar at a top-25 finish, but he’s not necessarily running the trials to make the team. It’s about completing promises he made to himself while in high school.

He set two life goals then: to run a 4-minute mile and run in the Olympic trials. He completed the first goal, but missed the second goal in 2016 by seven seconds and didn’t make the trials for the 5k event.

Finan says he was devastated that he didn’t make the trials. He didn’t run for a few months and drank and ate to excess.

“I had my mind set on the trials. I had my heart set, my body, my soul to compete in the Olympic trials,” he says. “I believed it in my entire being that this thing was going to be true.”

He adds that he took it as a given that he would be running in the trials and was already thinking about preparing himself for the actual race. “I was crushed, and I was definitely depressed,” he says about missing the cutoff time. “I felt like I had worked so hard — for what?”

After taking a few months off from running — the longest non-injury break he’d ever taken — he talked with some friends and hit the pavement running again. It was a rough first month back because he hadn’t treated his body well during that break, he says. 

About 12 weeks of training later, thanks to a dedication to weight training and years of high-volume running, he made his marathon debut at California International Marathon in Sacramento, finishing at 2:17:51.

The result meant that he could — after missing trials in the 5k — satisfy that other running goal he established for himself. He returned to Sacramento in 2017, finishing the race at 2:16:42, qualifying to compete in the U.S. Olympic Trials.

(01/03/20) Views: 55
Henry Houston
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