KEEPERS OF THE FLAME
The standing of Athletics, Track & Field, and Road Racing, in the culture may be threatened but if there is a light and a light keeper we can see a way.
“Every day is a journey, and the journey itself is home.” ― Bashō Matsuo
2017 has brought to me yet another running travel adventure, forty-seven years after my first one, a bus trip from Lowell MA to famed Franklin Park in Boston as a member of my high school cross country team.
I am no longer adventuring as a competitor though I am still a runner of a recreational sort not willing to drop a lifestyle or a bad habit but willing to make certain adjustments due to the passing of time.
This adventure brings me to Sacramento CA for the National Track & Field meet a qualifier for this summer’s World Championships in London. An important sidebar in this adventure will be a trip to see THE Track & Field Garage of Mike Fanneli who has a long history in athletics in various roles and is still a competitor in the Veterans Division.
Mike has shared many items from his collection with his Facebook friends and that has been a good frame with which to look at the rich history of athletics and think about where things might be heading.
Who are the caretakers of this history of athletics which encompasses so much diversity among so many disciplines and in many ways, remains pure and simple at heart from the ancient Olympic Games to the present incarnations?
Citius, Altius, Fortius
Myself I have many athletic artifacts in various forms of rot. One item, a medal from my participation in the USA V. USSR Meet in 1982 I recently found in a shoe box in the back of the closet, the foam in the plastic case holding the medal disintegrated and the medal tarnished. Many of the items in my collection hold a value as a memento and some are historically significant as the possibility exists that no other like piece survives.
Getting older I feel a certain need to put some of these things in order and share with others of like mind .My atavistic endeavor.
When I was a young athlete I was motivated by learning not only about my current generation of athletes but also the history, the idea that I would be part of a long tradition and would find my way reading the great biographies and other texts about the methods of the most gifted coaches.
Out here on the highways and byways of California on the road from Sactown to visit the Track & Field garage I pass a road sign listing a community’s attractions, nothing is listed.
Perhaps we might have the T&F Garage added? Or maybe take the Garage Collection on the road, a travelling exhibition.
Among the formal institutions collecting are the USA Track & field Hall of Fame Museum now located in NYC at the Armory Track & Field center. There is the IOC Museum in Lausanne Switzerland and currently under construction the US Olympic Committee Museum in Colorado Springs due to open in 2018.
I would also like to mention the site of Gary Corbitt who celebrates his dad Ted Corbitt an icon in athletics and African American distance running in general.
Other sites preserving history are Once upon a time in a vest. And Running Past.
The depth and feeling that go into something like the T&F Garage make for a more personal and rewarding experience though I would certainly recommend the larger more formal setting if you have the opportunity.
A man of my current somewhat experienced, advanced time in life having been all around the world and seen some wonderful things (see Randy Newman Bad Love) still I view my own little world in this outside world through this running, T&F, Athletics lenses.
I guess we all hold onto something.
Familiar places jog memories that are all spread out in front and behind you.
Enjoy the visual tour of the Garage and some of our most prized expressions celebrating athletics.
USATF Nationals June 24-26th
Following my most enjoyable pilgrimage to the T&F Garage I had a run to the steel hip ranch and back, then a lumberjack breakfast with Garage keeper Mike at a local barbecue joint where we discussed athletics and all the weird connections that we have developed after so many years and then covered the local culture scene.
I then pointed my rental Hyundai with the malfunctioning passenger window toward Sactown with some competition beginning that evening and very hot conditions in store.
The conditions, 110 degrees, would not encourage a great turnout for the meet but you could count on the Hoka Aggies to show up in force. The Aggie fandom are ubiquitous, boisterous and contagious. Over one hundred strong, cowbells in hand ready to cheer or jeer as the case may be.
If we could only spread them throughout the arena to infect those staid fans too busy collecting new pins for their ball caps (Only kidding, I love the pin covered hats) to participate with the Aggie rabble. Yes, that and the drummers playing a syncopated beat throughout the Men’s and Women’s 5K’s were a highlight.
Also the friendly betting on selected races where I won myself a large wad of dollar bills with my predicted winning time in the Women’s 1500m.
Men’s 10k was a stinker with a 5:09 first mile that had us chanting, “pick it up!” to no avail.
Molly Huddle continues to be impressive as does protégé Emily Sisson. Congrats to both making the World team in the 10k and also kudos to their coach Ray Treacy.
Paul Chelimo had perhaps the most impressive performance of the meet as he was a total boss and looked totally easy running 13:08 all alone. Felt bad for fellow New Englander Ben True in 4th just short of making that elusive World Team.
Some negative feelings about the US Army team of Chelimo and company but if you are willing to join our countries military is that not deserving of citizenship? A worthwhile debate ensues.
I struck up a conversation with someone in the stands and it turned out he was originally from Carver MA and that I had written some running tips for him when he was in high school back in the 70’s. He still has the letter I sent him and is now a high school coach and employs some of the age old advice, wow, made my day.
The mostly annual Hooties 5K on Saturday was a success with about sixty runners. It was held on the American River bike trail and yours truly was the honored race starter and a participant in the geezer division.
Last day of the meet Sunday was cooler and looked to be the best attended. It was nice to see the field events staged on the infield but unfortunately obscured viewing for fans with so many tents etc. blocking the lines of vision.
Fahrenheit 250 a Barbecue Pub a short walk across the parking lot desert was a meet headquarters. There was much talk there about who would be awarded the Olympic Trials, Eugene, Sactown, or Mt. Sac in Walnut CA.
I overheard the contestants from Mt Sac in the Men’s room discussing their bid and I remember chuckling and thinking “no way” haha.
See you in Walnut 2020.