How a boy with the same name as the greatest basketball player ever became an elite U.S. steeplechaser. Meet the Michael Jordan of track.
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Written features from the writers of CITIUS MAG
How a boy with the same name as the greatest basketball player ever became an elite U.S. steeplechaser. Meet the Michael Jordan of track.
It’s the seven-year anniversary of a terrible afternoon where I lost control of my bowels while running. The epic tale of shitting my shorts on a run.
Welshman Jimmy Watkins has run 1:46 for the 800 and made a World Champs final. He’s also opened for Jeff Rosenstock. He’s the man. Get to know him.
Next month, Sarah Mwangi fly from Nairobi to El Paso to start her four years at UTEP. Her flight will be the last and easiest leg of her journey.
We discuss the proper running etiquette as it pertains to interacting with the non-running general public. We’ve all been assholes, but we needn’t be.
Taking time off after a long season is necessary to let your body recover, but we also tend to think of running breaks as a cure for injuries.
Division II track and field has a slew of storylines that usually go unheard. David Ribich making the U.S. Championship 1500 meter final was inspiring
Spurred on by a recent negative experience with nature’s cruelest mistake–sand–Ryan and Paul signed onto email to banter about what is the best running surface.
Hey Ryan, I’m glad you reached out on this topic.
Friend, you have yourself a deal.
2. A Track
They don’t call it “sand & field,” folks. Tracks aren’t as hard as concrete, so they lose points there, but they are flat, round, and allow you to easily keep tabs on the distance you’ve logged. And as an added bonus, most–if not all-track world records have been set on a track!
Well, I think it’s safe to say we’ve satisfactorily ranked every available running surface in the world to prove our point that running on the beach is for losers!
The track and & field brain trust missed a tremendous opportunity to capitalize on Seinfeld momentarily forcing people to care about footraces.
How did Pheidippides manage to run 250 kilometers in two days? Luckily for us, we uncovered his secret training journal and opened it up.
What do you like to eat for your recovery? Ryan Sterner asked some fellow Los Angelinos for remarks about their post-run meals to recover.
We’d be remiss if we didn’t broach the serious topic of eating disorders during our food-themed week. They’re extremely prevalent in distance running.
Soh Rui Yong is on a quest to become Singapore’s fastest ever distance runner, while also raising the profile of the sport in the island city-state.
Remember the good ol’ college days? You can still translate some of that behavior into your adult life and here’s how to do that.
For the vast majority of seniors competing at NCAAs, their competitive career ends with their event. Here’s how to make a splash into civilian life.
Sam Parsons pens a letter to his teammates before he competes in an NC State uniform one last time at the NCAA Outdoor Championships.
Runners love seltzer and there’s studies out there that say it can be bad. There’s also studies out there that say it can be good. What to believe…
On the first day, of the first week after I graduated from high school, I was putzing around in a vast, empty shopping mall. My legs grew weary from trying to locate the Auntie Anne’s pretzel stand. I sat on a bench near an anthropomorphic track suit and the track suit spoke to me.
It called out: “This is what you must tell to the other members of the high school graduating class of 2009, who are embarking on their first summer of collegiate cross country training: you will soon see what I do to those whose hubris leads them to overtrain, or whose gluttony leads them to undertrain; and you will soon see that I will carry on the wings of eagles those who train smart, not hard during these hot summer months. These are the words you are to speak to your peers.”
“Okay,” I said. “So like, do you want me to make a Facebook group?”
“Yeah, I guess,” bellowed the track suit. And I made a Facebook group, and went home and posted on it what the track suit had ordained. Then the 18-year-olds of the Facebook group all “Liked” the status, and I went back to the mall and said to the track suit: “They will do everything you have said.”
“Neat,” called out the track suit. “I am going to come to you in a dense cloud, and we can take a selfie to post on the Facebook group, so that all its members will forever trust you as a smart boy about training.”
The track suit then instructed me to post on the group, informing its members to take frequent showers and drink plenty of water.
“And another thing,” it called out, “prepare yourself for the next day; abstain from sexual relations.”
“No problem,” I, a huge virgin, said.
I went home, jogged a 30-minute double, and went to sleep. Then the next day, when I returned to the mall to exchange some pants for a slightly smaller size, I found the mall ablaze, plumes of noxious black smoke radiating from it, then I heard the voice of the track suit, coming at once from nowhere and everywhere.
And it spoke these words:
“I am the anthropomorphic track suit you met at the mall. Your college coach knows a shit ton about training, so you should listen to them, but also listen to me, because you and your teenage dirtbag cronies could use a head check.”
And I carved it into stone.
This week marks the 90th iteration of the Scripps National Spelling Bee. For those who aren’t familiar with what that means, it’s the one week out of the year where we pretend as a nation to care about scholastic pursuits and intellectual accomplishments.
I’d say that on the whole, it’s a good thing. Too much attention is given to sports in general, but especially to sports as they pertain to earning college athletic-based financial aid. There are way more academic scholarships out there than there are athletic ones, so any time we’re collectively reminded that brain-based activities are not just personally beneficial, but potentially financially lucrative, that’s a win.
However, with this momentary acknowledgement of brain, instead of just brawn, comes the crippling realization that all of the Bee’s competitors are vastly more intelligent than me.
There is a goddamn six year old in this year’s competition. Six. She is a kindergartner from Oklahoma and she will be appearing on national television spelling polysyllabic, probably obsolete words. I’ve used spell check six times while writing this one paragraph on a track blog.
Because I am a very small person, I have to rationalize how I am in some way superior to these elementary-to-middle-school-aged children. It used to be that I could scoff and just lie to myself: “harummph, these dweebs can’t run 12.5 laps around a track as fast as me, so I’m better!” But now, as my bones have reached peak fragility, I don’t even have that delusion to fall back on.
My time is up, both academically and athletically. I know that for years now I’ve been growing dumber and slower, and neither trend shows any sign of reversing itself. I must cede the floor to the rising stars of spelling, especially given that at least one can probably beat me in a footrace.
With the correct brand of mental gymnastics, you can dupe yourself into believing that when you were the age of the Bee entrants, you were better than them, by being EXCEPTIONALLY WELL-ROUNDED.
And so a fun thought experiment is to determine when your average running-spelling ability was at its highest (or project when you’ll hit that point).
I reached my athletic peak at 20 and have been on a steady decline ever since. And I probably developed some sort of sub-clinical brain disease in 2008, because since since my 17th birthday because I sure as hell have gotten worse at spelling every year since.
So go ahead and chart your own greatness and subsequent fall from it. You may have a long downward slide ahead of you, but at least you were a solid, well-rounded champion at one point. And all the more power to you if you are still bettering yourself past your late teens.
Be sure to share with us your Spelling-Running Peak!
To race like the best, you gotta dine like the best. But the current best don’t dine like they used to. Let’s take a look at how Pre might have eaten.
Ben Sutherland, a rising senior on the cross-country team at Brown, reached out to Citius Mag to share his battle with depression in his own words.
Here is the deal with Steve Prefontaine: he is no longer with us. “He is no longer with us” is a pretty banal way to classify death. Sometimes at brunch, my buddy gets up to go to the bathroom and, for the next few minutes, he is no longer with us. I’m not comparing Pre’s death to my friend’s overactive bladder, what I’m doing is grabbing your undivided attention while I set out on a noble quest to FIND THE NEXT PRE.
Now that we have gone through that little two-step, let’s begin.
This exercise hinges on pinpointing the exact qualities that made Pre a cultural zeitgeist, while also providing the sticking power which lead to his current title as: transcendent icon. But maybe I’m wrong? Actually I probably am wrong. I’m wrong a lot. I think I’m wrong because culturally the running world has shifted from placing value on honest mustaches, being from small towns, and providing inspirational quotes for mostly bad tattoos to a culture gravitating towards memes, dabbing, and shoes with a lot of foam. The entirety of this retrograde can be blamed on Twitter.
What I’m really looking for is the CURRENT PRE. As our landscape exists today, I’m not sure the NEXT PRE could ever be re-created or found. Pre was the golden boy for an American running boom, a burgeoning sports equipment brand, and he lived in an age where young men were drinking enough cow milk to create the testosterone needed to grow some real facial fur. Nowadays, our heroes are practically-hairless-almond-milk-drinking-manboys. Pre’s existence was serendipitously aligned with the necessary occurrences to not only create a legend during his heyday, but to cement himself in the annals of track and field lore forever. There will never be another Pre – because he is dead – but perhaps the current Pre is out there right now, tweeting a dank meme, and lacing up some stupid shoes.
Below are the necessary criteria to be considered the CURRENT PRE.
Pre’s mustache remains iconic. You slap a mustache on a balloon and thousands of high school runners would tell you the balloon is now Pre, and Pre is now a balloon. It’s a transcendent symbol for the man. But were mustaches as revered back then as they are now? I doubt it. Seems like everyone had a caterpillar growing on their lip back then. In fact, if you didn’t, you probably were ostracized. And rightly so. Like a fine Franzia Cab Sav, the 1970’s mustaches ages with panache and dignity.
What do we have now that seems normal, but will grow in appreciation as the years pass? Lately, men have been doing some really terrible things with their hair. The manbun, while I assume still popular in certain EDM-circles and weight rooms, seems to have fizzled out nicely. The depression-era hardpart has made a nice resurgence among millennials, and the cyclical nature leads me to believe it will still be around in a few decades.
Neither of these are comparable to the mustache, though.
You know what is? The femalebun. This is the first hint that the CURRENT PRE may in fact not have a penis. Alexi Pappas has inspired hordes of females to not only run with buns, but to write poetry about the nuances of how their buns make them feel. Manbuns incite hate, femalebuns incite art.
I can neither confirm nor deny Kyle Merber is trending towards CURRENT PRE status.
This criterion remains unchanged from Pre’s day. Simply put, being fast is better than being slow. The whole tortoise and hare thing is bullshit. If you want to be put on a pedestal, you really need to be winning races while running fast. This is the only caveat to transcendence that will stay constant until humans decide putting so much time, effort, and care into running is silly and we really should put the time, effort, care into figuring out how to keep our planet from becoming a barbeque briquette.
All our current day stars have famous family members. For every Matt Centrowitz Junior, there’s a Matt Centrowitz Senior providing genetics. Drake’s dad is famous because millions of people find his son’s constant whining to be musically appealing. That baby over in the U.K. is famous because his parent’s are famous and their parents are famous. It’s like nepotism, I think. Like I alluded to earlier, I’m wrong a lot. But I’m not wrong about this. To be relevant in our present world, some family members better have paved the way for you.
The name of the game in shoes these days? Silly. Companies are slowly realizing how nice it is to run in comfortable shoes. They saw the writing on the bathroom stall wall and the scribbles read “STANLEY WANTS MORE FOAM IN HIS SHOES.” All-caps brand HOKE ONE ONE came hard with the heel lifts, only to see Nike develop their tech even further to help perpetuate the notion shoes make you faster. The CURRENT PRE isn’t jogging around in some normal looking New Balance, the runner we’re after is pounding the pavement in some marshmallows with laces.
The CURRENT PRE is a world-class, bun-wearing female, who is good at the internets, has a family member who has done something either illegal or courageous to bring fame to their surname, and looks like the Michelin man from the ankle below.
Movies are weird, man. It’s easy to mix them all up. If you do it right through Jared Leto, you can reason that Prefontaine went on to do some wild stuff
After eight stress fractures, Columbia senior Keenan Piper is vying for a spot on the starting line at NCAAs; but was it all worth it?
We’ve reached a sort of News Singularity, where a major story breaks every hour. Paul Ryan’s marathon lie helped contribute to our current reality.
Really cool moments like home runs and touchdowns happen in other sports. What’s track and field’s really-cool moment? Can we make one?
Picture day is something to look forward to every year. These runners surely made the most out of their respective roster portraits. Part VI.
If you’ve been to CITIUS MAG in the past week, you saw us making quite a stink over Nike’s #Breaking2 attempt. As much as we’d love to say we were doing it because Nike was handing us fistfuls of cash under the table, that would be a lie. Did we really believe it was going to happen? Perhaps. But mostly we just thought it was a very silly idea and it was brilliant fodder for a week’s worth of content.
All of us can agree on a few things that #Breaking2 was: an enormous marketing stunt, a stellar branding initiative, and a whole lot of hype. Despite all of that, by the time Eliud Kipchoge crossed the finish line 26 seconds behind the timing-laser wielding electronic car, you (both the royal “you” and you in particular), would be a fool to say that the event wasn’t important, a bit existential, and something we won’t see again in the near future.
The importance of the event is undeniable. Broken down to its core, the attempt was about peak human performance. We can wax poetic all day long about doing what’s never been done, or breaking the unbreakable barrier.
But for me, after it became apparent he might do the damn thing, it was about recognizing the few moments in humanity’s miserable history where we can point to a specific spot on our timeline and say “this was the day we saw the greatest a human ever was at distance running.” It was never about the barrier. It was always about finding the limits of the human machine, and we can safely say that Kipchoge, Zersenay Tadese, and Lelisa Desisa were given every opportunity to do it.
For 99% of the population, your life’s work is intangible, judged by the day to day, and how you live your life. Our cultural obsession with sports is likely driven somewhat by being able to wrap our minds around a singular, tangible goal. There’s nothing as tangible in sports, other than maybe powerlifting, than what Kipchoge did on Saturday.
You can commute to your office everyday, but no matter how undeniable you are at creating beautiful pivot tables or writing immaculate lines of code, no one will ever really know (or try to know) if what you did in your beige cubicle that day was taking it to the limit in terms of what a human could do to an excel doc. Sports give us a definitive goal to aspire towards, and the pursuit of running as fast as you can, for as long as you can leaves very little wiggle room for any other argument against greatness.
Though Nike is worth billions and billions of dollars it’s not likely we’ll see them stage something like this again. They’re instead opting to focus on other “moonshots.” Maybe they can take some cues from Citius.
In regular circumstances–regular meaning without advanced robotics, waves of pacers, springy shoes, Kevin Hart, etc–we’re a long ways from breaking two. Going to the well the way Kipchoge did is ill-advised racing tactics, and many times the stakes are seemingly higher; things like Olympic medals or large, novelty checks always need to be considered. And how many more performances like that do you think a person has in them? Thinking about the aftermath of Kipchoge’s run brings out the old timey doctor in me: if he attempts it again I’m sure he’d contract a type of flu he’s likely not shake the rest of his life, if it doesn’t kill him first.
So here we are, on the other side of an honest crack at the two hour marathon. What did we learn? Well, mostly that humanity will always stop and recognize humanity. The pursuit of self-actualization is evolving, and relative. But not with this. The sub-two hour attempt was humanity’s attempt at self-actualization. If you were like me, over the last five miles of Kipchoge’s miracle run, your chest tightened, and you stared at your phone in disbelief, as a man thundered along faster than any other man had done before him, for the sole reason of showing us what was possible. It was stupid. It was kind of pointless. But god damn if it wasn’t a thing of beauty.
After this weekend, we can still aim to break two in other ways. It doesn’t just have to be two hours. We explain other Breaking2 scenarios.
Paul Snyder once went to the race track in Italy where Nike will host the Breaking 2 attempt to break the two-hour marathon mark.
Some weather-dependent day this weekend, the triumvirate of Eliud Kipchoge, Lelisa Desisa, and Zersenay Tadese will line up in Monza, Italy, to complete just shy of 18 trips around the town’s 1.5 mile long Formula One track. Nike — the sponsor of the event — is pretending to rest its hopes on one of these three men traversing 26.2 miles in a time of 1:59:59 or faster.
But sub-two or not, Nike’s already won.
The company hasn’t come out and said as much, but it is nothing more than a marketing ruse, and a highly successful one at that. Just type “nike sub 2” into Google, and marvel at the number of gushing press clippings from countless highly reputable journalistic outlets (now including Citius Mag!). Once again, Nike has done what it does best: drum up hype at low-to-no cost.
The success of the attempt is irrelevant. In all likelihood, none of the selected, impossibly gifted athletes will dip below the two hour threshold this weekend, despite every advantage bestowed upon them by Nike. Controversial energy-preserving shoes, a closed and non-record-eligible course, fluids and fuel on demand, vehicular pacers, the like. It’s not enough to make it happen. We just aren’t there yet.
It doesn’t seem likely that almost three minutes will be lopped off of an already imposing world record. But in terms of undelivered upon promises, Nike’s probable failure to deliver the world’s first marathon time beginning with a “1,” just isn’t that big of a deal. So it seems pretty silly to get all worked up over a massive multinational corporation doing what it exists to do: sell shit.
Someday, somebody somewhere will run 1:59. And the world will keep spinning until then— and after.
No harm, no foul. And compared to other recent pop-cultural misleadings, it barely registers as anything other than an ambitious plan falling shy of its endgame. Let’s take a look at some of the others, on the below “Graph of Grift!”
When a claim is huge, and the failure to deliver on it qualifies as downright fraudulent, bad things happen. Things like worsening race relations, the loss of thousands of people’s life-savings, and misdiagnosing of major illness can occur. True catastrophes. These are the things that keep investigative journalism relevant, and deserve our fullest condemnation.
Assholes scamming senior citizens by calling and pretending to be their bail-seeking, imprisoned grandchildren are an everyday example.
When the stakes are low, the extremely wealthy are targeted, and fraud occurs, the result is a sort of cathartic humor we plebeians can revel in. A bunch of millionaire Vine stars got swindled by Ja Rule into paying thousands of dollars to eat bread sandwiches and sleep in FEMA tents? That’s pretty funny. Some Gwyneth Paltrow fans purchased a purported cold juicing device that basically just squirts out the contents of expensive bags of liquidized fruit? High comedy.
Nike’s sub-two attempt and accompanying hype falls into this third camp. It’s a bold claim, and not so far outside the realm of possibility that we can fully scoff at it. So instead, we pay attention to claims like these, express our skepticism, and then get to say “I told you so” when they bomb.
(Think: Jay-Z’s dumb streaming service, TIDAL, or Neil Young’s PonoPlayer.)
This is the type of unfulfilled hype that is so blatant, the lie is inextricable from the thing itself in a very public way. You know full well where your money is going— down the tubes— and you don’t care.
When you pull off of the interstate at the behest of a billboard reading “WORLD’S LARGEST CERAMIC GOBLIN,” you are willingly entering this space.
We are deceived from the moment we’re born. (“What a beautiful baby” is the first repeated lie we hear. Most babies are strange looking and don’t become cute until a few months of out-of-the-womb development.) We can all handle some more.
When Kipchoge is this weekend’s sole finisher, and runs 2:02:48, nobody has gotten hurt. The sport that we love will continue to be an afterthought between Olympic cycles. And Nike will still make billions of dollars a year. There are greater atrocities out there more deserving of our attention.
And if I’m wrong? Then something pretty cool has succeeded in taking place.
What are the benefits of training at altitude? One of our writers went to Albuquerque and trained with Danny Mackey’s Brooks Beasts for a few days.
Penn Relays is known for many things, its phenomenal track food among them. But Drake is no slouch in the aggressive eating category either.
Best known Drake: The Canadian recording artist. Self proclaimed world class lover. Former kid actor.
Less known Drake: The Drake Relays. A staple of American track and field contested between endless rows of Iowan corn. It’s where we watched Alan Webb run 3:51. It’s where they contested the 2013 USATF Outdoor Championships in 200 degree heat. It’s the home to the world famous Walking Taco.
Lesser Known Drake: UCLA’s Drake Stadium is tucked neatly on the north side of their Westwood campus. It holds 11,000 people and has been graced by just as many world class athletes (probably) as the more well-known Drake Stadium.
Least known drake: What bird folk call a male duck.
Though Iowa’s Drake University has taken the name “Drake” and run with it (at least in track and field), we’d be remiss if we didn’t acknowledge another Drake, where many equally impressive performances have taken place.
How many Olympians UCLA has produced and called Drake home is a story for another article. For now let’s take a quick look at some performances from both Drakes, of which we should all be equally grateful.
Picture day is something to look forward to every year. These runners surely made the most out of their respective roster portraits. Part V.
Kevin Byrne grew up listening to stories from his grandfather and father about competing at the Penn Relays. Then he made his own. Now his sister will too.
All sports have a trophy, but only some of them a truly great. Does track and field have a great trophy? You bet. The Penn Relays Wagon Wheel.
Picture day is something to look forward to every year. These runners surely made the most out of their respective roster portraits. Part four of our new weekly series.
An important announcement regarding Paul Snyder’s attempt on the 800 meter world record and the future of the Debajo Dos project.
One of the more decorated racers in Boston history, he ran 2:21 to win the Marathon in 1911, after being told by doctors his heart murmur would kill him.