Saturday, November 27, 2010

What You Do Not Know Because You Are Not Me by Michael Ring I’m Sorry

What You Do Not Know Because You Are Not Me by Michael Ring

I’m Sorry

A few years ago our “NYC Marathon Program” was fading.  We were filling only a single bus to the start, the crowd at the last 10 mile run was thin and the “reunion school” was not so full.  The PPTC board was considering dropping the program.  It was a lot of work and if nobody wanted it, then why do it?  For purely selfish reasons, I took over the project.  I wanted to run the last 10 miles with my friends.  I wanted to take a bus from Park Slope to the start of the Marathon and I wanted my family to wait for me in a pleasant place.  I did not want this program to go away.  But to keep it from being cancelled, I had to make it bigger,

So I opened it up to the public.  This year about 150 – 200 people ran the last 10 miles with us.  We also sold out four buses with 55 seats each.  I am told our reunion school had a party atmosphere, but I honestly don’t remember that because, after running 26.2 miles, I was too numb to notice.  Also about 40 people joined the Prospect Park Track Club in November.  So, I am happy.  Our NYC Marathon Program will continue.

Why am I apologizing?  Because three weeks after the marathon, a man walked up to me and said, “My wife wants to kill you.”  This is not what I expect to hear at 9am after I drop my kids at school.   He told me that I took his wife’s bag off the bus at Fort Wadsworth.  Oh, crap!

The last thing I did as an organizer of our marathon activates was get off the bus at the start.  As I got off I wanted to take any trash off the bus that might have been left.  In one of the front rows there was a plastic bag filled with the stuff one would want at the start of a marathon.  It had a few protean bars, hand warmers and Vaseline.  I asked the few people left on the bus if it they had left it and they said they had not.  I assumed that someone who had just gotten off the bus had left if behind.  I got off the bus quickly and called out, “Did anyone leave this on the bus!”?  Nothing.  I repeated this as I quickly walked away from the bus. But it was apparent that I was not going to find the person who had left this bag in the masses of humanity exiting the buses in the toll plaza.  Later I shared the snacks and hand warmers with the people I was sitting with on the cold grass under the Verrazano Bridge.

It turns out the owner of the bag was in the bathroom on the bus. 

I am sorry; I thought I was doing the right thing.

Great Running Performances: Mary Decker vs. Zola Budd: 1984 Olympics, 3,000 Meters.

Great Running Performances:

Mary Decker vs. Zola Budd: 1984 Olympics, 3,000 Meters.

By James Israel                                                 

            Mary Decker competing against Zola Budd in the 3,000-meter final at the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles had an inevitable feel to it: two running champions – one from southern California, the other from the hinterlands of South Africa – outdoing each other for months, dominating their sport, and culminating in an Olympic match race.

            The two competitors could not have come from more disparate circumstances.

            Mary Decker was a winner, and a world class runner, very early on. Born in New Jersey, she with her family moved to California, and that became her home base. By 13, she was ranked first in the world at women’s 800 meters; at 14, she won the 800-meters competition in a Russia-US track meet in Minsk. Later that year, she had world record times in women’s 1,000 meters and 800 meters.

            Then, chronic injuries that were to plague her for the rest of her career began: a leg stress fracture would force her out of the 1976 Olympics. Ms. Decker continued to experience a range of leg maladies for the next few years, but by 1982, it appeared she was defiantly healthy again: during that year, she set six world records, from 800 to 10,000 meters. And, despite all her achievements, she was only 23 years old.

            The Los Angeles Olympics beckoned in a couple of years, and she was the heavy favorite to win the 3,000M race. There was seemingly no other woman on the circuit who could offer real competition to her.

            Then, out of the blue, Zola Budd appeared. She was born and raised in South Africa, still under apartheid rule at the time. Running barefoot, Ms. Budd in 1984 broke the world record for the women’s 5,000 – 15:01:83. Finally, Ms. Decker had a worthy opponent. There was one huge problem, though: South Africa’s apartheid racial policies compelled the world to ban the country from Olympic competition. Ms. Budd was essentially banished from international distance running.

            Great Britain, though, came up with a solution: grant Zola Budd British citizenship and she could then compete for England. Sure, it was absolutely a ‘rush’ job, but, no matter, very quickly Ms. Budd was running for good, old Union Jack. Through the din of all the international politics, she continued to excel in competition: in July 1984, she set a world record in a women’s 2,000 meter race.

            The great confrontation in Los Angeles between these two titans, to the delight of track fans everywhere, was finally going to happen.

            Did all the pre-race hoopla pan out? Zola Budd and Mary Decker were certainly central figures, but not in a manner fans predicted:

            Ms. Budd led the 3,000M race through 1,700 meters, followed closely by Ms. Decker and the Rumanian Maricici Puica. Half a stride behind, Mary Decker tapped Ms. Budd’s left foot, throwing Ms. Budd off stride. Maintaining a tight second, Ms. Decker then clipped Ms. Budd’s left calf with her left shoe, as Ms. Budd was attempting to attain a rail position. That collision caused Ms. Decker to stumble, lose her balance, and fall away onto the curb and track infield. She was done – injuring her hip and unable to even get up, she was memorably lifted up by her then discus-throwing boyfriend, Richard Slaney. Zola Budd, obviously distressed at what just happened, and booed loudly by the crowd, faded by the end of the race to 7th. [Ms. Puica won the race.]

            Today, no one can attest with certainly who was to blame for the collision: some say it was Ms. Budd’s fault, others, Ms. Decker’s. In a just world, either of these superb runners should have won that race: Zola Budd living out an irresistible Cinderella storyline, or Mary Decker fighting through a series of devastating injuries. Ironically, though, Mary Decker’s collision with Zola Budd in Los Angeles will always be one of the most memorable events in track history.

From the editor.....