Track Coach

TC228 Editorial Column

From the Editor – RUSS EBBETS

Signs of the Apocalypse

The Apocalypse is a Biblical reference to a time when the world has gone haywire. There is the emergence of the Four Horsemen (war, famine, pestilence and death) that wreak havoc on the world. It’s something a prophet or preacher can get behind in a big way. While both are always a little vague about time and place, they can slide over that little fact with a booming voice, a manic stare or by pounding the podium.

So, whether you are into crop circles, subway walls or Star Trek to get your future information, the answer, I am sure, is “out there” somewhere. W.B. Yeats wrote a poem called the Second Coming that contains the famous line “the center cannot hold” describing how the End Times are near when the fabric of society begins to unravel. When you take a moment to think about this you have to ask yourself—could these guys be on to something?

If I have a moment to kill, I like to go to my phone and get the latest news stories. I check the NBA scores and any local or national stories that take a few minutes of time and keep me up to date on what is happening.

I realize my idle fascination digitally profiles me and any interest I show scrolling down the stories only fuels future content. At least none of it is fake news, thank God.

With spring marathon season upon us, I get that news too. The Kenyans dominated Boston and London with only Ethiopian Worknesh Degefa preventing a male/female sweep of the top spots by Kenya.  No news there. Kipchoge is still threatening to break “two” which although not inevitable seems entirely possible. Unfortunately, that world record is likely to get drowned out by the avalanche of other marathon records that almost defy imagination.

Wait…you think – what is he talking about?

Maybe we’re not on the same news feed but London produced a slew of world records for the marathon. The Guinness Book of World Records recognizes all sorts of categories allowing intrepid souls the opportunity to achieve fleeting immortality in a category of their choosing.

Records are recognized for running backwards, dressed as a ___ (you fill-in your favorite favorite—waiter, nurse, whatever), wearing an 80# backpack, high heels, dressed as a shoe, tree or phone booth, playing a musical instrument, as a 3-legged combo, dribbling one or two basketballs, even as Big Ben. The other categories number in the dozens. Like dozens of dozens.

The Guinness Book of World Records got started over an argument about which game bird was Europe’s fastest (golden plover or red grouse). It has since grown to set its own record as the most widely published book in the history of the world. Twin brothers Ross and Norris McWhirter were the founding publishers in 1954 and made a career of documenting the weird and wonderful of humanity. And some of it is really weird.

The Big Ben entry created some drama at the London finish line when he couldn’t fit under the finish line structure. It seems his 7+ foot costume was just a little too much for the 7’ opening. He had no flex point and created a standoff. If he leaned forward, he’d fall. Finally, an official eased him through costing him some 15 seconds in the process. It all leads one to question if the “outside assistance” is grounds for disqualification or if the record time should be accompanied by an asterisk?

The running nurse didn’t fare much better. She ran the marathon in modern day nurse’s scrubs in a low 3-hour time only to have her effort disallowed. It’s not that she palmed some Oxy at work and tested positive but rather that she wasn’t wearing a pinafore as part of her costume. For those not in the know a pinafore is a type of apron that nurses used to wear. Rules are rules.

It leads one to wonder what the East Africans are going to do once they figure out that most of these costume records are “soft.” I find the thought of Eliud Kipchoge charging down Boylston Street dressed as a Leprechaun disturbing. That day may be coming; that day is coming, I repeat with conviction as I pound my desk.

Sir Hugh Beaver, who had the question about the fastest bird was directed to the McWhirter twins by a Guinness employee named Christopher Chataway. Now trivia buffs will know the name Christopher Chataway as a British Olympian and former 5000m world record holder. While those are tremendous achievements Chataway may be best remembered for being one of the pacers for Roger Bannister the day he ran the first four-minute mile. Just coincidentally the announcer for that race and the head timer who clicked the 3:59.4 for Bannister was in fact, Norris McWhirter.