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The real reason US distance is down

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  • The real reason US distance is down

    I heard an older and fairly elite US distance runner remark that the real reason US distance running is down is because you can make too good a living with shoe companies just attempting to be top 3 American. The last two competitive distance runners who really competed on the national scene were Kennedy and Croghan; they both thought on the world scene and would not be peaked for USA's. Now, our guys are peaked to the gilds hoping to make the team and make $50-70k for running 3-5 races a year and then going on "vacation" to wherever the major championship is being held. Think about it!

  • #2
    Re: The real reason US distance is down

    The problem with this concept is the fact the the US distance woes have been around a lot longer than lucrative shoe contracts.
    "A beautiful theory killed by an ugly fact."
    by Thomas Henry Huxley

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    • #3
      Re: The real reason US distance is down

      But Pego, wouldn't you say that US distance running was quite healthy through at least the mid-1980s?

      Comment


      • #4
        Re: The real reason US distance is down

        I agree. But, when one looks at the world stage, the emergence of African nations that started in the 60's continued at an accelerated pace from the 80's. The northern African nations did not truly jump on the world stage until after Aouita. This skews the US international results. I wonder what the results would look like if you compared US results now, removing the African runners with those, say late 70's. Obviously this would not be a scientifically valid sample, but I am willing to bet you guys that it would look a lot better for the US (and probably for many European countries - excluding France for example which has already imported quite a few northern African runners).
        "A beautiful theory killed by an ugly fact."
        by Thomas Henry Huxley

        Comment


        • #5
          Re: The real reason US distance is down

          >I wonder what the
          >results would look like if you compared US results now, removing the African
          >runners with those, say late 70's. Obviously this would not be a scientifically
          >valid sample, but I am willing to bet you guys that it would look a lot better
          >for the US

          If you remove the Africans, obviously the US does start to look better, but it still isn't looking good by historical standards... Here's a comparison of number of US runners in the non-African top 20 in the world in the distance events in 10-yearly intervals.
          1973
          800 7
          1500 4
          5000 2
          10000 0
          marathon 1
          3000SC 2
          Total 16

          1983
          800 5
          1500 2
          5000 4
          10000 4
          marathon 5
          3000SC 3
          Total 23

          1993
          800 4
          1500 4
          5000 4
          10000 2
          marathon 1
          3000SC 5
          Total 20

          2003
          800 2
          1500 2
          5000 4
          10000 4
          marathon 0
          3000SC 0
          Total 12
          Było smaszno, a jaszmije smukwijne...

          Comment


          • #6
            Re: The real reason US distance is down

            Does anyone have any access to the numbers of HS distance runners over the years?

            Is the pool of talent growing, static or declining?

            In an ideal world, I'd like to see some global statistic across the years...


            Take, 1963, 1973,1983,1993, and 2003, and what does the distribution look like....for the distance events...


            That way the USA "talent" can be measured against itself.

            Outside influences, like the boom in Africa onto the world scene is eliminated.

            Obesity amongst kids in the USA is a more significant matter, wherease 30 years ago, the degrees of obesity is less.

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            • #7
              Re: The real reason US distance is down

              Number of HS distance runners is a flawed statistic; you need to know the quality of those who are turning out.

              The original falloff in talent as we got into the '80s, I suspect, is tied directly to demographics. As the Baby Boomers went away, the number of kids of HS age dropped markedly. And if you get a great talent every, say, 10,000 kids, then you get fewer great talents. Judging by the reopening of schools in my part of the world, the youth population is starting to grow again, meaning more talents.

              But the demographics may work against a rebirth of distance talent, because I suspect--and there's nothing judgmental or sinister in this comment--that those who in the past provided the pool for distance running (middle-to-upper-class white kids) have the lowest reproductive rate, so fewer will be channeled that way.

              Very complicated subject about which I don't claim any expertise, just hunches.

              Comment


              • #8
                Re: The real reason US distance is down

                I thought kuha put it best in another thread when he mentioned that sports go in cycles. Track as been around a long time dating to around the middle of the nineteenth century. The only other sport that has been around that long is horse racing which is also have a crisis of sorts.

                Comment


                • #9
                  Re: The real reason US distance is down

                  I think when I said look at the distribution across 10 year segments, we can account for the talent differentials of those who turn out to run.

                  You can standardize each 10 year segment, and remove the variation between each unique segment, and then proceed to make comparisons.

                  This can be done, but what's needed is reliable raw data about times run for each of the segment.

                  Then a valuation for any of the years 1963 against 1973 against 1983 against 1993 and 2003 can be performed.

                  And if you wish, there's a fairly good picture of quality of running WITHIN the USA over time.

                  Adding changes in INTERNATIONAL caliber running and how it affects USA performance, would be a nextr step.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Re: The real reason US distance is down

                    >But the
                    >demographics may work against a rebirth of distance talent, because I
                    >suspect--and there's nothing judgmental or sinister in this comment--that those
                    >who in the past provided the pool for distance running (middle-to-upper-class
                    >white kids) have the lowest reproductive rate, so fewer will be channeled that
                    >way.

                    If the immigrant boom continues, it would seem to me we're going to see more kids from Hispanic, East African, and other backgrounds -- and grossly speaking, they may have more of the smaller/leaner body types required now to compete on the world scene in the distances. It just seems that non-immigrant Americans are too big! (Even our best, like Kennedy, Goucher, etc.)
                    Generally speaking, the fact that distance running has been opened to a "world market" -- within which there's been great expansion since the Kip Keino days -- rather than competition being just America/Europe would mean less success for the Americans/Europeans. In other events (sprints and field) Americans have struggled more, too, to get medals -- but the expanded world of athletes simply hasn't included a new pool of huge/muscled people, while it did include small and lean and altitude-born people (East Africans) who could use some natural advantages to succeed.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Re: The real reason US distance is down

                      US runners don't trian hard enough. Why they don't trian hard enough is anybody's guess.

                      It is probably that simple.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Re: The real reason US distance is down

                        changing cultural mores can affect the pool of talent...

                        ..americans are generally bigger and heavier with a more prevalent obesity patterns than 25-30 years ago...

                        This could diminish the pool of available talent.

                        The other aspect is the change in incidence of competing in track and field.....is that a fact or just a rumor?

                        Kids NOT willing to train as hard..I don't know if we really want to generalize there, but this probably a a cultural matter...

                        Ovett and Coe of 25 years ago represented a dominatong force at 800 and 1500...are we to say the decline in Brit middle distance running is acomparable to America's decline...

                        I'd still like to see the raw data over time to get an objective valuation for USA running.

                        I don't believe the real numbers would be as bad as many in this forum would tend to believe

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Re: The real reason US distance is down

                          >US runners don't trian hard enough. Why they don't trian hard enough is
                          >anybody's guess.

                          >It is probably that simple.

                          It is THAT simple. I go toe to toe in the trenches with these kids every day. They just aren't training like the kids in the 70s and early 80s did.

                          Average number of high school-aged students in the 80s and 90s compared to the 1970s. Total number of sub-4:10 high school milers and sub-9:00 high school two-milers in the 80s and 90s compared to the 1970s.

                          I don't have the stats but participation during the 1980s and 1990s had increased over that of the 70s.


                          Lets just take the data from the NFHS study an further extend my analysis.

                          1970s:
                          12,299,000 average HS aged children each year.
                          3,887,352 participants in all sports (boys)
                          95 4:10 milers
                          84 9:00 2-milers

                          Lets compare the other decades.

                          1980s:
                          10,780,000 HS kids (-12.4%)
                          3,387,482 participants (-12.9%)
                          75 4:10 milers (-21.1%)
                          51 9:00 2-milers (-39.3%)

                          1990s:
                          11,111,000 HS kids (-9.7%)
                          3,605,942 participants (-7.2%)
                          36 4:10 milers (-62.1%)
                          15 9:00 2-milers (-82.1%)

                          (figures in thousands)
                          15-17 Avg
                          2000 11,933 11,111 -9.7%
                          1999 12,048
                          1998 11,314
                          1997 11,953
                          1996 11,617
                          1995 11,401
                          1994 10,560
                          1993 10,247
                          1992 10,114
                          1991 9,923
                          1990 9,912 10,780 -12.4%
                          1989 10,020
                          1988 10,379
                          1987 10,944
                          1986 11,149
                          1985 11,024
                          1984 10,711
                          1983 10,768
                          1982 11,131
                          1981 11,757
                          1980 11,835 12,299
                          1979 12,190
                          1978 12,346
                          1977 12,472
                          1976 12,550
                          1975 12,531
                          1974 12,566
                          1973 12,309
                          1972 12,283
                          1971 11,906

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                          • #14
                            Re: The real reason US distance is down

                            Interesting numbers. Demographics are clearly part of the problem, but far from the whole story: from the 1970s to the 1990s, for example, we see a 7% decrease in participants, but an 82% decrease in 9:00 2-milers. Wow! It would be interesting to do a similar survey of the 1960s--my guess is that the 1960s and the 1990s might actually be fairly close in overall quality/depth! Talk about back to the future...

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                            • #15
                              Re: The real reason US distance is down

                              I was running the other day and actually saw a school bus load a group of middle school students up after school and make stops less than a quarter mile from the school...

                              Simple as that.

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