City Sports Report

New York City Marathon Paradoxes by Lloyd Carroll

2014 New York Marathon

The NYC Marathon has always had a paradoxical quality. It’s the world’s largest and most prestigious road race (yes I know that some folks in Boston and Chicago will disagree with the latter) and yet there is little hoopla in the mainstream sports community in the days leading up to the Marathon. You rarely hear anything about it on WFAN or ESPN New York and even the coverage in the local dailies is scant at best.

One reason is that Americans rarely win either the men’s or women’s race. Meb Keflezighi, who was born in Eritrea but emigrated to the US at the age of 12 with his family, won the race in 2009. You would have to go back 27 years before that for your last American winner, Alberto Salazar.

Things didn’t change this year as Kenyans Wilson Kipsang and Mary Keitany won the men’s and women’s divisions respectively. 39 year-old Meb Keflezighi once again showed why he is a great ambassador for running, as he turned in the best time for an American coming in fifth. 36 year-old Queens native Kara Goucher, who grew up in Duluth, Minnesota, finished 14th in the women’s field, nine slots behind the top American finisher, Desiree Linden.

The NYC Marathon has long been a boon to New York’s economy as runners from all over the globe come here days in advance and spend a lot of money on clothing, restaurants, and hotel rooms. It’s easy to make the argument the Marathon has a greater impact on our economy than the 2014 Super Bowl did.

The New York Road Runners, who operate the NYC Marathon, didn’t make the powerful hotel industry happy by allowing Airbnb to become a key sponsor. Airbnb is a digital company that matches those seeking lodging with apartment dwellers and homeowners who don’t mind becoming hoteliers to make extra money. New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman is investigating Airbnb for violations of New York’s rental laws that prevent leases for terms less than 30 days.

NYRR CEO Mary Wittenberg denied that the hotel industry was upset but I don’t think that it was a coincidence that on Sunday the media headquarters were in a cramped makeshift tent on the grounds of the former Tavern on the Green instead of its longtime race day home, the 36th floor of the Mandarin Oriental.

The NYRR teamed up with the NBA to have a relay race component to the Marathon as a number of former NBA and WNBA players and current executives ran a mile each along the 26.2 mile course. NBA Commissioner Adam Silver, who has run in a couple of past Marathons, ran the first leg while former Knicks and Nets center Dikembe Mutombo crossed the finish line. Former St. John’s University stars Chris Mullin and Felipe Lopez also took part.

The NYC Marathon has become a popular time for athletic shoe manufacturers to display their latest wares. Surprisingly the big boys in the athletic shoe business–Nike (which got its start making track shoes), Reebok, and Adidas, have stayed quiet in recent years as far as the NYC Marathon is concerned. They seem content to let some of the smaller players in the game enjoy a well-served moment in the spotlight. In fact the biggest company to unveil a new shoe was Puma with its colorful and comfortable Faas 800.

Ryka makes shoes strictly for women but they have been pioneers for the entire industry. A number of their shoes feature Re-Zorb foam technology which reduces the shock one feels when your stride hits the ground when you are running. Another Ryka innovation is Ultra Flex technology which ensure that its shoes have a lot of give and can bend easily. This helps toes move comfortably as well as the heel to avoid irritating blisters. Ryka’s RZX lines feature both Re-Zorb and Ultra Flex.

Altra Footwear has also been on the forefront of technology with its Zero Drop line of shoes which features a wide toe area. The heel and front of the foot are at the same level to reduce foot strike impact. Altra’s Instinct 2.0 retails for around $100. The Instinct is also an incredibly lightweight shoe.

Brooks Running’s Adrenaline 15 has been highly anticipated by many serious runners. Brooks was selling a limited edition Adrenaline 15 Statue of Liberty-inspired shoe at the Marathon Expo at the Javits Center.

Asics America is the official footwear company of the NYC Marathon. Its new product was the GEL Kayano-21 which claims to keep foot perspiration and foot pain down as well with its Fluid Ride technology.

In my opinion, the most important booth at the Marathon Expo didn’t belong to an apparel manufacturer but rather to Atlanta-based Intracell Technology, which was selling “The Stick” (thestick.com). The company’s motto is that “The Stick is like a toothbrush for your muscles.” The Stick is a rod comprised of various circular beads that massage the iliotibial (better known as simply “IT”) band of the leg. The IT band is the ligament that runs from outside the thigh from the hip down to the shin. It easily gets sore and painful with even a minimum amount of everyday wear and tear, let alone from exercise. The Stick massages that area and improves circulation which greatly reduces pain.

Khombu is a small company that has started taking on some of the big players in the snow boot industry such as Timberland, Sorel, and North Face. It has also gotten into the athletic shoe business with its popular Reef Shark 2 and Bonfire running shoes that have lower price points than its competitors. The company promotes the drainage factor of their shoes, meaning that they won’t absorb moisture if you are running in the rain or lightly step into a puddle.

Chris Rock gave the NYC Marathon play in his monologue when he hosted “Saturday Night Live” the night before the race. I am not sure that the NYRR executive board enjoyed it however as he reminded everyone about the bomb that went off during the 2013 Boston Marathon. He then mentioned how he would never enter the Freedom Tower because of what happened at the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001.

I have met Chris and he seems to be a decent guy. I have also enjoyed his act over the years and have laughed pretty hard at his humor. At the risk of sounding like a hypocrite, I probably would have laughed at his SNL standup bit about being a coward had it taken place in a comedy club. Using it however for a national forum such as “Saturday Night Live” gives comfort to those who want to destroy us. I wished that he would have realized that when he was writing it.

Former NBA star Kenny Smith, who grew up in Lefrak City and attended Archbishop Molloy High School, was in town last week as part of Turner Sports NBA media kickoff press event. He caused a stir when he said that LeBron James’ return to Cleveland was done not so much to try to prove author Thomas Wolfe, who wrote the novel “You Can Never Go Home Again,” wrong as much as it was to say that he believed that the Miami Heat’s days as an NBA powerhouse were over.

Kenny also said that Carmelo Anthony, who re-signed with the Knicks not only because he got the most money from them but also for the business opportunities that being in New York provides, would have an easier time attracting investors if he has an NBA championship ring around his finger.

I disagree with Smith on that point. Magic Johnson, who is a very successful businessman, has stated numerous times that he had trouble raising capital when his playing career was over in spite of his many NBA titles.

Kenny’s broadcasting colleague, Shaquille O’Neal, made the media chuckle when he was asked about his memories of the triangle offense and playing under Phil Jackson. “I never worried about learning the triangle offense since I got the ball to shoot most of the time.” When asked about the Knicks mastery of it, Shaq seemed doubtful. “For it to work, you need at least two bad mother— and the Knicks only have Carmelo!’ he said with a straight face.

This past summer’s Ice Bucket Challenge craze raised over $100 million for ALS research. A new documentary “Hope For Steve” puts a face on Lou Gehrig Disease as it follows the lives of Steve Dezember and his wife Hope from 2012 until April 2014. Steve was only 28 when he received the horrific news that he had ALS. He was dating Hope in 2012 when he learned of his fate. He proposed marriage to her and she accepted. It’s hard to keep your eyes dry watching the trailer. Expect “Hope For Steve” to get showings at the various 2015 film festivals.

Biz Bash Live is the annual trade show of entertainment and dining venues that compete for the corporate party business. Bowlmor, the Greenwich Village bowling alley that worked hard to make the once-dying sport hip to young people, has merged with the longtime industry leader, AMF. At Biz Bash, Bowlmor officials told me that they were excited about plans to remodel the AMF Bowling 34th Avenue Lanes in Woodside.

Also taking part at Biz Bash was NYY Steak, which has added a second restaurant in midtown Manhattan that looks exactly like the branch at Yankee Stadium. NYY Steak offers a three-course dinner named after Mariano Rivera whose menu price is $42 naturally. They have added a more expensive prix fixe in honor of Derek Jeter in which some of the proceeds will go to the former Captain’s Turn 2 Foundation.

Long Island City is becoming home to a lot of up and coming healthy beverage companies such as Tumeric and Love Grace Juices. At last week’s Tri-State Food Expo held at the Meadowlands Exposition Center, a new LIC-based company, Tea In First, unveiled its line of tasty spice chai tea bottles.

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