With Meb Keflezighi and Sunday’s New York City Marathon serving as dual backdrops, the running scene in Mammoth took a giant stride this week.
The High Sierra Striders, whose leaders, Elaine Smith and coach Andrew Kastor, pushed through a five-year effort that resulted in the new Mammoth Track, will merge with the elite athletes of the Mammoth Track Club.
“The model is really the Oregon Track Club,” said John Urdi, the executive director of Mammoth Tourism, who has stood in strong support of the running scene in Mammoth.
“In Oregon, the amateur runners and the elite runners all can share the same things, like coaching, facilities, communications and so on,” he said. “The Mammoth Track Club has gone public.
The new all-weather track, meanwhile, is ready to go. Situated near the Whitmore Pool on Benton Crossing Road, the track will have its Grand Opening on Saturday, Nov. 17, at noon.
Members of the “new” Mammoth Track Club (the “High Sierra Striders” moniker will go the way of the wind) pay a $50-a-year fee for dues, then take advantage of all different kinds of coaching, from the Striders’ Andrew Kastor all the way up to MTC coach Terrence Mahon.
It’s a big deal for Mammoth, said Urdi, who was among several who helped unite the San Diego Road Runners and Mammoth with Mammoth’s first-ever sanctioned half-marathon next June.
To help put Mammoth on the map in New York, former NYC Marathon champion Meb Keflezighi, 37, will run in his fourth marathon in the same calendar year—a rarity in the marathon contingent. He’ll then attend the sponsoring New York City Road Runners banquet at the swanky Eleven Madison Park restaurant.
Keflezighi finished fourth in last summer’s Olympic Games in London, setting his own personal best for a marathon along the way.
Leading the Mammoth group along with Keflezighi will be Deena Kastor, who will deliver the keynote speech Sunday evening. Urdi said he expects Deena to put heavy emphasis on Mammoth distance running and now, track running.
As usual, Urdi will be there, too, pushing the Mammoth Track Club at a Friday reception (Nov. 2) at Tavern on the Green in Central Park, where on Sunday the runners will finish the race.
As if to emphasize Mammoth’s rising profile in the running world, Snowcreek Resort and Mammoth Lakes Tourism have teamed up to auction away a “Mammoth Lakes Training Getaway for Two” package, featuring five nights for two people at the Mammoth Endurance Training Crib, five days of complimentary access to Snowcreek’s Athletic Club, plus car rental, a kayaking opportunity, a gondola ride at Mammoth Mountain and some food/restaurant packages from Gomez’s and Old New York Deli and Bagel in the Village.
From a national point of view, it will be Keflezighi who has become the face of Mammoth running, from his ubiquitous television commercials before and during the 2012 Olympic Games in London to his Skechers running shoe ads splashed all over sports television.
His presence will reunite the three-man U.S. Olympic marathon.
“This is the first time that we have boasted of the entire U.S. Olympic men’s team in New York,” said Richard Finn, spokesman for New York Road Runners, host of the event, in an email.
Two of the three—Ryan Hall and Abdi Abdirahman—both dropped out of the London Olympic marathon before the halfway point.
Keflezighi, the 2009 winner of New York City Marathon and silver medalist at the 2004 Olympics, and Abdirahman, a four-time U.S. champion in the 10,000 meters, both are in the 2012 New York marathon field, along with Ryan Hall, the only American to break 2-hours, 5-minutes in a marathon.
Rounding out the American marathoners are Mammoth Track Club’s Scott Bauhs, Jason Hartmann, Brett Gotcher, Nick Arciniaga, Andrew Carlson, and Ryan Vail.
Hartmann was a fourth-place finisher at a scorching hot Boston Marathon. Arciniaga, Carlson, and Vail all placed in the top 11 at January’s U.S. Olympic Trials marathon in Houston.
Bauhs, a member of last year’s world championship team in the 10,000 meters, will be making his marathon debut.
All three Olympians are veterans of New York’s marathon—Keflezighi has said it ranks among his favorite races—but this year they will be racing for larger cash prizes than in previous versions of the 26.2-mile race.
A new $100,000 prize purse for the fastest American racers will be split among the top five male and top five female finishers, in addition to the money offered for overall winners and other divisions.
The new money will lift the total 2012 New York City Marathon prize purse to $853,000, up from more than $650,000 last year.
The race will be broadcast live nationwide on ESPN, for the first time since 1993.
For Keflezighi, even entering the race bends the mind.
Given the grueling demands of elite marathoning, many professionals limit racing to a couple times a year, especially as racing has become increasingly competitive.
All five of the races in the World Marathon Majors series—Boston, London, Berlin, Chicago, and New York—saw course records drop in 2011, including a world record of 2:03:38 by Kenyan Patrick Makau in Berlin.
With his fourth place Olympic finish, the New York City Marathon would be Keflezighi’s third of the season if he completes it and fourth in the calendar year.
He is not going to let up anytime soon, either. The Road Runners said Keflezighi already has his sights set beyond the Tavern on the Green finish.
As part of a two-year contract, he has also committed to run the 2013 New York City Marathon, according to NYRR.