AUA: March 21, 2002:
Weather Forecast for the USA 50km Championship from two days out
(Thursday, March 21): Snow flurries and high winds today, with possible accumulation of up to 1 inch.
Very cold friday (below freezing all day), with 20mph winds.
Race day (Sat.): partly sunny, temperature in the 20's for the start, climbing to the low 40's.
The Strange story of the American 50K Road Record(The American Ultrarunning Association is grateful to Nick Marshall, pioneer American ultra historian, for much of the background information in this article) WOMEN'S RECORD The easy part first. The Women's American 50km Record is 3:13:51, set by Janis Klecker in 1983. It is a road mark, the Track version being held by Ann Trason at 3:20:23 The record progress can be nicely traced back to 1976, when Penny DeMoss ran what was probably a world best time of 3:48:27 in the very first USA 50km National Championship. Following that, the record progressed as follows: 1978, Sue Krenn, 3:40:52 1979, Sandy Kiddy, 3:37:08 1980, Jan Arenz, 3:26:47 1981, Mary Bange, 3:23:31 1983, Linda Edgar, 3:21:27 Edgar's time was a world best, set in January in Seattle. The following December, in Tallahassee, Janis Klecker put the mark out of reach with her still standing 3:13:51 (pace: 6:14/mile). Now, what about the men? MEN'S RECORD One of the stranger stories of ultra recordkeeping is the perplexing fact of Jeff Wall's 3:00:00, run in November 1982, sitting for over 20 years as the official American men's 50km Road Record. Strange that no one has bettered it on the roads in those 20 years. But stranger still that at least a dozen American men ran faster (some of them MUCH faster) BEFORE that. Before we explore that anomaly, let's set the "record" straight that Barney Klecker holds what we can legitimately call the "absolute" American record (i.e., either track or road), his 2:52:48 (pace: 5:33/mile) still unchallenged in its 22nd year as the official American TRACK record. Before we go any further, some bureaucratic and political history is in order here. From the late 70's through the mid-80's, the practice of official road recordkeeping by the national governing body was in a long, painful state of transition. It wasn't until about 1983 that all of the rules and standards (timing, course measurement, record submission and review, verification, ratification) became established and and codified in such a way that they could be understood and followed uniformly throughout the country. Some races from that era (e.g., the Chicago event in which Barney Klecker set his still-standing American 50 mile record of 4:51:25 in 1980) were conducted and documented in line with what the evolving requirements were at the time. Many others were not. Or, if they were, the complete documentation never made it to the governing body, which then could not officially ratify them based on just verbal or press reports. Now, this was the heyday of American distance racing. EVERYONE was faster back then, from 1 mile through 50 miles (hardly any Americans raced 100km back then). Most American ultras were held on the road or track, and trail ultrarunning was a newly-emerging fringe phenomenon. So, a fair number of decent American marathoners moved up to road ultras, and they brought their legspeed with them. At the 50km distance, they led the world until the South Africans took over in the late 80's. It wasn't until the mid-80's that most American road ultra directors had caught onto the fact that setting official records required close attention to things like course certification, recording of laptimes, multiple backup timing devices, etc. But by that time American male legspeed was in decline, and a mini golden era of the sport had quietly come and gone. So, at Pittsburgh this weekend (weather permitting) we may well see a new "official" American road record. Which would be great. You gotta start somewhere. But hopefully it will be the beginning of a quest, not the end of an attempt. Now how about that mini golden era? Here's a capsule summary of the rich legacy our predecessors have left us.... 1976: The inaugural AAU National 50km Championship in Sacramento. Course certified by the standards at that time (which were just a bit more lenient than today's standards). Chuck Smead, a sub-2:15 marathoner, goes through the marathon mark under 2:20, then hangs on for a world best 2:50:46. Still the fastest American 50km ever, by the watch. 1977: National AAU 50km Championship is held in New York's hilly Central Park. Fritz Mueller wins in 2:58:58. 1978: Ken Moffitt runs 2:58:46 on a hilly course at Las Posas Hills, CA. 5 months later: Mueller defends his national title at the U.S. Championship in Brattleboro Vermont in 2:58:20. 1979: Back to Las Posas Hills: Bill McDermott runs 2:58:35. 5 months later: Back to Brattleboro for the National Championship. The greatest 50km in American history. For perspective: Frank Bozanich (who is still winning ultras today) runs 3:03 and barely makes the top 10! Just ahead of him is Ray Scannell (also still running ultras today), who had led through 20 miles. At the front: John Cederholm defeats Fritz Mueller, 2:56:43 to 2:59:05. 1981: TAC/USA National Championship in Roseburg, OR: Richard Holloway wins in 2:55:54. 5 months later: Barney Klecker runs 2:58:38 on a certified, uphill course with a 20mph crosswind at Copper Harbor, Michigan. 1 month later: Charlie Trayer clocks a certified 50km split of 3:00:18 in the Two Bridges 36 miler in Washington, DC. 1 month later: Klecker runs his American Track Record 2:52:48 in Tucson. 1 month later: Klecker runs 2:57:13 on a certified road course in East Peoria, IL. 1982: Tom Fleming (2:12 marathoner) runs his only ultra: 2:52:30 for 50km at Cedar Grove, NJ. 1 week later: Trayer wins TAC/USA National Championship in Washington, DC in 2:59:36. 8 months later: Jeff Wall runs his still-standing official U.S. Road Record 3:00:00 in San Francisco. The first mark for which the governing body receives full documentation necessary for recordkeeping. On the very same day: In New York's hilly Central Park, Don Paul, who ironically lives in San Francisco, runs 2:50:55. Given the tighter certification standards of the time (compared to Smead's 1976 mark of 2:50:46), Paul's is arguably the greatest 50km ever run by an American to date. The course measurement, lap-counting, and timing documentation are insufficient. 2 weeks later: Twins Richard and Peter Dodd tie to win a 50km in Madison, WI in 2:59:56. 2 weeks later: Barney Klecker runs 2:51:53 on a certified road course in Wakulla Springs, FL. Insufficient documentation for records. 1 year later (Dec. 1983): Janis Klecker runs her still standing American Record 3:13:51 at Wakulla Springs. Ahead of her, husband Barney runs 2:53:45. Janis' mark has full documentation and is ratified as the official U.S. road record. For reasons still not clear today, Barney's mark from the same event is not ratified. Speculation is that Paul's 2:50:55 from the previous year had been widely publicized in the running press as a new American Record, and Klecker was chasing that time, so Barney's 2:53:45 might have been perceived by all (including himself) as a non-record run and therefore full documentation was never completed. In almost 20 years since then, no American male has broken 3:00:00 for 50km on a certified road course. Postscript: Smead, Paul, and Klecker were all marathoners in the 2:15 range. The action begins Saturday, March 23, at 7:00AM Eastern time. One or two live updates and immediate results will be posted on the website of the American Ultrarunning Association at: http://www.americanultra.org -Dan Brannen firstname.lastname@example.org
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