#10 in a series from Neely Spence: What Makes a T&F fan? Next up, Fred Carlson


#1: Deena Kastor | #2 Jordan Hasay | #3 Marc Bloom | #4 Josh Neyhart | #5 Mark Dennin | #6 John Nepolitan | Ashley Brasovan | Amby Burfoot | Victah Sailer | Fred Carlson



#10 in a Series: What makes a T&F fan?

Fred Carlson

Fred Carlson AKA sverige55 and known by the teams around Pittsburgh as Mr C, was raised in Connecticut and attended Simsbury High School.  As a HS athlete he ran a 4:27 mile and a 9:47 2-mile.  Mr. C went on to run at Carnegie Mellon University for two years before he decided to focus on academics and realized that the stress of college athletics were hurting his GPA.  He recently started back to running and is excited to have his heart rate back down in the low 50s.  He does an excellent job of telling his story in the interview below, so there is not much that needs to be said here.  Please read and enjoy the final Q&A from the series "What makes a T&F fan?".

Neely Spence-When did you become a fan of the sport? How did you get involved in track?
Fred Carlson-In the 1960s at summer camp-Camp Jewell, Colebrook CT, they had a camp Olympics the third session each summer. I loved that session. At age 10, 11, 12, and of course with absolutely no training, I found myself winning the 440, 880, and mile runs, as well as the camp 'marathon' (about 1.5 miles) quite easily. I was a weak hitter in Little League and average fielder, of average height and also quite skinny so serious efforts in baseball, basketball, and football did not appear to be in my future. My Dad ran in high school in the early 1940s and had a respectable 2:05 880 for those days that was good, so I guess I had a genetic predisposition to running.  When I was age 13 and a mopey 9th grader, my folks insisted I go out for running instead of just book-worming in my room or practicing my 1960s guitar riffs on my Silvertone electric guitar. They knew the high school athletic director who told me how to sign up for spring track. I always thank my folks for that guidance.

I created a comic book totally following the Track & Field News format that featured our team and times and others from around CT. We predicted where we would all finish at the 1976 or 1980 Olympics (flights of fantasy are part of the difference between fans and performers in track and XC!). Members of our team actually would get nicknames based on the nationalities and names of the top distance stars: I was always Dave Bedford of UK-a notorious heavy trainer with some stunning times who always choked at the big races, but I loved his long hair and devilish goatee beard. Anyone that trained over 120 mile weeks was just up my alley. Other kids on the team were Pre (US), Puttiemans (Belgium), Viren (Finland), Stewart (UK), Ron Hill (UK), Walker (NZ), Bayi (Tanz), Quax (NZ), etc. It was an atmosphere where everything was about the sport and having fun with it.

Despite the ins and outs of actually running myself, the allure of the distance part of the sport always captivated me. We had the Liquori-Ryun duels in the mile, then Filbert Bayi from Tanzania and John Walker from New Zealand (cast a world apart) breaking the 3:50 barrier. The Steve Ovett/Sebastian Coe/Steve Cram years in the UK pushed the record down to 3:46 high territory but I always knew that Steve Scott's underreported 3:47 high* was super tough as well. This UK boom also was the last hurrah in European running as that welfare state society has softened so much it is pathetic. The Scandinavians have been pathetic for 25 years as well--after all the great years from Nurmi in the 1920s to Viren and Pekko Pavarinta in the 1970s.

*That record lasted until this year by the way (broken by Webb FINALLY AFTER 25

NS-What do you find most intriguing about the sport? What separates this sport from others?
FC-The glowing impartiality of performance over constant measurements. The victory of the small. The low profile and humility of (most of) the stars. The underground nature and low visibility of the training. The placement of a human with only their thoughts to accompany them questioning "why am I doing this?". The imposition of life's universal realities into recreational activity, which is normally very subjective. The mathematics of the universe superimposed onto human effort. The battle of self vs self against the clock. The supreme gratefulness of the Ethiopian marathoner or 10K man crossing himself as he crosses the finish line, TRULY understanding the relationship of man and God. Those little guys, some of the oldest Christians on the planet earth, and persecuted by their Eritreian, Sudanese, and Djibouti Islamic neighbors, still honoring their maker honestly understanding that all provision comes from God through Christ.

NS-What drives you to spend your free time at meets? What is the most fanatic fan thing you have ever done?
FC-I love the open air, the warm ups, the tension before the starts. The colors of the uniforms. The staggering of heats from slowest to fastest and comparing times in between the heats. I can appreciate the top open competitions in the glorious springtime or the most amateurish dual meet in terrible weather--the performances in my mind are equally entertaining and inspiring cause these athletes are ALWAYS trying to do their best, whether their minds and bodies are allowing it or not on any given day it doesn't matter. Tracking improvements in a promising freshman from a March 25 scrimmage in the snow through making the wpial finals d7 around May 20. Watching my son break 10 in the 3200 for the first time, and hoping every rising soph gets to do that. Encouraging kids that they are NOT really missing anything having to spend 10 hours on a sunny day underneath the team tent.

Actually, the most fanatic fan thing I've ever done is run around the 2006 TSTCA XC meet (it is notoriously famous in penntrack lore for its absolutely terrible conditions and sliding mud paths) cheering on the Gateway kids and falling and sliding a few times while all the other parents were pretty much holding fast to their spectating positions so they wouldn't slip. I was covered head to toe in mud. My son Ricky slipped around the 1.5 mile curve and went from about 17th to 45th before he could get himself rolling again, his smile said it all! That was the meet where AA boys champ Lucas Zarzecny finished 22nd trying to run through without injuring himself! And the Mt Lebanon girls coach took his team out of the meet saying it was too dangerous.

And don't get in the way if the TV is on and my wife yells down to the studio "There's a meet on TV"--I make a 50 yd dash to see who it is and what's going on, indoor or outdoor, Olympics or HS Footlockers. Usually I can pick out who's in the lead and where they're from and what their PRs are and this drives her nuts. In the 1988 and 1992 Olympics I happened to be coincidentally painting and remodeling a bedroom (in 1988) and a kitchen and TV room (in 1992). With all the stuff under drop cloths, I insisted that we keep out the large color TV where I could see all the track events in the midst of all the remodeling carnage. The TV would of course get drops of paint and sanding dust on it but I HAD to see the fantastic 5K of the German surprise winner in 1988, and the battle in the 10K between the Ethiopians, Kenyans, and Moroccans in 1992. I just watched an indoor mile on TV with only 5 people in the final heat and I knew the top four by name (Lagat won), what countries were they originally from
(Nick Willis-New Zealand, e.g. and also attended U of Michigan), and what their PRs are (pretty closely).

Does a photographic memory help with track and XC fandom? I think it adds to the joy of the sport and the ability to appreciate the athleticism. I am gifted with that kind of memory and for good or bad, it affects my fanatic appreciation of anything related to T&F.

NS-What is your favorite event to watch and why?
FC-The 800 and the 1500 without question. Call it out-of-body experience, but I always identify with that length of racing. Speed meets endurance. I cannot conceive of the splits that the world class guys put down, it is so inspiring. The achievements just make me want to do better in all things in my life. When my son ran the second fastest 800 in western PA last spring (1:55.25 at Baldwin 5/4), and had many excellent 800s in opens and relays last spring, it was a pure visual delight to see the moves he made between 400 and 600 to take over. I could not conceive of that speed from my own HS times (2:05). For the world class guys to split a 53 last lap in some of the most competitive distance finals from 1500 to 10K (Geb 1996 Atlanta, e.g. or El Gherrouj in his WR ahead of Noah Ngeny) is just insanity and seriously defines talent+training=excellence in human endeavor.

His coach LaBuff told me it was simply this equation strength (from XC) + form (from reps and coaching technique) = excellence

NS-Who is the craziest/most passionate fan you know or have seen/heard about?
FC-Unfortunately, it's probably me. I'm called the 'guru' though I despise that name...I carry a clipboard, have two stop watches (old style) around my neck, and make insane charts of lap times and splits that only I can understand. I can follow 10 different runners in a 3200 writing splits down from a hand timed watch AND enjoy the race AND cheer. The kids from our team and all the other teams who know us and compete with us are very friendly with me cause they can find their splits out from me before they even have to chase down their coaches. Trying to hold up the fraternity of runners and knowing that they get better through knowledge, I hold no 'rivalries' with anyone in the sport, of course trying to inspire our own Gateway guys within Coach LaBuff's parental rules, as well as encourage runners from all schools.

I also met a Mr. Charles Williams at a meet in Indiana (Hanover Invitational) this past September while watching my son compete for the Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology XC team. Mr. Williams, DESPITE two recent knee surgeries due to a work accident, was out there running around the 8K course shouting out to me the best 10 places to watch the meet, handing out printouts of the course to all the parents, yelling like a nut, and falling out of breath and limping obviously. And he was only there to root on his son's girlfriend (his son had graduated the year before from Rose-Hulman!!)...this gent was up there. He had run d3 national class 800s for Boise State in the early 1970s being a Canadian immigrant, now working in Bloomington IN. My wife told me that I actually had competition now for world's most nutty stat freak and fan.

I also took the liberty of creating a Gateway long sleeved t that actually had a snarling, mean Gator on it rather than the cartoony, smiling comedy Gator that was used all the time. I felt the Gator should be emerging from the swamp, like XC runners always pounding through on rainy days. It was as much an act of fan-dom to get excited about and create this shirt as it was to join the team's excitement at receiving them after one hot practice!

NS-What would life be like without the sport?
FC-Who cares--it could not happen--here's why... Like all utopian ideals, we are not in a picture perfect world where such training and competition hold no sway. If there was only one runner left in the world, others would be fans simply because the endeavors would still inspire all. Life in this mortal coil is about challenge and opportunity and performance according to your gifts, and maximizing your gifts to serve yourself and others equally. The universal standards of track & field, and distance running in particular, evoke so many of God's universals in human life. Until He, the Lord Christ, returns and all is made new, we will always be in a struggle with our own selves and with death itself...and the parallels with endurance training evoked in Paul's epistles will always be with us until the End. Paul was a smart guy, as a home-schooled young lady like yourself would know intimately, and many of his metaphors of life as a Christian with life as an athlete uplift us physically, mentally, and more importantly, spiritually. St. Paul made tents for and rented tents out to the games around the ancient Mediterranean, like the Corinthian games and the Ephesian games, and doubtlessly he preached the Lord to those same athletes and people who came far and wide to be spectators at these ancient competitions. He used the metaphor of the marathoner, the sprinter, the boxer, the gladiatorial combatant, etc in many of his letters to the churches, and obviously in his
preaching. He was always grafting the mortal lives we lead (and even the inspiring performances that could come from mere mortals, both intellectually and physically) onto the heavenly realm where the spiritual battles we face are fought in prayer and inspiration in the life of the Master.**

When we reflect on His 40 days in the desert fasting and being tempted by Satan, how much attainable is running around a track 4 times, or for 26 miles until utterly exhausted? (or running my 5K daily around the elementary school grounds across the street in simple thanksgiving to still being able to do it...) There's the sports appeal, Neely, and why we could never be 'without it'...

** see 1 Corinthians 9:24-27; Galatians 5:7; Ephesians 6:10-17; Philippians
1:27-28, 2:16, 3:12-14; 1 Thessalonians 5:8; 1 Timothy 4:7b-10; 2 Timothy 2:5,
4:7-8; Hebrews 12:1-2, 7-12

c 2008 Frederick H Carlson
can be quoted by N Spence for her paper with proper footnoting.


#9 in a Series: What makes a T&F fan?

Victah Sailer

Victah is a native "Noo Yawker" and a graduate and former decathlete at East Stroudsburg University. Retired from the FDNY, he is very involved in photographing our sport, actually so much so that it is hard to find any information about him because most of what you will find are pictures he has taken. You can check out his website at www.photorun.net for a partial bio and the origin of the "Victah," which is long for "Victor." There you will also find his portfolio of some of the most amazing photos you will ever see. Victah is in Beijing as this is published, providing his usual extraordinary view of track & field. Please read on and you will have an inside scoop on Victah's perspective as a fan of our sport!

Neely Spence-When did you become a fan of the sport? How did you get involved in track?
Victah Sailer-Maybe in 1991 when I came to 262 West King St (Shippensburg) to photograph you, your dad and your mom after he won a bronze medal in Tokyo... actually I'm on a flight back from Tokyo after photograhing the Lake Biwa Marathon.... no actually, my dad was taking a photo of me while I was jumping into a pool, and he twisted his knee, well, the doctor told him to stop smoking and to start running, so I used to run with my dad and he did the Philly Marathon and the NYC Marathon in 1972.......so I ran the NYC Marathon in 1973, 74, 76 and 78.

NS-What do you find most intriguing about the sport? What separates this sport from others?
VS-The best athletes are down to earth and are normal, can you go out and have dinner with Alex Rodriquez,..........I've gone out with many athletes for dinner and socially...much more relaxed.

NS-What drives you to spend your free time at meets? What is the most fanatic fan thing you have ever done?
VS-Fan Fanatic.....wow, that is a tough one....I've done a lot over the past 30 years, but doing a couple of events on a weekend is nutty, like photographing an event in NYC on sat and being in LA for a track meet on sunday, ie Healthy Kidney/Adidas Track Classic or photographing the Freihofers Run for women in the morning at 10:30 in Albany NY and driving 3 hours to NYC for the Reebok NYC Grand Prix....

NS-What is your favorite event to watch and why?
VS-Berlin Marathon, it will upset many, but me and my wife Lisa feel like we are part of the Berlin marathon family, it all starts with the organization and the drivers, we are a very, very close and feel a special bond every September, it's tough to pick one group, but Frank and Mario are like family, and we are special son and daughter to the Milde Family who have been part of all the Berlin events, we brought my father this year, and they put him in the lead vehicle where he was able to watch the Haile World Record....it is the most special time of the year for us, each and every year, if you haven't been to Berlin, you haven't been to one of the best events in the world.

NS-Who is the craziest/most passionate fan you know or have seen/heard about?
VS-......hmmm..passionate, me,I love the sport and hate the cheats........craziest probably John Nepolitain.......he lives and breathes the sport and he is loving every minute of it at dyestat.com......it's great to have the Walt Murphys, John Dyes, Josh Rowe's, Don Rich's and countless others who are so happy with running.

NS-What would life be like without the sport?
VS-A world with a lot of fat people, it's exciting and fun, I just left one of the all time greats, Steve Moneghetti, he still runs 60 miles a week, Todd Williams tries to break 5 minutes for a mile each year, the great stories of Tony Reavis, we would have never known Mike Long, the Vic Navarra's, it's a very special sport with a lot of wonderful people and I am so happy to be a part of it and I look forward to seeing you compete for another 15 years....!!!!!


#8 in a Series: What makes a T&F fan?

Amby Burfoot

Amby grew up in Connecticut. Here he started his running career at Fitch Senior High School where he ran a PR of 9:39 for 2-miles. His High School coach was the 1957 Boston Marathon winner and a two time U.S. Olympic marathoner (The Young John Kelley) and encouraged Amby to become better. "My HS coach taught me a heck a lot about running, especially how to enjoy it while pursuing the pinnacles of excellence." Amby competed for Wesleyan University where his roommate was Bill Rodgers. He influenced Rodgers, who became a 4-time Boston Marathon winner. In college Amby stepped it up and ran a PR of 8:44 for the 2-mile indoors. At Amby's peak he ran 100-140 miles per week and boasts a PR of 2:14:28 for the marathon, which at the time was one second off the American Record! He was also a vegetarian throughout his competitive years, which I found very interesting because I am too. Amby now keeps himself busy with a job as the Executive Editor of Runners World Magazine and has written many books including: "The runner's guide to the meaning of life: What 35 years of running has taught me about winning, losing, happiness, humility, and the human heart", "The principles of running: Practical lessons from my first 100,000 miles." He also was featured in a running documentary "Spirit of the marathon." Read on to learn more about Amby and then check out his website... www.AmbyBurfoot.com.

Neely Spence-When did you become a fan of the sport? How did you get involved in track?

NS-What do you find most intriguing about the sport? What separates this sport from others?

What drives you to spend your free time at meets? What is the most fanatic fan thing you have ever done?

NS-What is your favorite event to watch and why?

NS-Who is the craziest/most passionate fan you know or have seen/heard about?

NS-What would life be like without the sport?

#7 in a Series: What makes a T&F fan?

Ashley Brasovan


Ashley Brasovan, a rising high school senior from Florida, is a petite young woman with a kind, courageous heart. I had a chance to talk with her when we sat together on the bus in San Diego (During our trip to Footlocker Nationals this past December.) She told me about how she had just gotten her drivers’ license and was afraid that she would be pulled over because she looks too young to be driving. She also said that she doesn't mind too much because she can shop in the children's department where clothes and shoes cost less. But don't be fooled by her innocence or small stature, for like the announcer at Nike Outdoor Nationals said "She may be tiny, but on the track she's a tiger!" Ashley won Footlocker Nationals this past year in a time of 17:20. She also was the 2007 Nike Indoor National Champion in the 2 mile. She holds the Junior National record in the 5,000 in a time of 16:19, which she set this past June. Then she came back the next day to take sixth and get All-American in the 2 mile. Ashley always wears a smile and is easy to talk to. She was one of the first to reply to me regarding this interview. Good luck in your senior year Ashley!

Neely Spence-When did you become a fan of the sport? How did you get involved in track?
Ashley Brasovan-I became a fan of the sport probably around freshman year when I started to get really serious about running. I first got involved in 6th grade because my gym teacher had our whole class run the mile and told me that I was pretty good and should try out for the track team.

What do you find most intriguing about the sport? What separates this sport from others?
AB-I like the competition and the competitors. Runners are generally a very nice group of people with good morals. Running takes a lot more self discipline and determination than many other sports.

NS-What drives you to spend your free time at meets? What is the most fanatic fan thing you have ever done?
AB-I like going to meets to see friends. The most fanatic think that I have ever done is probably just face paint (I know not very exciting but most of the time I am the one racing)!

NS-What is your favorite event to watch and why?
AB-I love watching the mile because it is an event I can relate to and know how it feels to run. Also I know what the times mean and what is good.

NS-Who is the craziest/most passionate fan you know or have seen/heard about?
AB-Kayla Hale's teammates would have to win this one. They all dressed up and flew out to CA to support her at Footlocker Nationals. They missed school, did full-on body paint, and researched all the girls so they could know who she was up against.

NS-What would life be like without the sport?
AB-I think my life would be very sad and boring without running.


#6 in a Series: What makes a T&F fan?

John Nepolitan

It was hard to find a picture of Mr. Nepolitain because he is the one taking the pictures! He travels from to race to race for Dyestat.com, taking pictures and getting coverage of all your favorite runners. He recently just got back from covering the Olympic Trials in Oregon where ArmoryTrack.com's Tim Fulton captured "Nepo" taking in Hayward Field.

Neely Spence-When did you become a fan of the sport? How did you get involved in track?
John Nepolitain-My first memory of the sport was watching the 1972 Olympics (I was 12) on TV, yes the year Pre ran, but I don't really recall him running. From watching that I was hooked as a fan. It would not be until I was in Jr High that I joined a team. In grade 7 I only did track as I played pee wee football. The next year I moved up to midget football due to age but I was still real small and in an early practice I got laid out and the wind knocked out of me bad. As I lay there on the ground with my head spinning, I thought that in warm ups I could outrun everybody in the 600 m (about) run we had to do in full pads and at that point I figured I would join my schools XC team.

NS-What do you find most intriguing about the sport? What separates this sport from others?
JN-I love the individual and team aspect of it. There is a big team concept, but in many ways it (XC & track) is an individual sport. Another thing I love about it is that for the most part the harder you work the better you can get.

NS-What drives you to spend your free time at meets? What is the most fanatic fan thing you have ever done?
JN-Two things drive me to go to meets 1) love of the sport on all levels and 2) the social aspect of it. So many of my friends are coaches/officials/athletes that going to the meets is a way to see and be with so many. Wildest thing I have done I guess would have been in January of '08 - I left Friday night from Newark - flew to Edinburgh Scotland for the IAAF XC Meet there (almost like a pre-worlds race) then flew home Sunday to be back at work Monday AM. I spent less than 24 hours in the UK.

What is your favorite event to watch and why?
JN-I love XC the best. In track I love the distance events, but the hammer throw is a thing of grace.

NS-Who is the craziest/most passionate fan you know or have seen/heard about?
JN-Being at a few World Champs meets there is a group of Swedish fans that go everywhere to support their athletes. They get all dressed up, bring bells, horns, hats with Viking horns in them and flags and have a great time.


#5 in a Series: What makes a T&F fan?

Mark Dennin


Many athletes struggle their senior year with injuries, stress, illnesses etc. Gonna-be freshman at Georgetown University, Mark Dennin was not one of those people. He worked hard his whole high school career, matured into a stellar athlete, working his way to the top. As a senior he won PA Cross Country States; making it two-in-a-row for Boyertown; secured a spot on the Footlocker National team and earning all-American; and winning the 3200 at States this past May. His high school PRs are 4:21-mile, 9:03-3200, 15:06-5k.

Neely Spence-When did you become a fan of the sport? How did you get involved in track?
Mark Dennin-I started track in seventh grade and then went out for the xc team in ninth. I had been cut from the basketball team in seventh and didn’t want to get cut from the baseball team, so I tried track instead, and by eighth grade I had broken five minutes in the mile and knew it was my sport. After my first xc season I became a fan of the sport after watching Jason Weller come out of nowhere to medal at states as a sophomore. From then on I knew all the guys he was competing against and what type of times they ran. As I came into my own as a runner, I became an even bigger fan of track as a whole, but I always knew the distance competition better than anything else.

NS-What do you find most intriguing about the sport? What separates this sport from others?
MD-The most intriguing things about track are the people who participate in it. They live for the sport, regardless of their ability. They train hard and enjoy running even though its not exactly a pick up game.

NS-What drives you to spend your free time at meets? What is the most fanatic fan thing you have ever done?
MD-Usually I am competing in a meet that I am watching, but I love watching track. The year Jason Weller won states we made and wore “Stop Weller” t-shirts which played on the “Stop Pre” t-shirts.

NS-What is your favorite event to watch and why?
MD-The best event to watch is undoubtedly the mile/1600. It has strategy, lots of lead changes, and speed at the end. You never know what's going to happen. As far as field events go, the pole vaulters never cease to amaze me.

NS-Who is the craziest/most passionate fan you know or have seen/heard about?
MD-Dennis Young.

NS-What would life be like without the sport?
MD-I would probably be playing other sports… poorly. Other than that I would probably be getting myself into trouble with all the extra free time.


#4 in a Series: What makes a T&F fan?

Josh Neyhart

Currently a junior at Shippensburg University, Neyhart spends his free time searching the web for results...track results. He is the type who sits in front of his computer and hits the refresh button every minute until the results are posted. When I called him this week it was 11:30AM and I woke him up... Lazy college kid you might say, but that would be a mistake. You see, Neyhart is in a different time zone...attending the Olympic Trials in Eugene, Oregon. When he is not in class, running, or watching track meets, he keeps himself occupied with a Flotrack.com internship, where he has interviewed top runners like Ryan Hall, Dathen Ritzenhein, Abdi Abdirahman and Meb Keflezighi. Neyhart holds high school PRs of 1:58-800m, 4:20-mile, 16:19-5k cross country. College PRs of 1:54-800m, 3:52-1500m, 8:52-3k. Here are some of his stories...

Neely Spence-When did you become a fan of the sport? How did you get involved in track?
Joshua Neyhart-I got involved in track after I had some success in minor running events at elementary field days. It kind of just sprung from there. Both my parents had large involvement in the sport and they were excited for me and helped me find my stride. My love for the sport beyond just my own participation began around 2002 (my freshman year in cross country in high school) one of the older guys on the team gave me a copy of "Running with the Buffaloes" and I loved it. I loved reading about other people in the sport and I wanted to read more so I searched for more books and more info about great runners of the sport on the internet. From then on I was hooked.

NS-What do you find most intriguing about the sport? What separates this sport from others?
JN-I love the human element of the sport. How much work goes into every effort on the track or road or course and most of it is unseen to the normal fan. No other sport is as head-to-head as track, it is amazing how it is so pure...it literally was the original sport. That is what makes it so exciting to me, that it is so natural. Seeing humans push themselves to their limit is an exciting thing to watch. That is what makes track and field much different than any other sport. It's also why I can't understand how ESPN can show hours of bowling every Sunday, but getting them to show some track is asking too much. If more people could just see one quality mile race in person or on TV, I think track would have a much bigger following.

NS-What drives you to spend your free time at meets? What is the most fanatic fan thing you have ever done?
JN-Being at a great meet in person is an unforgettable experience. Last summer I got to see the Reebok Grand Prix and USATF Champs in Indiana in person. Both were amazing meets. I got to see guys run 3:52 for a mile, 19.63 for a 200m among other amazing performances. Seeing those events in person is not only exciting but motivates me a lot. However, the most fanatic thing I have ever done is skip a day of class on a whim, and drive nine hours, buy a cheap motel room in Terre Haute, IN with my roommate to watch the D1 NCAA Cross Country Championships. I also didn't tell my parents until I was out there. That was an exciting meet, and it was amazing to see that competition up close.

NS-What is your favorite event to watch and why?
I love the mile, not only because it is an event near and dear to my heart, but it has all the elements and drama. I am intrigued by all track events, even the throws and jumps are incredible to me due to their technicality, but the mile is amazing. A sprint can go by so fast and a 10k can be lap after lap of waiting, but a mile is four perfect laps that unfold like a great story.

NS-Who is the craziest/most passionate fan that you have ever seen/heard about?
JN-There is this guy I met at D1 Nationals (in Terre Haute, IN) who is a huge fan. He is a supporter of Wisconsin and Chris Solinsky and has, apparently gone to every major meet Chris has been a part of since his freshman year of high school. The guy organized a bus of other fans to go to Indiana and even had a clubhouse devoted to track and field back in Wisconsin (where he lived). He wore a hat covered in pins from all these amazing meets he had been to and it was pretty much every significant meet in the US over the course of the years. The guy was pretty wild, but I thought it was really awesome!

NS-What would life be like without the sport?
JN-It would be totally different for me. I think track and field is so pure and helps so many people learn lessons they can apply to life beyond track. (I mean beyond the obvious health benefits that go along with it.) I couldn't imagine my life without track right now. It helps to keep me centered and motivated through all aspects of life; without it, I am not sure where I would be. At the end of the day though, it is a very healthy obsession of a very pure and amazing sport.



#3 in a Series: What makes a T&F fan?

Marc Bloom

This Sheepshead Bay high school graduate from Brooklyn, New York started his writing career almost 45 years ago. Some of his first assignments included various NY track and cross country lists, NY State yearbooks, and writing for a local newspaper, the Long Island Press (now defunct). He has since become an accomplished journalist, writing numerous articles, producing a popular high school running magazine "The Harrier," and has had several books published, including one of my favorites, "God on the Starting Line." He is missing his first Olympic Trials to finish a new book. He has contributed a lot of time to the athletes and fans of track and field through participating, coaching, and of course, writing. Here is the inside scoop...

Neely Spence-When did you become a fan of the sport/ how did you get involved in track and field?
Marc Bloom- I got involved when I ran high school track and cross country in Brooklyn in the early 1960s. I was an average runner (quarter miler) but the essential honesty and work ethic of the sport got hold of me, and I guess I became a track nut pretty quickly. I really got hooked seeing my first issues of Track and Field News in 1963, and I became a T&FN "correspondent" in '64 as a high school senior. I wrote up meet reports and did some feature stories, fell in love with writing, learned a lot, worked hard, and within a year or so started writing for the New York Times.

NS-What do you find most intriguing about the sport? What separates this sport from others?
MB-The mind-body connections and how the mind controls almost everything, which means we can all be much better runners. The profound beauty, joy and spiritual qualities of running that can impact your whole life. The work ethic...you can't fake it.

NS-What drives you to spend your free time at meets? What is the most fanatic fan thing you have ever done?
MB-I no longer spend free time at meets. I never did really. For about 35 years I had work responsibilities at virtually every meet I attended (except for those my two daughters ran). I could not make my Sheepshead Bay high school relay teams for Penn Relays, but of course I accompanied them and was almost thrown off the team by the coach twice for the following: a) organizing betting pools among teammates on the split times our guys would run in the mile and 2-mile relays; b) refusing to leave the Penn Relays early to catch a train home when our team did. In the old days of the '60s and '70s there were times when I went to three meets in the same day (mainly to make sure I got complete results...pre-internet of course). One time I drove eight hours with my wife and baby daughter to the NY State high school champs. When we got there the night before, as it was getting dark, I went to a track and ran eight miles around it to get in my work-out while my wife and daughter watched in the car with the heater on. (Ahhh, to be young and dopey).

NS-What is your favorite event to watch and why?
MB-The mile and 2-mile, I favor the distances. Long enough to be absorbing, have different paces, strategies, lots of drama... Nowadays, I'm turned off from the sprints because of the drug issues.

NS-Who is the craziest fan that you know of or have seen/heard about?
MB-The most passionate fan I know is probably my one-time mentor and good friend, the track journalist Jim Dunaway. He is pushing 80 and still seems as entranced by track as ever. I think he once said that "the only bad track meet is the one that's not held.”



#2 in a Series: What makes a T&F fan?

Jordan Hasay

If you have ever picked up a running magazine you have probably seen her picture or have read her name in a headline. She keeps the articles flowing and the journalists struggling to keep up with her running accomplishments. It is easy to forget that she is still in high school. Jordan Hasay is one of the best high school athletes ever, and also one of the most kind and humble people I have met. That is a rare combination. I had this chance to talk with her while she and I were in a small group of people who, at the post-race Foot Lock nationals dance were trying to stay out of the craziness (away from the boys), which gave me a chance to meet her officially for the first time. (She later accepted my invitation to participate in this survey.)

Jordan Hasay, 3rd at the 2007 Foot Locker Nationals -
Photo by John Herzog, MileStat.com, a MileSplit.us affiliate

She has been national news since the beginning of her career. Going into her eighth grade year she set the USATF Junior Olympics record in both the 1500 and 3000. The following summer she went back and broke the records she had set the previous year, clocking a 4:28.61 and a 9:35.12. She was the second freshman ever to win Foot Locker nationals and has won U.S. World-cross trials the past two years. She houses PRs of 4:16.98 for 1500, 4:39.13 for 1600, 9:23.90 for 3000 and her most recent addition of 9:52.13 for 3200 which she ran several weeks ago to defend her now three-time state 3200 title. She is a distance star now, and only has brighter things ahead. But meanwhile, she answered a few questions...

Neely Spence-When did you become a fan of the sport? How did you get involved in Track?
Jordan Hasay-I started running with the Junior High track team in fourth grade because I was beating all the boys in PE class! However, I didn't start running seriously until seventh grade when I joined a local running club, the SLDC (San Luis Distance Club). This was the same year that I made it to the Junior Olympics and won both the 1500 meter and 3000 meter runs. That was when I started to really love the sport and I committed to making it a part of my life.

NS-What do you find most intriguing about the sport? What separates this sport from others?
JH-What I find most intriguing about running is its honesty and effort. It takes a lot of hard work in order to become the best runner you can be. The amount of miles that you run and the amount of work you put in is what you will get out of it. Another thing I particularly love about the sport is the people that are involved in it. I love going to track and cross country meets each week because the people involved are just so nice! Especially having experienced Footlocker Nationals and the World Youth team, I feel runners are a great group of people. I enjoy being a part of that.

NS-What drives you to spend your free time at meets?
JH-Similar to the answer above. The people and the excitement pull me towards these events. I especially love watching the professional runners race. This past summer I had the honor of watching Deena Kastor race...It was amazing!

NS-What is your favorite event to watch and why?
JH-I like watching all the events! I spend most of my time watching the middle distance events though, such as the 800, 1500 and 3000s. Also, I really enjoy watching the 100s too. I think it is very exciting to watch such a tactical race. Being a distance runner, starts aren't really that important, so I enjoy watching the runners getting their starting blocks ready and trying not to false start, etc.

NS-Who is the craziest or most passionate fan that you know or have seen/heard about?
JH-Well, I have seen a lot of crazy fans at meets. People who have painted their bodies, made big posters, etc. But in general, the most passionate fan I know is my coach. Coach Mando has been involved in the sport for many years, as a runner himself and now as a coach. He follows all the runners in the sport and tells me about lots of different strategies that runners used in national and Olympic races. Also, when we go to meets he basically knows every coach and athlete there!

NS-What would life be like without the sport?
JH-Life without this sport would be very different. I believe that God has blessed me with the ability to be able to run fast and I love running and showing his glory. Without running, I would not have had so many great experiences and I would not get to travel the country and the world. I love the sport and wish to continue running as long as possible and then continue to stay involved through coaching and volunteering in any way that I can!


#1 in a Series: What makes a T&F fan?

Deena Kastor


If you are a runner or a part of the running community, you have heard her name. Deena Kastor is arguably the best distance runner our country has ever produced. She is the epitome of a humble, hard working athlete who has earned her success by years of dedication. In the past four years, Deena has earned a trip to the Athens Olympics where, in the marathon, she took home the bronze after a brilliantly planned race in almost 100-degree weather. She has since won the Chicago Marathon, London Marathon and most recently, the U.S. Olympic Trials Marathon in Boston. This California-raised phenom who ran collegiately for Arkansas also holds the U.S. record in both the half-marathon (1:07:34 in Berlin) and marathon (2:19:36 in London). We asked her about her passion for running, and here are her responses.

Deena Kastor winning the 2008 Olympic Trials Marathon -
Photo by Victah Saylor, PhotoRun.net


Neely Spence-When did you become a fan of the sport? How did you get involved in running?
Deena Kastor-I began running when I was eleven years old and loved it from the first day. I tried other sports (soccer, softball, ice skating) but didn’t have much success. It is hard to remember what came first for me, [in running] success or love, or if they came together in one nice package.


NS-What do you find most intriguing about the sport? What separates this sport from others?
DK-Running is such a special sport because it is one of the most participatory sports in the whole world. I think it draws so many people because it is inexpensive; there are no memberships or equipment necessary to run. All you need is a pair of shoes and some people don’t even have that. Running seems simple; you put one foot in front of the other, but the rewards are much deeper. The obvious benefits are physical, but runners also acquire a mental strength that is a great bonus to being healthy.


NS-What drives you to spend your free time at running events?
DK-Since running means so much to my life and my lifestyle, it is exhilarating to see how many people are affected by this sport. If there is a chance of great performances, personal bests, records broken and goals achieved, then I want to be there to support the effort.


NS-What is your favorite event to watch and why?
DK-I really like watching all the events. Each one takes a special skill and success requires talent, hard work and passion.


NS-Who is the most passionate fan that you know?
DK-My mom is the craziest fan I know! She subscribes to every running magazine, has every running website as her “favorites” on her computer and travels with my dad to all competitions…even some I’m not competing in.


NS-What would life be like without running?
DK-Life would be pretty lonely without this sport. In a sport that seems individual, running brings people together. We compete on a team, we join other runners in some of the most beautiful parks in the world, we get together to compete against the league, state, nation or world in competitions and have friends in all these places. It is a remarkable coming together of healthy bodies and minds.


If you would like to participate in Neely's series, What Makes a T&F Fan? - email her by clicking here.