An unusually mild and damp New Year’s Eve morning greeted the runners with thick fog on this, the second Wring Out the Old, Ring in the New trail run since the pandemic struck. Thanks to CRR Bill Rose for once again organizing this annual event.
CRR Sam Parsons, the Newark native who ran for The Tatnall School and North Carolina State, recently competed for Germany (his mother’s home country) in the final of the 5000m at the World Athletics Championships in Eugene, Oregon. He is the son of CRR George Parsons and CRR Christina Parsons.
Leading up to the Worlds, Parsons’s training had been good. While in California in May, he had run a 5K personal best of 13:21.17. And just two weeks prior to his trip to Eugene, he had broken his own mile best by running a 3:55.81. Back in April, Parsons thrilled hundreds of local track enthusiasts at The Tatnall School track by becoming the first ever to run a sub-4 mile on Delaware soil (see Parsons conquers Mile Challenge).
So, it seemed Parsons was ready. In past Olympic trials and at the World Championships in Doha, Qatar, he had come close to being in a final, but this was a special opportunity for him.
Fast forward to the 5000m semifinal #2. Parsons was competing for a spot in the final with the likes of the always-prominent Kenyan, Ethiopian, and Ugandan runners, as well as Norway phenom Jakob Ingebrigsten, who had just placed second in the 1,500m final. Another local runner in that same race was Charter School of Wilmington and Harvard standout Kieran Tuntivate.
Parsons ran a smart race, staying with the lead pack through most of the race. Though he lost a bit of ground in the final laps, he placed 9th in the semi with a finishing time of 13:24.5, which was good enough to qualify for the final. As he crossed the finish line, a big smile appeared on his face, as he knew instantly that he had made it.
“I’m the happiest guy in Hayward right now,” Parsons said. “Not too happy I won’t be able to go to the Wild Duck the next two nights after that; I certainly was banking on that. But final on Sunday, I think that’s a little bit better.”
Besides his parents, at least one other Creek Road Runner, CRR Dave Schultz, and his son Ben were at Hayward Field to cheer for Parsons in person.
That was Thursday night, July 2nd. Just three days to rest and prepare for Sunday night’s final.
Unfortunately, the final did not go according to plan for Parsons. He and British runner Marc Scott stayed in contact with the lead pack, but, as the race sped up in the final couple laps, both runners were seriously gapped. Parsons ended up finishing last in the final in, what was for him a disappointing, 13:45.9. Last in the final in this case, though, represents 15th best in the world!
CRR Mark Deshon recently had the opportunity to interview Parsons about his experience, and here’s what he had to say.
How would you assess your effort in the final? You looked in good shape until late in the race, when the pack pulled away from you and the Brit.
“[It was] definitely one of the hardest races I’ve ever run. Basically, with 800m to go, I just bottomed out, completely just wiped. Definitely one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do.”
How difficult was it to gear up for a bigger race just 72 hours after having run a 13:24?
“[This was my] first time ever running two 5Ks in such a short timespan under so much stress and tension…in an arena like that. There’s nothing more motivating than getting your ass kicked at a higher level to want to figure out how to run…and be successful at that level.”
Did you and Kieran Tuntivate discuss anything before your qualifying semi? It seems he wasn’t able to keep the fast pace.
“I did see Kieran. We texted back and forth a little bit before the prelim. He was still optimistic going into the prelim. Unfortunately, he didn’t have a great day…. We talked about the field, what the race was probably going to be like, and talked tactics a little bit.”
Give us your impression of having been on the world stage in Steve Prefontaine’s signature race on his hallowed ground.
“Steve Prefontaine was my hero…. He really made running cool for me. It definitely was a full-circle moment for me. To have been watching Without Limits [the classic movie about the 1970s Oregon Olympian] before essentially every big high school race to then running on Hayward Field, where half those races in the movie were, was definitely surreal for me, and I cherished every moment there, without a doubt.”
What was the atmosphere like in that stadium?
“The atmosphere was crazy. I’d never quite run in a stadium with 50,000 people like that,…sold out, just yelling and screaming…. There was so much love. I heard ‘Sam, Sam, Sam’ so many times as I was going around the track. So, that was really special to have kind of like a pseudo–home field advantage there.”
What interesting off-track stuff did you do while in Eugene?
“I got to know [reigning Olympic 5000m champion] Joshua Cheptegei [the Ugandan who finished 9th in the final]. He lived in the same hall [as I did], and we got to drink tea together before the race…. He was very proud of me for making the 5K final…. It was really special to talk to, quite possibility, the greatest distance runner of my generation like that. That was really special, and he’s a kind, kind soul. I actually got his race bib also after the 5K final, so that will be a great memory I’ll always get to have and cherish.”
U.S. runner Grant Fisher ran well in the final, placing 6th in a time of 13:11.65, less than three seconds behind Norway’s Jacob Ingebrigsten, who took the gold medal in 13:09.24.
Parsons, who typically trains in Boulder, Colo., with professional club Tinman Elite, is now in St. Moritz, Switzerland, prepping for the European finals, to be held on August 16. He admitted, “It’s not quite like the White Clay Creek trails, but this’ll do just fine for the next month.”
As of July 1, 2022, CRR Charlie Riordan will assume his new position at Hofstra University, in Hempstead, N.Y., as Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs.
Riordan, UD’s Vice President of Research, Scholarship and Innovation, came to the University of Delaware faculty in 1997 and quickly came onto the Creek Road running scene. CRR Mark Deshon still remembers his introduction to Riordan back then while running on Creek Road. “I was curious about who this guy was in the basketball shirt running ahead of me, so I caught up and introduced myself [and him to Creek Road Runners], and we became friends and running companions.”
In 1999, Riordan was one of five “Millennium Men” who ran the initial “Wring Out the Old, Ring in the New” trail run—Creek Road Runners’ annual holiday season run at Fair Hill Natural Resources Management Area.
Dean of UD’s Alfred Lerner College of Business and Economics and CRR Bruce Weber says of Riordan, whose primary role in recent years at UD has been administrative, “Charlie is one of the most principled colleagues with whom I’ve ever worked.” Weber added that Charlie has always had the best interest of the University in mind when it came to making critical decisions for the institution. That’s truly high praise from one of our fastest runners.
As a scientist, Riordan has been elected to both the Royal Society of Chemistry and the American Association for the Advancement of Science.
Though we’ll be sad to see him move out of the area, we hope Riordan will make it one of his first priorities to initiate a Creek Road Runners outpost on Long Island.
On December 31st, we renewed a yearly Creek Road Runners tradition that we had to pull the plug on in 2020. Sixteen participants and two dogs showed up to enjoy the unseasonably warm weather. We managed to get a decent group shot and keep a reasonable social distance.
There are many who relish the accuracy of chip timing, as a measure of exactly what their time was for a particular distance. Indeed, the technology that has become commonplace in competitive running is a great thing. For many purists, however, trying to compare races run “pre-chip” with those using chip timing is an undeniable mystery—very much like comparing apples and oranges. Both are fruit but very different from one another.
Creek Road Runners, from its earliest days (“prehistoric” in terms of timing technology—e.g., the use of a stopwatch), has held to a standard of posting “gun times,” as opposed to “chip times” for just this reason. It is fair to compare gun times over the years, though they don’t necessarily reflect accurate time over the stated distance. Who’s to say what one’s chip time would have been in a race of tens of thousands back in the day, if it took up to a few minutes after the gun went off just to get to the starting line?
Today, nearly all race organizers/timers do what is easiest and most efficient in posting results, i.e., using chip times, which is totally understandable. However, how do race directors decide who earns awards in various competitive categories? This can be quite paradoxical.
Speaking of paradox, CRR Bill Rose competed in the Grape Stomper cross-country 5K this summer at Paradocx Vineyards in nearby Pennsylvania. Finishing eighth overall, Rose won his age group. The paradox involved here is that Rose’s chip time was actually faster than the competitor who finished just two seconds ahead of him and who walked away with the award for fastest men’s masters runner—a more prestigious accolade, to be sure.
Upon further inspection, there were a number of inconsistencies in how runners were ranked—most placed strictly according to chip time, and yet some weren’t, like Rose, who turned in a 23:13.
CRR Mark Deshon remembers a 5K several years back, at the finish of which he was certain to have won his age group, having not seen his main rival at any point during the race. Upon checking the results board, he had placed second, not first. How might this have happened? Well, he found out that his competitor, who gladly accepted the age-group win, actually had a faster chip time but had spent too long in the Porta-Potty and had gotten to the starting line about 45 seconds after the gun had sounded.
So, this illustrates a problem with competitions, which are essentially what “races” are. One can complain about Creek Road Runners’ stance with respect to not posting the faster (i.e., chip) time in its race results articles, but we’ll argue that when the gun sounds, the official clock begins, no matter where you are in relation to the starting line—even if you’re still in the Porta-Potty!