The 2016 FootLocker reminds me of what our sport is about

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Cross country was my introduction to our sport. In Septembe 1972, I ran my first cross country race. The site was DeSmet Jesuit High School, and the distance was two miles. I believed that I stopped several times in the race, finishing somewhere south of 18 minutes, but north of 17 minutes. I lost one of my sneakers, purchased at KMart for $3.00, in the final 100 meters, which were run across a soccer pitch.

Forsyth_AnneFHH-FLmw16.jpgAnne Forsyth, FLMidwest2016, photo by PhotoRun.net

I fell in love with the sport immediately. It took me seven more years before I won my first cross country race, but, I was hooked.

Each season, I end my athletic year with NXN and the FootLocker cross country. Both races are so different, but so important for our sport.

Let me explain...

The Foot Locker Cross country is in its 38th year. It has been the Horatio Alger event of our sport. The Oldest national cross country championship, it is all about individual performance. Most of the finest American middle and long distance runners of the past three generations have run at FootLocker.

The event started out as the Kinney National Cross Country Championships. In 1993, I believe, it became FootLocker and the sponsorship has gone from Reebok, to adidas, to Nike to Saucony, to ASICS, and now, to New Balance. As New Balance has the NB indoor and NB outdoor, the NB FootLocker fits into a world plan. On Thursday, New Balance treated the athletes, one region at a time to a special presentation, showcasing all of the fun products NB was showering on the top 40 boys and girls from across the country. The host hotel, the Hotel Del Coronado is a treat in itself. Prepared for the Christmas holiday, the Hotel Del as it is affectionately know, casts a spell on the runners who qualify for the FootLocker Nationals.

I remember going to the Midwest regional in 1996, the year we moved to Wisconsin. A few years later, we saw young Dathan Ritzenhein win the Midwest regional. The FootLocker nationals was always a battle. They always had tough fields. I remember the Torres brothers, Alan Webb, and Dathan Ritzenhein one year. I just did not know how they could get such fine fields.

That is the secret of the FootLocker. The best of the best can make the final, and then, battle with equally equipped athletes, to see who will succeed and who will fall back is compelling.

In 2016, I do not believe either race can be picked. There are just too many fine athletes. And that will make it a splendid championships!

With New Balance in the mix, the athletes were treated to some fun surprises on Thursday, and then, on Friday night, Emma Coburn and Jenny Simpson did a skype call with best wishes and some suggestions on how to focus for the race on Saturday.

The FootLocker is inspiring for all who see it. For those who compete, it is life changing. We will just have to wait until tomorrow to see whose life is changed.

See you at Balboa Park!

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