Nike's Human race 10k was the sort of event that was much more than a race. It was, well, an event. I wrote a little bit the other day about the running part of it. It was a lot of fun to run. But this was a monumental undertaking for the people from Nike.
Some 20 cities around the world were participating, holding races throughout the day. Each city featured big name athletes and entertainers. It was billed as the world's largest 10k, and if you included everyone running in all the corners of the world, it certainly was. But in Chicago it was a big event all on it's own. I commented to my friend at the start that seeing Wayne Messmer sing the National Anthem was an indication of things to come. The fact that they also managed to commandeer Soldier Field was a huge task in itself. And they also brought in the top American Olympic marathon finisher, Dathan Ritzenhein, to hand out the awards. More on Dathan later.
It's fair to say that I have never covered a pre-race news conference with the headline band playing in the post-race concert. But Sunday evening, about 10 minutes before the start of the race, I found myself in the bowels of Soldier Field. I was not warming up, stretching, getting prepared to run a 10k. No, I was participating in the question and answer session with the band 'Fall Out Boy'.
If you are like me, meaning old, then you probably don't know too much about the band. But I did check them out online beforehand, and realized I do know, and like, some of their music. And I was reminded, by my wife, that one of the band members, Pete Wentz, is married to Jessica Simpson's younger sister Ashley. And they either have or are about to have a baby. We were advised before the news conference that questions should be limited to the Human Race, or the band's new album. Fine by me. My wife was working as a field producer, however, for an entertainment website. Bad news for her. The picture is of my wife (on the right), and the host of celeb tv, Kelli Zink. You can find Kelli at www.celebtv.com if you are interested in that sort of stuff.
Since I was there though, I did ask the band whether they were concerned about how to get the audience going when most were exhausted from just finishing a 10k. They admitted they were worried about that. Others asked them about running. They are not runners. They hardly even know any runners. But they are from the Chicago area, and love the city. They also own a bar on Clark street. And they seem like fun guys to hang out with. That might be the sum total of what I got out of the news conference.
But that was more than I would expect at most races I go to! They are much better at playing music than talking about it. And they got the crowd going pretty well during the concert. They covered the grass at Soldier Field just like it was a sold out concert with 50,000 fans. There were more like 14,000 runners instead, but we were all treated like VIP's.
The real VIP of the running world that night was Dathan Ritzenhein. Fresh from his great race in Beijing, the Michigan native was looking fresh and ready to run some more. He did not suit up for the race, but was on hand to talk to runners and share his experiences at the Olympics.
At 25 years old, Ritzenhein is part of a group of young American marathoners who suggest a bright future for the sport in this country. Dathan and Ryan Hall, the Trials winner, finished 9th and 10th in the Olympic race. It was the first time since 1976 that two Americans finished in the top ten. Ritzenhein finished in 2:11:59, despite serious cramping problems in the oppressive heat in Beijing.
This was Ritzenhein's second Olympics. He had to drop out of the 10,000 meter race in Athens, and vowed not to do the same in Beijing. It was only his third marathon, and he is now looking forward to London in 2008. How about Chicago 2016? Anyway, I'll see you on the roads, and you can see the full interview here: