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The Future of American Distance??

With the early performances this year of Alan Webb, Meb Keflizighi, Deena Drossin, and others some were heralding the return of the glory days of American distance running.  But then reality set in and Webb failed to make the worlds, Meb showed other Americans can beat him, and Drossin cratered at the US 25k champs.

But American distance fans need not worry because in an unheralded road race this past weekend, the greatest talent in American distance running made his comeback official.  Rome? Glasgow? Stanford? You ask wondering where his comeback began. No, Coralville, Iowa.

Iowa? Yes. Iowa.  For the last 10 years, locals in Iowa have talked about a legendary figure who ran through the cornfields nearly as fast as the wind.  College coaches were hot on this legend when he graduated from high school in 1993.  He tore up the Iowa track scene as a prep, but the locals swore he was just jogging in his races, as they saw him run faster through the fields on a daily basis.

In the end, this mythic and eccentric figure, chose the school (Yale) that has produced America's best runner ever, Frank Shorter.  Many expected him to obliterate the Olympic Marathon champs school records, but it was not to be.  This Iowa hero, Chris Gansen, had a very successful career at Yale making the NCAA championships in cross-country, but just as in high school his formal races were not his priority.  Instead for his own unknown reasons, he saved his fastest running for the forests of Connecticut, just like in high school when he blazed through the cornfields.

Very few runners, even his teammates, ever saw Gansen blazing through the forests, but those who did were amazed with what they saw, and swear that Gansen could change the entire perception of American distance running. 

LetsRun.com's Weldon Johnson (4th at the recent USA nationals in the 10k) was one of the few who ever saw Gansen on one of his mythical runs:  "I've never seen anything like it.  I was running fairly hard through the forest one day and I heard this  noise, and there all of a sudden Chris was flying by me.  I've never seen anything so effortless or fast.  He was probably going around 4 minutes a mile,and he just disappeared in front of me.  I knew right then and there he was the future of American running."

Johnson told his teammates what he had seen and they had all heard the rumors about Gansen in high school.  The teammates urged Gansen to unleash his powers in a formal race, but Gansen refused saying there was a time and place for him to run super fast and races were not that place.

After college, Gansen chose the untraditional path for runners and attended law school in Iowa.  Locals once again saw the familiar figure blazing through the corn fields.  His college teammates urged him to give formal racing one shot, but to no avail.  That is until this past weekend.  Gansen notified a few of his teammates during the week and said "It was time."  They knew what he was talking about.

After nearly four years of languishing in obscurity outside the sport, Gansen resumed his distance running career during the early morning hours of June 30, 2001. Gansen reportedly ran in the Coralville, IA 'Fourth Fest' 5K (we have yet to confirm the results). Once locals saw Gansen at the starting line, they started whispering and murmuring to themselves that it was him.  They were expecting something incredible from Gansen, but instead he waltzed his way through it on three weeks' worth of taper-intensive training.  He was unavailable for comment after finishing fourth in 17:11.  (We have been unable to contact anyone in Coralville about the race).

There have been very few figures like Gansen in the history of world sport.  Many are comparing him to the legendary Sidd Finch who threw a 168 mile faster for the New York Mets in spring training, but never opted to play in a major league game instead wandering off into the mountains of Nepal.  Gansen's plans are a bit different, and reportedly include a move to the LA area and training at "below sea-level altitudes".

But those in the running community who know Gansen think he will follow through and finally deliver a performance to shock the American distance fans and the world in a formal race instead of the cornfields of Iowa.  Not only did he email his teammates and say "It was time", but he sent a cryptic email to letsrun.com saying, "I got more. I got MORE" and something about Corporate Challenges.  American distance fans can only hope that he unleashes his talent in a race other than the Chase Corporate Challenge.

LetsRun.com's Weldon Johnson said, "I haven't been this excited about American running in a long time.  I know Chris well and this time it's the real deal.  The email about it 'being time', his cryptic email about 'having more' and the reference to 'below sea-level training' mean he's going to finally display his talents in public.  The Coralville, IA 'Fourth Fest' 5K results mean nothing to me. Nike or Fila or Saucony, someone had better sign him fast."

We will keep you updated on this developments of this star and will be doing an investigative piece on "below-sea-level training".  We're not sure what it is, but it sounds promising.

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