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Mike Long Remembered at Memorial Service
By David Monti
(c) 2007 Race Results Weekly, all rights reserved

     SAN DIEGO (27-Jul) -- Under the warm Southern California sun, which no doubt had influenced his sunny disposition, hundreds of family, friends and running industry colleagues gathered at Mission Point Park to remember Elite Racing's legendary elite athletes coordinator, Mike Long, who died unexpectedly last week at 65.

Tears flowed freely as more than a dozen people came to the podium to remember Long, showering him with praise and sharing their goodbyes.

"For those who never met him words would not suffice," said writer and television commentator, Toni Reavis, who acted as emcee.  He called the diminutive Long, who only stood 5' 6" (168cm) tall, "the center around which all we revolved."

Long's son, Scott, said that his father's sudden death --believed to be a heart attack-- was probably how his father would have wanted to go, not caring for lingering goodbyes.  "He was never a hospital bed kind of guy," he said, his sunglasses concealing his tear-swollen eyes.

Tim Murphy, who founded Elite Racing in 1988, is known in the running industry as one of its toughest race directors.  But it was clear that Long's death weighed on him heavily.  His turn at the lectern was cut short when his profound sadness prevented him from speaking further.  He said, "I was one of the really lucky, lucky people because I got to see Mike every day.  Mike was always happy."  Pausing to compose himself he said, "I didn't know until now how much I loved Mike," before rushing back to his seat.

The tributes continued:

Tracy Sundlun, Elite's vice-president: "Why does it seem only the truly good guys die young?  God has shown us through Mike how it's supposed to be done."  He encouraged all of us to "be like Mike."

Rich Jayne, Elite's television producer who traveled to Africa many times with Long: "All he cared about someone when he met them was his character."  He relayed a story of how Long befriended a homeless boy in Addis Ababa and how he helped support his dreams of bettering his life.

Godfrey Kiprotich, a former Kenyan athlete who flew from Iten to attend the ceremony: "Mike was such a true ambassador of Elite Racing."  Kiprotich emphasized how Long, by extending himself so selflessly to the athletes he worked with, inspired life-long loyalty.

Mary Wittenberg, president and CEO of New York Road Runners: "This sport is so much better because Mike was in it."

Long would have been gratified by the turnout of his running industry colleagues.  Agents Mark Wetmore, Derek Froude, Rich Kenah, and Brendan Reilly all attended, while Kiprotich represented Tom Ratcliffe and Reilly read a statement from Konstantin Selinevich.  Present and retired athletes who came to honor Long included Belaye Wolashe, Yimenashu Taye, Amy Rudolph, Carrie Tollefson, and Juli Henner.  Race organizers from the Boston Athletic Association, New York Road Runners and the America's Finest City Half-Marathon were also in attendance, and Reavis read a statement from Flora London Marathon race director, Dave Bedford.  Bedford's son, Tom, was also in attendance.

After the memorial concluded, many of Long's closest friends went to Reavis's house for a smaller gathering.  Taking in the sweeping valley view from the back patio, it was easy to feel Long's presence in a place he had visited so often.  It was just as easy to feel the void he left: there were so many more races and so many more miles to go.

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