$7.50 or $77,777

By Ed Odeven

True story. Spring semester 1994 at Pima Community College in Tucson, Arizona. I’m taking media studies and general elective classes and also reporting on the college’s Aztecs sports teams for the student newspaper, Aztec Press.

One a Friday night, in early February, if my memory is correct, the Aztec cheerleaders walked around the sparsely crowded gym trying to get people to buy raffle tickets for a halftime half-court shooting contest. It was a split-the-pot raffle, meaning half the money could go to a successful shooter, the other half for the cheerleaders’ fundraising efforts.

That particular night, I’m sitting in the wooden bleachers, taking notes on the Aztes women’s and men’s basketball team doubleheader

I also bought a raffle during the women’s game. At halftime, my ticket number matched one of three or four that were called out.

The other shooters missed their long attempts. I took a few dribbles and fired up a shot. It banked off the backcourt. And went in.

I was stunned, excited, thrilled

And $7.50 richer.

The other half of the loot went to the cheerleaders.

And hey, I had a few bucks to put gas in my VW Bug. And a story to smile about many years later…

I was reminded of my lucky halfcourt shot the other day when a guy named Tim Boven sank a halfcourt shot and won a cool $77,777 at U.S. Airways Center in Phoenix. Good for him.

 

Final Four flashback – A fan’s experience in New Orleans

This column appeared in the Arizona Daily Sun.

Headline: For one fan, nothing matches Final Four atmosphere

April 10, 2003

By Ed Odeven

For those folks sitting in the cheap seats, and those fortunate enough to shell out the big bucks to sit where Spike Lee usually does, being at the Final Four is something they’ll never forget.

One of the lucky souls who ventured to New Orleans for this year’s season-ending extravaganza was my buddy Brad Malone. He was one of 54,000-plus hoop junkies enjoying Monday’s title clash between surprising Syracuse and Kansas, along with his dad, Ron, brother, Sean, and friend, Jeff.

Malone was sitting three rows from the top at the Superdome, watching the exploits of Syracuse’s Carmelo Anthony and Gerry McNamara, Hakim Warrick and Kueth Duany, as well as Kansas standouts Nick Collison and Kirk Hinrich.

The view from the upper deck wasn’t superb, Malone said the other day during a telephone conversation. But the aura of the NCAA men’s championship game was.

“The Final Four atmosphere is great, anywhere you go in New Orleans,” he said. “You go down to the French Quarter or the mall and you see people from everywhere … You just go up to people and start talking them.”

Then you start eating. That’s another reason to be in New Orleans.

“I’ll remember the food,” Malone says.

One of his favorite eating establishments in the Crescent city is a joint called Mother’s Restaurant. It’s a place that serves delicious Po-Boys, which are, Malone explained, “basically sourdough bread (sandwiches) with tomatoes, pickles, mayonnaise and fried shrimp or fried crawfish.” Another delight for many is the muffaletta. “It was OK. I put some hot sauce on it,” Malone said. “That was one thing I learned: How to eat hot sauce down there.”

When he wasn’t eating, Malone was, of course, enjoying being at the Final Four. This was the third time he’s had the opportunity to do so. Malone attended the 1991 Final Four in Indianapolis, featuring Kansas, Duke, North Carolina and UNLV. He also went to San Antonio in ’98 to see Kentucky, Utah, Stanford and UNC.

To get tickets to the Final Four, fans must send a check months in advance and hope they get selected during the random ticket lottery. (“If they don’t draw your name, they send you the check back,” Malone said.)

Malone attended Game 4 of the 1998 World Series between the New York Yankees and San Diego Padres in San Diego and Games 1 and 6 of the 2001 World Series in Phoenix between the Yanks and Arizona Diamondbacks. Comparing the atmosphere at both grand spectacles of Americana, Malone had this to say: “(Based on) the overall level of pure excitement from the crowd, I think, the World Series has to beat it just because it’s a home park. …

“The Final Four, though, is just a totally different atmosphere. … You have a lot of neutral fans who just go to see the games, like me. .. I’m just a fan of college basketball. I just wanted to see good games.”

Malone, a loyal University of Arizona fan, was disappointed Lute Olson’s Cats didn’t advance to the Final Four, but understands how difficult it is to do so.

“In college basketball, you can’t win every year,” he says. “You’ve got to deal with it or you’re not going to have a very fun life.”

As Monday’s title game was winding down, Kansas’ spirited comeback electrified the Superdome crowd.

“The last two minutes were exciting because Kansas was pretty much down the whole game,” Malone says.

The Jayhawks needed to connect on a long-range shot to win the game. Sharpshooter Michael Lee had his shot blocked with 1.5 seconds left by Warrick.

“I thought he got fouled,” says Malone. “From where I was sitting it was so far away I couldn’t see, but I thought he got fouled. But I watched the replay when I got home, and it was a block.”

Then, at the buzzer, Hinrich shot an airball from beyond the arc. Instant pandemonium buzzed throughout the Superdome.

“It was just amazing to see everybody pile on the court,” Malone explains. “And then this huge Syracuse section was just going completely crazy. All of a sudden there’s this roar and then everyone’s flashing light bulbs like when Mark McGwire hit his 70th (home run).”

 

Women’s hoops coverage – 2006 NCAA Tournament

This game report appeared in the Arizona Daily Sun.

Headline: Jacks can’t come back

March 18, 2006
By Ed Odeven

TUCSON — There are, of course, no do-overs in basketball. But if the NAU women’s basketball team could re-play the first 10 minutes of one game, it would be this one:

Saturday’s contest against Baylor in the NCAA Tournament’s first round.

The Lumberjacks stumbled out of the gates, falling behind 19-4 from the start at McKale Center.

It was a daunting obstacle to rebound from that deficit. The Lumberjacks gave it their best shot, though, but fell short, 74-56.

“We started behind from the beginning,” said Lumberjacks point guard Sade Cunningham, who scored a team-high 13 points. “Everyone plays with so much heart. When we were losing, I think a lot of people thought we would give up. We played hard and with heart. We showed what NAU basketball is all about.”

Naturally, Baylor’s No. 10 national ranking, its 2005 championship and the excitement over being in the tourney for the first time played a part in the NAU players’ mind-set after tipoff.

Which is why it was a challenge for Lumberjacks coach Laurie Kelly and her team to treat this like any other game.

“How do you prepare for something you have never done?” Kelly said. “I think the first 10 minutes they played afraid. We are an inside-outside team, and we just weren’t throwing the ball inside.”

Instead, the 14th-seeded Jacks settled for jumpers and didn’t attack the basket with regularity. This enabled the third-seeded Bears to put up points in a hurry, grabbing the aforementioned 15-point lead and stretching that lead to 31-10 with 8:20 left in the half.

Senior guard Nicky Eason scored NAU’s first four points of the game, and the second bucket ended a scoring drought of 7:12.

After Eason scored, Baylor star Sophia Young drilled five consecutive field goals, and at that point she had scored 16 points, or six more than NAU. Baylor led by 21 then.

“You can’t let Sophia Young score 40 points,” Kelly told her players earlier this week.

She didn’t, but she put up points in a hurry as the Bears seized the early momentum.

“I knew from the scouting report that they were going to double team me, but once my team started scoring it freed me up,” Young said.

Young, a national player of the year candidate, had 16 points by halftime, reaching double digits for the 77th straight game.

NAU seized a little momentum, Kelly said, going into the half.

With 4.3 seconds left, sophomore forward Laura Dinkins scored on a tip-in and was fouled. She missed the foul shot. That made it 43-22, Baylor, NAU’s largest halftime deficit of the season.

The Jacks were 6-for-30 from the field in the first half.

“I think at the half we knew we had nothing to lose,” Dinkins said. “We came out to leave our heart and effort on the floor. We knew this was it. We wanted to leave it all on the floor.”

Baylor expected nothing less.

“In the locker room, we talked as a team about them giving us their best shot because they were a team with nothing to lose,” said Bears guard Chameka Scott, who finished with 10 points.

Scott was right.

The Jacks played with a sense of urgency in the second half, asserting themselves in the paint and moving the ball around more effectively. They used a 9-0 spurt to cut it to 49-35 on a pair of Cunningham free throws with 13:56 left.

A trio of successive layups, two by Sandra Viksryte and the other by Eason, made the score 61-45. Eason hit the subsequent foul shot to complete a three-point play and trim the lead to 15 with 5:19 remaining. Seconds later, a 7-0 NAU run, including a putback by Viksryte and two Dinkins free throws brought the Jacks within 63-51.

That was as close as they got.

Viksryte scored all 11 of her points in the second half.

Alyssa Wahl and Eason finished with 10 points apiece. Wahl added 10 rebounds for her fourth double-double of the season. She also made both of NAU’s 3-pointers. As a team, the Jacks shot 2 of 11 from 3-point range.

The Jacks didn’t get their usual offensive production from Megan Porter and Kim Winkfield. They combined to shoot 0-for-11 from the field. Winkfield scored two points, Porter was scoreless.

NAU ended its season at 22-11. Baylor (25-6) plays 11th-seeded New Mexico, 83-59 winners over No. 6 Florida in Saturday’s last game at McKale, in Monday’s second round.

After the game, Bears coach Kim Mulkey-Robertson played her own worst critic, saying she made substitutions too quickly.

“You are trying in the moment to put the team away but you put subs in to get experience,” she said. “I took the momentum away and we never got back into the flow. I felt like we were in control. As a coach, a 12-point differential wasn’t indicative of the game.”

It was the final collegiate game for four NAU seniors – Eason, Viksryte, Kim Biswanger and Beth Hopper.

“I’m going to miss all four of them in different ways,” Kelly said. “They have all been influential on the floor, and for them to take off their jersey is difficult. I went into the locker room and just thanked the girls for getting them to where they are. They will never be the same without these girls.”

The same could be said for the Lumberjack program. This is no longer a team without an appearance in the Big Dance. Saturday’s date will forever be etched into the NCAA history books as a game the Jacks appeared in.

“It’s definitely a big step for us getting here to a place where we wanted to be,” Dinkins said. “We want to come back next year.”

Kelly said, “We just had a taste of dessert, which is the NCAA Tournament, and we want it again. We will go back and work hard over the summer so that we can be here next year.”

 

Remembering Pat Tillman

By Ed Odeven

At this time of year, just weeks before the NFL Draft, I often remember Pat Tillman’s football career as an Arizona State Sun Devil and Arizona Cardinal. I saw him play in a few dozen games and probably a hundred or so combined practices at the college and pro levels.

We chatted numerous times, primarily in our official roles as reporter and student-athlete. But also a few times while drinking beer at a local watering hole near the Tempe campus, or during walks across campus.

On April 22, it’ll be 10 years since Tillman, who left his lucrative NFL career to serve his country, was killed while serving in the U.S. Army in Afghanistan. He was 27.

While I distinctly recall hearing the sad news on a Friday and working on a column about Tillman for the next day’s Arizona Daily Sun newspaper where I worked at the time in Flagstaff, I also recall his timely — and playful — good humor.

Let me explain. In 1997, Tillman was named the Pac-10 Conference’s Defensive Player of the Year. On the day it was announced that Tillman was the Pac-10’s top defender for 1997, just days before the annual Arizona-Arizona State, Tillman did not attend the afternoon practice. So he was unavailable for comment before a throng a reporters.

No problem, I thought.

Returning to the State Press newsroom, I thumbed threw the white pages and found Tillman’s name, address and phone number.

So I picked up the phone and gave him a call, seeking comment about his prestigious award for my next article. (He was also chosen as a Sporting News first team All-American that season.)

The phone rang two or three times, then Pat picked it up.

“Hello, Pat Tillman,” I said.

“Who is this?”

“Ed Odeven, State Press.”

“Ed, how’d you get my phone number?” Tillman asked.

“I looked it up in the phone book,” I informed him.

“Oh, OK.”

We both laughed. We had a nice chat for about 10 minutes about his college football career, his thoughts on the Sun Devil coaching staff and his defensive teammates. He mostly spoke about the others on the team, but sounded quite pleased about his own performance as a college senior. It was time well spent.

* * *
Many felt Tillman was too short, too slow and not athletic enough to dominate on the gridiron. That didn’t stop him from being a one-man wrecking crew, always around the ball, always finding ways to make big plays in college.

He was selected by the Cardinals in the seventh round in the ’98 NFL Draft. As a pro, he made the difficult conversion from linebacker to safety and grew as a leader on the Cardinals defense. He was in his prime when he folllowed his convictions and opted to step away from the NFL during a time of war.

March Madness flashback – Indiana Hoosiers (in 2002)

This column appeared in the Arizona Daily Sun.

March 21, 2002

Headline: Riding the roller coaster with Indiana coach Mike Davis

By Ed Odeven

Thursday night’s shocking, game-ending sequence in the Duke-Indiana showdown was a startling reminder of what’s great about sports.

Indiana coach Mike Davis’ last-minute emotional roller-coaster was one for the ages.

There was Davis burying his head in disbelief after All-American point guard Jason Williams was fouled while nailing a three-point basket. The shot pulled Duke within 74-73 with 4.2 seconds to go.

Immediately, Davis’ disappointment was apparent as tears filled his eyes, and he paced over to the sideline and looked like he was trying to hide, trying to get as far away from Lexington, Ky., as possible. (At that moment, it seemed that Hokkaido’s Snow Festival in Japan would’ve been a better place to be.)

But remember, the free-throw line is called a charity stripe, and sometimes that charity goes to the team that isn’t shooting. And Williams, destined to be a Top 5 selection in this summer’s NBA draft, has one glaring weakness: free-throw shooting. Again, that was apparent last night.

Williams stepped to the line to attempt a game-tying shot — his only free-throw attempt of the evening. Williams missed; but teammate Carlos Boozer grabbed the rebound and his putback attempt was no good. Boozer, another probable NBA lottery selection, went 7-for-9 before that potential game-winning shot.

As the final buzzer sounded, Davis raced onto the court and jumped for joy, capping a wild turn of events that sent his heart beating faster than an Al MacInnis slapshot.

In just his second year as Indiana’s head coach, Davis has taken the Hoosiers to the Elite Eight. Give the man his due. Indiana has not made it this far in the NCAA Tournament since ’93, a horrendous drought for a program that expects to win every year. That’s what happens when a fellow named Bob Knight is running the program. In this case, Davis’ hiring was the best thing to happen to Hoosier Land in quit some time. As much as Knight meant to IU, the last years of his controversial tenure were marred by temper tantrums and early-tourney exits.

I don’t feel sorry for Duke, but I wonder how this loss will affect Williams. Some players never recover from being “the goat.” Ex-Phillies closer Mitch Williams immediately comes to mind. Others recover and are better than ever, such as the Yanks’ fireballing right-hander Mariano Rivera.

Duke is always a threat to win it. No matter how many stars depart for the NBA this summer, I still expect the Blue Devils to be a team to be reckoned with next season.

As ex-NFL coaching legend George Allen once said, “Every time you win, you’re reborn. When you lose, you die a little.”

If anything, the Hoosier program has been revived.

Before the opening tipoff, Davis told his players, “Let’s go shock the world.”

The Hoosiers did. And maybe, finally, Davis has earned the respect of Hoosier fans who were yearning for the “good-ol’ days.” Wake up, those days are now.

NCAA Tournament selection committtee’s challenges

By Ed Odeven

TOKYO (March 19, 2014) — The 10-member selection committee was responsible for choosing this year’s field of 68 teams for the NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Tournament, including 36 at-large bids. It’s an annual March Madness project that draws plenty of criticism for “snubs” and for teams that critics feel are seeded too high or too low.

There are 31 automatic bids for conference tournament winners, and the Ivy League awards an automatic bid to its regular-season conference champion. Including assigning individual seeds to all 68 teams, that Herculean task culminated last week — Wednesday through Sunday in Indianapolis, to be specific — where the final work was done in choosing this year’s tournament field.

Doug Fullerton, the long-time Big Sky Conference commissioner, served on the committee this year.

Seeking explanation on how he approached this work, this reporter asked the Big Sky Conference for comment from Fullerton.

This morning, an email arrived in my inbox with Fullerton’s statements detailing the project.

Here are Fullerton’s insights on the big project cited above.

I think everyone on the committee understands the importance of what we do, both to the participants but also to the NCAA enterprise. Almost all of the NCAA’s revenue comes from this one source — the Division I men’s basketball tournament.  Our job is to “get it right” and I have not worked on any other committee within the NCAA structure where members leave their affiliations — school, conference, divisional – at the door and just try to do the best job they can placing the most deserving teams into the tournament.   

Most of the time it is fairly easy to get a group of teams from the same conference in the correct order of strength but when you begin to try and compare teams from the Pac-12 with teams from the Atlantic 10 (for example) – that is where it gets difficult.  So we have metrics such as the RPI to help us. And we have every metric known to man when we are looking at the teams – and they are updated each morning throughout the entire season.   

Balancing the metrics with the “eye test” – watching the teams play is what makes up the information that each of us bring to the committee. We watch 3-4 games – or parts of games — almost each day from November to March. And we call and meet at monthly intervals starting in January to start to get the field down to a workable size.   

Most of us feel confident in our selections when we arrive in Indianapolis to make the selections – however there are some built in dilemmas that we always face.

*For instance, how do we evaluate and place teams that may have a better resume (have earned their position) vs. someone who we feel is stronger at this time of the year?

*How do we reconcile injuries and suspensions?

How do we look at late “hot teams” vs. teams who have played at a solid pace?    (answers for me are: I am a resume guy, if you look at late hot teams or who teams played late in the season you may very well be subtly ranking the conferences rather than the individual teams – as most late games are conference matchups – something we want to avoid at all costs.)

As for injuries: I never assume outcomes would change because of injuries – that is a slippery slope – and I never downgrade a team’s strength in the selection process – for I think they earn that chance – I would accept a lesser seed when we think a teams makeup will be different – but I believe teams can play their way out of a bad seed, but if they are left out of the tournament they can’t play their way in.     

This year continues the trend in recent years of the tournament field being very “flat.” All teams look alike which makes for a tough selection and seeding process but a great tournament.      

Catching up with Anthony Famiglietti

Olympic steeplechaser's self-portrait in Athens in August 2004.

Olympic steeplechaser’s self-portrait in Athens in August 2004.

By Ed Odeven
TOKYO (March 16, 2014) — For a June 2003 article for the Arizona Daily Sun, steeplechase runner Anthony Famiglietti summed up his thoughts for me on multiple topics at once with the following articulate remarks:

“I don’t look up to or idolize many athletes,” said Famiglietti, then 24 and not yet a two-time Olympian. “Most of my heroes are artists or creative people in some way. They are people who push themselves and challenge every aspect of who they are.

“I don’t like to look at running as a sport. It’s more of an immense challenge, a metaphor for what life is in a microcosm. That’s why I think any person at any level can be successful at running if they learn how to discipline themselves and keep pushing (themselves) to new heights, new goals, new challenges every day of every week. It’s a great way to prepare for life in general.”

Nearly 11 years later, Famigiletti’s life has taken him to the Athens Olympics and the Beijing Olympics as a 3,000-meter steeplechase competitor. The native New Yorker got married, become a father, relocated to North Carolina, co-founded Reckless Running, a running apparel company, and also participated in road races, including the 2008 USA 5-km Road Championship (first place) and 2009 15-km Road Championshp (first place). His creative interests have included what he one called “avant-garde-abstract-electro-pop” and on another occasion as “electronic ambiance music” (for a self-produced CD “Starts The Party”) and painting (he once had an online gallery). And he’s a man of strong Christian faith, sharing a few of his favorite Bible verses, too.

I recently caught up with Famiglietti, whom I chatted with briefly in Beijing, after getting to know hm during several interviews in Flagstaff, Arizona, where he used to hold month-long training sessions twice a year. Our wide-ranging interview follows.

* * *

After competing in the Olympics twice and having a few years to reflect on those experiences in Athens and Beijing, what memories are most special to you from both of those trips?

In Athens I had struck my knee on a barrier and fallen during my heat of the steeplechase.  I had seriously injured my knee during the race and fell from second position to last place.  Somehow I found the will to stay on my feet and kept racing.  Initially after the strike, my left leg became partially immobile and cramped, similar to hitting the “funny bone” nerve behind the elbow.  When the numbness subsided just a few more meters into the race, the pain became very intense.  Each time I had to jump and land on the knee it felt agonizing. I pushed through the last few laps in the race and I think I ended up in eighth position of about 13 runners.  After the race I was devastated as I did not qualify for the final. 

A few days later when I had healed a bit, I went out of the Olympic village to tour Athens in an effort to lift my spirits. I couldn’t walk very far, but I remember limping through the Acropolis and ancient ruins of the Parthenon on my own.  I had stopped for a moment to take a self-portrait and was approached by a local who had recognized my Mohawk haircut.  He was an older man who seemed like he worked nearby or on the grounds. 

Apparently the local Greek television station had aired my race in its entirety.  This man recognized me from the race and instantly grabbed my hands and smiled.  I’ll never forget his smile and deep wrinkles on his sun-scorched face.  He looked straight into my eyes and in very broken English said, “Yes, you get up!” He stood there and held onto both of my hands for a while. He had summed up my Olympic experience in four words.

His reaction as a native Greek abiding in the cultural birthplace of the Olympics (at the Acropolis of all places) helped me recognize what the Olympic Games are truly about.  This man helped teach me that the Olympics are not about outperforming other athletes in a show of dominance and ability, they are about pushing one another to new heights of achievement, so that we might learn to overcome the greatest struggles and obstacles in life. Obstacles eventuality appear in all of our lives. The message I learned is to fight to stay on your feet and keep driving forward.  

I often refer to Romans 5:3-5:5 as a guide when thinking about this experience.

Romans 5:3-5:5: ” Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.” (King James Version)

Can you share some thoughts and details on the friendships you made with fellow Americans and other athletes and individuals – perhaps just someone you met working or watching the Olympics – from those two years?

I remember driving Lopez Lomong to team processing in Eugene at the 2008 Olympic trials.  During the car ride over I suggested he consider running for flag bearer.  In Beijing, when he received the honor to carry the flag, I was elated.  I also remember meeting Presidents George Bush Sr and Jr.   As I shook President George Bush Sr.’s hand I turned and said, “Mr. President, please meet our flag bearer Lopez Lomong.”  That was one of my most memorable moments.

Currently, what is your primary athletic focus? What are you training for … and what goals have you set as a runner for 2014? What’s a normal week — a basic day-to-day rundown — for you in terms of training and also activities that you do tied into your business, civic and personal responsibilities?

I was planning to do a half marathon this winter.  Unfortunately, after a three-month training buildup, I fell ill with an infection and had to go through two rounds of potent antibiotics. I had to stop training for about a month. So I had to abandon my half-marathon goals and start over.  Because of the setback, I am currently working on 5k training and hope to race some competitive 5ks in mid to late Spring.  My plan is to take up longer distances again later in the year after a long block of healthy running.

During the week I am with my 1-year old son for 12 hours a day on average.  In that time I also assist in taking care of work obligations for Reckless Running.  After dinner I lace up at about 8pm and go for a run or workout. This winter has mostly been treadmill sessions since we have had cold weather, ice and early darkness. I’ve done some fun things on the treadmill so far.  I’ll do mostly longer interval sessions like mile repeats. 

I actually ran a sub four-minute mile on the treadmill just a few weeks ago.  I did it by running at 15.1 mph (3:58 pace) for four minutes. Cycling the legs over at that speed on a shaky treadmill is very challenging and dangerous. Without a 1% incline on the treadmill, that is the equivalent effort of about a 4:12 mile.  I’ve been practicing with a 1.5% incline and may attempt a sub four-mile equivalent effort with incline soon. 

Safety is my main concern with those treadmill speeds at the YMCA gym that I use with other patrons present.  The gym is not a specialized training environment or anything.  During a workout session I had noticed the treadmill at my YMCA hits 16 mph. The aim is just to have fun in what could be seen as a difficult or boring training environment.  With overspeed training like this you can turn a disadvantage of poor weather into an advantage.  You always need to be searching for the positive.

You can see the video of my first sub 4 treadmill attempt here:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MyeC6C7jwEk

Of all the philosophies, training methods, slogans, etc. related to your approach to athletics, what best sums up your approach to running?

Truth.  An “ideal” performance, where one is fully engrossed in and in sync with what they’re doing (such as described in flow psychology), can illicit deep levels of understanding and joy by opening oneself up to the truth that dwells in the experience of being alive.  In that way, the process and athletic act itself becomes the aim as opposed to some end result, award or accolade. One would have no reason to cheat or take shortcuts when practicing this way.

If you pursue your life as an athlete with righteous intention, then these ideal moments come not only in races, but also in solo runs or personal workouts. The scripture passages below resonate for me regarding this way of living.  My intention here is not to push my beliefs on anyone.  I just enjoy highlighting things that have inspired me to fulfillment.

Galatians 5:7: “‘Ye did run well; who did hinder you that ye should not obey the truth.”

2nd Timothy 2:5: “And also if anyone competes in athletics, he is not crowned unless he competes according to the rules.”

As and artist, painter and entrepreneur, Reckless Running has helped you combine all of those interests and passions. When was your company first established? And what are some of its key milestones over the years?  

We’ve been around for just a few years now, yet we’ve been fortunate to have had success right out of the gate.  Our business model has been a study in sustainability and simplicity. We make apparel that fits great, feels great and looks great.  Our designs are meant to help fulfill a need as well as inspire. I have a trove of ill-fitting championship racing jerseys that I’ve accrued over 14 years as a professional racer.  I had no shortage of inspiration to make better racing gear at Reckless Running.  Competing in the very first Reckless Running racing singlet was a great milestone for me personally.  We’re very thankful for all of the amazing feedback we get from repeat customers.  I personally enjoy seeing the individuals who’ve made great efforts to collect all of our limited edition racing tops.  

As an artist, coming up with our trademarked brand logo was one of the highlights of my creative life.  It really stands out among other brands and makes a bold statement.  Creating new product ideas coupled with our unique designs and slogans is no easy task.  Fashion design really forces you to hit on all creative cylinders. 

I learned this well while observing my wife designing in New York City in high fashion.  She is a graduate of the prestigious Parsons School of Design.  As far as other milestones, we have many goals we have set ahead of us.  As runners we’re no strangers to setting and fulfilling long-term goals.  …

I would love to see us eventually excel in the Japanese market.  That would be a great milestone.  The consumers there have a great eye for uniqueness and quality.

Who are the co-founders of RR?

My wife and I.

Are Reckless Running products sold, first and foremost, in stores — if so, where? Or is it mostly done online?

Our site is http://www.recklessrunning.com We have been in stores, but it was difficult to keep up with demand.  Right now we focus primarily on online sales as we are hand making our racing tops in the USA.  That extra effort is time-consuming and our agenda is to always maintain high quality. That attention to detail is what sets us apart.  We have been working hard on implementing creative strategies towards scaling up our production in the U.S.  We have some great new ideas and are excited about where we’ll be in the near future and the impact we’ll have within the sport.

What makes Davidson, North Carolina, a comfortable place for you to train? What’s ideal, if that’s the right word, about Davidson? And are you training in Flagstaff and/or other high-altitude places regularly these days?

Family. I was close to family in New York City for many years and raced extremely well in that environment.  Now we are close to my wife’s family.  Family support is paramount to achieving success in anything.

Flagstaff was a great place for me to get in frequent high-altitude training.  I would typically go to Flagstaff twice a year for a month each trip.  For me, Flagstaff was more of a retreat rather than a rigid schedule replete with coaches and intense training partners.  The trails of Flagstaff and Sedona were a wonderful place of solitude and reflection for me.  I would often train alone and live alone in a hotel, using my days as more of a period of stress-free recharge and contemplation.   Running on the beautiful trails of Sedona and the San Francisco peaks in Flagstaff was immensely inspirational and uplifting for me. 

I feel fortunate to have been able to train there annually for nearly a decade. The lifestyle and schedule of a professional runner affords a privileged freedom to live any way you want.  There is no one way to train to success. Some runners unknowingly throw that freedom away and get caught in the trap of performance, constantly measuring themselves race to race in an endless cycle of anxiety and doubt.  I used the gift of that free time to find deeper meaning and purpose.  I measured my success more in terms of how much enjoyment I was getting out of workouts and runs as well as racing.  In the end this approach ultimately lead to better races. Putting yourself in an environment like Northern Arizona easily lends to greater running enjoyment and introspection.  Sadly, I have not been back there in recent years for several reasons.  

When I first came up to train at Sedona High School in 2003, they had a dirt/cinder track with not a soul in sight. I remember heading to that same track during my last trip and seeing it fully refurbished with an all weather surface. I waited in the car and watched as over a dozen elite runners jockeyed for position in lane one.  My place of retreat and solitude had become a hotspot of activity.  For me, this was a distraction.  For American distance running, this was a great thing.  

Also, at that time I had briefly stayed with a fellow elite runner in Flagstaff.  During the stay I had found some signs that indicated to me that he might be cheating with banned PEDs. I had no solid physical evidence of it and was speculating, but one of the red flags came when I found information near the contents of his wallet which he’d emptied onto the kitchen counter.  This runner was a messy guy and heavy supplement user.  Items would build up here and there and the small article in question was sitting with a pile of the sprawled wallet contents. I had noticed it while sitting at the counter during breakfast. 

The object in question listed some alarming information about specific banned PEDs and dosages.  I felt concerned, so I took a picture of it with my phone.  Shortly after that, when this individual was away from home, the doorbell rang.  It was USADA who had come to drug test him.  I answered the door and said he was away. Having been tested myself many times, I asked if this individual was outside of his 1 hour designated testing time where he’d be required to appear regardless.  They said he was, but I was intrigued and confused by the USADA tester’s specific response to my question. 

Because of that, I assisted in helping them summon him on the phone. I was shocked at how this individual’s significant other talked to and treated the drug testers over the phone.  I was very disheartened by the entire experience, yet I still maintain hope that he did not cheat.  Either way, a confluence of factors made the environment begin to feel toxic in relation to my personal training goals there.  I often miss being there and reminisce about my runs in Northern Arizona.  What a great place.

What do you think your legacy-in-the-making has already cemented as legacy within running circles in the U.S. and abroad?

If I’ve helped motivate other people to investigate and pursue their full potential and ability in a meaningful way, then that would be enough.

Looking ahead, what’s the ultimate event you want to compete in and win?

The afterlife. The race to attain everlasting happiness is currently taking place in our daily lives.  

Hebrews 12:1: “Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us,”

You’ve transitioned to road racing and half-marathons in recent years, but do you still dabble in steeplechase training or reps as part of your workout routine?

I have a specific injury of osteoarthritis in my foot that came about from shoes I was wearing. With the injury I cannot hurdle for long periods without significant pain. I tried to adjust with rehab and push through to steeple in 2012. I did very well in individual workout sessions and was actually attaining PRs in tried and true workouts. Over time though, the cumulative effect of back-to-back sessions aggravated the inflammation and forced too many down days in between workouts and races. The situation was literally two steps forward, one step back.

To reach your best as a runner, you need to have long periods of consistent high-level training without interruption. This injury and other things were causing far too much interruption with steeplechase training and running in general.   Now that I’ve had a few years of extensive rehab, I’ve found that I can manage well in flat road races and on the track.  But, I still have great difficulty wearing racing spikes. 

Apparently I’m fine in particular road racing shoes.  However, the nature of my injury greatly limits fit and what I can wear.  The sponsorship rules of professional running as upheld by USATF prohibit me from racing in major meets in anything other than shoe company (manufacturers) apparel.  Since I have been extremely limited in my choice of racing sneakers, I have been relegated to competing without a shoe sponsorship. 

This ironic turn had helped instigate my interest in growing Reckless Running as a brand (manufacturer).  By successfully doing so, I’m not only fulfilling my needs, but also making in-roads to help create a business model that puts athletes in the drivers seat.  Reckless Running has no immediate plans to develop sneakers, so I am free to race in whatever works for me.  Other athletes are at the mercy of the products their sponsors produce.  As any serious runners knows, a frequent problem is that brands often discontinue or modify shoes designs.  It is common practice for companies to require their sponsored runners to wear and promote the newest products.

So, I have not fully ruled out racing another steeplechase in the future. I will just have to take a completely new approach to getting to the same destination if I do race the event.  Overcoming common injuries predominately comes down to having the time and persistent desire to do so. That is the message I like to pass on to runners with chronic injury. Your passion and drive will get you through if you’re patient.

What advice would the 35-year-old Fam give to the 17-year-old Fam entering college to help him during his university years?  

I don’t think I’d say much.  I have achieved far more than I initially set out to in running.  If I were to go back and try to change certain mistakes, I would be taking away some of the most important experiences of my life.  For example, what if I said, “Be extra careful not to hit that 12th hurdle in the Olympic prelim in Athens.”  Saying that might help my performance, but I’d be taking away the experience that I had a few days later at the Parthenon.  I’ve learned that mistakes and failures can sometimes be much more important than a flawless success or win. The #1 rule that I give to young runners I coach or advise is to be patient.  I’ve already followed that rule for the vast majority of my running career to much success.

You’ve seen the media attention and public support that distance runner and fellow U.S. Olympians Lopez Lomong has received in telling his story as a Lost Boy of Sudan and then reaching out to establish his own foundation and keep South Sudan in the spotlight. How does this illustrate how significant a role athletes can have for the greater good?

Lopez operates from a place of great optimism in his heart.  I wish many more people would do the same more often, myself included.  An athlete’s only job (if he has one) is to inspire positive action and achievement in others through his own performance.  Modern advertising projects the opposite of this.  It projects and reinforces an image of self-glorification. 

Many corporations want to be seen as flawless and dominant, so they commonly project that false image through athletes in their ads.  Lance Armstrong comes to mind.  I also recall seeing a popular Super Bowl ad this year with a song playing called “I’m the man.”  The song just kept repeating the phrase, “Im the man, I’m the man, yes I am.”  Young athletes will emulate what they are presented.  Unfortunately, they don’t often understand they’re being conditioned by marketing.  And, a lot of times they are conditioned towards unhappiness since most them won’t ever win a race or championship game.  How then does one fulfill their desire to become “the man”? 

You start to see there is an incongruence to this way of thinking. Athletes and their achievements are not meant to be worshiped.  The focus should be on examining and pursuing the freedom he/she can gain from personal mastery.  This mastery can take place at any level of ability if one achieves their own highest potential.  

***

You’re stranded on a desert island and can only bring along five books and five CDs. Which ones would you take?  

I’d try to spend the time in silent reflection and meditation, similar to a hermitage.  I like to read non-fiction.  I’m currently listening to Beck’s new track “Wave” from his album “Morning Light.”  The lyrics of that song would probably be appropriate for the scenario.

Beck’s “Wave”: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m2DLZkv4Yvg&list=RDm2DLZkv4Yvg

Where did you have your most delicious meal? And what was it? 

With family at my grandmother’s house in the Bronx.  I specifically enjoyed her manicotti recipe.  

Which athletes today in any sport are most interesting and compelling to you, watching them on TV or in person?

I like seeing Dale Earnhardt Jr win.  I’ve run at his teammate Kasey Kahne’s charity 5k and have grown to be a fan of Kasey as well as Jimmie Johnson.  Both Jimmie and Kasey are avid runners. The Mooresville, N.C., area where I live has been a long-time home base for NASCAR.  Other than that I don’t watch sports much at all.

Do you have a favorite pro or college team you go bananas over to support or pay attention to? 

No. I support my alma mater, the University of Tennessee. I also support Appalachian State University and Davidson College in my hometown.

Going back to your art/creative work – paintings and music – of several years ago, are you actively doing these things nowadays? If so, can you provide some details?  

The last oil painting I did was a large diptych for my son’s bedroom. I don’t have much free time to paint.  I occasionally make music for Reckless Running promotions.  These days I take my son to art class once a week.  It’s not an instructional art class, just free time to paint or create with a bigger mix of mediums.  The best part is when we don’t have to clean up afterward.  We also have art time everyday at home and he loves it.  Sometimes he’ll just randomly start saying, “Art time, art time.” His interests are my interests now.