Running Decathlon: Homage to Hicham

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Kelly Hayes, a spotter on NBC’s Sunday Night Football, is attempting to to complete “The Running Decathlon” which consists of the ten most widely-run track events. His goal is to run each race “half as fast,” or in twice the time, of the current world record in each event. And he will attempt to run these races in the footsteps of those who set the records on the very tracks, and in the very stadiums where the records were set.

His “quest” serves as a platform to raise funds to purchase a $90,000 exoskeleton Bionic Suit, which allows those with critical spinal injuries to rise from their wheelchairs and actually take assisted walks. Think Tony Stark from Ironman. He is relying on donations to the Bridging Bionics Foundation to make this a reality.

Follow Kelly on his journey, which begins in Rome on July 7, 2016, here, on Facebook, Twitter and at race2walk2016.com where you can make a 100 percent tax-deductible contribution towards the purchase of an exoskeleton Bionic Suit for the Bridging Bionics Foundation. One hundred percent of your donations will go towards the purchase of these suits.

Please turn Kelly’s steps into dollars. And we will turn dollars into steps for those who want to walk again.

If you ever saw Hicham El Guerrouj run, then you perhaps saw the greatest runner to ever put on a pair of spikes.

Yes I know, many of you will ask: “Who?”

Well, El Guerrouj, to this day, holds the world records for the 1500m and the mile. And they were both set in the last century.

Today, for the second time this month, I took to the track at the Stadio Olimpico in Rome with the goal of running those two events in twice the time, or half as fast, as those records. And with thumping pride I report that, for the second time in a week, I crushed it. Today’s 1500m saw me finish with a time of 6:24.34, or better than :27 faster than I needed to beat the doubled time of 6:52.0 I had set as my goal.

Now this time is nothing special for a real life runner. But for a 60-year-old runner (El Guerrouj was 24 when he set the 1500m record) who outweighs El Guerrouj by 60 pounds, it ain’t bad.

But more importantly, it achieved the goal I set when I originally conceived this whimsical, selfish fantasy of attempting to run in the footsteps of the fastest men who ever ran on a rubber track.

And most importantly, it has led many to come to the race2walk2016.com website, learn about the Bionic Exoskeleton suits we are raising money to purchase, and make a donation. You can do the same.

My pacer, or “Rabbit” as I like to call him, Mattia Barbaro (yes, like the 2006 Kentucky Derby Winner) was aware of the record that had been set in this stadium, but did not know who El Guerrouj was. Of course, he was just 2 years old when the Moroccan accomplished the feat. I told him he needed to check out the YouTube video of the race and then I remembered that when El Guerrouj set the record, YouTube was still seven years shy of its invention.

The race, if you want to call it that, and I do, was similar to the mile run last week. A beautiful empty stadium that seats 65,000, with a translucent overhang that shelters the azure (that’s Italian for blue) seats, has not a single banner, sign or light board that advertises anything. There was a purity to both the visual and aural elements that made running a joy. There was the sound of my breathing resonating off the seats as I ran, but other than that it was pretty silent.

For the uninitiated, the 1500m, or Metric Mile, is the race that is officially contested in the Olympic Games. It is 100m, or 109 yards, or about the length of a football field and one end zone, shorter than an actual mile. You may think that would make the race easier, but I really don’t think so. For one thing, you start the race on the opposite side of the track from where you finish. And that means your first lap is the short one if that makes any sense. I had a difficult time pacing as a result. Which is why I was glad I had my “Rabbit,” or as they call the pacer in Italy, my “Fox.”

But I had watched the aforementioned YouTube video, as sketchy as it is, of El Guerrouj setting his record and it was inspiring. Not just for the speed, but for the precision and economy of motion he puts on display. It is like watching a great thoroughbred run a horse race. There is just rhythm to the motion. Each stride is the exact length, each arm pistons in time, and every fiber of his being moves in a forward motion.

Now obviously, I duplicate none of that. But in my mind, as I ran around the far turn before turning for home, I was running the way you are supposed to run. Oh, I’m sure the attached video will dispute my self-image and reveal how I flailed down the stretch. But again, it matters not. I set the rules for The Running Decathlon. It’s my game. And right now, I’m up 2-0. Eight races to go.

It’s on to Hengelo in the Netherlands and the 5000m.

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Joey Chestnut downs a record 74 franks for 11th title

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Defending champion Joey “Jaws” Chestnut chomped down a record 74 franks and buns to take home his 11th title at the annual Nathan’s Famous July Fourth hot dog eating contest.

The renowned competitive eater from San Jose, California, takes home the coveted Mustard Belt and surpassed the previous mark of 72 dogs and buns he downed last year.

The heat wasn’t a factor; the National Weather Service put the temperature at 83 degrees with a heat index of 91 degrees.

Miki Sudo said after eating 37 dogs and buns that the heat may have slowed her down in winning the women’s competition.

That didn’t stop the Las Vegas eater from easily beating out second-place finisher Mischelle Lesco of Tuscon, Arizona, who chowed down 28 wieners and buns.

Joey Chestnut heavy betting favorite on 2018 Hot Dog contest odds

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It boils down not to “if,” but “how many?” when it comes to Joey Chestnut and the Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest.

Chestnut, who’s won in 10 of the last 11 years, is an overwhelming -550 favorite against the field to prevail again in the July 4 competitive eating contest that takes place in Coney Island, New York, according to sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com.

The rest of the field is listed at +325 to pull off the upset (stomach), but it seems telling that Matt Stonie, the only competitive eater who has out-gorged Chestnut in the last decade, has had a two-year decline in the total of hot dogs and buns consumed since his triumph in 2015.

The reality that Chestnut might be competing against himself could be a tip on how to handle over/under on his 72.5 total. Chestnut has improved his record in three of his last four wins and has consumed at least 68 hot dogs and buns five times, so getting the over – which pays +160, to the -210 for the under – would seem projectable.

Carmen Cincotti, who will mark his 25th birthday on the day of the contest, has emerged as an up-and-coming challenger. The total on Cincotti’s consumption is 59.5, with the over still holding decent value at -190, to +145 for the under.

The alternate lines for the winner’s total – 68.5 and 66.5 – are very low-risk, but also very low-yield plays.

Four-time women’s champion Miki Sudo is also a -550 favorite on the 2018 hot dog contest odds to win her division, with the field priced at +400. Sudo crushed a record 41 hot dogs and buns in 2017, while runner-up Michelle Lesco finished with 32.5.

The over/under on the total for the women’s winner is a toss-up at 41.5, paying -120 either way, and Sudo is likely the only one in the field with a legitimate shot at it. Sudo has finished at least 38 hot dogs and buns in three consecutive years.

In head-to-head props, Sudo is also offering -500 against +300 challenger Sonya Thomas, who won back in 2014. Thomas finished with 30 hot dogs in 2017.

For more odds information, betting picks and a breakdown of this week’s top sports betting news check out the OddsShark podcast with Jon Campbell and Andrew Avery. Subscribe on iTunes or listen to it at OddsShark.libsyn.com.