Cheers, Kyle Merber

Kyle Merber brought humor, transparency and personality to the track and social media.

This is the CITIUS MAG Newsletter, a weekly round-up of the biggest stories in the running and track & field community with analysis and commentary by me, Chris Chavez. If you’ve been forwarded this email or stumbled upon a link online, you can sign up and subscribe here:

Yesterday was truly an ugly and stressful day for our country. It was awful and dismaying to see how the president incited violence and riled up a mob of domestic terrorists to storm the U.S. Capitol building. One woman was killed. Several other people were injured. Lots of damage was done to such a historic monument of our nation. However, after a few hours of seeking refuge and shelter, the Senate and House reconvened to certify Joe Biden and Kamala Harris’ victory and democracy was preserved. At the end of the day, the country is still very divided and the president should face consequences for the shameful insurrection that he caused. I’m still hopeful that we can move forward with better leaders. Even yesterday morning brought more optimism out of Georgia but there’s still more work to be done to repair the damage done.

Keeping this week’s newsletter shorter than past editions...


Kyle Merber’s Next Chapter Begins

Kyle Merber, who has run for the New Jersey-New York Track Club since 2013, took to Instagram to announce that he’s not done running but he’s done getting paid for it.

“I don’t like to say I am retiring — Real runners don’t retire. I’m merely rearranging priorities,” he wrote.

As a professional, he has run 1:47.23 for 800 meters, 3:34.54 for 1,500 meters and 3:52.22 for the mile. His best showing at a U.S. outdoor championship was his sixth-place finish in 2015 at Hayward Field behind Matt Centrowitz, Robby Andrews, Leo Manzano, Ben Blankenship and Andrew Wheating (all guys who had made Olympic teams or went on to qualify in 2016.) His best race is maybe that 3:52.22 when he duked it out with Edward Cheserek at Boston University’s indoor track in February 2017.

Merber may not have world championship medals or Olympic team appearances on his resume (He is a world record holder in the distance medley relay from the 2015 IAAF World Relays) but there’s no doubt that he made an impact on the current generation of American distance running by bringing humor, transparency and personality to the track and social media. He’s arguably one of the funniest professionals to follow but also posted with honesty when things weren’t going so great in his attempted comebacks from a series of injuries. 

I’m 100% certain that he’s not done getting involved within the sport. While under contract with HOKA, he pushed for and got approval for the Long Island Mile, which brought a set of high-performance races to a part of New York that hadn’t seen one in a while. Each year there were hundreds of high school students who would go to participate, spectate or cheer. After the race, these fans were able to meet the pros, get their autographs and snap selfies. He did his best to bridge that gap connecting the highest level of the sport with the future athletes. That connection was genuine. It showed because there could be a few guys with faster personal bests and credentials but the kids would swarm Merber no matter where he finished in the race.

CITIUS MAG contributor David Melly wrote on Twitter: “The reality of the sport rn means we'll likely see a lot of pro runner retirements in 2021. It always sucks, but it reminds me of what's great about athletics: the humanity of our "stars" is more accessible than in any other sport, & we care on a more personal level as a result. The fans will always care more about the runner than the shoes or the kit or the race. Invest in athletes.”

And I wholeheartedly agree so it was a little dismaying to see this advertisement from Bachelorette runner-up Tyler Cameron plugging HOKA shoes knowing that some of that budget could have been used to go toward a pro runner or group in a more natural and real way than being just one of three influencer deals that he’s pushed in the past week.

If you want to enjoy a Merber gem, watch his win in the high school boys mile at the 2008 Millrose Games in Madison Square Garden:

PS: I know a few people have tweeted, commented and emailed about getting Kyle Merber on the CITIUS MAG Podcast for an exit interview. We’re going to make it happen.

Changes Happening At Bowerman Track Club

Ryan Hill announced that he will be leaving the Bowerman Track Club to join Northern Arizona Elite. The official release by the team says he "will remain focused on the 5,000 meters ahead of the 2020 U.S. Olympic Trials. He spent seven years training under Jerry Schumacher since he made his first U.S. national team in 2013. With Bowerman, he won three U.S. titles and made four world championship teams. He won a silver medal in the 3,000 meters at the 2016 World Indoor Championships that were held in Portland, Ore.

Kate Grace’s time with Bowerman has also come to an end. She joined the team in 2017 – just one year after winning the U.S. Olympic Trials 800 meter final and then making the Olympic final in Rio de Janeiro. With the Bowerman Track Club, she cemented herself as one of the best 1,500 meter and mile runners in the country. She lowered her personal bests to 4:02.49 for 1,500 and 4:20.70 for the mile. She has yet to announce what her next plans are.

Other notable sponsor switches in 2021: 2016 Olympic silver medalist Sandi Morris switched from Nike to Puma…German steeplechaser and two-time world championship bronze medalist Gesa Krause also signed a deal with Puma…Olympic gold medalist Tianna Bartoletta is no longer with Nike but has yet to announce a new sponsor…Canadian marathon trials champion Trevor Hofbauer followed his compatriot Malindi Elmore’s lead and signed with SauconyHOKA One One signed one of the United States’ most notable and popular ultrarunners in Camille Herron after her deal with Nike expired…Lots of rumors flying around at the moment regarding top U.S. female distance runners but I won’t push any speculation on you.

Hakone Ekiden’s Thrilling Finish

I wish there was a better way to watch the Hakone Ekiden in the United States but factoring in the time difference and lack of an easy-to-find live stream; I resorted to following along with Brett Larner’s tweets and occasionally scouring for video clips on YouTube and Twitter. The finish did not disappoint.

Let me set this up...On the five-stage return run from Hakone to Tokyo’s business district, Komazawa University started the day more than two minutes behind Soka University. Soka put together an incredible showing after the first day and was possibly going to be a stunner in their own right. However, it all came down to the 23-kilometer final leg. Komazawa’s anchor Takuma Ishikawa needed to make up a three-minute, 19-second deficit in order to win. It’s wild to think that a 109.6-kilometer day all came down to the final two kilometers. That’s where Ishikawa made his move on Soka’s anchor Yuki Onodera, who had no response. Komazawa ends up winning by 52 seconds.

That was a bit of the Sparknotes version of what happened. I highly recommend reading Brett Larner’s post on Japan Running News for further context.


On The CITIUS MAG Podcast Network

“I can’t wait to give back to the community. Everyone needs help. If I had no help from the people around me, I wouldn’t be the person I am today. We might not understand this because when you get something, sometimes you forget what you have gone through. Small things give hope to the people who live in the dark. I want to inspire people and give back to young people who have big dreams. I want to support their dreams.”

On the latest episode of The CITIUS MAG Podcast, Weini Kelati shares her incredible life story that really takes off after she competed for her Eritrea at the 2014 World Junior Championships in Eugene, Ore. She decided not to get on the plane back home and started a new life in America. You’ll hear the behind-the-scenes of how that planning all came together, how she settled into life in Virginia and her hopes of competing for the United States at the 2021 U.S. Olympic Trials. Start the year with a little inspiration from her. | FULL SHOW NOTES HERE.

LISTEN NOW

You can catch the latest episode of the podcast on iTunes so subscribe and leave a five-star review. We are also on Stitcher, Google Play and Spotify!

– On Social Sport, Emma Zimmerman has started a five-part series on Relative Energy Deficiency in Sports (RED-S) and eating disorders. The first two episodes have been released. The first one features Keira Carter, who wrote for Runner’s World “RED-S is a Real Problem for Some Runners–Here’s What You Need to Know.The second episode features Rachael Steil, who is an eating disorder recovery advocate and the author of Running in Silence.

– On ‘More Than Running with Dana Giordano’, Dana catches up with her teammate Erika Kemp on how she’s established herself on the pro circuit. There’s also lots of food talk that will have you craving everything from spaghetti and meatballs to red wine.

– On ‘Run Your Mouth’, David Melly and Heather MacLean discuss the importance of shaping your own narrative, what makes pro running in Boston special and a flurry of other topics including Tiktok and Dunkin.

– On Running Things Considered, Zane Coburn and Avery Bartlett welcomed Rory Linkletter shortly after he ran a personal best of 2:12:54 at The Marathon Project. They discuss his training with NAZ Elite, being plant-based, attending BYU and more. They also just posted their new episode with Craig Engels.


That’s it from me in the latest edition of the CITIUS MAG Newsletter. Thanks for reading! If you enjoyed this, learned something new or have any questions or commentary on anything featured in this issue, feel free to hit my inbox: chris@citiusmag.com

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