Syttende Mai report

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This topic contains 18 replies, has 9 voices, and was last updated by  Ryan 12 years, 9 months ago.

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  • #5225


    Adimal and I didn't quite hit our target for Syttende Mai on Saturday but we both lopped 9-10 minutes off our time last year for the famously hilly 20-mile race from Madison to Stoughton.

    We ran 2:36:50-53 last year. Here are our splits from Saturday. (Adimal fell back with about 2 miles to go and finished about 1:30 behind me.)

    We were aiming for a 2:25, which meant a 7:15 pace. That's what we'll need to nail at our fall marathon (yet to be selected) to finish in 3:10 and thereby BQ. (And yes, as the elder runner of the two of us, I actually need a 3:15 to qualify. I ran Chicago last fall in 3:19:08 and Adimal ran it in 3:22. Nevertheless, we're shooting for 3:10 so we can go together.)

    Syttende Mai 2006
    Mile 1-2 = 14:15 (7:07)
    3 = 7:12, 21:27
    4 = 7:13, 28:40
    5 = 7:31, 36:12
    6 = 7:20, 43:32
    7 = 7:10, 50:42
    8 = 7:19, 58:02
    9 = 7:37, 1:05:39
    10 = 7:33, 1:13::13
    11 = 7:37, 1:20:51
    12-13 = 14:46 (7:23), 1:35:38
    14 = 7:29, 1:43:07
    15 = 7:35, 1:50:42
    16 = 7:27, 1:58:10
    17 = 7:20, 2:05:30
    18 = 7:14, 2:12:45
    19-20 = 13:50 (6:55), 2:26:35

    The official results listed me with a 2:27:03 for 45 place overall. (Interestingly, 20 years ago, that wouldn't have put me in the top 350 at this race). Adam finished 49th.

    Not as consistent as we would have liked. Still, we ran about 30 seconds per mile faster than last year. It will be interesting to see how we do in the fall after completing Pfitz's 18/55 program (which started yesterday). We've got some work to do ….

  • #20664


    i've always wanted to do Syttende Mai.  what's the course like?  hilly?

  • #20665


    Yes, it is a hilly, meandering route from the state capitol to the park in Stoughton.

    I also had an opportunity to review and compare finishing times for Syttende Mai between yesterday and 20 to 25 years ago. Looking back it is amazing to realize how much faster the field was and what a talent magnet the race was.

    My dad dug out his running diary. His entry for that the 1985 edition of Syttende Mai indicated he finished 119th overall out of 1,472 finishers and eighth in his age group (40-44) in a time of 2:12:33. He wrote he was “aiming for 2:10 but will take it.” He also mentioned his running buddy “Ron took it easy. Finished strong around 2:25.”

    This was supremely humbling information. First of all, I headed into the 2006 race with a goal of finishing in 2:25. Having run the race for the second time in just under 2:37 in 2005, I knew lopping off nearly 12 minutes (by running 40 seconds faster per mile) would be anything but “easy” as it had been for Ron. But based on last year’s results, a 2:25 looked likely to bump me from 116th overall to one of the top 50 finishers.

    Twenty years earlier, however, a 2:25 runner finished in 318th place.

    How was that possible? The six years Dad ran Syttende Mai, from 1980 to 1985 (the official results for which he also squirreled away), he was accompanied by an abundance of fast fellas, all self-made products of that era’s heralded running boom.

    Back then the elite women and old-timers were speedy, too. In 1980, for example, 24-year-old Lorraine Moller of New Zealand ran 1:55:36 and set the the women’s world record for 20 miles – and on anything but a flat course. She went on to become a four-time Olympic marathoner. That same year, Hal Higdon, who is today the most prominent American master’s marathoner, ran the race in 1:54:27 for 16th place overall. He was 48.

    In 1983, future Silent Sports magazine running columnist Tom Kaufman, at 32, ran Syttende Mai in a very respectable 1:58:42. And he was beat by 64 other guys in that race! (Among them was Dan Rindfleisch who, at 29, finished in 6th place with a time of 1:46:17. Much more recently, Rindfleisch has advertised himself as “The Ironman Realtor” in the same magazine.)

    In 1983, in fact, an astounding 80 runners broke the two-hour mark and the winner, James Ingold of Monroe, set a course record of 1:40:20. (That’s five minutes per mile, folks!) Now compare that to last month’s winning time of 1:53:56 by Madison’s Matt Hooley. He and the three men who followed him were the only ones to make it in under two hours in 2006.

    I don’t mean to diminish Hooley’s accomplishment, because neither I nor many other runners can maintain a sub six-minute per mile pace for 5K let alone for 20 miles. But clearly the talent pool was much deeper two decades ago. How else can you explain my 45th overall place this year for running just under 2:27?

    And apparently you don't have to delve that far back into the record books to be impressed. I'm told the Syttende Mai results from the 1993 and 94 races show a 2:27 would have placed you 161st in 1993 and 141st in 1994. The winning times were 1:46:22 and 1:50:10.

    What's happened since? It seemed like there were a lot more runners than walkers in the total 1,150 or so participants. The resurgent Green Bay Marathon was the same day. The Mad City Marathon is next weekend. Does my generation have the same depth of talent but its diluted by so many more events?

    Any ideas?

  • #20666


    That last paragraph should have said “there seemed to be a lot more walkers than runners” at the event Saturday.

  • #20667


    Joel, that's a very interesting question you're asking and it is not a simple answer. The problem is there is no one answer.

    First, the diluted field as you mention. Many more races spread out the field. Second, there seems to be a much greater focus on participation than competition. Even though there are more people in many of these events, many more are only interested in finishing, not concerned with time or place. Why is this? I have a theory I could get into but I won't unless someone really wants me to.

    I think these are the two big issues but they are far from the only issues. The good news is things do seem to be changing. Fields are getting a bit more competitive than they were 5-10 years ago in at least some races. Anyone who cares about competitive running should be hoping that this very recent trend continues and even accelerates, overtaking the trend toward non-competitive “races”.

  • #20668


    I have a theory I could get into but I won't unless someone really wants me to.

    I, for one, really want you to.  The following no doubt plays no small role in it:

    “I suspect that we have been systematically overemphasizing the risks and underestimating the rewards. I suspect that we run the risk of ingrained mediocrity due to a systemic bias against risk.”

  • #20669


    Ryan, ditto here for hearing your theory.

    Clearly I care about competitive running. But as an individual runner, I'm not competitive. When I look at my own times, even though they are improving, I know full well I'm midling to average. Sure, I can occasionally dent the rankings for my age group. But when I look at all who came before me and what they accomplished, as discussed below, I don't even feel adequate.

    But would I want more competition? Yes, to see how I'd stack up, and no, not if it's going to take away what little hardware I'm apt to get. That may be a really lame argument in favor of my own mediocrity.

  • #20670


    Not to obsess about Syttende Mai, but as a case in point I offer my official results:

    Your results from the May 20, 2006 Syttende Mai Run:

    Bib:  298
    Sex/Age:  M/35
    Division: M3539

    Time (gun): 2:27:03
    Time (chip): 2:26:35
    Pace/Mi:  7:22

    Overall:  45 of 428
    Gender: 40 of 302
    Division: 4 of 28

    (Complete results are at

    Now I've got the results booklet for the 1984 Syttende Mai in front of me. so I can see that even the total size of the field has shrunk dramatically.

    The race started in 1973 with 80 runners (that first year women were allowed to run only 7 miles, and 9 women did). In 1977, there were 439 finishers, and the following year that number spiked to 768 finishers. I don't know if the total peaked in 1983, but that year there were 1,809 finishers. A downward slide in participation appears to have started the following year with 1,666 finishers and 1,472 runners completing the 1985 race.

    As tabulated above, the 2006 race had only 428 finishers. That's on par with the  1977 field.

    Of course the raw numbers don't tell the whole story. The 1981 booklet mentions that Runner's World listed SM as “one of the top 100 runs in North America” and The Runner (magazine) was due to publish a feature on the race in September of that year. That may explain the jump from 1,267 finishers in 1981 and the 1,714 in 1982. (Only 23 runners broke 2:00 in 1982, far below the 80 that did so in '83.)

    OK, I'll shut up now.

  • #20671


    Now I've got the results booklet for the 1984 Syttende Mai in front of me. so I can see that even the total size of the field has shrunk dramatically.

    (In 1984, there were) 1,666 finishers

    Ok, look me up in the results booklet (Peter Diamond, male 20 years old)! I finished around 2:24 something in 1984, and 300th place sounds about right. I ran the 1st 15 miles with two other college buddies who had never run further than 12 miles, and then ran the last 3 miles in about 6:30 pace, finishing in a downpouring rain. What a blast!

    Everyone talks about how hilly Sytennde Mai is, but I never really felt that way. I grew up in Madison and ran plenty of hills, and I thought it wasn't bad at all, compared to where I trained.

    And yes Ryan, I want to hear the theory as well!

  • #20672


    Peter, the book says you ran SM in 2:25:04 for 360th place overall and 48th in your age group in 1984.

    I would agree about the hills. They grow in my memory between races, which makes the real ones more conquerable when the time comes.

    That may be another reason for the drop-off in participation of late: The perception that this is a horribly hill race at a time when both elite and pedestrian runners are looking for flat courses.

  • #20673


    If you don't mind, I'll have to wait at least a few days to get a response that someone won't overanalyze and tear into me for “saying” something I didn't even mean to say. I'm supposed to be on the road within 2-3 hours and I'm still sitting here having to get my post-run stretch in and eat breakfast before I even begin packing.

    I'll see if I can type something up and post it from up north.

    In short, I believe it's a multi-faceted issue of which the Pfitz quote identifies one part and of which I've probably posted on before if someone knew what to search for (off the top of my head, I'm not even sure, I'd probably have to spend more time than I have available at the moment to come up with the right search).

  • #20674



    It's great to see a discussion about the Syttende Mai race. I am one of the co-race directors of the event and this was my second year taking on the task. Prior to organizing the race, I was able to complete it four times. I'd be glad to try and answer questions or provide info that I may have. Our numbers have definitely fallen over the last decade for the 20-mile run. At the same time, walk numbers have risen. My take on the whole thing is that in general, people are less concerned about competing and more about participating and gaining recognition. I think many people have chosen other events because of SM's reputation as a tough course and the fact that it is 20-miles and not a marathon. People want to tell their friends they finished a marathon…not a 20-mile race. Runners who are in good shape also choose other events because they want to time trial, not compete against a tough course, where time may only be relative to what you have done in past years yourself on the same course. Runners want to talk about their marathon PR, not how they ran in a tough 20-mile race. I think the numbers in the race back that up. We have very few younger runners (30 and below). A majority of entrants are 40-60 year old males who have a tradition of doing the race. One of our goals as race directors is to get numbers back up by drawing a younger crowd. One idea is to do a team competition with prize $. Any thoughts on that? One other question for people with more tradition on the race then myself…was Syttende Mai an AAU, USATF or some other sort of championship sanctioned race at one point? We believe it was. That would definitely explain the higher numbers and deep quality of competitors. I'd love get more details on that part of the history of the race.


  • #20675


    I ran the Syttende Mai four years in a row; thn I moved to Maryland.  I always loved the race; especially the fact that the course was challenging.  I know some of my former college teamates don't run it because they have the philosphy of “if I'm going to race that long of distance on hills; might as well run a marathon.”  My college, still as astleast one alumni run it; as we all got insight about it from our coach (Tom Antczak), who won a few times.

    As for declining numbers; in general I believe that our society today tends to settle for mediocrity instead of strive for greatness.  We are raised in a society of Instant Gratification; thus racing hard for “pure competetiveness” seems too much work for many people.

    Even here in Maryland, myself and few other runners are always wishing more talented runners would compete.  I'm lucky that in the Balimore-DC area there are a lot of running clubs (with some international runners), but still; it is hard to get more people to race in competitions.  However, even with all the runners; the biggest challenge for many of the running clubs is runners between the ages of 20-28.  It seems that many talented runners in this age group stop running after high school and/or college.  The running club i run for is estatic that they have about 10 of us who very competetive in this age group; which has really pushed us to the top “team” in DC-Baltimore area.  Plus, many runners are more concnerend about fast courses, and runs that give prizes.

    I always enjoyed the Syttende Mai, and I hope to run it again in near future.  I still ahve three Rosmaling (sp?) plates on my dresser.  Peopele ask why I have them, and I tell them aabout how I ran hard to “earn them”.  I think I'm more proud of those then a bunch of other awards.  I'd love o see the Syttende Mai's number get back up there.  Of course, I hope that for a lot of races.

    As for Team Idea; that's might work.  I know, myr running mates and I always lookf for team competitions.  I personally miss the team atmosphere of college and high school.  I'm luck to have that someon what right now; both training and racing. 

    Well, sorry for the ramblings.  Peronally, I beleive that many americans are more interested in recognition for least amount of work possible then racing hard for the pure competiveness.  Me, I run to beat people (not physically).  Of course, there are stillmany who beat me; but everyday I strive to change the score.

    Hope this helps

    Jason Grimm

  • #20676


    Bump down the spam.

  • #20677

    I was surprized to see such a low count at Syttende Mai.  I knew it was losing it's luster over the years.  Under 500 participants is scary.
    Gene and I ran a trail run on the Superior Trails up in Lutzen Mn. that day.
    The Ice Age 50K/50M was a weekend before as well.
    Could it be true that some people are switching to Trail Utras?
    I am still struggling with motivation 🙁

  • #20678


    After running from Madison to Stoughton 29 times, I have experienced the rise in numbers and the decline. I would agree that much of the decline in performance is due to the changing landscape of running in the U.S. We have become a society of participants with few caring about performance, but many caring about completing the distance regardless of the time required.

    I don't really think this problematic. It's great that folks are out doing something. But as someone who has tried to “race” for many years, it's a bit disheartening to watch the decline in performances. This is not specific to Syttende Mai. 25 years ago if you had 1000 runners in a marathon, 300 would crack the 3 hour mark. Now you might need 10,000 to come up with 300 sub-3 hour performances.

    From what I have observed, most runners are unwilling and uninterested in training hard enough to truly excell at racing. This, I think, is too bad. They are however willing to train hard enough to complete an event and to hopefully stay in good health. This is a good thing. Another factor is the increase in triathlons. Many of the top age group athletes are competing in tri's. For those of us who have to work for a living, there are only so many hours we can dedicate to training in a week.

    Nationally, the number of runners completing races has increased a bit over the last 5 years. Most of this growth has come in the 5K. It's a distance that is within reach of many runners. The amount of time needed to train for a 5K is not intimidating. S.M. at 20 rolling miles requires a more concentrated training effort. The Madison Marathon on the following weekend most certainly bites into the numbers. It would be nice to see some more younger runners at S.M. There are not too many folks left from the days when I was running this for the first few times. Ideas?

  • #20679


    Hey T.K., Good luck to Corey and Brett at state this weekend. Are you coming down to run the 10k in Milton on July 4? If so, I'll see you there.

    Peter (Madison West Alum)

  • #20680


    Thanks Peter! Corey and Brett had pretty races today. It was sunny and 83 degrees – usual State Meet weather. They came in seeded as 20 and 22 out of 25. Brett was one of only two freshmen boys in total who competed in individual events at State in Division 1. The other being a 1600 runner from Fort Atkinson. Corey finished 17'th and Brett 19'th in times just a bit slower than sectionals (mid 9:50's). A solid end to their seasons. I hope to see you at Milton on the 4'th. I'm leaving on the 6'th to run a relay that starts in Reno, NV goes around Lake Tahoe and returns to Reno (about 178 miles). I just need to make sure I'm rested enough to race well in the relay.

  • #20681


    T.K., good job to both Corey and Brett. It's a heck of an accomplishment to just qualify for state. For both of them to finish better than their seeds is a good sign that they peaked when it matters. It sounds like Brett has a bright future ahead of him. 19th as a freshman is very solid.

    Best wishes in your relay.

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