Created with Sketch.
Winners and Losers
78 minutes | Dec 31, 2020
Who Won and Who Lost in 2020?
Who Somehow Won in 2020?John Lofranco's picks:Canadian and U.S. Marathon Trials WinnersThe long break is to the advantage of each athlete who has a spot locked up for Tokyo 2021, for various reasons:The Americans:Aliphine Tuliamuk: It allowed her time to have a child, and what she showed is she can win a competitive race in difficult conditions which is what will be needed in Tokyo.Galen Rupp: He can do what he’s always done which is prepare as if he were a medal contender. The more time for him, the better.Molly Seidel: She qualified in her first-ever marathon, and the big break has given her time to learn the distance, including running a 2:25 in London in October.Jacob Riley: He has had a couple big results in the shorter distances bewteen 2012-15, but really his breakthrough was Chicago 2019. But asking him to run three 2:10 or better marathons in a year would have been tough. So the break helps him recharge and prep for another big effort in 2021.Sally Kipyego: She's experienced runner who can now focus on preparing for the big race. Also she’s older and has had a long career on the track, so a little more recovery time can’t hurt.Abdi Abdirahman: Same as Kipyego. He’s been in the game for 20+ years at a world-class level, so the extra year gives him time to recover and ramp up for one last shot at glory.The Canadians:Dayna Pidhoresky: It gives her time to focus without doing a bunch of extra races.Trevor Hofbauer: He's showed he's progressing consistently and linearly, so it’s an opportunity for a jump to an even better level than he'd have been if the race had taken place in 2020.The mentally strongIt’s fair to say there have been some difficult circumstances this year, but it hasn’t been that bad for many people. Runners who saw the positive side and used their training as a way to bring structure to their day could have been advantaged.The pandemic was, for many, an excuse to train a ton. But what was required to take advantage of this is the ability to train without a specific event-based goal. That’s hard. One was really faced with the “why” of running. Seeing some running groups (in the U.S. mostly) ignoring social gathering restrictions showed how some people aren’t mentally strong enough (or maybe don’t actually like running enough) to just go it alone. But those who are, thrived.Sadly, DopersTesting paused with everything else, and that created a big opportunity. For someone who was going to dope, conditions were good. And the pandemic produced lots of big performances. Maybe that happened because people adjusted their training for lockdown but... isn’t lockdown training for distance running kind of what elite runners are doing anyway? It’s not like the top elites are distracted by work to begin with.It's not just the elites that are tempted by doping. We don’t see it much in running but there’s a ton of age-group level doping in tri and cycling. Could this be happened in running, too? With “lockdown training” as an excuse for mid-range runners taking a leap?Michael’s WinnersShoe companies, especially those not named Nike — Adidas, Saucony, New Balance, Asics, Brooks, On and HokaAll these brands finally gained traction with their carbon-plated super shoe in 2020. The running footwear industry desperately needed something in an otherwise disastrous year, and each brand that produced a legit "Vaporfly killer" seemed to get a bit of an uptick in sales and attention.At the beginning of the year, Nike and other shoe brands got a big win when World Athletics didn’t shut down the carbon plated shoes, and instead imposed some restrictions — but those that felt tailor-made to allow for the Alphafly, thus preserving all the fast times run in Nike's shoes in the past few years.Meanwhile, Nike didn't have a great year financially, but are crushing the competition in e-comm (and butchering the indie running store in the process).Nike and Adidas have since cleaned up, and it’s been a big year for very fast times — imagine how many more fast times would have come if there had been a full slate of races.Most importantly for all these shoe brands, it feels like the super shoes are now normalized — we aren’t really putting an asterisk next to those who won in Vaporflys any longer, so in a sense other brands following suit helped Nike legitimize their big technological gamble.Joshua Cheptegei and those who thrived in the chaosKeira D’Amato, Sara Hall, Shelby Houlihan, Mo Ahmed, Donavan Brazier, Jacob Kiplimo, Peres Jepchirchir, Ruth Cheptengetich, Kibiwatt Kandie, Martin Hehir — all these athletes did something special amid very restrictive training and racing circumstances. Creativity thrives under constraints.StravaNo one profited off the massive shift in behaviour during the pandemic more greatly than Strava — with 2 million new users per month during 2020.The dominant endurance sports social media app now has 70 million users in over 190 countries. The company parleyed that into $110 million in new venture capital funding to help them figure out what’s next.Strava also finally flipped the switch on pro accounts, creating a path for monetization after years of zero profit.But perhaps most importantly, Strava became the epicentre and virtual meeting place for runners when we couldn’t meet or race each other in person in 2020, solidifying its hold on its user base.The company is in a weird space going into 2021 — too big for a midlevel bike or shoe company to acquire, and too niche for Facebook, Google or Microsoft to snap up. Only an industry giant like Nike would be able to afford taking on a company with the massive evaluation Strava would surely receive, and the Swoosh isn't foolish enough to make the same mistakes a rival like Under Armour has made trying to get into the technology game.And Who Lost in 2020?John’s PicksKinda Good RunnersFrom high school to university athletes, to competitive recreational road runners, almost everyone (outside of the elite tier) saw races cancelled. That sucks. Even if you can understand that fitness doesn’t go away, not getting to see the fruits of your labour is disappointing. If all you care about is a participation medal, then yeah, you can do some virtual races that will mail you one after you upload your run to Strava. And there have been some impressive solo time trials. But nothing quite replaces a race, and those who know and feel this really lost out this year.Traditional Road RacesJamming tens of thousands of people onto a start line now seems like such a terrible idea, and it’s hard to imagine a return to it. Not to say runners won’t feel comfortable with it; there will be enough people willing when a vaccine arrives. But I can’t see cities, that already have a challenging if adversarial relationships with races in some cases, agreeing to these events in the short term and at their previous capacity — no matter what the economic impact an event may bring. That's too bad.It remains to be seen if smaller, local, neighbourhood races will be a go. It could be a nice middle ground but those races aren’t money makers, so will anyone bother to organize them? We might see a change in pricing and amenities where the experience costs more but is also significantly pared down. It will test if people are doing it for the run or the “experience.”The Running IndustryAll the peripherals to races will be affected, too. Running retail is hurting. La Maison de la Course (which, in English, translates to "House of Running"), a new little chain that had opened up a few stores in the Montréal area in the years pre-COVID, has closed its doors. Some older, more established running stores are barely hanging on. In the most recent lockdown Quebec added a new rule preventing big box stores, open to sell essential items, from selling non-essential stuff. So this policy, if implemented elsewhere, could help. After all, supposedly lots of people have taken up running this year. But without races with big expos to show them all the gear they don’t need, how will they know? Running has been exposed as a very simple activity. Good for runners and minimalists, bad for salespeople and capitalists.And shoe companies had a good enough year but do they need running stores to sell their stuff anymore? The industry ecosystem has entirely changed, and that's a bad thing for those who operate in the old way.Michael’s PicksWell, all of us average runnersIf you loved to run in races against other human beings in real-time and in person, then 2020 was pretty devastating. If you built your social life around your running group and looked forward to seeing old friends on the roads for long runs or at a local tune-up race, then 2020 felt very lonely. If you appreciated the structure and meaning that a training season (with an end goal) provided, then 2020 was chaotic and demoralizing.The only good thing in all of this is that a year only lasts 365 days.The city of Tokyo and country of JapanLost in the constant churn of breaking news throughout 2020 was an intriguing story about the battle between the International Olympic Committee and the Tokyo 2020 organizing group. Ultimately, the IOC won a game of chicken, with the Japanese government giving in and ostensively taking the blame for the the postponement of the Games last summer. That flinch will cost the Japanese taxpayer (and not the IOC) billions of additional dollars when all the lawsuits are resolved over lost revenue. Meanwhile, the Games will go on next year, and the IOC will get to keep its precious billions in television broadcast rights treasure.The New York RoadrunnersNYRR own and operate a series of high-profile running events, including the New York City Marathon. Of course, all its races got cancelled this year. But amid a tumultous summer in America, the economic impact of these cancellations revealed a deep fissure within the storied organization.An anonymous group of past and present employees launched an Instagram account called Rebuild NYRR, and began to outline a series of accusations of racism, sexism and other forms of abuse within the organization.This fall, CEO Michael Capiraso was forced to step down, after the group made clear that his lack of leadership was at the centre of the organization's failures.NYRR is arguably the most important, successful and (economically) trailblazing organization in the running world. Its fall from grace in 2020 also reveals deeper issues within the running community that must continue to be addressed in 2021 and beyond.
77 minutes | Dec 22, 2020
The Marathon Project
Hosts John Lofranco and Michael Doyle unpack who came and won big at The Marathon Project, one of the most intriguing elite marathons, well, maybe ever. And of course, they each also select three big losers on the day — those who had something at stake and failed in some capacity. They discuss, sponsored athletes vs. working-class stiffs, (future) Olympians, Hoka (yes, the shoe company), and Cam Levins. Follow us on social @theXCorg And subscribe to our newsletter at thexc.org
53 minutes | Oct 19, 2020
2020 World Athletics Half Marathon Championships
Hosts John Lofranco and Michael Doyle discuss who each feels "won" and "lost" at the 2020 World Athletics Half Marathon Championships, which took place over the weekend in Gdynia, Poland. John's winners: Women's champ (and world-record holder) Peres Jepchirchir, the concept of watching a race, and "the running media." Michael's winners: Jepchirchir, World Athletics, the country of Uganda John's losers: the very idea of safety, high stack height shoes, sport bureaucracy Michael's losers: Poland, pre-race favourite Joshua Cheptegei, 2018 champ Netsanet Gudeta Be sure to check out our new home thexc.org, and follow us on social @theXCorg
93 minutes | Oct 5, 2020
The 2020 London Marathon
The 2020 London Marathon featured upsets, disappointments, sprint finishes, and even a shoe controversy (or two). The XC's John Lofranco and Michael Doyle each pick three big winners and losers from the elite-only event in St. James' Park.
56 minutes | Mar 2, 2020
The U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials
The XC's John Lofranco and Michael Doyle break down the winners and losers of the 2020 U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials, which took place in Atlanta.
64 minutes | Jan 20, 2020
The 2020 Houston Marathon
As the first marathon of significance, Houston is the informal kick off of a new season. Two Canadian records were set—the women’s marathon and half— along with another crazy performance by Rory Linkletter on the men’s side. This should trigger one hell of a spring, as multiple runners will be vying for an Olympic spot. John Lofranco and Michael Doyle break it all down in the pod.
61 minutes | Dec 2, 2019
2019 Canadian Cross-Country Championships Winners and Losers
Alex Cyr, John Lofranco and Michael Doyle break down who they think won big and who went home devastated at the 2019 Canadian Cross-Country Championships, which took place over the weekend in Abbotsford, B.C. Apologies to our non-Canadian friends, this one is 100% CanCon. Follow us on IG and Twitter: @theXCorg
56 minutes | Nov 4, 2019
The 2019 TCS New York City Marathon
Michael Doyle and John Lofranco break down the finest performances, how the non-Nike carbon plate shoes fared, the less than amazing broadcast coverage, and who really won... and lost in the Big Apple.
57 minutes | Nov 1, 2019
The Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon winners and losers
The XC's Michael Doyle and John Lofranco break down who won and lost the most at this year's Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon, including the Canadian Olympic Trials winners, Nike and more. Subscribe to The XC's weekly newsletter: https://thexc.substack.com/ Follow us on Instagram and Twitter @TheXCorg
Terms of Service
Do Not Sell My Personal Information
© Stitcher 2021