With so many things going on in sports — including the pro basketball and hockey playoffs and the start of the Major League Baseball season — it is easy to overlook some important sports stories.
Last week, Desiree Linden won the Boston Marathon. She was the first American to place first in the women’s division of the world-famous 26.2-mile race since 1985.
Linden was not the only American woman to run well in the rain-soaked, windswept race. Six other women from the United States placed in the top 10 finishers in Boston.
Several U.S. women have been making their mark recently in long-distance races. Last year, Shalane Flanagan won the New York City Marathon, becoming the first American woman to win that race in 40 years. Also in 2017, Jordan Hasay placed third in both the Boston and Chicago marathons.
All these wins and medals by American women are great because they may encourage more kids in the United States, especially girls, to take up running as a sport.
Sometimes I think we pay too much attention to such stars as LeBron James, Bryce Harper and Serena Williams. But these top athletes serve the worthy purpose of making their sport “cool” for kids and perhaps encouraging them to play. Just think of how many people, including lots of kids, took up golf because of Tiger Woods.
But it seems that plenty of kids have discovered track and field and cross-country as great ways to have fun and stay in shape.
It came as a surprise to me, but according to the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS), more high schoolers participate in outdoor track and field than in any other sport. Football is Number 1 among boys, but the coed sport is first among girls and first overall — attracting more participants than even soccer or basketball.
And that’s without counting the kids who run cross-country. Cross-country is the sixth-most-popular high school sport for both boys and girls, according to the NFHS.
Running is a great sport, for lots of reasons.
First, running is not as expensive as other sports. Sure, you need good running shoes, but you don’t have to get a lot of expensive gear as you do in lacrosse or hockey.
Second, high school track teams are usually looking for kids. Unlike a varsity basketball team, which may have only 12 or 13 players, track teams need lots of kids.
Finally, running is a sport you can do your entire life. The Boston Marathon has a division for runners who are 80 years old or older!
So if you are looking for a new sport, try running. American women are leading the way.