I don't profess to be an expert on long distance running. I do know that I have been extremely lucky in my sports writing career to have met two of the greatest long distance/marathon runners in the world.

First, I met nine-time New York Marathon winner and winner of countless other races, Greta Waitz. The late Norwegian legend died last April from cancer. She was here in Columbia years ago to promote running.

Joan Benoit Samuelson, one of my personal favorites, was here this week to promote to next year's Iron Girl Half Marathon. Proceeds from that race are earmarked for the Claudia Mayer Resource Center at Howard County General Hospital. Joan visited the facility while she was in town.

Joan won the Boston Marathon in 1979 and again in 1983 smashing records as she blazed a new trail in women's marathon running. She was won the inaugural Olympic Women's Marathon in 1984 beating out none other than Greta Waitz.


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In 1985, Joan won the Chicago Marathon in another record time and has established herself among the great runners of all time She has written books including "Running Tide" and "Running for Women." Most importantly, Joan Benoit Samuelson is a long-time resident of Maine, my home state, and she graduated from Bowdoin College, my alma mater.

Swim, bike, run; then bike lots more

Two big athletic events are on tap the next two weekends. First, the Athleta Iron Girl Columbia Triathlon will be held Aug. 21. This popular women-only triathlon will draw 2,400 athletes to Centennial Park for a .62 mile swim, a 17.5-mile bike and a 3.3-mile run. The bike portion of the Iron Girl goes west on Route 108 and then out Homewood Road. Expect some traffic congestion and please be considerate of the participants.

The second event is the 24 Hours of Booty, which takes place Aug. 27-28 at the Columbia Gateway Business Park. The family-friendly cancer charity cycling event begins at 2 p.m. on the 27th and ends 24 hours later. Registration is still open and volunteer support is needed for the full 24 hours. Through Aug. 8, more than 42 teams and 380 riders have registered for the 24 Hours of Booty of Columbia. The "Booty Loop" includes a 2.1-mile long course with a mixture of hills and flats that is gear for participants of all ages and cycling abilities. The event benefits the LiveStrong, and the Ulman Cancer Fund for Young Adults.

Little League still going strong

I have been watching some of the Little League regional games on television and I find a great deal that I like about the players, the coaches and the umpiring. The players themselves are greatly improved over the days when I first saw a Little League game. The coaches appear to be very supportive of the players and encourage their players rather than discourage them by yelling at them. I also think the umpires, who are all volunteers, have done well.

What I don't like about the Little League today is the penchant for young pitchers to throw cutters and curve balls. I am not sure if that is a good idea for 11-13-year-old arms and I also don't like the use of metal bats, although I am not totally against their use since young kids of that age group usually don't hit the ball hard enough to hurt pitchers and fielders.

In general, I give Little League a high mark for giving young people an opportunity to excel, but seeing kids in tears after elimination is tough to take.