Adding facial hair to the list of excellent things about track and field, mid-distance runner Will Leer has been awarded the 2014 Sports Beard of the Year. British blog BeardWatch bestowed the honors on the 29-year-old after a groundswell of support from track and manscaping fans pushed the speedster ahead of second place British soccer player Stuart Sinclair and fast-closing third place Italian soccer player Davide Moscardelli. (It's important to note that Leer's was the only contestant with its own Twitter account.)
BeardWatch tirelessly combs the globe and an impressive range of sports—from cricket to Formula One racing—to showcase the very best and provide insightful critiques, but ultimately, they are merely the platform, the face, as it were, on which the art of grooming is displayed.
The voting public made the final call, responding in Leer's case not only to the shape and fullness of the winning shrubbery, but to a lifetime commitment to hair in many glorious permutations and combinations. Lesser hair wearers might have been content with the textured, layered mane covering the top and back of Leer's head since his Pomona College days, alternately flying free as a freak flag, gathered into a low ponytail or, for big competitions, in an of-the-moment messy bun. That kind of style doesn't just happen—it takes patience, planning and a natural bristle brush.
The average dude sees what's warming his cranium and thinks, Sick bruh, but being a visionary, Leer looked in the mirror and saw, not a mandible, but possibilities. Fearlessly, he embarked on the uber-popular Up-All-Night Shadow (which the big photo services failed to capture, shame). Then came the daring Porn Star With Effin Sideburns...(that's him in the middle)...
and later, the more advanced and trending Vegan Co-op Worker (I'm not gonna...)...
Complainers and naysayers will quaveringly point out that any dude, and some women, can maintain combable facial hair during the winter for purely practical insulation reasons. But come bikini season, it takes real dedication to grind through afternoon track sessions and post-workout guacamole in a cozy chin sweater.
Furthermore, Leer's chosen profession is predicated on hundredths of seconds (his outdoor 1500 meter best is 3:34.26). While it's tough to calculate, the weight and wind drag of the whole head o' hair combo is probably worth a couple tenths, give or take. While there are some locks to love in the track world—Andrew Colley, for instance—no other mid-d athlete has accepted the challenges of a fully furred face.
Leer apparently lives by the esoteric look-good-feel-good-run-fast axiom, advocated by the likes of Troy Polamalu, that states, like rock beating scissors, sweet hair transcends the laws of physics.
At any rate, Leer is a scientific, results-based athlete, and he was running faster here ...
What would you do? Luckily for follicle fans worldwide, Leer is never content and continues to grow, as both an athlete and an aesthete.
Photo credit: Getty Images