Where Your Dreams Become Reality
The Week That Was April 20 - April 26, 2009
Last week was an amazing week. Instead of trying to recap it all - London, Boston, Penn & Drake - we just give you a few observations about London, Boston and Penn. We'll leave out the obvious - Wanjiru is the best marathoner in the world right now, as is Mikitenko (assuming Radcliffe isn't healthy).
When Ryan Hall had the lead early in Boston, we immediately became worried. Not because we thought it was too fast but because we knew we'd never hear the end of it from idiotic running commentators saying he'd made a mistake in tactics if he didn't win. And sure enough, that's what has happened over the course of the last week.
Let us clear up a few misconceptions. First of all, his start wasn't too fast. Hall ran his first 5k in 14:33, which is 2:02:47 pace and 2 seconds faster than what Haile Gebrselassie ran for his first 5k in Berlin. However, what no one seems to recognize is that the first 5k in Boston is way, way downhill. From looking at this course map which shows the elevation change, the first 5km is roughly 230 feet downhill as the elevation drops
from 473 feet to approximately 240 feet. How does that influence one's pace?
The 10km mark is at roughly 180 feet in elevation, so you lose another 60 feet there, which is worth 10.8 seconds. Hall ran this in 14:55, which would be a 15:05-6 effort. So for the first 10km, Hall clearly wasn't even running at a sub-30 minute 10km effort, which is 2:06:35 marathon pace. Remember, Hall's PR is 2:06:17.
London - The Pace Was Too Fast
The rabbits hammered things out in 14:08 for the first 5km, which projects to a 1:59:16. The world record is 2:03:59, which comes out to 14:41.5 per 5k. So they were 33 seconds too fast for the first 5km - that's more than 10 seconds per mile too fast. That's way, way too quick. Right then at 5km, they might as well have stopped if their goal was to get the world record.
Even-splitting a race is the only way to go to get a world record in a long distance event. A negative split is actually better and what both Haile G. (62:03-61:56) and Paula Radcliffe (1:08:02-1:07:23) employed to get their world records.
When Haile G. ran 2:03:59, his 5km splits up to 40km were as follows 14:35, 14:37, 14:51, 14:47, 14:50, 14:45, 14:40 and 14:29. Thus, the slowest 5km split was 14:51, which is roughly 10 seconds too slow or 2 seconds/km too slow. His fastest 5km was 14:29 which is 12.5 seconds too fast or just 2.5 seconds/km too fast.
Interesting to see that when the world record was set for the 10km, Kenenisa Bekele's splits also fell within this range. His world record of 26:17.53 comes out to be an average of 2:37.753 per km.
His slowest km was 2:40.65, which is 2.90 seconds slower than the record pace. The fastest km that he ran of the first 9 kms was 2:35.78 , which is 1.97 seconds too fast. So when both Kenenisa Bekele ran his 10km world record and Haile G. ran his marathon world record, both guys ran within 3 seconds per km of the record pace for the whole race (ignoring the last lap for Kenenisa which he hammered to give himself a final km of 2:32.44, which is 5.31 seconds per km too fast).
Contrast that to London (where the first 5km was run 33 seconds too fast), which is 6.6 seconds/per km too fast. The record is almost certainly lost right there. There is no way to recover from that. It would be like Kenenisa opening up his 10km world record with his last lap first (57.09) and then somehow trying to hold on. Not a chance.
The 2nd 5km in London was 14:22, which is again still too fast.
And please don't email us saying that first 5km of London is downhill. We are aware of that fact as we looked at the course map for London as well (the course is by no means flat like so many assume). After a small elevation gain of roughly 10 feet the first two miles, the 3rd mile is significantly downhill as it drops about 40 feet (7.2 seconds). But overall, the first 5km is roughly 30 feet downhill which is good for only 5.4 seconds. So in London, the first 5km was run in a 14:13-14 effort, not 14:08. Still, it's way, way too fast. (Editor's Correction: It's been pointed out to us that the London elevation chart is in meters, not feet. So the first 5km is roughly 30 meters downhill or 98.4 feet, which is worth roughly 17.7 seconds - call it 18 seconds. The 3rd mile is actually roughly 40 meters downhill (131 feet), which is worth 23.6 seconds. So the first 5km was run roughly at 14:26 5k effort. Not nearly as bad was we first thought but still too fast. 14:26 is 2:01:48 pace. 14:26 is also 15.5 seconds faster than world record pace which is just more than 3 seconds per km too fast).
As we were researching this, we thought maybe we should name our LRC discovery. The LRC Maxim for Distance World Records - It's unlikely you will see a world record where the splits are more than 3 seconds/per km off record pace, particularly if the splits are too fast. Too slow is ok, too fast is a big no-no.
Here are Radcliffe's mile splits from her world record according to her own website (splits outside of the 5:05-5:15 range appear in red):
Of her 26 mile splits, all but 6 of them fall within our 5 seconds rule, with two being six seconds off and one being seven seconds off. Of the six that were off, only two were too fast. But in reality, very few of them are off.
Remember the 3rd mile is way downhill. Roughly
So basically one could easily make the argument that all of her miles but the 6th mile (which she ran way too slow) were a very, very even effort. The 6th mile definitely falls outside our rule but it was too slow and the 3rd and 9th miles may or may not fall outside our rule but if they do it's only by 1 or 2 seconds.
Meanwhile, the London men were going 8-9 seconds too fast this year effort-wise.
Maybe we'll write Dave Bedford ask him to put us in charge of the rabbits for next year. We'd be happy to fly across the pond with a measuring wheel and can of Spray Paint. We'd mark off 100 meter splits for the first 5km and there would be no problem. The rabbits would hit their marks within a second or two per mile very easily. We actually think quite highly of our ability to properly orchestrate rabbits for every race in the world over 1,500 meters. We're kind of shocked that no one has written or posted on the boards to lambast us but in many ways it can be said that LRC kept Alan Webb off the US Olympic team last year. How? Well an athlete coached by LetsRun.com co-founder Robert Johnson - Jimmy Wyner - rabbitted Lopez Lomong to the A standard at the adidas track classic by hitting the splits properly. If Lomong doesn't have the A standard, then Webb would have gotten the nod for Beijing, as the 4th placer at the Trials didn't have it either.
If you need more proof that going out slightly more conservatively would result in way better finishing times, we encourage you to read our analysis of Hall's 2008 London performance, where his fast start may have cost him a 2:05 (scroll down to where is says "Rotterdamn Can't Be Forgotten").
Should Kara Goucher Have Run London?
LetsRun.com has few official corporate policies. One rule, however, that may be our 1st formally adopted rule is advice we always give first-time marathoners and even gave to Paula Radcliffe after her first one: "Marathons take a lot of time to recover from." As a result, we think it's really risky to try do more than two per year (and we're glad to see Ryan Hall has officially adopted this as his rule as well - although we actually okayed his decision to run London last year). As a result, some might find be surprised that we were actually fascinated by the talk that Kara Goucher was considering running London just 6 days after her "jog" in Boston. Normally, we'd vilify someone for this idea but once we thought about it, we said, "She should do it."
It would wreck her body no doubt. However, Goucher isn't probably going to race for another two years as she wants to have a baby, so who cares if her body is temporarily wrecked running-wise? She has plenty of time to recover for her next race.
That being said, there is the belief that a super-humanesque "I'm gonna totally destroy my body" type effort is something that one never recovers from, so maybe it's just as well that she didn't do it. But in this day and age of big-time appearance fees, how cool would it have been if she just showed up at London and raced. We kind of wish she had done it but give her a Thumbs Up for even considering it.
"She came to the finish line and she didn't know what happened to her," said her agent, Hussein Makke. "When she woke up, she said, 'where am I?' We said, 'you are on your way to the hospital.' She said, 'who won the race?' We said, 'you were second.' She said, 'OK. Let me go back to sleep.' So, she didn't know what happened."
Some might contrast this to Goucher having the energy to shed tears at the finish line and wonder "Can Africans dig deeper than Americans?" Our response is, "Does anyone remember Alberto Salazar giving his all at Falmouth in 1978 - pushing himself to a body temperature of 105?"
"Will The Boston Women's Race Put To End Once & For All The Notion That A Track-Bred Runner Has A Kicker's Advantage At The End Of A Marathon?"
We are on an email list where various people were talking about Boston.
The Boston women's race featured a 3-person sprint finish. Did the person who won the Millrose Games mile in a personal best of 4:33 this winter get the win? No, Kara Goucher finished last in the sprint - 3rd of 3rd.
Dire Tune beat her in a sprint and the results database Tilastopaja.org doesn't list a single result for Tune below 3k. Her 3k PR is 9:02 and her 5k PR is 15:47. Compare that to Goucher's 8:34 and 14:50.
Admittedly, Kenya's Salina Kosgei did win and she does have the fastest 800 PR of the three (2:03.6 to Goucher's 2:05), so that may be enough evidence for the myth to continue to be believed, ignoring the fact that Kosgei hasn't raced on a track in years or that Kosgei's 3k and 5k PRs of 9:05 and 15:01 are way off of Goucher's.
Graham also pointed out one other interesting thing to note from London was that Gharib's 2:05:27 was a new national record for Morocco, knocking down Abdi Goumri's 2:05:30 to #2 all time and Khalid Khannouchi's 2:05:42 from 1999 to #3 all-time.
Also on a single day (the weekend of Rotterdam), 13 Kenyans ran 2:09 or better. Unreal.
Ryan Hall Is America's Only Male Hope For A Major Marathon Win
We thought Hall's 2:09 3rd-place showing was very, very good yet again. Yet again, he proved that he is one of the best in the world and way better than anyone else in the US currently (and in our minds better than anyone ever born in the US as well).
Certainly it's true that American Dathan Ritzenhein beat Hall in the Olympics. Ritzenhein also clearly was a level above Hall in high school (where Ritz won two straight Foot Locker XC titles to Hall's none) and in college (when Ritz won a XC title, while Hall had to settle as a runner-up). But anything that remotely tries to compare the two as being anywhere close to the same league right now in the marathon is simply foolish.
We certainly admire Ritz's competitiveness and see why he said prior to London and Boston the following about Hall:
"We’re 1-1 in the marathon against each other. Hopefully he will run well in Boston and I will run well in London, and the next time we meet it will make for a great story.”
Ritz said it because the statement was true and he certainly is working his butt off believing he can become one of the best in the world. But when we read that quote, we thought to ourselves, "Hold on. They may be 1-1, but at the US Trials, it was a no-contest mercy rule type killing by Hall. Ritz's 9th-place showing in the Olympics was fine, but he's never done anything close to the equal of Hall's US Trials win or his 2:06:17 from London."
Well now we have the facts to back up our belief as after London, it's clear that Ryan Hall is a way, way better marathoner than both Dathan Ritzenhein and Meb Keflezighi. Both Meb and Ritz ran PRs in London (2:09:21 for Meb and 2:10:00 for Ritz.). And some are saying on the message board that Ritz indeed could be a 2:06-2:07 marathoner some day if he paces himself better. We certainly agree that the pacing for the 2nd group that Ritz and Meb were a part of was way too fast at the start for guys trying to run 2:06-7 as they went out in 14:36 for 5km, which is 2:03:12 pace. If one adjusts effort by adding 6 seconds for the downhill 3rd mile, 14:42 for the first 5k would still be way too fast, as that's 2:04:03 pace.
But even if they had run perfectly even paces and run 2:08 or so or 2:07-high (we can't see how anyone would think they'd have run faster than that), that wouldn't mean they were in the same league as Hall. Why? Because people need to remember that in 2008 when Hall ran 2:06:17, he went out even more insanely fast than Ritz and Meb did this year. The chart on the left compares Hall's 2008 London splits to Meb's 2009 splits.
Ryan Hall went out faster in 2008 and held on for a way faster time. Every single split was faster than Meb's (and Ritz's)d a tempo. Clearly he is a class above both Meb and Ritz.
Some Great Quotes From Last Week That Give Us Hope An American Will Some Day Somehow Win A Marathon Major
Reading the following post-race quotes also inspired us to continue to dream of an American winning a major yet again.
- Bill Squires contrasting Goucher & Hall's 3rd place finishes in their first Boston to other greats in Boston history.
"When I was running well, there was always three Finns, three English, three Italians, and others from western Europe and USA. Now the youngsters have so many other things to do at home: computers, mobile phones, games, team sports. It is the time of the Africans, but maybe when they get richer, in 30 years or so, they will also get fat and lazy."
- 4-time Olympic champ Lasse Viren talking about how the Africans can be beaten. Maybe in 30 years, everyone will be mediocre.
Feeling old and thinking you need to stop competing and become a jogger? Maybe some of the performances in Boston and London will change your mind.
1) 45-year-old Colleen De Reuck ended up leading at several points in the Boston race. She ended up in a well-deserved 8th. 8th in Boston at the age of 45. That is insane.
2) 37-year-old Hendrick Ramaala pushed the pace and had the lead after the halfway point in London and ended up running 2:07:44 in 5th. At 30k, it was Ramaala who went to the front to motion to the rabbits to try to get the pace to quicken. Sammy Wanjiru then responded in epic proportion with a 4:25 19th mile. Amazing.
3) 36-year-old Irina Mikitenko was the London Marathon winner. If she's not the best female marathoner in the world, then 35-year-old Paula Radcliffe is (or maybe the 39-year-old Olympic champ Constantina Tomescu).
4) How about 40-year-old Kenyan James Koskei, who ran with the lead group for much of the race and ended up 11th in 2:14:52?
Props To Martin Lel
Here is the description of Lel's performance at the pre-race press conference, which took place just hours before he was to have an MRI that would rule him out of London:
However, it's crazy to think how good of a marathon the Olympics were last year. Often the best hot-weather runner isn't necessarily truly the best marathoner in the world, but this year the top Olympians have gone on to continue to excel. The three Olympic medallists were the top 3 in London this year and the 4th placer won in Boston.
Penn Relays 2009 Was Great
Saturday it was about 90 degrees, not a cloud in the sky, and when we arrived at the stadium around 11:30 it was a total and utter mob scene. People (it seemed like a good 70% of the fans were decked out in the yellow, green and black of, you guessed it, Jamaica) were lined up hundreds-deep to pack into the stadium and the fans already inside Franklin Field were going nuts for the 4 x 400s and the high school pole vault. If you didn't know any better, it sounded like the gladiators were battling inside. It was exciting and chilling. A sunny and warm Saturday at the Penn Relays might be the most exciting day in track and field in the entire world.
USA vs. The World Top Moments
1. Walter Dix's leadoff leg of the USA 4x100 team. We think he split a world record, it was that incredible. The US team ran 37.92 to shave 0.11 seconds off of the Penn Relays record. Anytime you run in the 37s, it's a wicked-fast, super-elite race. The world record is 37.10, set in Beijing by Nesta Carter, Mike Frater, Usain Bolt and anchor Asafa Powell. Three of those four ran on Jamaica's team at Penn, but Powell (the anchor) pulled up shortly after receiving the baton. They were way behind USA Blue by that point, so we're pissed we didn't get to see Powell try to catch up. Dix handed it to former Clemson star Travis Padgett, who gave it to Olympic champion Shawn Crawford, who dished the stick to Darvis Patton.
37.92 is fast. Fast enough to get the silver medal at the Olympics last year (which was as good as anyone could do considering Jamaica had Bolt & Powell.) We're just wondering what Doug Logan and the famed Project 30 task force think of it. Maybe they will take credit for it.
The results just show to us that little practice is needed. Just get 4 Nike athletes out on the track and we should be able to get silver. We (meaning the USA) don't need some special setup to ensure the stick gets around in London 2012. The sprinters just need to be conservative and they simply can't drop the thing. It's obviously not that hard to do. Why don't we just use the Penn Relays team at World Championships this year?
2. Josephat Kithii vs. Nate Brannen on the DMR anchor leg. It's not often that we are so loud and excited that the people around us turn their heads as if to ask, "What the hell is wrong with you people?" But the final 400m of the professional DMR was absolutely insane. Nate Brannen looked amazing for team Canada, and he was flying around the track in first place for about 199.5 out of the last 200m of the race. But in the final instant, Kenya's Josephat Kithii surged by Brannen to get the win for team Kenya (which the crowd loved, the Jamaicans were giving a lot of love to the Kenyan team on their victory lap). As Brannen crossed the finish line with 400m to go, our watch read 3:02, and he ended up running 3:54. So a 52 second closing lap for Brannen, but it wasn't enough to beat Kithii, who was gapped from a group of three runners with about 350 to go. Yeah, he went from being dropped to winning with a 3:52 1600m split (after a 3:01 first 1200m!). Brannen and Kithii's last 200m was incredibly scintillating. We were screaming like it was the Olympic final.
3. Khadevis Robinson's 1:44.04 800m split battling Canada's Gary Reed. Matt Lincoln gave team Canada the lead after a tactical 1,200m leg, and though "The X-Man" Xavier Carter nearly caught Canada's Tyler Christopher on the 400m leg (splitting 44.94 looking like he wasn't even trying, looks like Brooks Johnson has him back on the right track), Canada's Reed got the stick ahead of "KD" for the 800m leg. But boy did KD look awesome! He just surged to the lead and powered that 800m out, leaving Reed in the dust despite a 1:45.73 split. It was great to see so many big names duking it out in the DMR and competing so amazingly well. Results and splits (9:22 won it).
4. Jamaica getting their lone win in the sprint medley thanks to Kenia Sinclair. Kenya won the DMR but Kenia won the SMR for Jamaica. Sinclair split 1:57.43 on the 800m anchor leg to dispose of team USA's Hazel Clark (the Clarks couldn't win everything this weekend ... J.J. Clark helped coach the Tennessee women and Sarah Bowman to 3 championships on the weekend). The announcing was so poor that barely anyone in the crowd was able to hear Sinclair's split, which was unfortunate because she really deserved some more love. The Jamaican fans probably were hoping that the sprint medley would be one of many wins for their side on the day, but it was not to be so! Results and splits.
5. Team USA rocked. Nike brought out the stars (no Puma star for Jamaica, though) and the stars brought their "A" game, especially in the 4 x 100m and 4 x 400m contests. The USA went 4-for-4 in those events. The women's 4 x 100m for team USA was fantastic, despite a bad handoff between Lauryn Williams and Allyson Felix at the first exchange. Carmelita Jeter anchored and Mechelle Lewis ran the 3rd leg and produced a 42.40, only 0.07 off of the Penn Relays record set by Marion Jones, Torri Edwards and Co. back in 2000. We no longer have to guess at what enhancements were being implemented by members of the team USA sprint crew back in those days, so it's good to see the USA girls running well, and HOPEFULLY clean. The 4 x 400s were dominant on the men's and women's side and filled with stars, including Sanya Richards and LaShawn Merritt. It's still amazing that tiny countries like the Bahamas and Jamaica come as close as they do to America in the 4 x 400, and even more amazing when you consider that the US might not be able to beat Jamaica on the women's side if Sanya Richards still ran for her native country. That's right, she's from Jamaica.
Collegiate Top Moments
1) The #1 star of the weekend was Tennessee's Sarah Bowman. She ran on 3 winning relays: 1st the DMR, then the 4 x 1,500m and finally the 4 x 800m. The Bowman story is great for a number of reasons. First, she got 2nd in all three of those relays last year at Penn, by a combined 2.7 seconds, when she had the lead in all 3. It was great to see her avenge her disappointment of 2008 with big wins in 2009. Far too often, people assume runners either have that special "it" or they don't. They are either winners or losers. Sarah Bowman showed this year that that's not the case. If they train and get in better shape, they can become winners. Anyone remember when Paula Radcliffe was viewed as the ultimate loser? Well ... now she almost always wins in the marathon. Same thing with Bowman, who split a ridiculous 4:09 in the 4 x 1,500.
Now only did Tennessee win, they also set American and collegiate records in the 4 x 800 (8:17.91) and 4 x 1,500 (the 4 x 1,500 was a world record as well at 17:08.34).
3) Arkansas Men Return To Penn Under New Coach & Win. Arkansas coaching legend John McDonnell is another guy that really emphasized Penn each year and is a big reason why the relays are so popular today. We were worried if the new coach Chris Bucknam would still value Penn. In year one, there are no worries, as the Hogs came to Penn and ran their butts off. They got 2nd in the DMR and then won the 4 x mile. Some coaches might be content to call it a day, but the Hogs came back on Saturday for the 4 x 800, where Dorian Ulrey split 1:47.62 to lead his squad to a 3rd -place showing in 7:18.16. Ulrey looked mediocre in the DMR when he got the baton in the lead but ended up 2nd, but he seemingly got better with each race in a workhorse 3-race weekend. He totally broke open the 3rd leg of the 4 x mile to give the Hogs the win and then had their best split in the 4 x 800.
Speaking of the men's 4 x 800, it was great to see 4 teams dip under 7:20, as recently the 4 x 800 had been pretty mediocre, with the winning time not even under 7:20.
HS's Best Moment
Penn's Worst Moment
Are you serious? Nike is spending a lot of money to get the big names to the meet and you aren't even going to tell the fans she is the OLYMPIC CHAMP? Ridiculous.
Or how about when Kenia Sinclair runs 1:57 or KD runs 1:44.0 or when Nate Brannen splits 3:54 to the Kenyan's 3:52 and you aren't going to talk about that? We didn't realize how great the relays were until we got home, and looked up the splits as if they announced them; they only did it once and very quietly.
More Coverage: *LRC Homepage from Penn There are no videos from the Penn events that were on television. *Runnerspace has highlights from a few of them and Flotrack has longer videos from the rest of the action.
Non-London Performance Of The Week
Not to be ignored in all of the big races last week, we'd like to give some props to Liberty's Sam Chelanga for setting a new collegiate record in the 10km thanks to his 27:28. The finish is actually pretty impressive.
Video of Chelanga's Race (You can skip to the finish instantaneously)