Alan Webb Crowd Surfs, Proof That Life Isn’t Fair, Our Thoughts On The Women’s World Records, And High Praise For Sean McGorty And Elise Cranny

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The Weeks That Were – February 3 – February 16, 2014

by LetsRun.com
February 19, 2014

Where has the all of the time gone? We’ve gone from twiddling our thumbs waiting for the 2014 season to begin a month to go to being swamped with amazing action.

What’s happened in the last two weeks? How about world records at 3000, 2 miles, half-marathon on the women’s side and the highest jump ever in the pole vault on the men’s side? Throw in the deepest men’s half-marathon in history on the men’s side, two nationally televised indoor meets in the US (New Balance and NYRR Millrose), one in Great Britain, the US and Kenyan cross country championships, the US Olympic Trials being awarded to a city offering $100,000 less in prize money, the first of our doping polls being released and the Winter Olympics and hopefully you’ll understand why we didn’t find time to write a weekly recap last week.

Watching the Winter Olympics have made us feel better about how poorly all of the Olympic sports are presented on television. Track fans shouldn’t take it personally.

In broadcasting school, Olympic tv producers must be told to show the face of the winner of every event no matter what is happening behind them. In a qualifying race whether it’s at the Olympics or in a track race, the key is all of the qualifying spots – not just the winner. In the medal round races, the key is the top 3, not just the winner. Memo to NBC executives, in that snowboard racing events, you need two cameras at each station. One for the leaders, and one for the battle for third.

Now that we ‘ve got that off our chest, we move on to a few thoughts we’ve had about the last two weeks of action.

Your New World Record Holders

If You Want to Learn About Your New 4×800 World Record Holders Click on the photo

If you want coverage of The Millrose Games click here, or coverage of The New Balance Indoor Grand Prix which had a down to the wire world record run in the 4×800 click here.

As always, the best bet to catch up on the action, if you have been away for a while is to go day by day through the LetsRun.com daily archives.

Previous versions of the Week That Was can be found here.

Questions? Comments? Email us.

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Genzebe Dibaba Sets a Bunch of World Records.

It’s been an incredible month for  Genzebe Dibaba. In the span of five days, she obliterated two of the world records for two of the most widely contested indoor events. First on February 1st, Dibaba ran 3:55.17 for 1500m crushing the old record of 3:58.28. Then five days later she ran 8:16.60 to obliterate the previous 3000m record of 8:23.72 (Meseret Defar).

For good measure, nine days later Dibaba took down Defar’s 2 mile record of 9:06.28 by running 9:00.48.

It’s one of the more impressive fortnights in the history of the sport.

Another Day Another World Record

Another Day Another World Record

After the 8:16, we know some track and field fans were wondering, “How is this possible?”

Some took it further and said she must be “doped to the gills.”

As the public relation leaders of the anti-doping movement, we imagine some of you might be surprised to learn our first thought wasn’t anything close “She’s doped to the gills” but more along the lines of, “What took so long?” We’ve long thought the very best women’s mid-d times were way slower than than they should be. Think about it this way. Women regularly run under 14:30 for 5000 (three did so in 2013). The corresponding 1500 equivalent for a performance like that is way better than 4:00 for 1500.

Once Dibaba ran 3:55 it wasn’t surprising she could then run 8:16.

Last week, we tried to track down LetsRun.com stat man John Kellogg to get him to convert a 14:30 5000 to 3000 and 1500 for us. While we were waiting for him to get back to us, we decided to go to the collegiate descending order list. All of the collegiate times in the US are shown at tfrrs.org. We went there clicked on the person we saw closest to 14:30 – Clemson sophomore Roland Hakes had run 14:30.30. What’s his 1500 pb? 3:55.91.

Similarly, we went to the 3000. We clicked on the person we saw closest to Dibaba’s 3000 world record of 8:16.60. Florida State sophomore Bryant Blahnik. What is Blahnik’s 1500 pb? 3:56.45. His 5000 and 10,000 times also are very similar to the top times being run internationally these days on the pro circuit by the top Ethiopian women. He’s got a 5000 pb of 14:25.39 and a 10,000 pb of 30:09.15. It’s never made much sense to us why the top runners who can run sub 14:30 were stuck mostly in the 3:57-4:00 1500 range.

We talked to one industry insider over the last few weeks about this very topic. His theory was the Ethiopian coaches aren’t real experienced in the mid-d events. Training at altitude in Ethiopia is great for long distance events. But it’s rarer and a little more difficult to train for the 1500 at altitude. The natural environment of Ethiopia has historically made it the country equivalent of the Colorado Buffaloes – a perfect spot to train for the longer stuff, but not necessarily known for its mid-d prowess. Our source said that when the traditional Ethiopian coaches do work on speed, they tend to over do it and burn the athletes out as they aren’t real familiar with the 1500 event.

That’s not to say that a real knowledgeable coach can’t get the job done in the 1500 at altitude. Jenny Simpson trained pretty well for the 1500 at altitude under Mark Wemtore and Juli Benson, and Genzebe Dibaba is now doing so, but not with the traditional Ethiopian national coaches but rather Jama Aden. The next best Ethiopian-born 1500 runner in the world? World champion Abebe Aregawi who also runs for Sweden and isn’t part of the Ethiopian team.

For the record, John Kellogg got back to us. A 14:30 5000 is equivalent to a 3:52.61 1,500 in his mind and 8:21.16 for 3,000. 8:16.60 is equivalent to a 3:50.58 1500 in his book so there’s sill quite a ways to go for the 1500 times to really catch up to the 3000/5000 equivalents.

In the 5000, the top American women currently have no shot of keeping up with the likes of Meseret Defar and Tirunesh Dibaba. The American record of 14:44.76 is more than 30 seconds off Tirunesh Dibaba’s 14:11.76 world record (10+ seconds per mile). It never made much sense to us that the top American women have been the best in the world recently in the 1500 when they are only running in the 3:59-4:00 range for 1500.   The 1500/3000/2 mile times are simply finally starting to catch up to where they should be based on the corresponding 5000 times.

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The same logic applies to the recent half-marathon record of 65:12 by Florence Kiplagat. According to Mr. Kellogg, a 65:12 is equivalent to about 2:19 flat in the marathon. So it’s an example of a shorter record catching up a longer distance record.

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Of course Dibaba and Kiplagat both could be doping. All athletes are under suspicion. Surprise Olympic 1500m champ Taoufik Makhloufi and Dibaba both have had tremendous breakthroughs at 1500 since training under Jama Aden. As we wrote a few weeks ago after Dibaba’s 3:55, “Aden clearly is doing something different in his training group as they are having tremendous success.” That something different could very well be something besides drugs. It is perfectly natural and healthy for the sport to ask questions. However, we at LRC have never subscribed to the knee jerk reaction that all world records have to be because of drugs. And thankfully for the sport, many of you who voted in our “Clean” or “Dirty” World record polls think many of the records are clean.

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Sergey Bubka’s World Record Goes Down

Sergey Bubka is one of the legends of the sport having broken the pole vault world record 35 times indoor and out. Think about that – 35 times. Bubka set his first world record in 1984 and 30 years later he still held the indoor and outdoor world records.

The indoor record is now gone as France’s Renaud Lavillenie broke Bubka’s record at a meet in Donetsk, Ukraine where Bubka was on hand to watch. Interestingly, it was at the same meet in 1994 that Bubka set the previous world record. Video of the new record below. Lavillenie’s 6.16 is the highest vault indoors or out.

We’ve got the clip starting with Bubka’s looking on in nervous anticipation.

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Quotes of the week (that weren’t quote of the day)

The quotes of the week all come from one great article and one great athlete. In honor of Webb’s retirement after the Wanamaker Mile at the NYRR Millrose Games, we share four great quotes from piece in The Oregonian on Webb’s retirement written by Ken Goe: Alan Webb moves forward, at peace with his decision to leave track.

Alan and Julia Webb with their daughter

Alan and Julia Webb with their daughter after Millrose. More Millrose Games Photos.

#1

“Some guys move up and run marathons. This (switching to the triathlon) is my way of moving up.”

- Webb talking to Ken Goe about his retirment from track and field.

#2

“(The Internet) was a blessing for me. My notoriety was based on that, and it was part of what allowed me to be a professional athlete. The internet has created opportunities for niche sports like running to really blossom so we could have stars and celebrities in the sport.”

- Webb expressing his love for the Internet. We, in turn, express it back. Webb certainly was a “must discuss” athlete from 2001 until now which essentially is the history of LetsRun.com (LRC started in May of 2000).

#3

“To be perfectly honest, taking a step back, I wouldn’t have re-signed me either. It’s based on performance, and I was off of my own standards.”

- Webb on not being re-signed by Nike.

#4

“The awesome thing is to wake up every day with that sense of purpose. The joy, the misery, the struggle to get every ounce out of yourself is awesome.”

- Webb on the love he now has for the triathlon.

More: Alan Webb moves forward, at peace with his decision to leave track

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Photo of The Week

So American mile record holder Alan Webb had his last pro track race at Millrose last week. Author (and LetsRun friend) Chris Lear, who has written the cult-classic Running With The Buffaloes, as well as Sub-4 on Alan Webb’s freshman year at Michigan was at Millrose to watch Webb’s last race (and talk to Webb about a potential second book).

Lear couldn’t believe that Webb didn’t get a standing ovation when introduced for the Wanamaker mile. So he made sure Webb get some VIP treatment at Coogan’s Restaurant – the Irish pub around the corner from the Armory after the race.

Without further ado, a picture of Lear getting the patrons to hoist Webb over their heads so he could crowd-surf to Cake’s “The Distance”:

Alan Webb's is hoisted into retirement to Cake's "The Distance"

Alan Webb is hoisted into retirement to Cake’s “The Distance”

PS. We have video of both this and Webb and his brother Chris (a LetsRun fan by the way) doing a great karaoke duet, but don’t want to give the trolls gasoline and matches. Maybe in the future.

Which reminds us of the videos of Usain Bolt we have dunking at the Boston Garden that we need to find from an old computer.

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Stat Of The Week I/Most Under-appreciated Performance I

7.41 seconds - gap of time on the 2013 World Indoor list between the #2 (Abebe Aregawi 3:57.91) and #3 performers (Laura Muir 4:05.32).

Lost in the 8:16 world record run by Genzebe Dibaba in Stockholm was the fact that Swede (Abebe Aregawi) broke Russia’s Yelena Soboleva‘s old world-record of 3:58.28 byr unning 3:57.91 in Stockholm.

You gotta feel a little bit for Aregawi. She trains to break the world record in front of the home-town crowd. She does it, but doesn’t make big waves as Dibaba smashed the record the week before.

That 7.41 second gap is good news for Mary Cain fans. Cain’s mile time of 4:24.11 converts to a sub 4:05 for 1500 meaning she’s a strong contender for bronze in Sopot.

Sean McGorty Doesn't Even Look Tired as He Wins USA XC Juniors (Click on the photo for a USA XC gallery).

Sean McGorty Doesn’t Even Look Tired as He Wins USA XC Juniors (Click on the photo for a USA XC gallery, click here for photos of Sean dominating Penn Relays last year)

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Stat of The Week II/Most Under-appreciated Performances II

42 and 51 seconds – margin of victory for Sean McGorty and Elise Cranny at the US junior cross country championships in Bolder. That’s what we call domination.

McGorty is clearly a big talent. The 2013 Footlocker runner-up ran 8:45.61 for two miles at the New Balance nationals in North Carolina last year (after a dominating 4:04 win at Penn). In xc for Stanford, he showed glimpses of promise (5th at Pre-Nats) before getting sick and dropping out of Pac 12s and struggling at NCAAs (161st). With no spot to Worlds on the line this year, the junior fields certainly weren’t nearly as strong as some years but the guys McGorty beat have credentials. The 2nd and 3rd place were his  Stanford teammates Jake Keelan (8:53.82 2 mile in HS) and Sam Wharton (6th Foot Locker). The runner-up in the girls race was Furman freshman Allie Buchalski (9:42 3000 pb).

Making Cranny’s dominating victory event more impressive was the fact that over the weekend she also competed in the Colorado High School State Swimming Championships. She competed in one race on Friday before US XC and then left immediately after the race on Saturday to compete in 3 relays for her team, helping them finish 5th in both the 200 freestyle relay and 400 freestyle relay.

Since we’re talking about USA xc, we can’t not give out high praise to Chris Derrick for remaining undefeated in the US as a pro in cross country. He’s two for two with a 25 second win over Luke Puskedra, but still has a way to go to catch Pat Porter who won eight straight.

Amy Van Alstine – the surprise 2014 USA XC Champ *More 2014 USA XC Photos

The breakout performer of the weekend for sure was former Richmond runner Amy Van Alstine. She gave Ben Rosario‘s new Northern Arizona Elite team in Flagstaff a huge boost of credibility as she stunned hometown favorite Jenny Simpson.

Alstine graduated from Richmond in 2011 with pbs of 4:19, 9:29 and 16:03 for 1500, 3000 and 5000. She was 14th at NCAAs in the 5000 as a senior.Van Alstine has improved a lot since college to 4:14 and 15:36, but Simpson has pbs of 3:59, 8:42 and 14:56.

The record books will always show that the 2014 USA Cross Country champion is Amy Van Alstine, not Simpson.

Val Alstine won by a dominating 22 seconds which was the smallest margin of victory in the senior or junior races believe it or not.

More: 2014 USA Cross Country coverage

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Speaking of not appreciated performances, how about a three cheers for a new collegiate 30k record in Japan. Toyo’ Yuma Hattori ran 1:28:52 at the Kumanichi Road Race which David Monti says is equivalent to a 2:08:01 marathon and 60:58 half-marathon.

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Proof Positive That Life’s Not Fair

$1,497.41 (5500 AED) – amount of money that Kenya’s Paul Lonyangata won for breaking 1 hour in the half-marathon (something only 103 men in human history have every done) at the RAK Half-Marathon, where a record eight men broke 60 in the same right. Lonyangata was eighth in 59:54.

That same weekend, Ethiopia’s Feyera Gemeda won $65,000 for running 2:15:05 in Hong Kong and in the US, former NAU runner Jordan Chipangama won $3,000 at a 10-mile race in California in 48:00. 48:00 minutes is 62:55 half-marathon pace. If Lonyangata ran his 13.1 at an even pace, he would have split 10 miles in 45:41.

Speaking of the RAK Half, we noticed that 2011 World 10,000 champion and 2013 World 10,000 silver medallist Ibrahim Jeilan ran 61:47 for 10th as he gets ready for his marathon debut in London. Finishing 10th isn’t fun, but you don’t need to be in amazing 13.1 shape to do well at 26.2.

More: World’s #1-Ranked Marathoners Lelisa Desisa And Priscah Jeptoo Win 2014 Rak Half Marathon As Record 8 Men Break 60:00 In A Single Race Desisa, the 2013 Boston Marathon champion, won in 59:34 as Jeptoo (2013 NY and London winner) ran in 67:00.
*MB: RAK HALF

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Recommended Reads

LRC World Record Holders “Dirty” Or “Clean” Doping Poll Results Without further ado, we present to you the results of our world record doping poll.

LRC The “Dirty” Or “Clean” Doping Polls: Why Did We Do Them? Many of you get it. You voted and gave us some very interesting demographic data. We think you’ll find the data very interesting. Some of you don’t get it and have said so. Here we address some of your concerns.

Doug Binder Profiles Autistic Superstar Miler Mike Brannigan – His Parents Say Running Has Been “A Miracle” For Him

LRC Running Legend Craig Virgin Calls For More Transparency Revealing The Medications And Supplements Athletes Are On: “In Sight It Must Be Right”

Norbert Sander, 1971 NYC Marathon winner and head of Armory Foundation, is still running 30 mpw at age 71 and making house calls as a doctor

Renato Canova reveals all of the key workouts for Florence Kiplagat during the last month, leading up to her 13.1 WRecord How about 3k (9:20), 2 x 2k (6:07), 5 x 1k (sub 3:00). Very impressive. Canova adds more insight by discussing the workout on the messageboard. Canova post #1. Canova post #2.

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Quotes Of The Day & The Last 2 Week’s Homepages:

Note: To see a particular day’s homepage, click on the hyperlink of the date. The hyperlink below the date on the quotes will take you to that particular article – not that day’s homepage.


Monday 2/17:

- Alan Webb after the last race of his professional track career in the Wanamaker Mile at the Millrose Games.


Sunday 2/16:

“I kind of just lost track of laps. I couldn’t hear a split.  It was just so loud in here, everyone was going nuts. I sort of felt like I was pretty tired and I said, ‘The people in front of me seem like they are falling off the lead pack a little bit. I should probably make a move up here.’ And then I was going by Nate [Brannen], going by Leo [Manzano], coming up on Craig Miller and I hear ding, ding, ding, ding and I thought ‘Oh crap! I really got to go, I’ve got a lot left.’”

“… To be able to pull out a win here is absolutely enormous and gives me a great amount of confidence going into [USAs].”

- Will Leer after getting one of the biggest victories of his career in a lifetime PR of 3:52.47 at the Millrose Games Wanamaker Mile.


Saturday 2/15:

“Alan ran his first ever sub-four minute mile on this track, and that was the exact same day I ran my 4:01 mile in New Zealand, a high school record as well. This is going to be his retirement race and we get to run together. We’ve been good friends over the years. We didn’t run at [the University of] Michigan together but we have the [coach] Ron Warhurst relation. It’s a real honor to be in the same race as him.”

- Nick Willis talking about the significance of running in Alan Webb‘s last race in the Wanamaker Mile at the 107th Millrose Games.


Friday 2/14:

“‘The gap was far and wide between Mikey and the peers in his age group,’ Edie Brannigan said. ‘I wish I could (scientifically) prove it, but within two years he was age-appropriate with his typical peers. We knew right then that whatever he was doing with the running was doing something in his brain at a pronounced rate. It was a miracle.’”

When Mikey was three, his parents were advised they might want to get onto a waiting list for a group-home for their son. ‘Now, the situation is so funny,” Edie Brannigan said. “I can’t tell you how many college coaches are banging at the door.’”

- Excerpt from DyeStat article on autistic high school star runner Michael Brannigan where his mother Edie talks about how running changed her son’s life. Michael won the NXN New York Regional in the fall and has qualified for the Millrose Games high school mile on Saturday.


Thursday 2/13:

“I think cross country on the professional level plays to my strengths. On the track, where there are no obstacles and perfect conditions, it’s harder to push people over the edge and break them. Cross country allows a little more room for that kind of running.”

- Reigning USA Cross-Country champion Chris Derrick, who is one of just six men in history to four times be top 10 at NCAAs in XC, talking about why he loves cross-country.


Wednesday 2/12:

- Advice that Benita Willis received from her coach before she went out and won the World XC title in 2004. Willis will be talking XC in Thursday in Boulder to get people pumped for Saturday’s USA XC Championships.


Tuesday 2/11:

“Disappointed. The two times I’ve raced Rupp … two DNFs. Both times he still did a w/o after. #milrosegames?”

- Olympic 1,500 silver medalist Nick Willis tweeting his thoughts about his race with Galen Rupp Saturday at the 2014 New Balance Indoor Games.


Monday 2/10:

Jenny Simpson talking about her race at the 2014 New Balance Indoor Grand Prix 2-Mile where she thought she was on the last lap and kicked too early. She still finished 2nd in 9:26.19 and ended up less than 3 seconds off drug cheat Regina Jacobs‘ American record of 9:23.38.

Sunday 2/9:

“I’m really disappointed I couldn’t win that because you could just feel the crowd just wanted it. They were like, ‘Man, we really want to see this American beat those Africans.’ It’s a great rivalry, I just couldn’t quite give it to them today. Those guys are really good.” “… This [gives me] a bit of confidence, but the most confidence I’ve gotten is from working out with Lopez Lomong. Day in and day out, matching him, I came into this race knowing I was capable of doing something good if I just went for it. … It was a great day, but I’m not totally surprised by it.”
Ryan Hill talking about his 3,000m race at the New Balance Indoor Grand Prix where he challenged for the lead the last 400m and set a big PR to run 7:34.87, finishing right behind two of the best 5,000m runners on the planet in Hagos Gebrhiwet and Dejen Gebremeksel. After an amazing start to his first pro season, we ask, “Might Hill be the US’s top men’s distance runner right now?”

Saturday 2/8:

“I’m actually not even sure where it is in my house right now. … I think it’s in the closet or under my bed somewhere. I don’t even know, my wife put it away. … It’s just the thought of knowing what you accomplished and the sense of pride being able to say you were the second best in the world that one day is something that’s the most important thing.”
Galen Rupp speaking at the New Balance Indoor Grand Prix press conference, after he was asked where he keeps his 2012 Olympic 10,000 silver medal and does he look at it often. To find out what Leo Manzano and Nick Willis do with their silver medals, watch our interview with them here. Go here for all our NBIGP coverage.

Friday 2/7:

“This is an absolute disgrace and a real step backwards in terms of education and health. We have spent years telling people that running is actually an enjoyable, rewarding and beneficial activity. … But now Mr. Gove is sending out a clear message that it’s bad – a form of punishment on a par with picking up litter or doing 100 lines. … This is demonising running. I can only assume that Mr. Gove or one of his Education department minions really didn’t like cross-country at school.”
- 1976 Olympic 10,000 Bronze Medalist Brendan Foster speaking out about the UK Education Secretary Michael Gove proposing using running laps as a form of punishment in schools.

Thursday 2/6:

“People have been wondering if my performance in Boston was genuine and that is what I want to dispel when I race in London. People ask why I haven’t repeated the same feat. It hurts when fans question the authenticity of your career’s top results.”

- Geoffrey Mutai talking about how he plans on proving that the wind-aided 2:03:02 he ran at the 2011 Boston Marathon wasn’t a fluke when he races the world’s best at the 2014 London Marathon.


Wednesday 2/5:

- Former NFL lineman Alan Faneca, who dropped 100+ pounds to run a 3:56:17 at the New Orleans Rock ‘N’ Roll Marathon this past weekend. Faneca said, “I was very nervous about going from the slow long run pace to all of a sudden running 30-45 seconds faster.” Props to Faneca for training seriously for this thing and having a time goal. Next thing you know he’ll be posting here.


Tuesday 2/4:

Father: “I always told him, ‘If I could do one thing I never did, it was break that four-minute mile.’ I really enjoyed watching him do it and achieving that goal as a family. It kind of eased the wounds that I had of never getting it.”

And Son: “Having my dad there to watch that live was really special. To wear his old jersey was kind of symbolic.”

- Oregon’s Trevor Dunbar and his father Marcus, talking about Trevor breaking 4 minutes in the mile last summer while wearing his father’s old Alaskan Track Club singlet and his father looking on. Marcus was the 1993 US indoor mile champion and had a PR of 4:00.58, which was the Alaskan state record until Trevor ran 3:59.06.