August 24, 2014
Jairus Birech has dominated the steeplechase this year in the Diamond League and that continued on Sunday in Birmingham. This time however it was way more interesting.
Coming off the final water pit, Birech had the race wrapped up. Breaking 8:00 was out of the question so he waved to the crowd and approached the final barrier. The problem was he got too close and couldn’t jump it. So he had to crawl over it, before continuing on to win in 8:07.80.
We recap the race, with pictures and quick takes below. Click on an image for a bigger photo (we’ll hopefully have video later).
8:00 is 2:40 per kilometer, and through 1k, Birech was right on pace as he was just behind rabbit Haron Lagat, who passed in 2:40.08. By this point, Birech was the only one with the rabbits as 2008 Olympic champ Brimin Kipruto, Paul Koech and Bernard Nganga led the chase pack about 10 meters behind. Birech slowed down a bit over the second kilometer and was just behind rabbit Lawrence Kipsang, who passed 2k in 5:22.94 (8:04 pace).
Birech took over the pacing at 2k with a massive lead of about 40 meters on the field. Birech looked very strong at this point, and it appeared that he was on his way to the first sub-8:00 clocking of the year (his world leader is 8:02), assuming he had anything left for a kick.
It quickly became apparent that Birech was tired and as he hit the bell, he needed a 63 last lap (outside water jump) to break 8:00. Birech wasn’t able to pump his arms or extend his stride as runners need to do on the final lap but it seemed as if any drama had been removed from the race.
That wasn’t quite true, however, as the final barrier proved to be quite an adventure for Birech. Though tired, Birech was still soaking in the victory, pumping his arm for the crowd as he rounded the final turn. But he started his run-up to the final barrier too late, stumbled and had to stop completely and brace himself on the barrier. With no momentum, Birech put one one arm on the barrier and went over sideways, one leg and then the other. Birech had such a large lead that he still won comfortably, but it was certainly a strange sight to see someone go over a barrier with his chest facing the crowd.
Updated with video for USA Visitors from our partner Universal Sports.
Pictures are better than words. Watch for yourself below:
Brimin Kipruto was second in 8:16.61, while Conseslus Kipruto, who was trending in the right direction with two straight seconds in DL races, was a disappointing fifth. Both rabbits ended up finishing the race, with Lagat finishing sixth and Kipsang seventh, just ahead of American Olympian Donn Cabral, who ran 8:22.48 for eighth place. The other American, Andy Bayer, had a rough day and was last in 8:50.59, by far the worst of his five steeples as a pro.
3000 Metres Steeplechase – Men – Pts
1 Birech , Jairus Kipchoge KEN 8:07.80 4
2 Kipruto , Brimin Kiprop KEN 8:16.61 2
3 Kipyego , Barnabas KEN 8:17.03 1
4 Yego , Hillary Kipsang KEN 8:17.99
5 Kipruto , Conseslus KEN 8:18.73
6 Lagat , Haron KEN 8:19.00
7 Kipsang , Lawrence Kemboi KEN 8:22.17
8 Cabral , Donald USA 8:22.48
9 Koech , Paul Kipsiele KEN 8:25.97
10 Nganga , Bernard Mbugua KEN 8:27.47
11 Kowal , Yoann FRA 8:28.34
12 Zalewski , Krystian POL 8:29.46
13 Milne , Taylor CAN 8:43.03
14 Wilkinson , James GBR 8:47.06
15 Bayer , Andrew USA 8:50.59
Taleb , Brahim MAR DNF
Sigueni , Hicham MAR DNS
1000m LAGAT, Haron (KEN) 2:40.08
2000m KIPSANG, Lawrence Kemboi (KEN) 5:22.94
Quick Take #1: This has not been a good year for the men’s steeplechase.
Apart from the first DL meet in Doha, there’s been no drama on the circuit as Birech has won each of the last five DL races comfortably. You can afford to have one standout competitor in an event if they’re an all-time great, but Birech is merely a good runner taking advantage of a down year in the event. Right now, Birech’s world-leading time is 8:02.37 from Oslo in June. If that holds, it would be the first time since 2010 that no one has broken 8:00 on the year and the slowest world-leading time since 2000.
Additionally, the two biggest personalities in the men’s steeple have been largely absent from the Diamond League this season. Three-time defending world champ Ezekiel Kemboi has appeared in just two DL races and only finished one — the first one in Doha in May. And love him or hate him, you can’t deny that France’s Mahiedine Mekhissi-Bennabad is an interesting character and is in great shape, but he hasn’t run any DL steeples this year. The combination of a lack of top-tier talent and no compelling personalities has made the men’s steeple one of the least-interesting DL events this year.
Quick Take #2: Where’s Evan Jager?
The last two years, Jager has run a fast end-of-season flat race, but he’s not entered in the 5,000 on Thursday in Zurich. Jager generally doesn’t run a lot of DL steeples (just two so far this season) but it’s a bit strange that he would choose to run a 1500 in Belgium on Saturday (he ran 3:39.68) instead of running the steeple in Birmingham on Sunday.