DOG ATTACK LEAVES ELITE KENYAN HARON LAGAT SCARRED & SHAKEN
By David Monti
(c) 2009 Race Results Weekly, all rights reserved
CAPE ELIZABETH, ME. (31-Jul) -- What was supposed to be a routine 25
minute tempo run on a familiar dirt road became a frightening nightmare
for elite road racer Haron Lagat. Just a mile and a half into the run
a week ago Thursday in Lubbock, Tex., the tall Kenyan was attacked so
viciously by two pit bulls that he was bitten in four places and all of
his clothes were ripped off.
"I ended up going to the emergency room," said Lagat as he calmly
recounted the incident after today's pre-race press conference here for
the TD Banknorth Beach to Beacon 10-K. "I was naked."
Lagat, who was running alone in a rural area near Texas Tech where he
competed in the NCAA ranks and now coaches, said that the two dogs
rushed him from a farm property he had run past many times without
incident. Using an embankment to keep the dogs in front of him, Lagat
slipped and fell backwards on the rain-soaked ground allowing the dogs
to get on top of him. He estimated that he fought them for about ten
minutes after which he became completely exhausted and was unable to
fight any longer.
"The wife of the owner came out," he said. "One dog was sitting on top of me."
The dogs retreated at the woman's command, said Lagat, who thought that
she seemed more intent on keeping the incident quiet than on helping
him. He had to bargain with her to use her cell phone to get help, and
she was reluctant to provide the address of her property. When police
eventually came they had the dogs taken away.
Lagat, 25, who was bitten on his back, knee, shoulder and thigh, said
that the incident left him shaken. "I couldn't sleep for two days," he
said. "Mentally, it was very tough. It's the worst thing I have
encountered. I told my sister, but not my mom."
A versatile athlete whose warm personality makes him a favorite of
event organizers, Lagat has had a busy and successful year in 2009. He
set personal bests for 3000m (7:50.69+), 5000m (13:38.80), 10,000m
(28:05.23) and 10-K on the road (28:43), and won an unusual, uphill
winner-take-all road mile in Vancouver where he won CND 20,000. He
also did several important pacemaking jobs both indoors and outdoors.
When he lines up for tomorrow's road race against a very strong
international field, Lagat realizes that he needs to be completely
focused on the race. That's easier said than done. He said he's
having a hard time putting the attack behind him.
"I don't know," he said when a reporter asked if he would still be
thinking about the dog attack. "I'm trying to get out of it."