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The Week That Was Feb. 16-22, 2009
February 24, 2009
*Last week's week in review can be found here.
By LetsRun.com

There was a lot of action this week with a big meet in Britain, a super-fast half marathon in Dubai, a world record in Germany Sweden, and the start of NCAA conference action. So much action to cover, but instead of recapping it all, we'll start with some analysis..


Stat Of The Week
This week were made aware of the fact that Track & Field News is still updating their list of all-time sub-4 minute milers in the US. That's great to see as the page is full of useful information.  The most recent addition to the list Matt Centrowitz Jr. of Oregon, who comes in at #319. His father was #78 way back in 1975.

We've spent some time looking at the list and think it shows some interesting facts. It certainly supports our belief that US distance running is flourishing at an all-time high currently. It also supports our belief that the low mileage mantra that took hold in this country starting in the mid-1980s until the rise of the Internet near the turn of the millennium really ruined performances in this country. The 20-year period from 1985 to 2004 really was embarrassing as the rate of 4-minute milers was basically the same as it was in the 1970s. Check out the # of 4-minute milers by decade to see our point.

# of sub-4 American milers by decade
1950s: 1
1960s: 30
1970s: 68
1980s: 69 (38 first 5 years, 31 next 5)
1990s: 63 (35 first 5 years, 28 next 5 years)
2000-2009: 88 (33 first 5 years, 55 in 4+ years)

The rise of the Internet allowed the proponents of high mileage to get their voices heard, as for too long they'd been drowned out by the studies done by exercise physiologists who had been dominating the covers of the likes of Runners World for years. Clearly, we're not trying to give JK or malmo all of the credit for bringing back US distance running, but applying Occam's razor, the Internet's rise and the rise of US distance running is no coincidence. Training theory has returned to its roots over the last decade and the performance of US runners has started to show it big time in the last few years.

From 1985 to 2004, there were never more than 35 new sub-4 minute milers in a five-year period. Yet we've had 55 since the start of 2005.

Someone Recruit Their Child
The greatest cross-country race on the planet except for World Cross was held over the weekend in Kenya as the Kenyan Trials were held. Making the Kenyan team for Worlds is probably the hardest team in the world to make except maybe the Kenyan steeplechase squad, where if you aren't in the top 5 in the world, you don't stand a chance. By now, you probably know that the big story from the race was that the husband wife team of Moses Mosop and Frances Kiplagat got the win in the senior men's and women's races, with most of the attention going to Mosop, who had a breathtaking 21-second victory to mark himself as the favorite for the Worlds next month. Kenya is a very male-dominated society and for them to have the World XC individual champion is a point of tremendous pride. It distance running circles, being the World XC champion is like being the king of the jungle. You are simply the best on the planet even if the media largely ignores the feat. It's been a decade since they last had the winner (Paul Tergat in 1999), so expectations will certainly be huge in Amman next month.

Kiplagat didn't race last year as she had her first child. On a side note, we're wondering how long it is before some shoe company starts sending free baby gear to that child.

Our only question after the race was this: Given a 21-second victory for Mosop, has he peaked too soon? Then it came out that he's coached by Renato Canova. Canova has a proven track record of working with the best and getting them to produce when they need to. Which brings us to our:

Message Board Post of the Week
When Renato Canova speaks, we listen. The coach of Mosop and Kiplagat took the time this week to talk about both of them on our message board. In the post, he says about Mosop that the "plan was to be at 90% of shape for Kenyan Trials, and of course 100% for Amman." If that's what happens, then we know who the World Cross champ will be.
*Renato Canova Talks About Coaching Moses Mosop and Frances Kiplagat

Rather than talk more about who made the team for Kenya, we thought it was more interesting to list some of the studs who didn't make the team for Kenya. World 5k silver medallist Eliud Kipchoge, Beijing 5k bronze medallist Edwin Soi and Beijing 1,500 silver medallist and former World XC champion Asbel Kiprop all failed to make the team. Unbelievable.

Just look at Kiprop, who had the early lead at the Trials. Kiprop is an unreal talent. Imagine someone who as a junior was way better than Alan Webb in the mile and way better than Dathan Ritzenhein at cross-country. He was in good form, as he'd been winning a lot of XC races this winter. He shows up at the national champs and doesn't make the team. Only in Kenya, baby.

2009 Kenyan XC Champs
Husband And Wife Moses Mosop And Frances Kiplagat Win
Paul Tergat
 is confident a Kenyan will win world XC for the first time in 10 years with Bekele and Tadese likely out. IAAF recap above, Reuters article saying Mosop and Kiplagat are married.
LRC Exclusive:
 Famed Coach Renato Canova Posts About Coaching The First Husband-Wife Winners
More: The Standard: Moses Mosop Puts On Breathtaking Performance As He Gets 21-Second Victory!!! 
Sunday Nation: Mosop Has Time To Salute Crowd After Romping To Victory Click here to see a sweet photo.
Jr. Girls: *World Youth & World Jr Champ Mercy Cherono Will Be Looking For World XC Title After Dominating Victory
*Kenyan Team Announced: Leonard Patrick Komon and Pauline Korikwiang Get Wild-Card Entries Komon is a former silver winner and Korikwiang won junior girls gold in 2006. Pre-Race: Mission "Beat Ethiopia" Starts* May A World-Beater Step Forward Please *Race Preview

Recommended Read of The Week/Free Coaching Advice
We wanted to point out what in our minds was the best profile written last week. Universal sports Alan Abrahamson caught up with US marathon star Ryan Hall in the desert in California to update us on his preparations for Boston and to give us insight of what went wrong in Beijing. The article really is a good read. What went wrong in his preparation for Beijing? He didn't take enough time off after London (just one week) and then he tried to force things after he did come back.

One thing we're always struck by with Olympic-year disappointments is how simple the reasons behind them often are. So many people try to force things and end up overtraining.

When LetsRun.com co-founder Robert Johnson was hired to coach at Cornell, the final thing he did while in Washington, DC was set up a lunch meeting with 1997 world championships bronze medallist at 800 meters, Rich Kenah, to talk about mid-d training. Robert asked Rich about his failure at the 2000 Olympics in Sydney.

Robert remembers the exchanges as being something like this. Robert asked Rich about what happened in Sydney and the exchange was roughly as follows (hard to remember as it was 7 years ago):

Rich:  "Robert, you think of me as being someone who trains really smart, right?
Robert: "'Yes. Smarter than anyone out there. That's why I'm here talking to you."
Rich: "Well, I did what everyone does in Olympic years. The most simple of all mistakes - I overtrained."

Rich said there were a few workouts he hadn't gotten in that he wanted to do just prior to the Games. He knew what he'd done to get the bronze at the world champs and he subconsciously forced himself to do the workouts a little faster out of a desire to get the gold in the Olympics. He ran the workouts faster than he'd ever done them before.

The result? Didn't even make it out of the first round.

So this is our reminder to you all of you out there training: "DON'T FORCE THINGS."

In the Abrahamson article on Hall, there was a quote from 1968 Boston Marathon winner Amby Burfoot. Burfoot wasn't talking about Hall specifically but just about the overwhelming odds a US marathoner faces if he is going to win a world marathon major.

Burfoot said, "You're asking almost for the impossible. How does someone stand on a start line with five Kenyans on his left, five Ethiopians on his right and think, 'I'm going to take it to these guys today.' The odds are 10 to 1 against you if you're equal, and it's hard even to convince yourself you are equal."

We 100% agree with his assessment although a bunch of non-thinking people have criticized Burfoot on the message board for having a defeatist attitude. We disagree. He's just trying to point out the big odds facing an American trying to win. Hall's result in London in our mind is 100% proof that Burfoot is correct. Hall ran the greatest single marathon in history by an American-born athlete by clocking 2:06:17 and he finished 5th. Unbelievable.

While the quote by Burfoot was criticized by some as being defeatist, thankfully, the quote also resulted in a fantastic thread being created on the message board that is full of thoughtful discourse instead of pointless name-calling or attacks by trolls. Our
Message Board Thread of The Week
is certainly this one:

*hey, hey Amby Burfoot

The thread is fantastic. The first two points feature a nice exchange between Burfoot and former 2:10 marathoner Bob Hodge.

Hodge starts the thread by asking Burfoot if he's forgotten what it's like to be a top competitor. He says that when you are competitor you want to be standing on the start line and thinking "How are those guys going to beat me?" and have no negative thoughts in your mind.

Burfoot's response is classic and 100% true. He writes that there "weren't any Kenyans or Ethiopians on the line at Boston '68. If there had been, I would have been in deep do-do ... He faces long odds in any world-class field."

Totally spot on.

Then in the 7th post, former sub-2:20 marathoner Joe McVeigh, who was the top American finisher in New York at least once in his career, comically in our minds comes up with the perfect amusing conclusion to the debate:

"In almost any situation where there is more than a small number of possible outcomes -- a marathon, a horse race, NCAA basketball tournament, preseason "who wins the Super Bowl" picks -- if you have a choice between "one guy" and "the field", it's safer to bet "the field" no matter who the guy is.

Hall vs. the field? Bet the field.
Cheruyiot vs. the field? Bet the field.

Only situation this doesn't apply is in martial arts films. The good guy will win the fight no matter how many guys he's fighting."

Speaking of the odds Hall faces, any fears that Boston was trying to intentionally water down the fields so we'd be almost assured of having an American winner seem to be dying down as the elite fields were announced last week. The race certainly won't be just a match race between 4-time champ Robert Kipkoech Cheruiyot and Ryan Hall. 2008 Chicago winner and 59:03 half guy Evans Cheruiyot, who has never lost a marathon in his life, was added to the field as was Deriba Merga, the 4th placer from the Olympics. For Hall, it certainly won't be a 1 in 10 scenario like it is in London as Burfoot described, but more like 1 in 5 or maybe 1 in like 7 or 8 as Daniel Rono (seven top-three finishes in international marathons, including third in New York City last year; Robert Kiprono (debuted last year with a 2:07:21 course record in Frankfurt) and Gashaw Asfaw (4th Boston 2008, 7th Olympics) can't be discounted either.

John Hancock Financial Announces Stout Boston Marathon Elite Fields 

A Look At Super-Rich Road Race #1
Speaking of Merga, he in our minds may be the greatest runner on the planet who hasn't won a major marathon - and no, Houston from January doesn't count as a major win. Twice a 2:06 guy, 4th in the Olympics - not too shabby.

Merga was at it again this week as he wanted the world record and the $100,000 bonus that came with it at the RAK Half Marathon. The winds were howling but Merga didn't seem to care as he blitzed a 13:40 opening 5k. At 15k, he tied Felix Limo's world record by hitting 41:29. In the end, the winds and perhaps fatigue from Houston proved to be too much as he died and finished 3rd. Picking up the slack was Patrick Makau, who set a 20km world record (55:28) en route to the 2nd fastest half marathon in history (58:52). Dire Tune got the win in 67:18 on the women's side.

What we found interesting was how fast the times were across the board. David Monti wrote a pre-race piece about how the prize money would be reduced substantially if one didn't hit certain times. To get top-5 money, you had to run sub-60:00 for men and sub-69:00 for women. For the top 10, you had to run sub-71 for women as well. What ended up happening?

All of the prize money was paid out. The $$$ incentive to make sure people run fast certainly worked. On the men's side, 5 broke 60:00 with a 6th at 60:02. 10th place was 60:27. 11th and 12th ran 60:43 and 60:53, which got them zero money. Unbelievable. Compare that to the previous two years when only a total of 7 people had broken 60:00.

The stipulation on minimum times for places 6 through 10 was really designed to boost the women's finishing times. Media chief Tim Hutchings was very blunt and to the point when he called Adere's course record of 70:58 to be "appalling slow." He also added, ""Yes, we all know that strength in depth in the women's distance running world is not as great as the men's, but that is no reason to ignore blatantly apathetic running."

 1. Patrick Makau, KEN             58:52 PB $28,000
 2. Wilson Kiprotich, KEN          58:59 PB  15,000
 3. Deribe Merga, ETH              59:18     10,000
 4. Wilson Chebet, KEN             59:32 PB   6,000
 5. Matthew Koech, KEN             59:54 PB   5,000
 6. Joseph Maregu, KEN           1:00:02      3,000
 7. Charles Munyeki, KEN         1:00:11      2,000
 8. Tujuba Megersa, ETH          1:00:16 PB   1,500
 9. Chele Dechasa, ETH           1:00:19 PB   1,000
10. Abel Kirui, KEN              1:00:27        500
11. David Kipkorir Mandago, KEN  1:00:43
12. Paul Kosgei, KEN             1:00:53
13. Dickson Marwa, TAN           1:01:18
14. John Wambua, KEN             1:01:50
15. Francis Kibiwott, KEN        1:01:51

 1. Dire Tune, ETH               1:07:18 NR/CR* $28,000 + 5,000*
 2. Aselefech Mergia, ETH        1:07:48 PB      15,000
 3. Philes Ongori, KEN           1:07:50 PB      10,000
 4. Abebu Gelan, ETH             1:07:57 PB^      6,000
 5. Lydia Cheromei, KEN          1:08:14 PB       5,000
 6. Amane Gobena, ETH            1:08:16 PB       3,000
 7. Salina Kosgei, KEN           1:09:06          2,000
 8. Rose Kosgei, KEN             1:09:14 PB       1,500
 9. Teyiba Erkesso, ETH          1:09:37 PB       1,000
10. Julia Mombi, KEN             1:09:40            500
11. Ashu Kasim, ETH              1:10:05 PB
12. Hurssa Mare Dibaba, ETH      1:10:32
13. Anikó Kálovics, HUN          1:10:59
14. Rehimah Kedir, ETH           1:11:07 PB
15. Elfenesh Alemu, ETH          1:11:43

That's a great quote. Far too often, women are paid equal prize money to men in races when the results are nowhere near comparable. So what happened? The women's results clearly showed that the money incentive worked big time. Only one woman in race history had broken 71:00 before at the event and this year you had 13 women break 71:00. Hungary's Anikó Kálovics ran 70:59 - 1 second off the previous course record - to get 13th and zero money. 8 of the top 9 women set PBs in the process.

One thing we should also point out is that 2nd-placer Wilson Kiprotich did become just the 5th human to break 59:00 as he clocked 58:59. His performance was largely forgotten thanks to Makau's win and Merga's bold early frontrunning.

More: *Photos Of Race Via PhotoRun.net *Splits/Results For Top Competitors *IAAF Recap: Patrick Makau Gets 2nd Fastest Time Ever As Tune Sets National Record *AP Recap Of Race *MBoard: Patrick Makau And Deriba Merga Go Out Very Fast, Maybe Too Fast (13:40), Give World Record A Scare But Fade To 58:52 And 59:18  *Interesting/Detailed Explanation Of Prize Money *Women's Results *Race Preview Of "White Kenyan" Viktor Rothlin Rothlin: "At The Olympics in Beijing, I was the first white runner." Rothlin's race in R.A.K. was terrible as he went out slow and then DNFd. *RAK Marathon - No Senior Half Marathon Records, But Several Other Records Were Set *Interesting Write-Up Of RAK Race 

Super-Rich Road Race #2 May Have Been A Better Option
Correction: RAK Half, though in the United Arab Emirates is not in Dubai, as we earlier reported (it's in Ras Al Khaimah).
From a financial perpsective, people like Kálovics would have probably been better off if, instead of going to United Arab Emirates, they had gone to Nigeria for the Glo-Lagos Int'l Half Marathon, which also offered a ton of prize money. $50,000 for first place and $5,000 for 5th. The competition was a lot weaker for the obvious reasons - it was in Nigeria and people probably wondered if they'd truly be paid as the race doesn't have a proven track record like the RAK Half, which really took off this year in year 3 as it's now a proven commodity.

In Nigeria, the race ended up being way longer than 21.1 km as the runners were re-routed mid-race. David Monti summed it up by saying:

"This event was several kilometers longer than the advertised distance, because runners were rerouted due to 'traffic problems,' according to a reliable source which contacted RRW. Indeed, this is a conclusion which is backed up by the personal GPS readings from one of the top runners who saw 23 km on their device at the finish line."

In the end, two world champions prevailed in Luke Kibet (2007 marathon world champ) in 67:49 and Lornah Kiplagat  in 76:23. But you didn't have to run nearly as well to get a big payday. In the RAK race, Matthew Koech had to run within 1:02 of the race winner, who ran the 2nd best half in history, to get paid $5,000. In Nigeria, the 5th placer was 2:51 behind Kibet. On the women's side, 5th was 4:42 behind Kiplagat as compared to 56 seconds behind at the RAK Half.

 1. Lornah Kiplagat, NED       1:16:23  USD 50,000
 2. Hilda Kibet, NED           1:19:27      25,000
 3. Jane Wanjiku, KEN          1:20:06      15,000
 4. Agnes Nyasiki, UGA         1:20:25      10,000
 5. Irene Kipchumba, KEN  1.21.05   (USD 5000)

 1. Luke Kibet, KEN            1:07:49  USD 50,000
 2. Tsegaye Kebede, ETH        1:08:52      25,000
 3. Nixon Kiprono, KEN         1:09:14      15,000
 4. Dieudonné Disi, RWA        1:10:14      10,000
 5. Festus Langat, KEN         1:10:41       5,000

Oh yeah, American Mary Akor, who was born in Nigeria and still has a Nigerian passport, won a car for being the top Nigerian finisher.
*Kibet And Kiplagat Win Glo Lagos International Half Marathon In Nigeria And Take Home Big Paydays

Nature Vs. Nurture
After Not Running For Over A Year, A Sub-4 Minute Miler Runs ...?????

Last week, we had a Happy Birthday shout out to former Uconn star Dan Wilson, who turned 30. A few people were angry that we devoted precious LetsRun.com space on the homepage to wish Mr. Wilson a happy 30th birthday. "Retired Steepler" wrote, "Seriously. Why is this on the front page of letsrun? Isn't there a million stories out there that are actually important? What happened to Dan Wilson? Do you care? If so, share. If not, who cares, right?"

We had it up there as a) he is a friend of ours and b) we knew he'd be running a mile that night after not having run since December 2007.

We were fascinated by what a former sub-4 minute miler could run in his first run (apparently he did run once in January) in 14 months. The ultimate (well, N = 1) answer to the "nature vs. nurture" debate Wilson ended up running 4:54. In our recap of the historic event, we wrote, "Wilson's 4:54 goes a long way in answering the nature vs. nurture debate.  A lot of people who knew about the run were guessing what he'd run and the guesses were all over the place. Those who think running is all about talent were saying sub 4:30. His run proves that training is pretty damn important."

Then we got an interesting email from LetsRun.com daily visitor Nigel Brooks. Mr. Brooks, a 46-year-old English man who has been running since he was 12 and sports a very respectable 10k PB of 30:30, wrote us from Brazil, where works as an English teacher and consultant (oh yes, and nowadays he runs and races barefoot, but not, we understand, because of the crisis), wrote the following:

Dan sounds like a real character and a good friend. The article suggests the result means that nurture (training) is more significant than nature (ability). I had to write to call attention to the tables you can find in Jack Daniel's Running Formula (Human Kinetics). Check this out.

A mile in 4:54 is equal to an estimated VO2 max of 61. That's something many many people could never achieve, with all the training in the world, but it's Dan's start point.
1500m in 3:38 is equal to an estimated V02 max of 78 .... stratospheric!

The difference? 28%

For most physiologists, 20% is the typical improvement in V02 possible through training. Some will never improve by more than 15% (so called low responders), while others manage up to 25% (high responders).
Dan is obviously a high responder and also probably a few pounds overweight. Taken together, these easily explain the 28%. Would you agree?

Do we agree? Looks like we don't have much of a choice, as you've laid out the facts for us. Talent and training are certainly what make champions.

After Not Running For Over A Year, A Sub-4 Minute Miler Runs ...?????

Lastly, we realize we've been given so much analysis of the Week That Was that we've totally ignored two of the bigger meets from last week. At the UK Indoor Grand Prix in Birmingham, Mo Farah took his British 3k national record down to 7:34 as Vivian Cheruyiot also set the Kenyan 3k record at 8:30 on the women's side. American Bernard Lagat showed that he's human, as he lost for the first time this year in a non-rabbitted affair.

In Stockholm in the middle of the week, Meseret Defar broke the women's 5k world record by running an insane 14:24.37. The old record belonged to Defar's rival, Tirunesh Dibaba, who got double gold in Beijing last year.

News From Europe - UK Indoor Grand Prix In Birmingham *Combined Results *Results By Event With Splits
BBC Recap: Mo Farah Knocks More Than 6 Seconds Off His NR (7:34) LRC: Bernard Lagat Runs 3:38 And Loses For 1st Time In 2009 Choge gets the win as Rob Myers runs 3:40. *Vivian Cheruiyot Sets Kenyan National Record In 3k (8:30) Telegraph: Mo Farah Finds Redemption A good day for Brits as 16 PBs are set and 2 British records. Marilyn Okoro just missed the British record in the 800 by running 1:59.27. Guardian: Simeon Williamson Wins 60m In 6.53 Then Talks Trash About Dwain Chambers IAAF: American Carmelita Jeter Gets World Lead (7.11) In 60m On 3 Hrs Sleep As Does Lolo Jones In 60mh
Canada: Tyler Christopher Runs 46.08 As XMan Only Does 47.20 AP: Lolo Jones Wins 60m Hurdles
Defar: 14:24.37 WR!!!

Ethiopian Meseret Defar closed in 30.3 (last 200) and 2:46 (last 1,000) to break countrywoman and rival Tirunesh Dibaba's old mark of 14:27.42 and win by over 1 minute! Also: Paul Koech (sub 8:00 steeplechaser) goes 7:32.80 for world lead.

Recommended Reads
If you didn't come to the site much last week, we thought you might enjoy reading the following: *Interesting Profile Of British 3k Record Holder Mo Farah Inspired by Gebrselassie, Cram, and Arsenal, Farah is primed for a great 2009 after a winter training session in Africa where he found time to dance with Haile at Haile's house
A Look At How Drunk Ivan Ukhov's Exploits Compare To Other Great Athletic Drunks In History He's got nothing on the Australian who consumed 52 beers on a trans-Atlantic flight.

Sad News
Two sad deaths in the track and field world last week. Spokane Community College xc coach
Erik Anderson, 38, was killed in a freak accident as he taught a bowling class. To read a good article on Anderson, please click here.

Olympic Gold Medal Winner In Hammer Throw Collapses & Dies at Practice at Age 26 Kamila Skolimowska had won gold at age 17. *She passed out in the weight room


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