Where Your Dreams Become Reality
The Week That Was July 20 - July 26, 2009
This week we have a lot to cover. We start with the Kenyan Trials and try to figure out what it all means and how they might impact Galen Rupp's and Matt Tegenkamp's medal chances, then we get sentimental and celebrate anniversaries for Alan Webb and Usain Bolt before telling Carey Pinkowski and Mary Wittenberg how to do their jobs. Along the way, we belatedly give props to Erin Donohue and Sarah Bowman before declaring that the Kenyans are officially crazy (for thinking they can "easily" beat Bekele).
(Note: In The Week That Was, we try to put the previous week in perspective, not necessarily recap every single thing that happened. To get a full recap of the Kenyan Trials, please click here. To get a full recap of the Aviva London meet, click here for Friday's recap and here for Saturday's recap.)
Thoughts On The Kenyan Trials
The only place where fans are sort of scratching their heads is in the men's 5k, which was won by largely unknown Vincent Chepkok, who just turned 21 on July 5th. However, if you are going to have an unknown, it's best that he be a young and up-and-comer. The guy was 3rd in Oslo on July 5th in a PR of 13:06.
If you are one of the many hoping that American Matt Tegenkamp, who was 4th at the last World Champs, can somehow sneak a medal (we say sneak as there is no chance he's one of the best 3 in the world at 5k if you had a giant time trial, but he might be at the World Champs) in Berlin, then you might be pleased that Joseph Ebuya made the team as the runner-up. The former world junior medallist didn't prove two years ago that he was good at peaking when it counted most, as he was eliminated in the heats of the 2007 Worlds but then ran 12:51.00 two weeks later. Tegenkamp fans are also probably pretty pleased that Edwin Soi was 4th at the Kenyan Trials and left off the team, as Soi got the Olympic bronze last year and is a great kicker. However, the 3rd member of the Kenyan team is a proven stud. Eliud Kipchoge has medalled in the 5k at four of the last 5 global championships (gold in 2003, bronze in 2004, silver in 2007 and 2008) and is number 4 all-time at 12:46.53. Plus, Kipchoge has already run 12:56 this year.
On the women's side, it was good to see Sylvia Kibet, who was featured on LetsRun.com as "Kenya's Forgotten Lady," make the team. She nearly got the upset win (in the video below)
Pamela Jelimo's Comeback Continues
Speaking of Jelimo's human side, our LetsRun.com Recommended #1 Read of the week is The Guardian's Steve Bloomfield's profile of Pamela Jelimo. In the day and age of the Internet, twitter and SMS, some fear that true journalism is going by the wayside. Not totally. Bloomfield traveled to Kenya and went to Jelimo's house to see what her life is like. The piece gives great insight not only into Jelimo but also into Kenya, the nation itself.
Despite winning Olympic Gold and the entire $1 million Golden League jackpot last year, Jelimo still lives in a one-bedroom bungalow. She has no servants and hasn't spent a dollar of the jackpot, which sits in a bank in Monaco. As Jelimo says, "My career comes first. Why do I need to invest? Some people here do not understand. For now, I want to focus on my training and my running, but nothing else at the moment."
Jelimo certainly doesn't come across as an immature 19-year-old. She has decided to spend some of her money now on one thing - "a very nice school that will motivate people." "Investing in education is not expensive."
Unbelievable. Can you imagine a guy going straight from HS to the NBA and then saying he wasn't going to spend any of his money except he was going to build a school? Not a chance. Pamela Jelimo, the LetsRun.com hero of the week.
So take five minutes and read Bloomfield's piece. Our favorite line was the one that follows: "Kenya has produced athletics greats from Kip Keino to Paul Tergat, but few have captured the country's imagination like Jelimo. An Olympic gold in the 800m last year in Beijing brought her fame; a month later she won her fortune."
Men's 10,000 - It's Official; The Top 2 Are Left Off The Team
The guys that Kenya named to the team, Moses Masai and Micah Kogo, are proven medal condenters. Kenya most likely wanted them on the team as they are likely to be in the hunt for medals, and they tried to come up with an excuse to put them on the squad. Kogo got the Olympic 10k bronze last year, sits at #6 all-time in the 10k at 26:35.63 and has already run 13:02 and 13:01 this year. Masai was 4th in the Olympics last year and has PRs of 12:50 and 26:49. Some will point out that he was only 7th in the Pre Classic 3k. We'd respond by saying that was his first track race of the year and he was a much-improved 4th in the Trials. So he's headed in the right direction. The only way Americans are going to possibly medal at 5k or 10k is if they beat some Kenyans that peaked for the Trials and are dead come World Champs time. Clearly, that's not the case with Masai as might have been the case with Kitwara. If anything, Kenya's decision makes it harder for Rupp to medal in our minds. But it is absolutely ridiculous that Kitwara, undefeated on the roads and track in 2009, with over $100,000 in winnings (and the winner of the Kenyan Trials), isn't on the team. We apologize for jinxing Kitwara from the team.
The guy who earned his way on the team? Bernard Kipyego was 3rd at World Cross in 2007.
Women's 10,000 - Makeup For Momanyi/Update On NCAA Star Sally Kipyego
Thoughts From The Aviva Grand Prix
A few thoughts on the meet:
Tyson Gay Injured Or Not?
Two days later, Reuters quotes a totally upbeat Gay saying that he is looking forward to the "most exciting race ever" at Worlds and that he believes he can "shock the world."
In the end, we think the following sentence in the Reuters story is probably closest to the truth: "I do not really think (the injury) will affect my performances. As long I can train before then, I will be fine and I will not be affected at all."
Only one person on the earth has a chance to beat Bolt, and that's Tyson Gay. To be able to do it, he needs to be able to train. The good news is he compares his current situation with his groin to being similar to a knee problem he had prior to the 2007 Worlds.
Correction From Last Week Regarding Athletics Canada
The thread is definitely a good read as it leads to a good debate as to what standards are fair for a Worlds team selection. We actually think that for a country like Canada with limited A qualifiers and limited financial resources, it makes some sense to make athletes show some current fitness as Canada does because you wouldn't want someone going to Worlds solely based on a strong performance that was a year old. That being said, we still think the process is a bit too harsh in our minds. Should a guy who runs 27:50 really be kept from going to Worlds just because he's 1 second off?
But to us, this whole episode shows you one reason why track struggles to be a mainstream sport. Due to A and B standards and various differences of miles and 1,500s and various rules for various countries, it's not a surprise to us that the athletes themselves at times don't even know what is going on. And if the athletes don't understand the whole system, then how in god's name can the fans be expected to understand it?
Rupp & Ritz Respect Their Predecessors
The article is definitely worth reading but we enjoyed both Ritz and Rupp paying homage to those that came before them in terms of American distance running greats. Always good to see the young guys knowing their sport and its history even if it's only recent history.
Quote of The Week #1 - Galen Rupp
Quote of The Week #2 - Dathan Ritzenhein
Two great quotes. If you are Meb Keflezighi or Abdi Abidrahman, it's a bit hard to read that 2nd quote and avoid feeling someone taking a little dig at you.
It's Official - The Kenyans Are Crazy
Most ridiculous quote of the week/ Quote of The Week #3 Kenyan Coach Julius Kirwa
Easily win? Is the guy insane? Ignoring the fact that Kenya last week kicked the top finishers from the Trials 10k off the team, beating Bekele is basically almost impossible. And yet he thinks it will be "easy." No way.
Kenenisa Bekele, from what we can tell, is undefeated in competitive 10,000-meter races for his life. The results service http://www.tilastopaja.org has Bekele being a perfect 11 for 11 in 10,000m finals in his career, dating back to his first 10,000 in 2003 in Hengelo, which was a very memorable one indeed. Anyone remember that race? Bekele ran 26:53.70 and conquered the great Haile Gebrselassie, who ran 26:54.58. If you are good enough to beat Geb in your first 10k ever and you've never lost one in the six years since, you certainly aren't going to be easily beaten.
And in the 5k? The guy has won 14 straight finals dating to his loss to Bernard Lagat in London in 2006.
And We Don't Want To Forget: Abubaker Kaki Back In Action - Erin Donohue & Sarah Bowman PRs
This year, Kaki had an injury scare but last week he ran and won a low-key 1,000 meter race in 2:20.18. Good to see him back.
Donohue & Bowman PR (And We Notice It A Week Late)
So Thumbs Up to Erin Donohue. Of course, would probably point out that the reason we didn't realize she PRed until a week later is because she finished 8th in the race. Fair enough.
Finishing 9th was none other than 2009 NCAA indoor mile champ Sarah Bowman, who ran a big PR of 4:05.67. A surprising and huge breakthrough for Bowman, whose outdoor season since Penn had largely been disappointing.
We must admit the reaction to the PRs on the LRC board has been disappointing as well. Hardly any posts. And people wonder why female athletes make way less than men athletes.
Maybe someone should measure the track, as the 3rd, 5th, 6th, 7th, 8th, 9th, and 11th finishers all set personal bests and the 4th and 12th placers set seasonal bests.
Anniversary #1 - 1 Year And Counting Since Usain Bolt Lost A Race
Anniversary #2 - 2 Years And Counting Since Alan Webb's AR
Webb's 2009 outdoor campaign consisted of wins at the Kansas and Drake Relays in April in the mile, 3:58.90 and 4:00.61 respectively, a disastrous 3:42.58 10th-place showing at the Reebok Grand Prix, a 3:55.99 mile at Pre and a 3:42.35 showing at USAs.
Last week, we learned that Webb's 2009 campaign is over before it really even began. His agent Ray Flynn told LetsRun.com that Alan Webb likely won't race again this summer. Injuries certainly can make it impossible to compete, but one has to wonder if motivation isn't also a problem as well, as Webb only ran one European race last year and zero this year. If we were running almost 9+ seconds slower than we were two years ago, we'd certainly find it hard to be motivated.
While we will remind you that we officially called Webb's season as being over for all practical purposes way back on June 1st, we admit that Webb's struggles are painful for us to watch. One of our favorite phrases about track and field came to us from Nick Willis, who said, "Talent doesn't go away." That's certainly true, and Webb is still only 26, so there is time for him to re-find the magic.
The Fall Marathons Start To Take Shape And They're Going To Be Great
In Berlin, the #1 and #2 fastest marathoners in history will square off in Duncan Kibet and Haile Gebreselassie. While we're thrilled to see that Geb will actually have a formidable opponent for once and not an almost-assured victory, it is a bit disappointing that we didn't get the Wanjiru vs. Geb clash. Geb always runs Berlin and Wanjiru wanted to go there and it's not happening. Oh well. Chicago's big gain and Berlin's loss in our minds. Geb's loss as well.
But since incessant world record attempts honestly bore us, we are thrilled to also learn that Ryan Hall will be running the ING New York City marathon. We think the obsession with time is bad for the sport and think marathoners should switch it up. Run for time in London or Chicago and then run a difficult course in Boston or New York. Don't specialize in one or the other. Given his XC background in college and his great success at the 2008 Olympic Trials, we think Ryan will really enjoy running in New York.
Ryan seems to think so himself and the early signs are that his training is going well. As Ryan Hall told LetsRun.com this week, "I'm starting to get into pretty good shape right now. I'm back in the mountains at elevation, a place I love, a place where everything clicks for me and I really feel like my body is just absorbing all the training like a sponge. I'm seeing improvement from week to week and am feeling better and better with more and more snap in my legs and just really building a nice momentum right now."
Free Advice For Race Directors
1) Designate one fall race as the big race of the season for men and a different race for women. 2) Switch it up each season according to the type of course.
So say Chicago (fast course) is where all the men go in 2009 and New York (challenging course) is where all the women go. In the spring, you do the reverse. The men would go to Boston (challenging course) and the women would go to London (fast course). You would get amazing matchups, as the big names couldn't dodge each other and you would have variety and you wouldn't have the finish of one sex's race interfering with another sex's finish. It would also make it easier for the media to hype the race as there would be one awesome race to hype instead of two mediocre ones.
However, we know that it's never going to happen in a day and age where appearance fees rule. So how about a more modest proposal?
Why don't the fast marathons like Berlin, London and Chicago agree to get rid of rabbits every other year and alternate it by sex. So say in 2009 in Chicago, the men know they'll be running for time and have rabbits, whereas the women will be left to battle on their own. Then reverse it the next year. Watching two time trials at once is boring. More: *Message Board Thread On 2009 Fall Marathons
The Russian thing is a big, big deal. Actions like that could not only save track and field but really all professional sports.
"This decision also supports the actions of the IAAF in pro-actively
targeting, investigating, and prosecuting doping cases with non
traditional methods Ė in this case the storage of samples and the
comparison of DNA. It should provide a strong warning to any athletes
who are considering doping that their samples will be stored and may be
later re-analysed meaning they are never safe from the detection of
their cheating against their fellow athletes."
As for the Jamaican story, we think it's going to be a non-story. It just doesn't make any sense. Either there is crazy Russian-like doping going on in Jamaica (not likely) or it's some minor problem like marijuana or a supplement in some energy drink.
As it was said in the Guardian:
We're really big against doping at LetsRun.com, but it is sad when an innocent athlete has their career ruined due to a false doping allegation. S. African marathon star Gert Thys had his name formally cleared this week 2.5 years after his doping positive. The problem for Thys is he's not approaching 40 and he lost 2.5 crucial years in his career. 2.5 Years Later South African Gert Thys Cleared By CAS For Doping Violation
Recommended Reads From Last Week
1) Taller Athletes Are Going To Dominate Speed Events This study from Duke University basically says we'll see more and more tall athletes winning in track and swimming. We think it makes sense. As training methods improve and are spread all over the world, it was just a matter of time before 6'5" 100m "freaks of nature" came to be.
2) The Calorie Delusion: Why Food Labels Are Wrong Food scientists have been giving us terrible advice for a long time. According to new studies, just counting calories leads to big problems. The difference between crunchy and mushy food or cooked and uncooked may be just as important.
4) LetsRun.com Exclusive From Kenya - Sylvia Kibet: Kenya's Forgotten Lady 4th in the world and we bet most of you haven't heard of her.
Remembering The Last Week With The Quotes of the Day - Day By Day:
Monday: "Pamela, Marry Me!"
Saturday/Sunday: "I'm starting to get into pretty good shape right now. I'm back in
the mountains at elevation, a place I love, a place where everything
clicks for me and I really feel like my body is just absorbing all the
training like a sponge. I'm seeing improvement from week to week and am
feeling better and better with more and more snap in my legs and just
really building a nice momentum right now."