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LetsRun.com: The Week That Was In Running: October 26 - November 1, 2009

by: LetsRun.com
October 26, 2009

By LetsRun.com
To read last week's LRC Week That Was, click Here.
To read any 2009
LRC Week That Was, click Here.

Last week was a week dominated by Meb Keflezighi's historic win at the 2009 ING NYC Marathon as well as NCAA cross-country conference action. We break it all down for you and along the way, we try to give Ryan Hall hope, wonder whether the Washington women are vulnerable and try to size up Stanford and Ok. State on the men's side. We also ponder "Could Jenny Barringer have won in NY?" and "Are LRC posters really racist?"

Last Week's Homepages
*Mon (Nov. 2) *Sun (Nov. 1) *Sat (Oct. 31) *Fri (Oct. 30) *Thu (Oct. 29) *Wed (Oct. 28) *Tue (Oct. 27)

2009 ING NYC Marathon Coverage
*LRC NYC Preview Radioshow/Podcast With Race Winner Meb Keflezighi
*
LRC: MEB WINS ING NYC MARATHON
*
LRC: Absorbing The Post-Race Elite Vibe: Injuries And Wind Challenge Humbled, Grateful Pros
*
LRC: "It's a great day for New York" & "Paula's F------ awesome." - Watching The 2009 NYC Marathon In North Brooklyn - One Fan's Perspective
*
LRC Post-Race Interviews
*
LRC Men's Preview
*
LRC Women's Preview
*
LRC Up-To-The-Minute LRC Predictions

NCAA XC Action
Last week, in terms of non-New York action in the US, the big news was that all of the big D1 conferences held their conference meets. We won't try to analyze all of the conference action as that would take us a month (one can find all of the conference results here), but do want to talk about a few key things.

  • Casual observers may have been shocked that on the men's side that #3 Oklahoma State absolutely slaughtered #4 Colorado at the Big 12 championships, 24 to 56. Many expect the NCAA title to come down to OSU and Stanford and they might think the fact that the #3 Cowboys put 4 in before #4 Colorado's first runner was totally shocking.

    It wasn't. At Pre-NCAAs, the #1 ranked Stanford Cardinal raced Colorado and they two put 4 in ahead of Colorado's #1. At Pre-NCAA's, Stanford's 5th was 6 seconds behind Colorado's #1. At Big 12s, Oklahoma State's Girma Mecheso was 20 seconds behind Colorado's #1.

    So on the front, the edge goes to Stanford.

    But if one considers that Mecheso was the SEC champion in 2008 as a freshman and finished 16th at NCAAs, then the edge goes to Oklahoma State. Another scary fact is that Oklahoma States's #4 at Big 12s was German Fernandez.
  • In terms of the women's action, the #1 Washington Huskies didn't have that easy of a time with the #8 Oregon Ducks, as the final score was 35 to 42 at the PAC-10 meet. Makes one wonder if the seemingly invincable Huskies actually could be beaten at NCAAs. The #2 Villanova women are very good. Earlier in the year, they trounced Oregon 22 to 41 at the Dellinger Invite.
  • So it looks like there will be high drama in a few weeks in Terre Haute and the good news is everyone will have no excuse not watch it unfold live as it was announced that the 2009 NCAA Championships will be telecast live on Versus TV.  Attending an NCAA cross-country championship live is one of the greatest joys a spectator can have in the world of track and field, as the enthusiasm of the fans sprinting all over the course is contagious. But if you can't get out to the middle of nowhere to see it live, you can at least watch it on TV.

*****
Stat Of The Week


45.9 - Margin of victory earned by Jenny Barringer over 6k at the Big 12 Championships
.

That 45.9 margin of victory compares very favorably to the NYC Marathon, where 4 women finished with 35 seconds of Derartu Tulu over the span of 26.2 miles. Tulu won in 2:28:52 and was followed home by Ludmila Petrova (2:29:00), Christelle Daunay (2:29:16) and Paula Radcliffe (2:29:27).

*****
2009 ING NYC Women's Race - The Race Someone Had To Win
And we'll use our praise of Barringer as an excuse to begin our post-race NYC analysis. Before we talk about Meb's historic win, we'll talk about the women's race. And we used Barringer's name as a segue into our NYC analysis on purpose because on Sunday afternoon we were wondering, "Could Jenny Barringer could have won the New York City marathon?"

Probably not, but that question wasn't totally ludicrous, as if she's in 15:00 5k shape, that equates to a 2:26:14 marathon.

All fall, we knew that the women's field in New York was pretty weak after Radcliffe, but we were stunned that days before the start of the NYC race the NYRR issued a press release stating basically saying that New York only had 3 currently elite marathoners in it in Paula Radcliffe, Salina Kosgei and Yuri Kano. And then to New York's horror, it ends up that Radcliffe was injured and could only manage a 2:29. As a result, someone had to win and the most likely candidates would have been Kosgei and Kano, but there was one small problem - they were involved in a collision in the first 20 minutes of the race.

So the race has only 3 current in-form big names and all 3 of them see their chances jeopardized. So someone else had to win.

In the end, New York ended up with a good story, as one of the classiest people in the sport in double Olympic 10k champion Derartu Tulu got the win to become the first Ethiopian winner in New York. A major Thumbs Up to Tulu for the sportsmanship act of the century. She actually verbally tried to encourage Radcliffe to stay up with the leaders as she started to struggle in Central Park.

With her win, Tulu has to be considered to be back as an elite name in women's running after nearly abandoning a comeback after the birth of her 2nd child.

And to Tulu's credit, there were a few more decent runners in the field, as France's Christelle Daunay had run 2:25 in the spring and Ludmila Petrova isn't exactly a bad runner even though she is 41. But if one is looking for more proof that there just isn't a lot of depth in women's marathoning right now, the fact that Petrova at age 40 and 41 has been the runner-up in New York the last two years should do the trick.

As for Paula, we imagine it must have been incredibly frustrating to be injured, as the pace must have felt incredibly easy to her from a cardiovascular standpoint. Paula felt like she was in good shape to get the course record near 2:20 and yet she ends up in 2:29:27.

2:29:27 is 14 minutes and 2 seconds slower than Paula Radcliffe's world record of 2:15:25. That's more than 30 seconds per mile slower, and 14:02 is 10.36% of 2:15:25. To compare that to Ryan Hall, percentage-wise it would be the equivalent of him running 2:19:22 in New York.

Stats like that make one realize that Kara Goucher just picked the wrong year to run New York. Her 2:25:53 from 2008 would have dominated.

*****
Men's Race - Meb Won't Be Forgotten Anymore

As for the men, what a difference a week makes. We had American Meb Keflezighi as the featured guest on our 2009 ING New York City marathon preview radio show in part because we felt a little bad for him, as it seemed as if the 2004 Olympic silver medallist had been totally forgotten by everyone.

Meb was having one of the greatest years of his career with US titles in the half and cross-country and PRs at the half marathon (twice) and marathon, as well as a US 20k record in the midst of his preparations for New York, and yet only 15.8% of LetsRun.com thought he'd be the first American in New York, let alone the outright winner.

Meb proved that when he's on, he's one of the best tactical marathoners on the planet. Who knows if he'll ever master the time trialing that has taken over most of the major marathons, but does it really matter? On difficult courses without rabbits, Meb is one of the best.

In those type of races, he's been 2nd in the Olympics, 3rd, 2nd and 1st and New York and 3rd in Boston. Injuries made people forget his past success - as of late, he'd been 21st in New York in 2006 as well as just 8th in the Olympic Trials in 2007.

Well, our fears of Meb being forgotten are now officially over. We just hope he doesn't forget us. And we hope that talk of there being a letsrun.com curse (much like there is supposedly a Sports Illustrated curse) now officially stops. In reality, maybe we should take the credit for his performance. The LetsRun.com lucky charm is to be our featured guest prior to a major marathon.

As for Meb, our only question is when will the people at the world marathon majors will stop ignoring him. The guy had been fogotten by them and apparently is still being forgotten, as his bio on their website is currently totally blank.

After the fact, it's pretty interesting to go back and read what people were saying about Meb prior to the race. One message board poster, "fhfgh," said the following about Meb in a thread on who would finish first - Meb or Hall:

While everyone's talkin bout Ritz and Hall, people tend to forget that Meb has a 10k PR of 27:13 and finished 2nd at the Olympics and the NY Marathon, if this guy gets in top shape (after years of injury troubles) he has the potential to beat not just Hall but everyone in NY.

Of course the very next message board post was from famed poster "Flagpole," who responded with the following statementwhich most thought to be true at the time:

We don't forget (what Meb did). He ran that 10,000 in 2001 and is not the same runner now. At the Olympics, he ran a not-very-impressive time in a race that saw some of the favorites run horrible races. He still gets props for getting a medal atthe Olympics, but it means nothing in terms of how fast he can run the New York marathon. Ryan Hall is a better marathoner, and all things being equal should beat Meb with no problem. The 1:01 half for Meb bodes well for him, but he's a 2:09 marathoner who is on the downside of his career and really should not challengeRyan Hall at all (though Hall does have a tendency to throw in a bad race here and there).

So, if Meb beats Hall, it will be due to DNF or injury or illness on Hall's part, not because Meb is suddenly fit enough to run with a 2:06 marathoner. Good luck to them both though.


A reasoned post by Flagpole, who wished both runners luck.

More:
*LRC: Meb is Going To Beat Hall in New York *LRC: 85% of you need to apologize for not picking Meb to be the top American


*****

After the race, LetsRun.com message boarders gained atttention in the New York Times on a well written article talking about how to some Meb's victory wasn't American enough. Yes, there still are racists out there and it's disappointing.

Clearly, we were thrilled to see an American win in New York and turned the entire site Red, White & Blue in honor of Meb. Immigrants are what America is all about and Meb represents that 100%. Meb's win answers whether an American can a major as he clearly has been the result of the American system, as all of his running has been done in the US.

But the reason why everyone was so desperate for an American winner is because it had been 27 years since an American had won, and that was because by-and-large, marathons are being won in the year 2009 by people of East African descent. The question as to whether or not a person not of African descent can win still is still open for debate. People wondering whether a person of non-East African descent can win a major are by no means necessarily racist in a negative way. Many of them just wonder and hope that it's possible for a non-African to succeed just as blacks have hoped (and still do) people of their race would succeed as coaches in the pro sports leagues or as quarterbacks in the NFL.

In countries like Japan or China, the concept that certain races don't have genetic advantages would be laughed at, but in those countries, national identity and race are pretty much one and the same.

Prior to their men's 4 x 100 bronze in 2008 Olympics, no Japanese runner had won an Olympic track medal in 80 years and no Japanese men had ever done it.

More: *Truly American? Debate Dogs A Triumph In The Marathon (NY Times) *LRC Thread On NY Times Article on Meb
*Meb's Birthplace Does Matter by CNBC's Darren Rovell *LRC Thread On "Racist" Darren Rovell Article

*****
Meb's victory was well deserved but it certainly was helped by the fact that two of the biggest pre-race favorites were total non factors and a third didn't make the finish line. LRC's Robert Johnson's original favorite to win in New York in 5-time world marathon major winner Martin Lel pulled out days before the start. Then his new pick to win, Patrick Makau, dropped out before 15k. Lastly, Kenyan record holder James Kwambai put up a hell of a fight and managed to make it to the final four but a 5 minute 22nd mile turned into a 17 minute 23rd mile and he'd end up as a DNF as would the defending champion Marilson Gomes dos Santos. If anyone knows what happened to Makau, please email us as we have no idea what would stop one before the 15k. Also did something suddently happen to Kwambai? Let us know.

*****
Ryan Hall was despondent after the race and very disappointed by his 4th-place showing and talked about re-examining things and maybe training faster on his easy days. Questioning how one's training is always a good exercise but changing things drastically just because one didn't win isn't necessarily the right move.

Hall had the 4th-best PR of everyone in the field and he finished 4th. No shame in that. More encouraging was the fact that he had the 2nd-best last 5 miles of anyone in the race.

Miles 21 To 26 For Top 4 At NYC Marathon
1. Meb's Final 5 Miles - 24:31
2. Cheruiyot's Final 5 Miles - 25:06
3. Jaouad Gharib's Final 5 Miles - 25:22
4. Ryan's Final 5 Miles - 25:04

Time will tell if it ends up that Hall is better on the time trial type courses where there aren't sudden shifts in pace. Just as how it appears that Meb is better suited for tactical races, Hall may be better suited for the time trial types. The only problem for Hall is that less screwy things happen in the all out big-time time trials and so they are even harder to win.

*****
And while the LetsRun.com men's preview was way off in terms of picking the winner, it was correct on one thing. James Kwambai was too sharp in the leadup to New York. Kwambai ran a 59:08 seven weeks out, which might have been too fast too early.

Kwambai and Robert Cheruiyot are training partners. Kwambai was better in training according to the coaches, but the runner-up in New York was Cheruiyot, not Kwambai.


*****
Gilbert Kirwa Unveiled
Last week, we told you to remember the name Gilbert Kirwa. The relatively unknown Kenyan had just become the 17th-fasetst man in history thanks to his 2:06:14 win in Frankfurt. Well, now we know a bit more about him thanks to another great piece by Pat Butcher.

Butcher reveals that four years ago, Kirwa, aged 20 at the time, was not a runner. Rather, he was unemployed, so he took up running to see if he could make any money about it and the rest is history.

Is it really that simple in Kenya? Coach Dieter Hogen thinks so, as he told Butcher:

    "And Kenyans have a different attitude to time. They can afford to set aside two to three years, to develop their talent. And it's very cheap to live in Kenya.

    Everybody knows someone, a friend or family member who's a good runner, and has earned money. So youngsters think, if they can do it, so can I.

    And it's not going to end. This dominance will just increase. There are a lot of unemployed people, and no other major sports to distract them."


*****
Marathoning Isn't So Bad For You After All

Last week, our friends at the Science of Sport had a great article dispelling the myth that marathon running is bad for you. It's very safe and actually saves lives. We encourage you to read their analysis, as it's pretty thorough, but they cited the following stats:

Deaths per million hours:

Skydiving - 128.71
General Flying - 15.58
Motorcycling - 8.80
Scuba Diving - 1.98
Running Marathons - 1.8-2.0
Swimming (presumably competitive) - 1.07
Snowmobiling - 0.88
Motoring - 0.47
Water skiing - 0.28
Bicycling - 0.26
Airline Flying 0.15
Hunting 0.08

*****
Sad News
Cordner Nelson, Founder Of Track and Field News, Dies At Age 91
We never met the man, but he will be missed and appreciate his contributions to the sport.
*Message Board Thread

Recommended Reads/Watches From Last Week

*Story Of Boys Who Ran NYC Marathon As 8- And 9-Year-Olds Back In The '70s These guys grew up running with their dads who got swept up in the jogging boom. They were running at ages of 3, 4, 5, 6 and ran under 3:30 in the marathon before they were in 3rd grade.
*Thread On NYTimes Article On Kids Running
*Pat Butcher On The Increasing Onslaught Of Marathoning Kenyans And The 2-Hour Barrier 10 of the top 20 all-time marathon marks have been set this year ... and there are no signs of slowing from Kenya.
*Brilliant! Sports Scientists Find And Publish Data That Shows Marathon Events Save Lives, Part II Worth a read so you can convince your CNN-watching friends that running is in fact much safer than lying around on a couch or driving a car. Part I is below.
*Marathon Photo Sequence Of The Year Tom Beford, son of Britain's running legend Dave Bedford, had a bet with his old man, who said he couldn't break 2:25 in the marathon. Well, Tom won the bet this past weekend in the Dublin Marathon, and celebrated heartily, doing a cartwheel as he cross the finishing mat. A LetsRun.com reader in Ireland was on the scene, camera in hand, to record the occasion and he sent us the photos. Tom raised 5,000 pounds for charity.

LRC: Listen To A Replay (Or Download An MP3) Of Our Thursday Night Live ING NYC Marathon Preview Internet Radio Show Featuring 2004 Olympic Meb Keflezighi "Meb" was the featured guest on our 2009 ING NYC Marathon preview show. Meb talked about his chances on Sunday and his resurgent 2009, during which he has won a US half marathon title, a US XC title, set half marathon and marathon PRs and broke the US 20k record.

Remembering The Last Week With The Quotes of the Day - Day-By-Day:

Monday:

Sunday:
MEB! MEB! MEB!

40th ING New York City Marathon

 

Saturday:"You get an extra minute of fitness better than that, that's when special things can happen."
- Ryan Hall on doing an 18-mile tempo run a minute faster than he did it before this year's Boston Marathon.
 

Friday:
"No, I was never confident. Not the first time, not even the second or the third. I always expected somebody who I never heard of would come up and beat me like I had surprised everybody in 1978."
- Nine-time New York City Marathon champion Grete Waitz in a press conference with the "NY Marathon runners of the decade" including Bill Rodgers, German Silva and Tegla Leroupe.


Thursday:
"No, I was never confident. Not the first time, not even the second or the third. I always expected somebody who I never heard of would come up and beat me like I had surprised everybody in 1978."
- Nine-time New York City Marathon champion Grete Waitz in a press conference with the "NY Marathon runners of the decade" including Bill Rodgers, German Silva and Tegla Leroupe.


Wednesday:
"My father beat me up and ordered me to choose one: I either get back to school or start training and since I knew I could not perform well in class, I decided to run."
- Kenyan marathon co-record holder James Kwambai. He has twice run under 2:06 and lost both times, including his 2:04:27 loss in Rotterdam to Duncan Kibet. Kwambai, scheduled to run the ING New York City Marathon, quit school when he was younger but has since fared quite well as a marathoner with second-place finishes in Berlin, Boston and Rotterdam.


Tuesday:
"In this country, you get spotted by winning a gold medal. How you got it is your business."
- Hendrick Ramaala, one of the most interesting marathon champions you will find. The 37-year-old lawyer who trains exclusively on a 3.5km loop in Johannesburg talks with Duncan Larkin about everything running, including why South Africa's system for training young runners is fundamentally flawed.

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