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LetsRun.com The Week That Was
December 29 - January 4

by: LetsRun.com
January 6, 2009

The first week of the New Year featured very little running-related action. So little action, in fact, that we were going to completely blow off The Week That Was but then we remembered - remembered our New Year's Resolution - to do The Week That Was every single week in 2009 regardless of what does or doesn't happen.
So write this down and if there is a week in 2009 that we don't do it, be the first person to email us and we'll send you $20 to punish ourselves.

As for last week, there were a bunch of minor New Year's races and a few interesting developments. But it was a pretty boring week honestly. So boring t
hat we had to take articles from August to use as the quote of the day. Without further ado ...

Limited Actual Running Action:
Lots Of Minor Global New Year's Eve Races & Stephanie Twell Wins Her Senior Debut

There were New Year's races across the globe this week. In America, former LaSalle star Sean Quigley won the Emerald Nuts Midnight Run through Central Park. Finishing 2nd was Ohio State's Brian Olinger. We guess we should have predicted this one as Ohio State doesn't win anything on New Year's Day anymore - although we got to give them credit for giving our Texas Longhorns a scare in the Fiesta Bowl the other night.

However, our favorite New Year's race took place in Madrid where Tadesse Tola got the win in the 'San Silvestre Vallecana' and was sprayed with shaving cream in the middle of the race. Oh those crazy Spaniards!!! We had no idea a bath in shaving cream is a New Year's tradition there but you've got to check out the photo here.

The race that garnered the most press, however, came from Ireland where 3-time junior cross-country champion Steph Twell won her senior debut as American Emily Brown was 4th. In the men's race, Ethiopian Imane Merga was the surprise victor over pre-race favorite Boniface Kiprop (more on amazingly anonymous 26:39 10k guy Kiprop here). Merga edged Kiprop, who looked like a sure winner before his shoe fell off on the 4th of 5 laps, by two seconds. Former FSU Seminole Andrew Lemoncello was 3rd.

At the 55th Cross Internacional Zornotza in Spain, Eritrea's Samuel Tsegay, who was 4th in the world junior 10k in 2006, got the upset win over the 4th-place finisher in the Beijing Olympic 10k, Moses MasaiIn the women's race, a 4th place 10ker from the Beijing Olympics and a Masai nonetheless got the win as world junior 10k record holder Linet Masai got the win to remain undefeated this winter.

Overseas, Kenyan
 Edwin Soi, the Olympic 5k bronze medallist, took down a very quality field to win the Boclassic Silvesterlauf Road Race in Italy. The field included 8-time European XC winner Sergey Lebid (2nd), as well as two-time marathon world champion Jaouad Gharib (4th) plus 2004 Olympic marathon champ Stefano Baldini (5th). In the women's race, the planet's first sub-9:00 steepler on the women's side, Gulnara Samitova-Galkina, got the win.

*American Emily Brown Was 4th In Ireland Behind Twell Good to see she's back healthy and racing.
Eritrea's Samuel Tsegay Shockingly Dominates Spanish XC 
New Year's Races

Trevor Dunbar Commits To Portland

Alaskan prep runner Trevor Dunbar became a household name this fall thanks to his 9:01 3,200 in the snow (video to the left) and his runner-up showing at Foot Lockers. Household name, that is, if you live in a household where one of the inhabitants is a distance running fanatic. Dunbar backed his celebrity up with a fantastic runner-up winning performance at the Foot Locker championships. At least he won the "most definitely 19-and-under" category. That Dunbar legitimized all the hype is no surprise because Dunbar's hype and fan base was built solely on the merit of his running performances, especially the more snow-covered ones.

The question of what college Dunbar would choose remained unanswered until just before the new year when Dunbar announced he would don the purple Pilot uniform next year. Oregon was out of money to offer America's best 18-and-under cross country runner, which isn't a surprise as they didn't have the money to go after German Fernandez last year either. Oregon and Nike give Oregon every possible advantage except for one - head coach Vin Lananna doesn't have the need-based financial aid that he also had in addition to the athletics scholarships at Stanford.

In another attempt to be funny we'll mention that Dunbar probably won't be shoveling snow off any tracks next year because Portland doesn't have a track. Seems like a good fit between blue collar program and blue collar kid. Sometimes it's a dream for a kid to go to their parents' alma mater, and both of Trevor's parents spent at least two years in Portland, so we're happy for him.

*Trevor Dunbar Discusses His College Decision With The Oregonian Dunbar's mom and dad both went to Portland, he likes the coach and, unlike the Oregon Ducks, the Pilots offered up some dough!
*Dunbar Message Board Thread

Weekly Drug Update:

Another week passes and yet another Eastern European woman goes down in a major doping scandal. This time it was a sprinter, Bulgaria's Tezzhan Naimova. Naimova, the winner of the 100m and 200m at the world juniors in 2006, admitted that she had been manipulating her urine samples just as a large group of Russian women had done last summer. As a result, she was banned for two years.

2 years? Urine manipulation should result in an automatic lifetime ban in our minds.

The head of the Bulgarian Track & Field federation, Dobromir Karamarinov, said he "was shocked" that Naimova was busted. Well if we were Bulgarian, it wouldn't shock us considering that 11 Bulgarian weightlifters tested positive before the Olympics. As a result, sadly we must say just the opposite of Karamarinov. It may not be politically correct but we're almost shocked when a top Eastern European woman doesn't test positive.

Certainly the same can be said about American sprinters or baseball players a few years ago and maybe NFL football players currently if they actually tested in a serious fashion but from Jolanda Ceplak in 2001 to the recent Russian women, it's over the top with the Eastern Europeans. Wait - we shouldn't cast such a wide shadow. We forgot some of their champions like Gabriela Szabo were never busted - she just happened to be riding in a car with EPO in it.

More: *Three Bulgarians Test Positive, Receive 2-Year Bans *Top Bulgarian Sprinter Drug Cheat Naimova's Stats
*Message Board Thread

Ekiden Madness in Japan: 3 Straight Days of National TV Distance Running To Kick Off the New Year

There are not a whole lot of Americans, even big runningfans, who understand what a huge deal distance running is in Japan. But trust us, it is.

Perhaps nothing better than the New Year shows the Japanese fascination with distance running and in particular the Ekiden (a distance running relay where the runners carry a sash instead of a baton). The New Year in Japan starts off with 3 straight days of Ekidens on national television. First up, is the New Year's (Professional) Ekiden, the top professional Ekiden of the year. This year's New Year's Ekiden had a new twist, the foreign ringers runners were only allowed to run the second and shortest leg (8.3km) of the Ekiden. Boy did they not disappoint. David Monti of Race Results Weekly reported that 3 people ran faster for 8.3km on the second leg than the existing world best for 8km on the roads (21:54 Josphat Ndambiri, Komori Corporation (KEN) 22:02 Gideon Ngatuny, Nissin Foods (KEN) 22:02 Yacob Jarso, Honda (ETH). Knowing the Japanese inclination for accuracy we can only assume the leg was way downhill. The race was a barnburner and after nearly 5 hours of running came down to a three way sprint finish with Team Fujitsu winning by one second.

Hakone Ekiden Final Results And Recap: 1st Win For Toyo!
But in the crazy world of Japanese sport, the Hakone Ekiden reigns supreme as the quintessence of distance competition. Hakone is basically the equivalent of our NCAA Cross-Country Championships, except it's males only, is only for schools in Eastern Japan, it takes place over two days, it's a relay race
, it's run on the roads, and most of the legs are something like 15-25km long. Yet it totally captivates the nation in Japan for two days and is the most popular Ekiden. (Brett Larner did a nice job of explaining the importance of the Hakone and New Year's Ekidens here last year)

The other major inescapable difference is that the Japanese runners absolutely run themselves into the ground like no other nation's athletes. Watching the Japanese race is gut-wrenching, heart-pounding, jaw-dropping, toe-tingling, often all in the same race. Letsrun did not have a correspondentat the 2009 Hakone, but JapanRunningNews' Brett Larner was there and his Ekiden recap and subsequent - more editorialized - Ekiden review are perhaps the must-reads of the week. The review is long, and it involves a lot of Japanese names that you probably have never heard of, but it's definitely worth your time for a few reasons:

Record Run for Ryuji Kashiwabara

1. If Larner is to be believed, this year's graduating class has some serious studs with big-time marathon and half marathon potential. So you can tell all your friends in 4 years, "Dude, I've known about Kensuke Takezawa for years now, he was such a STUD in college!"

2. It's just plain inspiring to read about guys literally running themselves so hard that they fall face first on the pavement. Forgive the naive comparison, but the Japanese collegiate runners seem to have as much regard for their own well being as Kamikaze pilots. Seriously, it seems they get themselves as close to death as is humanly possible in a one-hour, non-contact human foot race.

3. One Kenyan (yes they have ringer Kenyan runners in their university system too; actually theirs are better) stalled going pro for a few years to stay in college because he loved running Ekiden (Ekiden is the broad name for what is, essentially, a team road relay race where a sash is passed rather than a baton). This year's Hakone was his last as he plans to join a corporate marathoning group next year, and he spent his savings from working at a restaurant on flying his mom to Japan to watch him. Oh, and he ran the equivalent of 60:05 for the half marathon. And that would have been only his 4th-best career time. This is the caliber athlete we're talking about in these races, although he is certainly one of, if not THE best.

4. Larner loves the Japanese running scene, writes well, and those two things make a great combination!

Extensive Hakone Ekiden Review

Toyo U. Rides Big First Day To Hakone Victory
*Video Highlight Of 2009 Hakone Ekiden

Scintillating First Day Of Hakone Ekiden Surprise Toyo Univ. leads team race. Japan Running News' Brett Larner recaps an amazing first day of action at Japan's biggest sporting event, the Hakone Ekiden. The final leg, 23.4km with 800+ meters elevation gain, was won in 1:17, one of 4 records set on the day.

Recommended Reads:
*Great Slate Article On The Appeal of Once A Runner
The novel is being re-released in April. A cult classic.
Another Great Interview With John McDonnell
The guy was so focused on winning he didn't visit Ireland for 17 years in his prime.
*Everyone's Excited For Jelimo's Indoor Debut She's the Olympic champ and undefeated at 800 for her life but has never run an indoor race. We've always said indoors do little for a young athlete's development and this proves it.

*Team Discovery LETSRUN? One we missed (but you guys didn't) and came across today: 2 relatively untrained Kenyans cycled Alpe d'Huez in August (in sick times). It would be fascinating to see Kenyans and Ethiopians emerge on the European cycling scene in 2009.
*Kenyan Cyclists On The Way
*More On Kenyan Cyclists Zakayo Nderi And Samwel Mwangi
*Results Of The Kenyans' Alpe d'Huez Time Trial
LRC Thread From August: Kenyans On Bikes

LRC 2008 In Photos
We've got all of our 2008 photos galleries in one place. Relive 2008 in pictures. Going through them, Wejo picked out some of his favorites and some things he totally forgot about. A great way to relive a great year in track.
*Alan Webb Being a Fan at the Olympic Trials Marathon *The Hordes of People in Boston for the Olympic Trials *Lance Armstrong and Robert Cheruiyot *Hanson Brothers at a Biker Bar Along the Boston Course *Remember When Tyson Gay Was Considered A Better 100m Runner Than Usain Bolt? *Kara Goucher Running 9:00 for 3k *Hard to Believe This Bob Kennedy Shoe Still Has the 5000m 12:58 AR *Tirunesh Dibaba 14:11.15 *Jacob Hernandez and Andrew Wheating's Epic Battle at NCAAs *Jenny Barringer Celebrating at NCAAs *Amy Yoder Begley's Gutsy Run at the Trials *Tyson Gay 9.77 *The Fastest 100 of the Year: Tyson Gay's 9.68 (his adidas uniform and the photos are beautiful) *Bolt 9.69!!! *Bolt Lightning Bolt *Bolt Gold Shoes *Shalane Flanagan Getting 3rd but Not Being Sure *Geb's 2:03:59 *For Those Of You Who Believe in Conspiracy Theories, the Clock Seems Stuck on 2:03:59 *Sam Chelanga Dominating Pre-NCAAs *The World's Fastest Couple *Paula Radcliffe is Back *Rupp versus Chelanga *Rupp over Chelanga *Usain Bolt, Kevin Garnett and Crew *But For Sure the Photos of the Year

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