The Week That Was In Running: August 9 - 15, 2010

August 17, 2010

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LRC Week That Was, click Here

This week, we give five observations on the London Diamond League meeting and talk about Alan Webb. Along the way, we chide Dwight Stones, wonder what happened to the best 800m and 1,500m men on the planet in David Rudisha and Asbel Kiprop, conclude that Andrew Wheating is better than Nick Symmonds, praise Morgan Uceny, wonder what happened to Alysia Johnson and tell those that are writing off Alan Webb that they are making a big mistake as "talent doesn't go away."

Coming off of vacation, we don't feel like recapping the entire week last week. The London Diamond League meet was the big event of the week and you can relive it all here if you need to.

5 Observations/Comments Regarding London

1) Andrew Wheating is indeed better than Nick Symmonds at 800 in 2010. Wheating and Symmonds came into the race at 1-1 on the year at 800 but both runners could make excuses for their losses to the other this year. In Paris, when Symmonds lost, Symmonds ran up front as Wheating cherry picked from the back. In Stockholm, when Wheating lost, there was a collision with the rabbit that hurt Wheating's chances. Well, in London, Wheating defeated Symmonds decisively as the two followed each other around the track. They both ran almost exactly the same race and encountered the same traffric and Wheating finished .72 ahead of Symmonds and came pretty close to Abubaker Kaki as he was 2nd in 1:44.56 to Kaki's 1:44.38.

Abubaker Kaki of Sudan wins the men's 800m race during the London Grand Prix Diamond League athletics tournament at Crystal Palace in London August 13, 2010. REUTERS/Paul Hackett   (BRITAIN - Tags: SPORT ATHLETICS) To come within .18 of Kaki is pretty good. Ignoring Kaki's loss to David Rudisha, no one had come that close to Kaki all year as in his five wins, the closest anyone had gotten to him was Boaz Lalang, who got within .19 of him. Kaki's winning margins this outdoor season are as follows - .57, .89, 2.60,  .61, .19 and now .18.

Speaking of the Wheating-Symmonds race, we gotta give a Thumbs Down to television announcer Dwight Stones, who said the following about Wheating on the first lap of the race: "(I'm) waiting for the wheels to fall off for this young man ... You can only peak so many times and run so many quality races. I understand that he's young but he might be asking for trouble down the line with this type of season."

He says that and then Wheating sets a PR for the third time in his last four races.

Stones' statement is wrong on a number of levels. First of all, Wheating's season isn't going on too long. He's set personal bests in both his last 800 and his last 1,500. We can maybe expect someone to wonder when the PRs will stop but as long as he's PRing, he most certainly should be racing. Secondly, to suggest that Wheating is going to harm himself by racing a bunch of 1,500s and 800s when he's PRing nearly every week is simply ridiculous. That's why they need to let distance experts announce distance races. Moreover, even if it was true, we'd still say he should be racing. Just like the point of life shouldn't be to live as long as possible, the point of running isn't to have as long of a career as possible. A long mediocre career is worse than a brilliant short one.

2) Speaking of David Rudisha, can someone please tell us where he and Asbel Kiprop have been since the African champs? The world's best 800 and 1,500 meter runners haven't been seen. For Rudisha, he hasn't raced at all since July 30th and hasn't raced in Europe since July 10th. We have no idea why a guy who is 8 for 8 on the year at 800 and has run 1:41.51 wouldn't be ca$hing in on the European circuit. Kiprop likewise hasn't been seen in Europe since July 10th and hasn't raced since August 1st. If you know what's up with Rudisha or Kiprop, please email us. Maybe it comes down to money, as Rudisha is running this Sunday in Berlin (the former Golden League meet is the big independent meet left in the world as it did not join the Diamond League) and Kiprop likely will race for the Diamond League title next week in Brussels.

3) Nice to see Leo Manzano lower his PR from 3:53.01 in the mile to 3:50.64, although in reality the PR isn't really a PR for Manzano. Manzano's new mile PR is equivalent to 3:33.55 in the 1,500 using the standard 1.08 conversion and his 1,500 best from last year is 3:33.33.

4) The break for the European and African championships wasn't good for Alysia Johnson. When Johnson last raced on July 22nd, she was the top 800-meter runner in the world as she won in Monaco in 1:57.34. Now she is only 8th best in London 2:00.51. A long break is never a good idea for an 800 meter runner and the first Diamond League meet in Stockholm after the break didn't have an 800 in it, so Johnson didn't race for three-plus weeks.

5) The top American mid-d woman for the second straight week was Morgan Uceny. Uceny beat Rowbury, Pierce and Wurth Thoams at 1,500 in Stockholm and beat Pierce, Johnson, and Vessey in London.

"Talent Doesn't Go Away" - Alan Webb Isn't Done
Alan Webb's comeback began last week. In his first race since June of 2009, Webb opened with a 1:52.32 800.

INDIANAPOLIS - JUNE 24:  Alan Webb (L) celebrates winning the men's 1500 meter run during day four of the AT&T USA Outdoor Track and Field Championships at IU Michael A. Carroll Track & Soccer Stadium on June 24, 2007 in Indianapolis, Indiana.  (Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)

We're not sure what to make of the actual performance (some are speculating he ran the race as a workout and we were coming around to that viewpoint until someone pointed out that a guy that looks and sounds a lot like Alberto Salazar appears to be yelling some 300 meters into the race, "Come on Alan, close that gap now."), but we will make one thing clear. Alan Webb isn't done.

One of our all-time favorite quotes in track and field is "Talent doesn't go away." We think Nick Willis told us this quote a few years ago, but whoever told it to us was dead on. Talent is a god-given gift that doesn't vanish.

Webb is extremely talented. He's still relatively young - only 27. Thus, if he's healthy, he will do good things again.

Will he ever be a player on the world scene again? We can't say that with 100% certainty, but we'd definitely say it's more likely than not (although he may never beat Andrew Wheating). We will say one thing with certainty. If healthy in both 2011 and 2012 (we want at least 5 races each year), Alan Webb will run at least sub 3:35 or 13:20 (or equivalent) at least once or will pay some lucky visitor $3,350.

Webb himself has a history of coming back from the dead. In 2006, Webb ran his first 800 of the year in 1:51.59. His seasonal best for 800 that year was just 1:50.83. He seasonal best in the mile was 4:00.87 and his best 1,500 was even worse (3:46.91). The next year, Webb had the #1 time in the world at 1,500 (3:30.54), mile (3:46.91) and was #2 in the world at 800 (1:43.84).

Those whose are saying Alan Webb is done for good are fools.

We were trying to think of other runners that came back from sub-par years. Lasse Viren is one. The double Olympic champ in 1972 didn't race in 1973 and then in 1974, he only ran 13:24 and 28:29. Yet in 1976, he was double Olympic champ yet again. In 1976, Viren was 27 just like Webb is now.

Last week, Olympic silver medalist Nick Willis also began his comeback as well.

More: Alan Webb Comeback Begins With 1:52.32 800 Meter Race *Huge Message Board Thread On Webb's Return Link takes you to the middle of the thread after Webb's race was already run.
*2nd Message Board Thread On Webb's Run *LRC: Olympic Silver Medallist Nick Willis Edged By Russell Brown At CIGNA Falmouth Mile As Both Break 4:00.00. *After Tough Summer, Russell Brown Pleased To Defeat Willis

3 Recommended Reads - 1 Absolute Must Read

*LRC: Alan Webb Comeback Begins With 1:52.32 800-Meter Race
*David Oliver Talks About His Rise From A Foot Locker Employee With No Contract To #1 In The World In 4 Years
*To Be One Of The World's Best, Mo Farah Eats, Sleeps & Trains Like/With The Kenyans

We list those three above, but will state that if you read one thing this entire month or year about running, it absolutely must be Kenny Moore's profile of former 5,000-meter world record holder David Moorcroft from Sports Illustrated in 1983: "What Made Him Go So Wonderfully Mad?"

Since it's the dog days of summer, we used quotes from the article this week on two straight days as our quote of the day.

The article is an all-time classic and it reveals how track and field in 1982 was totally different than it is today (Moorcroft won a 10k on the roads in the US in May, ran 3:49 in the mile in June and then set the 5,000 world record in July). It also supports's Robert Johnson's famous quote of,  "If you keep improving, eventually you'll set the world record." Moorcroft was a guy who wasn't the best as a teen but ultimately he was faster than any man in history as he just kept improving.

We now provide you a ton of great quotes from the article. Our Quotes Of The Week That Weren't Quotes Of The Day:

True Sportsmanship Existed In 1982
Check out what Dr. Thomas Wessinghage, the West German who beat Moorcroft for European 5,000-meter gold in 1982, said of Moorcroft's 13:00.41 record run:

"That is simply the greatest performance I have ever seen," He ran splits that nobody else has ever run. He didn't need a rabbit. He didn't need anybody. There are no words to describe what we have seen."

Not All World Record Holders Were Child Prodigies - "He Knows How To Be Beaten"
Moorcroft's dad talking about why he knew his son would always be good:

"From David's very early childhood I always said, 'The best in the world.' I think every parent feels that his child will be the best, or deserves to be. We realized that the fighting spirit we saw in swimming and later in cross-country was special. He was always eager to do the measured amount of training his first coaches asked. That eagerness increased as time went by, and because he wasn't the best yet, he learned to value personal improvement. One thing he knows is how to be beaten."

Moorcroft On Not Running For Money
"After the record everyone said, 'Get an agent, get an agent.' I said no. I know the advantages of being represented, of having someone digging up endorsements or lucrative races. But there are a few opportunities even without one. The difference is whether you want to be a millionaire or you want to be comfortable. I'm sure if I'd run the record at 21 or 22 I'd have gone commercial, but now I just want to be normal. It was being normal that got me the record in the first place."

Moorcroft On The Importance Of Enjoying Running For Its Own Sake
"I'd had no ambition before 1976 and 1980 except the Olympics. It was winning I cared about. When I was injured, I began to realize what I'd had, how much I wanted just to do my best. I came to see what an extrinsic aim trying to win the gold medal had been. If that's your concern, it's not who you beat or how you do it, it's simply winning. I made a decision to spend the rest of my career on intrinsic, controllable things I could do without having to be told I had to do them on a certain track at a certain date. At one point I'd about decided to give up the track for the roads in America. But I knew I hadn't done my best. I had to try one more time ..."

He did try one more time and he enjoyed the record immensely after he set it:

"I took in all the atmosphere. Perhaps it was like what a free-fall parachutist experiences, the elation. I knew it was fast, but not how fast. I was enjoying the running for its own sake, not for the selectors or for the public acclaim or to prove anything."

If you like the article above, you'll love Best Efforts Kenny Moore.

Quotes Of The Day From Last Week

Monday: "Everyone keeps wondering why bother to fly all the way over to Europe when he could do this workout with Rupp in Oregon. Have people forgotten that Rupp and Salazar are already in Europe? It doesn't seem that outrageous that Webb is going around with those guys and training while Rupp is racing.

As far as why do this instead of just a time trial workout with Rupp or some other guys (what other guys are people talking about, btw? It's cheaper to enter a race with a dozen 1:51ish guys than to hire a couple of them to pace your time trial), have people forgotten what one of the main criticisms of Webb's has been? He knows what it's like to run time trials, he needs to remember what it's like to run in a pack of guys that are can't hurt to get used to it, even if he's just practicing.

So if I'm Salazar, I'm traveling around Europe with Rupp, I want Webb to run a workout that includes a hard 800 time trial type effort, and I think it can't hurt to get him used to running in a pack again, bust a little rust, and mentally get that whole "I haven't raced in 18 months" thing out of his head, this race seems likes the perfect idea. And Webb does well when he has confidence. He gets confidence when he wins, or maybe when he gets 7th and has Salazar whispering in his ear and reminding him that he was taking it easy, practicing, and that soon he'll be winning races those guys couldn't even get in. I've paced people in races before, way below my ability, and as stupid as it may sound, it does feel good to run with all these people and know that when you're at your best, you can whip them. As long as he remembers that, it's a good feeling."
- LRC message board poster "giffypop17" commenting positively (in contrast to yesterday's negative message board post) after Alan Webb's first race since June of 2009 at a low key British Milers Club event in London. Webb got out slow and never really got it going and ran a fairly evenly-split 1:52.32 to finish 7th out of 9 - the same day that Olympic silver medallist Nick Willis began his comeback with a 3:59 mile at Falmouth. The link above takes you to a brief LRC recap of Webb's race as well as to a video of the race (to see the MBoard quote, click here). Some think the race was an utter disaster for Webb while others think he was running it simply as a workout. Decide for yourself.  We are just thrilled to see Webb back in action.

Sunday: "(I am a huge Alan) Webb fan, but that was tough to watch--no giddy up, even wondered if Alan was thinking "what am i doing here"--got to believe they would not have put him in there if they were not expecting something significantly better--better off doing practice time trials---as a big supporter i hope it is rust, but that really did not look promising."
- LRC message board poster "Webb fan" commenting after Alan Webb's first race since June of 2009 at a low key British Milers Club event in London. Webb got out slow and never really got it going and ran a fairly evenly-split 1:52ish (FAT not available) to finish 7th out of 9 - the same day that Olympic silver medallist Nick Willis began his comeback with a 3:59 mile at Falmouth. The link above takes you to a brief LRC recap of Webb's race as well as to a video of the race. If you want to read the ridiculous and over-the-top comments about Webb on the message board, please click here.

Friday/Saturday: "I took in all the atmosphere. Perhaps it was like what a free-fall parachutist experiences, the elation. I knew it was fast, but not how fast. I was enjoying the running for its own sake, not for the selectors or for the public acclaim or to prove anything ...
I think of an artist, stuck out on a beautiful beach with birds and sky, and left alone just to get on with it ...
In miling I know exactly what splits should be, but in the 5,000 I hadn't a clue. I remembered in my calculations that if the 3,000 were under 8:00, I'd be on for a good time ...
At the bell I knew it was a question of by how much I'd break it. I kind of savored that feeling on the last lap. As I came down the last stretch I looked up and saw 12:56 on the scoreboard clock. It turned 13:00 just as I crossed the line ..."

- British 5,000m record holder David Moorcroft talking about one of the most unbelievable runs in the history of the sport, his 13:00.41 for 5k 28 years ago WITHOUT a rabbit (he won the race by 20 seconds, defeating Henry Rono among others). He was only hoping to run 13:14 and instead broke the WR by 6 seconds. The quote above is from Kenny Moore's tremendous SI piece. If you love the Moorcroft piece, you'll probably like Kenny Moore's Best Efforts (LRC Exclusive autographed copies $14.95). We got a phone call praising us on this piece yesterday, so we decided to leave it up and make it quote of the day.

Share Your Memories On Moorcroft's Run Here

Thursday: "It's made very tough by the African athletes, who are so much stronger than when I was competing."
- British 5,000m record holder David Moorcroft talking about Mo Farah having a good chance to medal in 2012. Regardless of the lack of African talent, Moorcroft was incredible. He ran 13:00.41 for 5k  28 years ago WITHOUT a rabbit (he won the race by 20 seconds, defeating Henry Rono among others). He was only hoping to run 13:14 and instead broke the WR by 6 seconds. Kenny Moore in SI has a tremendous piece on Moorcroft's run here.
Share Your Memories On Moorcrofts' Run Here

"I am very disappointed to miss two of the top meetings on the circuit ... but trust that it is better for me not to take any risks this year. 2011 and 2012 are very important Championship years and I hope to be back fully fit and healthy. I would like to thank everyone for their support and look forward to coming back stronger next year."
- Usain Bolt released this quote to the press after he and his German doctor decided to end his 2010 season because of back pain ... just days after losing the 100m to Tyson Gay in Stockholm.

"Every time I raced there, it was like going into battle. In order to do well, you knew you were going to hurt - both physically and mentally."
-Rory Suomi, talking about the "Little Killer" course, a road course for a summer road series in Norwich, CT, that a ton of guys ran (Boston Marathon champ Amby Burfoot, Steve Flanagan (Shalane's dad) and (perhaps most impressively) Bill Krohn, who ran a 4:35 mile this year at age 50 (and also a 13:25 5k in 1985).

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