The Week That Was In Running - August 30 - September 5, 2010
September 7, 2010
Mark Twain once said that truth is stranger than fiction and last week in terms of Chris Lukezic and Caster Semenya, that certainly proved to be the case. In terms of men's and women's 1,500s, the truth of the world's best two milers getting clobbered at the Continental Cup seemed to be stranger than fiction but we tell you why in reality, upsets should be expected as they are the name of the game in tactical 1,500s. All of that plus talk of Arthur Lydiard, Peter Snell, Bernard Lagat, Sean Quigley, Justin Gatlin and gene doping.
We Couldn't Make This Up If We Had To ...
Sometimes truth is indeed stranger than fiction. Last week, there were a few bizarre happenings that we swear actually happened.
1) Caster Semenya, who missed most of the last year as controversy surrounded whether she is entirely female, announced that when she is done with track and field at age 30, that she wants to embark on a career in the most masculine of professions possible - boxing (oh yeah, and on a performance basis, many probably thought there was some sort of typo when they saw the numbers 2:07 next to Semenya's name, but that's what she did run for 800 last week).
2) Retired American 1,500-meter runner Chris Lukezic was banned for refusing to take an out of competition drug test on 4-20-2010. For those of you not in the know, 4-20 is known as Weed Day. (It's ridiculous Lukezic was selected to be drug tested anyway. He had announced his retirement to USATF and USADA should not have wasted it's time with this case. Once they saw he had retired previously, they should have saved their money).
More: Retired American Star Chris Lukezic Is Banned For Refusing To Take A Drug Test On 4/20 *LRC MBoard On The Former Hoya's Ban *Caster Semenya Hoping To Do 800/1,500 Double At 2010 Games And Then Become A Boxer At Age 30Yet Again 1,500 Favorites Flop (Kenya - We Have A Problem)
The IAAF/VTB Continental Cup was held last week and before we analyze a few results from it, let us just state that we love championship, non-rabbitted meets. The sport needs more of them.
At the Cup, for the only time in 2010 did fans get to see unrabbitted, tactical races. And the results were what they often are in unrabbitted affairs - unpredictable - particularly at the 1,500 distance. And for that, fans of Kenyan distance runners need to start getting nervous.
If Kenenisa Bekele and Tirunesh Dibaba are healthy, prospects for 2012 Kenyan gold at 5,000 or 10,000 don't look particularly good. Thus, Kenya is probably banking on metric mile gold, considering they have the two best 1,500 runners on the planet in Asbel Kiprop and Nancy Langat. But last week's Continental Cup showed us that's certainly not a sure thing.
Entering the Continental Cup, both Langat and Kiprop had only lost once on the year at 1,500 and yet neither one won last week.
That may come as a surprise to some but to us it isn't a big shock. The fact of the matter is the favorites often fail to win at 1,500 in the big championships. Just look at the last few Olympics on the men's side.
Think back to 1992, the expected champ was Noureddine Morceli and the winner was Fermin Cacho. Morceli didn't get gold until 1996.
In 1996 and 2000, many probably thought El Guerrouj was the favorite but he didn't get gold until 2004, as Morceli won in 1996 and Ngeny in 2000.
Whenever the Olympic men's 1,500 finalists are lined up on the start line, we've always felt sorry for the favorite, as in many ways, he's about to run a race he has maybe only run a few times in his life - a unrabbitted 1,500 final with world class competition.
American fans can relate, as tactical races have often proved to be problematic for America's top 1,500 stars, whether it was Jim Ryun back in the day, Steve Holman in the 1990s or Alan Webb in the 2000s.
We've always thought it's natural that seemingly almost all elite 1,500 runners struggle often in tactical races because it's something they've basically never run their entire lives. If practice makes perfect, then no practice makes imperfect.
Let's use Alan Webb as an example. Webb has been ripped for having poor tactical savvy in the 1,500 throughout his career. But can one really blame him? In high school, he was way, way better than everyone he was racing and then he goes pro shortly thereafter and runs rabbitted race after rabbitted race. Webb only spent one year in college, where - had he'd stayed - he'd have had plenty of practice at running tactical 1,500s. As for Kiprop, we imagine his career has been similar. Way better than everyone around him as a junior and now rabbitted race after rabbitted race as a pro.
Last year, Kiprop went into Worlds undefeated at the mile or 1,500 and finished 4th. At the Continental Cup, he was just 7th.
Two Key Things To Note About Tactical Races
1. In tactical races, the smallest of mistakes will cost you the title.
2. Additionally, it's our belief that in really, really slow 1,500s, there is a tendency for the favorite to kick too soon and tie up just before the line. The favorite has all the pressure on him or her and doesn't want to get boxed and goes too soon. Just like Nancy Langat last week in Crotia.
The finish of the women's 1,500 was classic and certainly our Video of The Week. Watch the finish below or the whole race here. Oh yeah, one more thing about that race. We don't know why people are calling Nancy Langat a cheat for trying to block eventual winner Hind Dehiba for passing her. Langat left it all out on the track and should be commended. Dehiba is an EPO cheat.
Bernard Lagat Shines
Tactical races are totally different affairs and for that, Bernard Lagat fans should be thankful. At age 35, Lagat may no longer be one of the world's best at 1,500. But his 1,500 background means he's still deadly in slow 3,000s or 5,000s. So congrats to Lagat for winning twice last week. That being said, we want to give a Thumbs Down to the Continental Cup for having a 3,000 and a 5,000. That's basically the same event. Considering there wasn't a single hot European 10,000 all year, would it have been too much to ask to include a 10k in Croatia? Heck, if you are going to make up unofficial events like the flat 3,000, why not at least have the 8,000 or something a little longer than 5,000?
More: *Results * Event-By-Event Reports *Day2 LRC Distance Recap: Incredible Lagat Wins 5k/3k Double As Rudisha Dominates *Day 1 Recap Of Continental Cup: Lagat Wins, Kiprop Fizzles *Brief LRC Recap Of Men's 1,500m: Kiprop Fizzles, Manzano Finishes 3rd *Photos *Day 1 Photos
Weekly Drug Update
It was a busy week on the anti-doping front (see the links below for various news stories) but the biggest news was great news, as it came out that there will be a test out for the 2012 Olympics that 100% can tell if someone is gene doping, up to 56 days prior to the test being given. This is big news, as for once it seems as if the testers are ahead of the cheats as we haven't heard any rumors of people gene doping.
Additionally, the 100% part of the test is the best part about it because the early stages of EPO detection were beset with some false positive problems. WADA director general David Howman explained to the AP why the test is so accurate by saying, "It's not through markers, it's through actual detection. There's a significant difference there. Using the marker method is more a probability approach, whereas the method these researchers have come up with is stone cold dead, 100 percent."
If you wonder why drug tests are crucial to the future popularity of track and field, then we suggest you read a great article that appeared last week in The Independent that talks about how many of the PED-induced world records of the 1980s for women are untouchable: After a quarter of a century, Koch remains untouchable.
More: *WADA Reports Breakthrough In Gene Doping Tests *6 Indian Athletes, Including 1 Gold Medal Prospect, Banned For Drugs *Shot Putter Milan Haborak Banned For Life After 2nd Doping Positive *21-Year-Old British Hurdler Banned
Since we just gave out our weekly drug update, it's appropriate that we now talk about former drug cheat Justin Gatlin. Gatlin's comeback has received way too much attention in our minds, but it's hard not to talk about him. And now Gatlin fans are starting to get excited, as he ran his fastest time of the year last week when he clocked a 10.06 in Rovereto, Italy. All we want to do is point out that he had a tailwind behind him and thus he only ran the equivalent of a 10.14. At 10.14, Gatlin would be just the 37th-fastest performer on the year. Gatlin's comeback races appear below.
(Note Gatlin ran another race yesterday, we've updated the table below).
(Race w link)
Actual Time (Wind)
New Haven 20k - Quigley Wins First US Title
Every year, we here at LRC enjoy the Stratton Faxon New Haven Road Race. Annually, the US 20k championship seems to be a coming out party for an up-and-comer long-distance guy who normally wasn't the biggest name in college. Last year, the guy winning his first US title was Brett Gotcher, who then went on to run 2:10 in Hoston. This year, the person winning his first US title was Sean Quigley. In running his first race over 15k, Quigley was a bit worried about the extra 5km, but in the end, he had his best post-collegiate showing. Maybe down the road, like Ryan Hall, he'll find the father he runs the better off he is.
As for the women, Magdalena Lewy Boulet got the victory.
*Sean Quigley And Magdalena Lewy Boulet Win US Titles At Stratton Faxon New Haven 20k *NHR Recap Of Race *Hartford Courant Blog With Recap Photos
*USA Running Circuit Website With Video Of Race, Interviews
Quote Of The Week (That Wasn't Quote Of The Day)
"Under today's ridiculous criteria I wouldn't have made the team because people would have said, okay, you're not going to make the final."
- Three-time Olympic champ Peter Snell of New Zealand talking about he went into the Olympic year 50 years ago just ranked 25th in the world. Snell's quote comes in a series of articles celebrating how mid-d and distance running was changed forever 50 years ago thanks to Arthur Lydiard and his boys. If you didn't get a chance to take a trip down memory lane, please do so now.
More: Peter Snell & Murray Halberg Remember How They Changed The Sport Forever 50 Years Ago *Lydiard Had Special Knack For Getting Best Out Of Athletes *Snell & Halberg Remember 50 Years Later *Snell Recalls Rome 800 Gold As His Finest Moment *Old School Race Video *Modernized Video *Mindful Of His Mortality, Snell Stays In Dallas, TX On Historic Day
A couple of nice and interesting reads this week. Coaches will probably particularly enjoy reading the profile of Roy Griak - the man who coached at Minnesota for 33 years. Griak cared equally about the slowest and fastest members of the team, as recalled by 1976 Olympian Gary Bjorklund to the Duluth News Tribune:
"All of a sudden I saw Roy across the track, animated like I had never seen him before, jumping up and down and so excited. I look around and wonder, 'What on earth is he so excited about?' Here comes 'Otto' around the corner, and Roy is cheering him on like he's setting a world record. When Otto finished his race, he and Roy embraced and did a victory dance. I swear Roy had tears in his eyes. All I could think was, 'Oh my God, what have I ever done that would make Roy that happy?' Otto ran a personal best by 20 seconds, and Roy always has been as excited for the fastest or strongest or best jumper as everybody else on the team. If you wore maroon and gold for Roy Griak, you were privileged."
More: *Legends Sing Praise Of Roy Griak - Minnesota's XC Coach Of 33 Years
*After A Quarter Of A Century, Koch Remains Untouchable
*Profile Of Australia's 20-Year-Old Great Hope - Ryan Gregson
*NPR Profiles The First Female Full Scholarship Track Athlete At Cal - A Woman Who Said "Nope To Dope"
Quotes Of The Day From Last Week
Monday: "This today made everything worth it. I could retire tomorrow
and I would have no regrets."
- Blanka Vlašic after clearing 2.05m in front of her hometown crowd in Split, Croatia to set a seasonal best/world leader. The queen of the unbearably slow stadium clap took 3 attempts at the world record with full Vlašic drama. If you watch any of her meets (and we recommend you do), you know that Vlašic is definitely the Usain Bolt of women's track & field.
Sunday: "It's 12 and a half laps, so that's never easy. But I felt very comfortable and felt very confident."
- Bernard Lagat after his 51-second final lap netted him the Continental Cup 5,000m title and $30,000. Tomorrow he'll go for another 30k in the 3k. Lagat should give lessons to Asbel Kiprop on how to win tactical races. Kiprop got boxed and basically gave up the last 200m in the men's 1,500m, as Leo Manzano finished 3rd.
pretty lazy but I've learned over the years that you can't be lazy if
you want to be the best at your sport. I'm still lazy - with the fact
that I can't be bothered to do things sometimes - but I get it done
because I still want to be the best."
- "Lazy" Usain Bolt talking in an article where he says the limit of human performance is 9.4 and that he's the man to do it. Bolt apparently knuckles down when he needs to in order to stay on top of the T&F world.
Friday: "I listen to the athletes, I ask them how they feel, what they want to
do, what they feel comfortable with. And we progress from there. I don’t
coach them, they coach me."
- Legendary educator and Kenyan coach Colm O'Connell. O'Connell's latest stud is World Record Holder David Rudisha. O'Connell also coached former world record holder Wilson Kipketer when he was at St. Patrick's, O'Connell's school in Iten, Kenya. O'Connell knew nothing about athletics, but Peter Foster (Brendan's brother) helped teach him during one year at the school and the rest is history. O'Connell admits to missing Paul Ereng. He told Ereng he wouldn't make the school's 4 x 400 team. It didn't stop him from being Olympic 800m champ.
More: Photos From Iten If you think technology is the key to success, think again.
*Brother Colm O'Connell's Training Methods
were in a jeep going from the village to the Olympic warm-up arena on
the day. (Arthur) Lydiard was on the right, Peter (Snell) in the middle
and I (Murray Halberg) was on the other side in the back.
(Lydiard) leant across in front of Peter and said to me: 'Peter is going
to be an Olympic champion before you'.
In my mind he was talking to me. But I do acknowledge some 40 years on I
woke up to the fact that not only was he talking to me, he was talking
to Peter. And Peter obviously heard it.
He had that knack of saying that sort of thing at the right moment."
- 1960 Olympic 5,000-meter champ Murray Halberg remembering what happened 50 years ago today - when he and Peter Snell won two gold medals in the span of an hour for tiny New Zealand thanks to Arthur Lydiard's training, which totally revolutionized the sport. Mileage and an aerobic base became the way to train (save for the late 1980s/early 1990s Runnersworld-supported low-mileage scare).
Wednesday: "I spent the last 12 years of my professional career being very selfish, and as a husband, had (Kara) to myself for 12 years. This baby is going to be depending on us. But I'm so excited. I can't wait to hold him and hug him and kiss him."
- Adam Goucher talking about his wife's pregnancy and the selfish lifestyle of professional athletes. Goucher's quote picks up on "Is running selfish? Why do you run?" and "pro runners and narcissism."
(Bernard Lagat) just couldn't understand it. How did I beat him, how
did I run 3.31? He was just in shock afterwards. It was a pretty weird
experience. He just kept saying 'Man, Gregson. Man! How did you do
- 20-year-old Australian 1,500-meter record holder (and LRC visitor) Ryan Gregson talking about Bernard Lagat's reaction to Gregson beating him and running 3:31.06 in Monaco. Speaking of 3:31.06, it's hard to believe that both Gregson and Andrew Wheating have PRs that are faster than the best miler on the planet - Asbel Kiprop (3:31.20).