The Week That Was In Running - April 18-24, 2011

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By LetsRun.com
April 27, 2011

We know that not a whole lot happened last week and everyone is probably hung over from Boston and London and busy getting ready for Drake, Penn and Stanford this week. But we wanted to share a few things from last week, including a great display of sportsmanship by Desiree Davila and Kara Goucher. We also tell you how to really screw up if you get a second chance in life, talk about the struggles of America's top young 1,500 talent in AJ Acosta, German Fernandez and Dorian Ulrey, give out free coaching advice from Ryan Hall, Renato Canova and Emmanuel Mutai, and wonder if booting all pro athletes, not just Leo Manzano, off of all NCAA tracks might help their performance.

*****
The Definition Of Sportsmanship

Do you ever wonder if class and sportsmanship still exist in professional sports? Well, while athlete blogs often aren't our favorite thing (the bad ones are too self-serving and normally read like PR statements written by PR firms), we must admit we occasionally read them and were blown away by Kara Goucher's post-Boston Marathon comments. The following excerpts from her blog about Boston show that both she and Desiree Davila were total class acts in Boston.

If you have children, we encourage you share this story with them.

By 16 miles I was completely out of contention. The real race was ahead of me. Then Desiree Davila went by me looking amazing. I knew she had a chance to catch the leaders and maybe win. As she passed me, she encouraged me. "Keep your eyes up," she said. Now that's classy ...

As soon as I finished, race officials started asking me if I was okay, and other questions, but I ignored them and kept asking them, "How did Desi do? How did Desi do?"

I was almost surprised by how disappointed I was to learn that she had come up just short. I'm not going to lie: I want to be the woman who ends the American drought at the Boston Marathon. But I was so impressed by Desi's self-belief, her guts, and her class, that I really forgot about what I wanted for myself and threw my support behind her as a fellow American. One thing is certain: Desiree showed that it's only a matter of time before one of us pulls it off.

*****


David Rudisha Will Be Training Here This Spring
Video Here

US Olympian Leo Manzano Can't Even Train At The University Of Texas Track But Could That Somehow Help His 2012 Preparations?

It was good to read the Washington Post article by Amy Shipley about how many post-collegiate track and field athletes, including stars like Leo Manzano, often struggle to find suitable tracks to train on (in case you missed it, Manzano was recently barred from training on the University of Texas track with his coach as it's a violation of state law), as it's really the perfect example of well-intentioned bureaucratic laws being taken to the extreme. That being said, halfway through the article, we thought to ourselves, "Has anyone thought about what type of track the Kenyans on training on in Kenya? It's certainly not hurting them too much." Someone correct us if we're wrong, but we believe there are 2.5 (one is in such bad shape it counts as half) non-dirt tracks in all of Kenya, with one dirt one planning to be resurfaced (click here for a video on the resurfacing and David Rudisha having to train on this track). Even the smallest towns in America have tartan instead of dirt tracks. Clearly, a track with a championship surface is not a key ingredient for distance running success.

*****
How To Really Screw Up If You Get A Second Chance In Life

Someone who did hurt himself last week was former Olympic 400 silver medallist and drug cheat Alvin Harrison, who was being given a second chance, coaching a high school team in California. What did he do with his second chance? He threw it away by driving a van drunk at Arcadia, which resulted in another car flipping over and him being jailed on $50,000 bail. Not much more than to say other than that's very sad. Less than 10 years ago, he was on Oprah. Now it looks like prison is where he'll end up.

More: Alvin Harrison, Former Olympic 400m Silver Medallist (And Drug Cheat), Getting Second Chance Coaching High School Team, Drunk Drives A High School Van At Arcadia, Flips Another Car, Jailed On $50,000 Bond

*****
Some Of America's Top 1,500 Youngsters Struggle

Some thought we were over-reacting when we immediately got concerned that something might be wrong with German Fernandez when he failed to qualify for NCAAs in the mile at a last chance meet even after he dominated the Big 12 the week before. It was hard to say if that concern was warranted or not until last week, as Fernandez had shoe problems both at NCAAs in the 3k and Texas Relays in the mile.

The concern was justified, as  last week Fernandez ran the 1,500 in Arkansas and only finished seventh in 3:44.68 in a race that was won in 3:42.23. Guys that open up at 3:56.50 in the mile as freshmen before going on to win the NCAAs shouldn't be finishing 7th in a college 1,500 (unless he was going for a time or something and totally blew up). Fernandez has now run four 1,500s/miles in 2011 and hasn't come close to breaking the equivalent of 4:00 in any of them. Our bet is most likely something physiologically is wrong, as talent doesn't go away.

Of course, Fernandez wasn't the only studly collegiate miler to struggle last week. 3:35.23 1,500 man and 2009 World Championship team member Dorian Ulrey of Arkansas was in the same race with Fernandez. Struggle may not have been right word, as Ulrey was third in the race in 3:42.76, but you wouldn't really expect him or Fernandez to lose to Oklahoma State's Thomas Farrell, who was just 16th indoors in the 3k, when Farrell's PR is the 3:42.33 that he ran to win the race.

One reason why we talked about going for a time and blowing up above is because that's exactly what 2010 NCAA 1,500 runner-up AJ Acosta did last week. At the Oregon Relays, he and NCAA 3rd-placer Matt Centrowitz were supposedly going for the IAAF A standard of 3:35.00. But wind and the hot pace resulted in Centrowitz winning in "just" 3:42.49 (they went out in 1:55), as Acosta staggered home in 3:57.63 (video here).

*****
Weekly Free Coaching Advice - Don't Let Your Mind Limit Your Performances

Last week, much of the week was spent reflecting, analyzing and learning from the 2011 Boston and London Marathons. Famed professional coach Renato Canova posted a great 2011 Boston analysis which we encourage all to read. In that analysis, he said one reason for the super-fast times was that Ryan Hall didn't let his mind get in the way of him running fast from the gun. In a day and age when everyone is taught "not to lead," Hall went fast from the gun and delivered the fastest 26.2 in American history and in the process helped rabbit the field to the fastest 26.2 in history.

Canova correctly gave Hall a ton of credit. As Canova wrote, "Nobody supposed that one athlete (Ryan) could go from the start at so fast pace, without any mental inhibition. Ryan was wonderful as personality and as interpretation of the race, knowing his only chance is in a very fast but even pace."

We loved the phrases "without any mental inhibition" and "wonderful as personality and as interpretation of the race."

Similarly, Canova said one of the reasons why the first and second place finishers in Boston ran 2:03:02 and 2:03:06 is because they didn't look at their watches and allow themselves to be scared into thinking they were going too fast. As Canova wrote, "Geoffrey (Mutai) and Moses (Mosop) never looked at the watch, so were not afraid about the speed because they didn't want to know it."  No doubt the wind helped everyone's performance, but if all the athletes had looked at their watches instead of listening to their bodies, they never would have attempted to run 2:03 because they would have thought, "That's too fast."

*****
Second Do
se Of Weekly Free Coaching Advice - Don't Respond To Or Instigate Moves Early In Races

A marathon is a long race, but in many ways it's like an 800. Nothing is going to be decided until the end of the race and all you can do is lose the race in the first two-thirds by wasting too much energy. It seems that most races are much like the 800 meters, where the official LetsRun.com motto is "You only have one move; use it wisely." This concept is something that 2011 Virgin London winner Emmanuel Mutai had trouble learning until recently.

As Sean Hartnett wrote in the April 18, 2011 edition of Track & Field News etrack newsletter:

"Early in his career, Mutai had been a knee-jerk racer responding or instigating early moves. "I learned from New York where I was very strong but was at the front from 20K and had problems at the finish. This time I decided to not be in front until the pacemakers finished their work at 30K."

*****
Quote Of The Week #1 (That Wasn't Quote Of The Day)

The "Big Two" Theory: "You can do two things well at the same time, but if you try to do three or four or five, you wind up being mediocre."

- Dick Weiss, Oklahoma State track and field coach, talking in a great profile on his career in coaching.

We know of another college track coach whom we greatly admire who talks about the elusive "triple crown" of collegiate athletics success - athletics, academic and social. It's possible to pull of doing well in two of the three but next to impossible to nail all three at the same time.

*****
Quote Of The Week #2 (That Wasn't Quote Of The Day)

I will never say I love Penn [Relays]. I will never say I hate it because I know how important it is to one's life. But the reason why Penn is so significant to me is: That was my wake-up call that basically said, 'Accept responsibility. You came here for a reason.'

The next year, for the first time in my life, I found intense commitment in myself. I couldn't wait for Penn to come. I was dying for it to come back. I wanted to be ready. It's amazing that one year captured my whole maturing process. That's why I'm very fond of Penn - it's a love-hate relationship - because it forced me into seeing who I was and deciding who I wanted to be. It means a tremendous amount to me."

- 3-time world indoor champion and 4-time Olympian Marcus O'Sullivan talking in a Philadelphia Inquirer article about how a disappointing junior year at Penn Relays inspired him to be great as a senior and perfect proof that talent only takes you so far.

*****
Quote Of The Week #3 (That Wasn't Quote Of The Day)

"This guy (2011 Crescent City winner Belete Assefa) is young and hungry. He's been winning some races in France, but he wants to make a name for himself in this country, at a race a lot of big-time athletes have won."

"So keep your eyes on him, especially if conditions get tough. That's when the hungry guys always come through."

- Crescent City Classic elite athlete coordinator Gary Gomez talking about how the hungriest competitors are often the most competitive. More: Unknown 20-Year-Old Leads Ethiopian Sweep At Crescent City 10k.

*****
Recommended Reads

*LRC Famed Coach Renato Canova Gives His 2011 Boston Analysis The insight he gives into the new age of the marathon and the mental aspect of what happened at the 2011 Boston Marathon is exceptional. That being said, the wind definitely helped.
*LRC John Kellogg Explains How He "Predicted" The Unpredictable - A Sub-2:03:59 In Boston
*Andrew Bumbalough Thriving In 1st Year As Pro One Year After Getting Mono And Nearly Being Left Out Of Nike's Plans This is a great piece of athletics related writing by someone who truly understands the sport but is still in college.
*
Profile On Former World 10,000m Record Holder And Virgin London Race Director Dave Bedford
In case you missed it from last week, this really is something you must read.
*George Vescey Of NY Times Remembers Grete Waitz

*****
Quotes Of The Day From Last Week

Monday: "If you mention the names Babe Ruth, Hank Aaron, Ted Williams, Jackie Robinson or Derek Jeter, most baseball fans will have a basic appreciation of their place in the history of America's pastime. Unfortunately, for most runners, this comparable understanding of the history of their sport is not always as apparent."

"Perhaps this is because today's society is greatly influenced by the concept of instant gratification and is permeated with a 'What have you done for me lately?' attitude. While today's runners have access to the best training methods and equipment, many are missing a valuable and rewarding aspect of their sport by not being cognizant of its history."

- Writer Gerry Chester making a good point about how many runners are severely lacking when it comes to knowledge about the professional aspect of the sport they love. Chester gives a short trivia quiz with pretty basic questions, but we bet many runners on high school and college teams would have trouble coming up with the answers. Take the quiz yourself; if you can't answer most of these, then maybe you aren't spending enough time on Letsrun.


Sunday: "When I was a junior, I was stretching outside and noticed Franklin Field has this kind of Colosseum look about it. I called it the arena because the image I had was of the Christians and the lions. You hear this roar that something happened, and all I'm thinking about it some poor Christian in there getting eaten by a lion. Obviously it's somebody getting run down. I had this kind of image where you needed to be a gladiator to go in there to fight your way literally, not necessarily metaphorically."

- Villanova head coach Marcus O'Sullivan talking in an interview about the amazing experience that is competing at the packed stadium during Penn Relays.


Saturday: "I was feeling my legs were kaput, finished. I was completely tired, but me, I'm really a fighter in the last minute ..."

- Boston Champ Caroline Kilel on her finishing duel with American Desiree Davila. After winning, Caroline collapsed to the ground and sobbed. When asked why, she said:

"I remembered home, and the people singing my national anthem ... I imagined that."


Friday: "In the end, we are all guessing about where the final result from the men's race at the 2011 Boston Marathon ranks among the all-time great marathon performances. But this you can take to the bank: The race was wind-assisted at ground level and significantly faster because of it. As the saying goes: Common sense ... so rare it's a superpower...

If the forecasted wind wasn't absolutely guaranteed to make a huge difference at Boston, I never would have mentioned the likelihood of a world-best time. I didn't throw out the possibility of a 2:03 before the race because I had no doubt the top few runners were so much better than those in any other marathon ever contested; nor did I mention it because I knew this big secret that Boston's course, long viewed as one of toughest majors in the world, is really nothing but a piece-of-cake, freewheeling downhill and this just happened to be the year several runners were going to prove it. No, I took one look at the weather forecast. It's the wind, stupid."

- LetsRun.com coaching guru John Kellogg writing in a column where he explains how he did the supposed impossible and predicted the super-fast times on Monday in Boston (the BAA's head Tom Griik said, "No one could have predicted that a time like that would be run."). Hundreds of miles of out-and-back timed runs in windy Texas enabled JK to be wiser than all. During the column, JK tries to guess what the Boston times would be worth in London and Berlin and speculates who would win if the Mutais raced each other. Along the way, since he did the "impossible," he takes the liberty to call himself a genius.


Thursday: "She was the queen of hearts ... You can't even begin to add up her contributions to sports - not just women's sports, all sports.''


- 1984 Olympic Marathon Champ Joan Benoit Samuelson on the wonderful life of Grete Waitz. Grete is the first memory of professional running for the founders of LetsRun.com and we're glad she had such an influence on everyone. You can pay your respects in this thread.


Wednesday: "Time after time, just when it seemed Desiree might be dropped for good, she'd surge back to the lead. Finally right ... before the women turned for home on Boylston street, it seemed the real kicking was beginning and ... (Desiree) started sliding backwards into third, and no one would have blamed her for giving in to the pain and finishing third. We all know Americans don't win the Boston Marathon - especially Americans who weren't NCAA Champions and run for Brooks instead of Nike ... But then Desiree did what we all dream of doing in such a situation, she dug even deeper ... Most of us will never have the chance to win the Boston Marathon, but if somehow we were put in the situation, we hope we'd respond like Desiree ... She may not have won the race, but she won our hearts and souls ... The motto of this website is "Where Your Dreams Become Reality." Some would say that Desiree's dreams didn't become reality on Monday, but I think they did."

- LetsRun.com's Wejo full of praise for Desiree Davila's near win at the 2011 Boston Marathon.


Tuesday: "Time after time, just when it seemed Desiree might be dropped for good, she'd surge back to the lead. Finally right ... before the women turned for home on Boylston street, it seemed the real kicking was beginning and ... (Desiree) started sliding backwards into third, and no one would have blamed her for giving in to the pain and finishing third. We all know Americans don't win the Boston Marathon - especially Americans who weren't NCAA Champions and run for Brooks instead of Nike ... But then Desiree did what we all dream of doing in such a situation, she dug even deeper ... Most of us will never have the chance to win the Boston Marathon, but if somehow we were put in the situation, we hope we'd respond like Desiree ... She may not have won the race, but she won our hearts and souls ... The motto of this website is "Where Your Dreams Become Reality." Some would say that Desiree's dreams didn't become reality on Monday, but I think they did."

- LetsRun.com's Wejo full of praise for Desiree Davila's near win at the 2011 Boston Marathon.


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