German Fernandez Runs 3:34.60 & Validates Three Of LetsRun.com's Biggest Running Maxims
Talent Never Goes Away, Strength = Speed, And Altitude Matters
September 2, 2012
"Talent never goes away."
That quote, which is a core tenet of LetsRun.com's running philosophy, and which we believe we first heard from 2008 Olympic silver medallist Nick Willis, certainly proved to be correct on Sunday afternoon at the ISTAF Berlin Meet in front of more than 50,000 when the US's German Fernandez ran a huge 3:34.60 PR.
A 3:34.60 1,500 in the year 2012 for the former prep phenom Fernandez would not have been a surprise if you were making predictions back in 2008 or 2009, but it certainly would have been earlier this year if you watched him finish off his collegiate career at Oklahoma State with a 10th-place showing at NCAAs in the 1,500 and then barely scrape his way into the Olympic Trials.
How does a guy who couldn't even score at NCAAs in June run 3:34 in September? By persevering and being very, very talented.
It needs to be remembered Fernandez was a PHENOM in high school. In 2008, Fernandez broke Jeff Nelson's 29-year-old high school 2 mile record of 8:36.30 (HT) by running 8:34.40. That was after he was truly sensational at the California state meet, where he completed the greatest double in HS history - a 1,600/3,200 double in 2-plus hours with the ridiculous times of 4:00.29/8:34.23 - before celebrating by working the evening shift at Applebee's.
The next year at Oklahoma State, Fernandez was so good indoors that LRC's Rojo flew all the way to the Middle East to watch him run World Junior Cross-Country. In 2009 indoors, Fernandez got things going by running a world junior record of 3:56.50 in the mile in his first-ever indoor race before finishing off the indoor campaign with a non-rabbitted 3:55.02 mile to win Big 12s.
Outdoors, he won NCAAs in the 1,500 as a freshman in 3:39.00 before setting the US junior record in the 5,000 at USAs at 13:25.46. You simply can't do better than that.
After His Freshman Year, Fernandez Never Broke 4:00 or 14:00
But the rest of college? It was pretty much a huge disappointment on the individual front for Fernandez.
Yes, he helped Oklahoma State win a few team cross-country titles, but think of it this way: If someone had predicted after his freshman year that Fernandez, who ran 3:55.02 for the mile indoors and 13:25 for the 5,000 outdoors as a freshman, would never break 4:00 or 14:00 for the rest of his college career, you'd think they were mentally unhinged. But that's exactly what happened.
If you thought that meant his career was over, you were wrong. The smart people in the sport realize that talent doesn't go away. So even though Fernandez probably lost hundreds of thousands of dollars by not going pro in 2009, he was able to secure a sponsorship after USAs thanks to the help of agent Tom Ratcliffe. He signed with Nike and joined Jerry Schumacher's group. A few weeks of altitude training, one prep race, and Fernandez runs 3:34.60.
The talent clearly didn't go away - it just was hidden for a few years.
German Fernandez Reacts After His 3:34.60
"I'm shocked (by the 3:34 time)," said Fernandez to reporters after the race in the Flotrack video embedded on the right. "I thought my time was 3:36 something. ... With 300 meters to go, I felt really good and I was like 'I have it in me. I have it in me.' With 200 meters to go, I still felt awesome but I was scared to make a move as it was my first big European race. I was taking it a little bit on the conservative side and kicking it in at the end and I guess it paid off but I left a little bit out there."
How did Fernandez turn things around so quickly?
Well he worked on his strength - proving another LetsRun.com maxim: Strength = Speed.
Fernandez was asked if based on his training he was confident he could run 3:34 today?
"No. Most of our training is based on 3k/5k and we really haven't done anything faster than 57 in practice. It's all strength and altitude training - which is the first time I've done that in my running career so I think it's been a big plus for me."
LetsRun.com has always been a big believer that for altitude responders, altitude can make a HUGE difference - as much as one second per lap in a distance race.
The Race (Race Replay Embedded Below or Can Be Watched Here)
As for the race, Fernandez started out in the back of the field. He basically just kept in contact with the back of the field throughout - passing anyone who dropped off the big pack that featured 17 starters - before having the best last lap of anyone in the race.
He was dead last at 300 in 42.4. He ran his next lap in 57.7 (1:40.1) and was still next to last - ahead of only one straggler.
His third lap was roughly a 58.2 (we estimate he was 2:38.3 at the bell) and had moved up to 13th in a race that had 13 finishers (he was 12th if you take out the rabbit). But his final lap of 56.3 and his final 200 (very evenly run as we have the last 200 in about 28.1) was the best in the field. The winner likely closed in just 58.6-7.
Fernandez's approximate splits according to LetsRun.com (we've added .2 to the video as we think the TV time is more of a hand time).
300: 42.4 - Dead last
700: 57.7 - 1:40.1 - Ahead of 1 straggler
1,100 - 58.2 - 2:38.3 - Ahead of two guys but only one finisher
1,500 - 56.3 -(28.2/28.1) - 7th place finish in 3:34.60, 3:06.5 at 1,300
More: Relive Our Coverage Of The 2009 World Cross Country In Amman, Jordan With German Ferandez Below:
LRC Went To Amman Rojo: The Flight And Day 1 *Photos
Rojo's in the Middle East and already having a great time. In his first blog, he talks about wishing he were Canadian, getting pulled over by the cops, driving backwards on a highway, picking up a hitchhiker and trying to talk Bobby Curtis out of taking a cab to Iraq.
LRC In Amman Analyzing German Fernandez's Chances For A Medal: History Says He'll Have His Hands Full Rojo breaks down the junior field in great depth. While
odds are stacked against Fernandez, Rojo reveals that Fernandez did catch a huge break as Ethiopia has decided to run a guy who almost certainly would be the favorite for the win in the men's senior race. Plus another 13:25 junior isn't running either!!! *Photos
On The Boards: Junior World Cross-Country Championships - Make Your Predictions for Our 3 Young Studs Here, & Gregson Too!
Installment #3 - About The US Team And German's Possible Injury, Amman And To See Exclusive Interviews With Julie Culley, Bobby
Curtis And Ed Moran
*Installment #4 - Amman The City
*Installment # 5- The Course Is "Brutal"
*Rojo Interviews The US Team/Sees German Fernandez Running
*Friday Update #2: The Press Conference & German's Injury Fernandez had a shining debut press conference as he was introduced as the star of the indoor season and came across as a class act committed to doing all he can for the USA. He is in a boot but going to compete. Plus an interview with US junior girls #1 Neely Spence (Read Her 4 Blogs From Amman - Locals Yell To Her: "Go Blondie!") and confirmation that world record holder Stephen Cherono both visits LetsRun.com and is impressed by German. *Photos: The Press Conference
*MB Thread: Fernandez is in a boot but running
More On Fernandez In HS:
*German Fernandez Pulls Off Greatest HS Distance Double Ever 4:00 AND 8:34! If the 4:00.29 1,600 wasn't enough to make your jaw drop, then certainly his 8:34 3,200 was. UNBELIEVABLE. *Message Board Thread Here
*How Will Fernandez Celebrate? By Working The Evening Shift At Applebee's "My job is pretty important and I don't think they'd give me the day off even if they knew how well I did today. My boss always tells me to mention Applebee's when I'm talking to the newspapers, so I wanted to make sure to give my job a shout out.''
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