2012 adidas Grand Prix 1,500 Recap: Bernard Lagat Returns To His Winning Ways

Alan Webb Comes Up Well Short of His Quest For the Olympic 'A'

By LetsRun.com with Tim Loh in New York City
June 9, 2012

After looking sensational in winning the world indoor 3000 title, Bernard Lagat’s early season outdoor races had been less than spectacular. After a less than impressive opener at Penn Relays, last week at Pre, Lagat finished third to last (14th) in the mile in 3:54.28. Some were wondering, “Was father time suddenly catching up with Lagat at age 37?”

Not a chance.

Lagat displayed his finishing kick of old over the last 100 meters and pulled away from 19-year-old newcomer Ayanleh Souleiman of Djibouti (17.5 years Lagat's junior in terms of age), who stands at #4 on the world 1,500 list this year at 3:30.31, to get the win in 3:34.63 as Souleiman ran 3:34.73.

American David Torrence, boxed in for much of the race, freed himself and got into striking distance. He showed good finishing speed to come in 3rd place at 3:35.48. Right on his heels was Canada’s Nate Brannen, in 3:35.78.

If the goal was to create a super fast race, it failed. With 20 bodies jumbling for position and the rabbits taking it out too slow, there was little hope for the likes of Alan Webb getting pulled under the Olympic A standard of 3:35.50.

The Details of The Race
The race featured a ridiculous 20 starters. And with that many starters - one thing has to occur. The rabbit has to be spot on and go out very fast.

Well guess what. The rabbiting was atrocious and we mean atrocious. Alan Webb’s coach Jason Vigiliante had told LetsRun.com yesterday he had been told the goal was 1:52 for 800 meters. Well the opening 400 was covered in just 57.59. Too slow but if the rabbit could pick it up and get the field through in 1:54 then they might be set up for a great time. Would the rabbbit - Australia’s Liam Adams - be able to pick up? Not a chance.
Adams was passed before 700 meters as the leader hit 800 in 1:57.05.
Due to the slow pace making, virtually everyone was still with the pack when Souleiman hit the bell in 2:41. 1200 was reached in 2:55.07 and on the backstretch the real racing began.

With 200 remaining, four runners separated themselves from the field - Souleiman, Lagat, and Torrence and Brannen. Just before 200 to go, Torrence made a big move and got ahead of Lagat in second. But Lagat was saving something for the last 100.

In the homestretch, Lagat dug deep and engaged in a great duel with Souleiman. Lagat finally pulled even half-way down the stretch and only inched ahead with about 40 meters remaining. Lagat, led this race for 5 seconds - but it was the 5 seconds that mattered most - the last.

Leader to leader, the last 400 was covered in 53.54 so Lagat was probably 53.3 or so (he was right on Souleiman's shoulder at the bell). Not too shabby.

Lagat Is Pleased
Lagat was pleased as well wafter his victory and said the race showed he’s ready to go for the win at the Olympic trials 5,000.

“This race told me I’m strong,” he said. “My speed is back. I’m confident that I can do well in the 5,000 – when it comes to a close race, where you have everyone at the bell, and everybody can kick.”

“I want it so bad,” he added. “I don’t want to go to the Olympics not being number one. This race told me today that I can do that…Yes, I feel I’m going for that first spot in the 5,000 meters.”

David Torrence, who bested Lagat by two seconds in the Bowerman Mile at the Prefontaine Classic last week, said after the race that he felt really fit but needs to run smarter in tight races.

“Physically, I ran well today,” he said. “But tactically, I was kind of jostling in the pack.”

The only lesson he could draw, he said, was to avoid getting caught up jostling for position early on. That won’t affect him in opening rounds of the trials, he said, but it could in the final.

“I just have to realize when is the right time to fight, and when is the right time to just relax and save it for the end,” he said.

Alan Webb?
What about American Alan Webb you say? Well the race within the race was - would Webb be able to get the IAAF ‘A’ standard of 3:35.50 never really materialized due to the awful pace-making.

Yes, the top three finishers in this race all got the ‘A’ by slamming home the last lap but Webb is a guy that likes to get out fast and hang on. Slamming home the last lap has never been a strong point for Webb.

Webb ran in top half of the pack for most of the race and with about 420 meters remaining was right next to Bernard Lagat. But they would be headed in opposite directions once the real racing began as Webb ended up ninth in 3:39.04. Webb failed to show the finishing speed needed to keep pace with the leaders, much less put himself in contention, and faded considerably over the last 100.

Alan Webb looked somewhat dejected in the finishing chute. Tactically, he raced poorly, as he started the race on the outside, worked his way to the inside, and then was completely boxed in.

“I was trying to find my place,” he said after, his thigh bleeding from a spike that nicked him early in the race. “By the time I found it, I was tired.”

He shrugged when asked if he can hit 3:35. “If things come together, yeah,” he said.

Before the trials, he’ll take part in the American Milers Club 1,500 meter races in Indiana, hoping to get the Olympic A standard and sharpen his legs.

His spirits lifted when asked about his wife, whose due date for their first child is in two weeks.  Asked how that might conflict with the Olympic trials, he smiled.

“Hope she’s not late,” he said.

LRC Quick Take (QT): Any doubts people had about Lagat should have vanished with this performance.

QT #2: We can’t tell emphasize enough how bad the rabbiting was. Why in God’s name was a 5000/1000 guy like Liam Adams chosen to rabbit? It makes no sense that a 13:43/28:11 guy who has a 3:44 1,500 pb would be selected to rabbit an elite 1,500.

Ironically, we normally complain that races are over-rabbitted but to us with a field this large and with so many guys wanting the “A”, this race should have been first and foremost about time 1st - racing 2nd.

QT#3: If we weren’t obsessed with Webb’s quest for the ‘A’, we’d admit the poor rabbiting made this an interesting race as four guys were in it with 200 to go.

QT#4: As we mentioned above, this isn’t the end of Webb’s Olympic quest. Vig told LRC on Friday that Webb already had a plane ticket booked for Indy and that he was going to the American Milers Club series of meets regardless of what happened here. If Webb got the ‘A’, he was going to sharpen up for the Trials with a couple of 800s. We assume now he’ll continue to run 1,500s.

QT #5: We thought it would be useful to compare Lagat's close here when he ran 3:34.63 to the close of world 5,000 champion Mo Farah when he ran nearly the identical time at Occidental - 3:34.66. Lagat's close was superior as at Occidental the opening splits were 57.5, 1:55.8 and 2:53.7-2:54.

QT#6: Meet directors, if you want to hire us to set up your fields/rabbits, please email the LetsRun.com inbox. We’d never allow 20 guy to start a 1,500 - period. We’d also make sure there was an adequate rabbit. Get a guy just eliminated from NCAAs and tell him he’s got a lane when he graduates. Columbia’s Kyle Merber would have sufficed.


Rank Athlete Nation Result
1 LAGAT Bernard USA 3:34.63
2 SOULEIMAN Ayanleh DJI 3:34.73
3 TORRENCE David USA 3:35.48
4 BRANNEN Nathan CAN 3:35.78
5 AL GARNI Mohamed QAT 3:36.63
6 EL KAAM Fouad MAR 3:36.68
7 LEER Will USA 3:37.16 SB
8 CHOGE Augustine Kiprono KEN 3:37.47
10 ROBERTSON Zane NZL 3:38.80
11 WEBB Alan USA 3:39.04
12 KIPCHIRCHIR Elijah KEN 3:39.31
13 SHAWEEN Mohammed KSA 3:39.46 SB
14 SCHLANGEN Carsten GER 3:39.63
15 MOTTRAM Craig AUS 3:40.01 SB
16 ACOSTA Andrew J. USA 3:41.89
17 CARSON Hamish NZL 3:42.08
18 MCNIFF Ryan USA 3:42.33
19 KEMBOI Nicholas Kiptanui KEN 3:43.81

Intermediate times:
400m ADAMS, Liam (AUS) 57.59
800m Choge, Augustine Kiprono (KEN) 1:57.05
1200m Souleiman, Ayanleh (DJI) 2:55.07


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