The 2013 World Cross Country Championships That Were

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The Week That Was In Running: March 18 – March 24, 2013

March 29, 2013

To read last week’s Weekly Recap, click here.

Now that we are back from Poland and somewhat adjusted to the time zone, we have a few more comments to make about the fantastic action that took place in Poland last week.

First one comment on the Lisbon Half-Marathon.

Bernard Koech Splits 27:17 for First 10k in Lisbon
The Lisbon Half-Marathon was this past weekend. It’s one of the premier halfs in the world and part of the new $240,000 Rock N Roll Half-Marathon series. The race did not get much attention this week on LRC as it was going up against World Cross Country.  It didn’t even get much publicity on the Rock N Roll site.

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22-year old Bernard Koech of Kenya, who has a 59:10 pb and ran 2:04:53 for 5th in Dubai in his marathon debut in January, won the men’s race in 59:54 and Edna Kiplagat won the women’s in 1:08:48 (Shalane Flanagan won this race last year).

The big news almost got missed completely. And that was Koech ran the first 10km in 27:17. That’s the fastest first 10km every in a half. We first saw this in Race Results Weekly, but it was not mentioned in many places. Thankfully there is twitter.

Koech slowed a lot on the second half with heavy winds but a 27:17 first 10km deserves some attention. He looks like he’ll be a force to be reckoned with in the coming years.

One other thing about Lisbon, one of the bigger stories was what didn’t happen there. The last man to beat Mo Farah on the track outdoors, 2011 World 10,000 champ Ibrahim Jeylan, didn’t run. It was hoped that Lisbon would be his return to truly elite racing for the first time since 2011. Now it wasn’t going to be his first race of the year. To little fanfare, Jeylan ran a 10k that was held as part of the Dubai marathon in January and ran 29:34 in a race that was won in 28:50.

Now onto the focus of the week: World Cross Country.

Photo Of The Week

photo of Hosea Macharinyang

Hosea Macharinyang falls at the end of 2013 World Cross-Country Championships. Photo by Mike Scott. *More World XC Photos

Mike Scott took a ton of great photos (2,000+) for us but we chose that one as it sums up the US senior men’s stunning victory over Kenya just perfectly.

What you are seeing is Kenya’s #2 man Hosea Macharinyang falling as he was coming down the final hill less than a quarter from the finish. At the time, Macharinyang was in 11th behind Ethiopia’s Feyisa Lelisa (as shown by pictures #14 and #15 here), who was behind American #2 Chris Derrick. Lelisa ended up catching Derrick in the sprint for home and edging him by one second. Had Macharinyang not fallen and found a way to beat Derrick (not likely as Macharinyang was probably close to 10 meters behind Lelisa), Kenya would have edged the US by one in the team standings (as after Macharinyang fell he lost a spot to Algeria’s Rabah Aboud.).

“The Miracle on Dirt”: How Did The US Get Silver? A Total Team Effort

In case you missed it, Ben True led the US team with a shocking 6th place finish and he was backed up with Chris Derrick in 10th, as the US team beat Kenya by 2 points for the silver medal.

Having Derrick and True in the top ten was huge for the US. The last time the US had two top ten finishers at World Cross-Country? 1986 when Pat Porter was sixth and John Easker was 10th (back then nine guys ran per team and six scored (now you run up to six and score four)). Heck, the last time the US had a single man in the top 10 in the long race at World Cross-Country was 1995.

Since 1986, only four American men have finished in the top 10 at World Cross-Country and that includes the short course race that the IAAF held from 1998 to 2006.

1987 – Pat Porter – 7th 
1995 – Todd Williams – 9th
1998 – Marc Davis – 7th short course
2006 – Adam Goucher – 6th short course

So to have two top tens in the same race wasn’t expected to say the least. In the last three editions of World Cross-Country, the top American had finished in the 30s – 35th in 2011 (Ben True), 35th in 2010 (Patrick Smyth) and 33rd in 2010 (Ryan Vail).

Ryan Vail and Bobby Mack Getting it Done

However, the US doesn’t get the shock silver without incredibly solid performances at three and four where Ryan Vail and Bobby Mack hit it out of the park to finish in the top 20. Vail had run world Cross-Country three other times and never finished higher than 33rd but he finished 17th here. Bobby Mack was 66th the last time the race was run in Bydgoszcz but finished 19th.

Ryan Vail At World XC
75th in 2005 (juniors)
33rd in 2009
44th in 2010
17th in 2013

Bobby Mack At World XC
66th in 2010
19th in 2013

Of the four US scorers, three of the four likely scored higher than even they themselves dreamed of finishing coming into the race (Derrick maybe thought he could run a tiny bit better than 10th) and then Kenya had a bit of an off day.

The US did benefit from one Kenyan DNF. Jonathan Ndiku, who was third after the first lap and has very similar PRs to Chris Derrick (13:11.99 and 27:37), ended up in the hospital with an Achilles injury.

One more thing. We know he didn’t score but the US’s fifth man Elliott Heath deserve mini props for finishing 30th ahead of Kenya’s fifth man Philemon Cherop (36th).

For the record, we hate that the IAAF doesn’t use 5th man as a tie-breaker in case of ties – they use highest fourth place finisher.

More: LRC US Men Stun Kenya And Win Team Silver!!!!!

Hello World, Meet Japhet Korir, The Man Who Salvaged The Day For The Kenyan Men

Japhet Korir

In addition to the stunning performance of the US men’s team, there will certainly be a lot of press attention given to Kenya’s Japhet Korir in the coming days, as he became the youngest individual senior men’s champion in the 40 editions of the famed event. Korir, who officially is only 19 (turns 20 on June 30, 1993), came in as an unheralded 13:11 guy (indoors last year) who barely scraped onto Kenya’s team as the last qualifier and left as the King of Distance Running (at least temporarily until the spring marathons/track season heat up).

Korir’s win salvaged the entire day for the Kenyan men. Kenya is still very much a male-dominated society and if Korir hadn’t won, the criticism of their team would be very high in the coming days. Their junior men lost the team and individual titles to Ethiopia and their senior men finished third – behind the US. The senior men’s team’s performance undoubtedly will generate a lot of criticism, but given the fact that Kenyans give a ton of credence to having the individual men’s winner (all those years of having to play second fiddle in the 5k/10k to Gebrselassie/Bekele certainly frustrated them), it will be much more muted than it would have been. If Kenya had to choose between the team or individual win, we’d imagine they’d go for the individual win, but to not get one of them would be unacceptable. Had Korir not won, the criticism would be astronomically high.

We know many fans historically have questioned the true ages of Kenyan runners – and for good reason – but we got a good look at Korir up close and he does indeed look young. How’s that for scientific analysis?

Hello USA, Meet Ben True, The Man Who Spoiled The Day For The Kenyan Men

The US men’s stunning silver really was a result of everyone on the team, but it clearly would have not been possible without the stunning sixth place showing of Ben True.

Many of you may not even know who Ben True is, so let us tell you.

For starters, True is a big talent. Take a look at the top finishers at the 2003 Foot Locker HS cross-country nationals.

1    Matthew Withrow (12)      Midwest     Tinley Park              IL   14:55
2    Galen Rupp (12)           West        Portland                 OR   14:57
3    Shadrack Kiptoo (12)      West        Albuquerque              NM   14:58
4    Joshua McDougal (12)      Northeast   Peru                     NY   15:01
5    Benjamin True (12)        Northeast   North Yarmouth           ME   15:02
picture of Ben True

Ben True minutes away from finishing 6th at the 2013 World XC Champs.
*More 2013 World Cross-Country Photos

Ben True, who hailed from Maine, was fifth just one second behind eventual NCAA cross-country champion Josh McDougal and just 5 seconds behind eventual Olympic silver medallist Galen Rupp.

But unlike Rupp and McDougal, True was barely training. McDougal was over 100 mpw in high school and Galen Rupp was of course being coached by Alberto Salazar and using altitude tents and training like a pro. True was on the other hand running low mileage and juggling running with cross-country skiing in the winter.

In college, True was once again only a part-time runner. When he had time to run, he was pretty much unbeatable at the Ivy League level as he was just the fourth runner in history to win three Ivy League/Heps cross-country individual crowns (2005, 2006 and 2008). In 2008, he won by 33 seconds over Princeton’s All-American Mike Maag, who had run 7:56 earlier that year indoors in the 3k and would run 13:41 the following April.

2008 Heps XC Order Of Finish
1. Ben True (Dartmouth), 23:59.6
2. Michael Maag (Princeton), 24:32.4
3. Zac Hine (Cornell), 24:43.3

Given the fact that True skied in the winter (True never ran an indoor conference meet), he ran the 1,500 outdoors in college due to his limited base and big bulk (True told us in Poland that skiing is 90% upper body so he’d pack on upper body weight) but managed to put up a 3:59.99 mile and 3:40.17 1,500 as a junior in 2007.

But True was still trying to figure out which sport he wanted to focus on. Ultimately the decision was running and he’s progressed steadily since finishing his collegiate eligibility at Dartmouth in 2009. At the time, True had a 5,000 PR of 14:17.

In 2010, he ran 13:43, which improved to 13:24 in 2011 and 13:20 in 2012. He picked up the 10,000 in 2011 and ran 28:16, which improved to 27:41 last year. Heading into the Olympic Trials, he had Lyme disease but managed a sixth in the 5,000.

Now he’s sixth in the world in cross-country. It will be interesting to see what he does during the next few years. If you got back to high school-cross country, one can easily argue that Ben True is more talented at cross-country than Galen Rupp. True may not be able to make up for the lost years, but he has something very few Americans have, a team silver medal from the World Cross Country Championships.

And what about that jinx?  Can we officially say it doesn’t exist? Before the 2009, NYC Marathon, we had one runner on our radio show, Meb Keflezighi. How did Meb do? He won.

Saturday pre-race we did one longer interview with the US team. It was with Ben True. Sunday he had the race of his life, at least until this point.

More: *LRC Post-Race Interview From Poland With Ben True
Pre-Race Interview With Ben True
*Article From Portland Press Herald On How True Chose Running Over Skiing
*Running Times Article Where Ben True Says He SKieed At 180 Pounds, Ran At 170 And Now Runs At 165

Stat Of The Week

5,000 PRs of Medallists in Boys Junior Race Vs. 5,000 PRs Of Medallists In Men’s Senior Race

Jr. 5,000 PRs
Gold: 12:47.53 
Silver: 13:26.84
Bronze: 13:04.34 
Sr. 5,000 PRs
Gold: 13:11.44
Silver: 12:53.58
Bronze: 13:04.55

Would Hagos Gebrhiwet Have Won The Senior Men’s Title?

The previous stat clearly shows the talent level in the junior boys race was incredibly high.

Our question is, “Would Gebrhiwet have won the senior men’s race had he run it?”

We have a separate piece explaining why we think the course distances listed for the meet were inaccurate (our best guess is the 6k was 5,640 meters, the 8k was 7,460 meters and the 12k was 11,100 meters), but it doesn’t change a key point – there is no doubt the performance level in the race lived up to the talent and the junior boys ran really fast.’s stat man John Kellogg has estimated that Gebrhiwet, who ran 21:04 for what was billed as 8k, could theoretically have run 32:05 for the distance that the senior men ran. The winning time for the senior men’s race? 32:45.

Yes, 40 seconds faster. Now the course was getting in progressively worse shape as they went on as it was getting wetter and wetter with the sun melting the snow and more and more chewed up as runners ran lap after lap on it. Since the junior boys ran second and the senior men ran last, the course was certainly ‘faster’ for the junior boys.

Would Gebrhiwet have won teh senior race? We’ll never know, but he definitely would have been in the hunt. Is there any doubt he’d be a top five guy? No, as pumped as we are about Ben True’s race, Gebrhiwet would beat him.

And one thing also seems certain. The silver medallist in the junior race – Leonard Barsoton of Kenya – who had the lead over Gebrhiwet for much of the race and only finished 4 seconds back, would have definitely been a top 10 guy in the senior men’s race as well. So while we were disappointed to not see Gebrhiwet in the senior race, we won’t complain too loudly as if all of the top juniors had been in the senior race, then the US wouldn’t have won silver.

One thing we are sure of – we were stunned that a 12:47 guy ran the junior race. In our minds, he would have been the pre-race favorite in the senior race.


Kara Goucher

Email Of The Week/Proof Positive That Elites Do Read LetsRun

Hey guys,
 I just wanted to say Thank You for your awesome coverage of World Cross.  It was such an inspiring championship for the Americans and I was so happy to see your coverage.  Had you not been there, I would have had a hard time finding out any real details.  Sad…
 Thanks again, and what a great meet!  -Kara Goucher

We’ve always said the best part about LetsRun – is you the visitors – and that’s true whether you’ve got a world championship medal in your house or not.

And some of our visitors wonder why the pros don’t post on the message boards. Do you expect Tom Brady to post on We don’t think so (although we bet many of them do post under assumed names).

It makes sense the pros would stick to the LRC homepage.  Where else do their accomplishments get treated as big, front page news on a daily basis, 365 days a year? Pretty much nowhere.

Did anyone see “US Beats Kenya At Running World Championships?” in any mainstream media coverage? Sadly no. Comedians could have had a field day with that line. USATF needs to hire someone and make it their full-time job to try and get the sport some publicity. Instead the US silver was treated the same treatment as ten masters “world records” falling on the USATF website.

Japanese Senior Teams Struggle But At Least They Showed Up

The Japanese men finished 14th out of 15 in the senior men’s race. Seeing that result and their senior women’s result  (12th out of 15), it’s amazing to us that as a country they do so well in the marathon. We hope Japan doesn’t get too much criticism for the senior men’s performance – although it was pretty awful as their runners finished 70th, 77th, 79th and 80th in the team standings in a race that only had 96 finishers – as at least they showed up. In our minds, in an effort to shame other countries into participating, the IAAF should consider listing the teams that don’t show up as finishing in last place – they are forfeiting after all.

Teams off the top of our heads that didn’t show up in the senior men’s team race – Ireland, Morocco, France, Germany, Russia. And what about Qatar and Bahrain? Teams shouldn’t only show up when they are going to do well. It’s bad for the sport.  Show up and take a beating like a man.

The IAAF should figure out a way to force people to come – insist on teams participating at least 75% of the time or declare them ineligible for future competitions. Make World XC competition as a team a requirement for track competition and you’ll see more teams showing up even when they’ll get beat.

Best Finish

Brett Robison at 2013 World XC *More World XC Photos

At the post-race banquet, we got to meet Australia’s 21-year old hope for the future, Brett Robinson (3:38/13:37 pbs), who had a nice race in Poland and finished one spot ahead of Elliott Heath in 29th in his world xc senior debut.

Robinson, who Aussie 1,500 record holder described Ryan Gregson as the “Backstreet Boy of the Australian running scene” and as “one of the least annoying people I’ve met” in his blog last week, had the best finish of anyone in the senior men’s race. He picked up 10 places on the last lap. Look for Robinson to mix it up at Carlsbad and Stanford in the new few months.

Think African Domination Is Over? Not So Fast?

The African countries may not have dominated the senior men’s race like they normally do but they sure did well in the other races. In the junior boys, African born runners took the top 19 spots. In the junior girls, Kenya and Ethiopia were basically perfect. They both put all six of their runners before anyone else put in one as African born runners took the top fifteen spots. In the senior women, African born runners went 1-12.

Quote of The Week (that wasn’t quote of the day)

“If I were in charge, there would be only two events in competitive distance running: the mile and cross country, and everything else would be for fun.”

–’s Peter Vigneron writing in a column where he he praises xc. We certainly agree with the sentiment but would never get rid of the 800 or marathon.

Videos Of The Week

We went to the official post-race banquet after the race on Sunday night and captured some video of runners/officials dancing to the Harlem Shake and Gagnam Style. It’s nice to see Kenyans and Ethiopians dancing together.

If that’s too boring for you, then you can watch the 30-seconds of the Canadians doing a staged Harlem Shake.

Quotes Of The Day & Last Week’s Homepages:

Note: To see a particular day’s homepage, click on the hyperlink of the date. The hyperlink below the date on the quotes will take you to that particular article – not that day’s homepage.

Monday 3/25

“I was 67th here (three years ago). I thought maybe that top 40 would be good, or maybe top 30, but we crushed it. It was exciting to hear the team numbers being called out during the race. On the last lap, I heard people yelling at me that if you get two more people, that we would have a bronze medal. I wasn’t going to get passed, and I got those last two guys. It’s an amazing feeling.”

– American Bobby Mack, who finished 19th to close out the scoring as the US stunned the world and won silver.


Sunday 3/24:

“It’s definitely the hardest course I’ve ever seen in my life…I think it will be surprising if at least half the field doesn’t fall at least one time during the race.”

– American Ben True talking about the 2013 World Cross Country course which will celebrate it’s 40th edition on Sunday.

Saturday 3/23:

“It turned into a double disaster for track and field fans less than a minute later (after Uceny’s fall) when Turkey’s Asli Çakir Alptekin, who once served a two-year doping ban, won (the Olympic gold).”

– writing last August about the women’s Olympic 1,500 final. If published media reports are correct, it looks like Alptekin will soon be facing a lifetime ban from the sport. It remains to be seen if her Olympic gold will be retroactively stripped or not. What about fellow Turk Gamze Bulut, who won silver?

Friday 3/22:

“For me, the bigger picture this year is to win the World Championships and successfully defend [a gold] in 2015 as part of the preparations for the 2016 Olympics in Brazil.”It forms part of my four-year plan leading up to the Olympics where I want gold.”

“I have no space at home for more silver medals.”

– Caster Semenya talking about her goals for 2013 and beyond. For someone who was accused by some of losing races on purpose last year (we don’t think she was), she seems pretty motivated to win.


Thursday 3/21:

“Just being a tall white guy, people tend to notice me a little more in comparison to people I race against. When I finished fourth, definitely, people acknowledged my performance. It wasn’t like I was hoisted above people’s shoulders like Rudy [the Notre Dame football player of movie fame] and carried off the field. The notoriety and stuff –- people were very happy to have an American finish that high, and in a lot of people’s eyes, probably a relatively unknown American. It definitely was life-changing.”

– Jason Hartmann talking about the recognition he received after finishing 4th (top American) at the Boston Marathon last year. This was a good interview with Hartmann who talks about his prep ahead of Boston 2013, being self-coached and how if he hadn’t done well at Boston last year he might have quit running (and could possibly retire after this year’s Boston too).


Wednesday 3/20:

“When I step back and think about the big picture, it is surreal to think of how far I’ve come these past four years. At the same time, by remaining focused on each intermediate step within the long term I feel like I am in an appropriate and satisfying place in terms of my overall development as an athlete.”

– 2012 US Olympian and 2013 US XC runner-up Kim Conley talking to LetsRun about how she’s gone from 16:17 in 2009 to 15:14 in 2012 but is aiming for even more in 2013 as she’s recently been hitting times on grass for repeats that would make her happy if they were done on the track. She’ll find out where she truly stands on Sunday in Poland at the 2013 World XC Champs.

Tuesday 3/19

“I’m also a big believer that when you’re in a situation that raises your view of what’s successful, its almost like free fitness. Training with a group of guys that have been to Olympics and World Championships and set American records, etc, has really changed my definition of what it means to be good. Jerry (Schumacher)‘s definitely played a part in that too. He’s been around the top level of the sport for a while so when he looks at my Olympic Trials race for instance, he doesn’t think, ‘Hey you did pretty good for it being a little banged up at the end of long season.’ He thinks, ‘You closed faster than anyone in the field, you totally blew a chance at the Olympic team by letting that gap open up.’ Racing is always hard and I think in the toughest moments you need to have high expectations so you can’t let yourself off the hook.”

– Chris Derrick talking in an exclusive interview with about some of the changes he’s made since becoming a professional runner that have elevated him to a new level in 2013.


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