September 18, 2013
This week we rave about the resurrection of Kenenisa Bekele‘s career and the 2013 BUPA Great North Run and wonder if the US 1500 women are the best in the world. Plus Bernie Montoya, Patrick Makau, Johan Cronje, and Haile Gebrselassie, should you not eat dessert, and yet another example of how you don’t need drug tests to know who is doping (Sergio Sanchez).
A few quick thoughts:
So less than a week after a story comes out on Patrick Makau where he is quoted talking about running 2:02 in Berlin, Makau withdraws from the 2013 BMW Berlin Marathon with a knee injury. It just reminds us to be wary of press releases and what athletes say before a competition as they may be duping the fans. As we said last week, would it have been too much of Makau of to say, “My training has been going great but I’m a little worried about something that has flared up with my knee?”
No it would not.
Speaking of Berlin, one of the World Marathon majors itself provided support for the rationale that the Competitor Group used to drop elite athlete support – that elite athletes bring little to the table. We realized last week that the Berlin Marathon organizers got the name and age of one of their leading contenders wrong for this year’s race in a press release.
They called 2011 world junior cross country champion, 58:54 half marathoner and 2:06:12 marathoner Geoffrey Kipsang by the name of Geoffrey Kiptanui and said he was 21 not 20, showing that sometimes even race organizers themselves view the Kenyans as simply fast, nameless dark bodies and not individuals. A bad, bad error.
If the PR people can’t even get it right, then you see how hard it is for fans to follow the sport properly.
We were particularly angry about it as we went out of our way to promote Kipsang as an individual and potential star in February of this year:
LRC Geoffrey Kipsang: The Total Stud Who Could Win World XC, But Will He Run It? Kipsang is simply on fire right now. Haven’t heard of him? Read our article or look below but he’s currently the best runner on the planet.
Geoffrey Kipsang (58:54) And Lucy Kabuu (66:09) Win 2013 RAK Half Marathon On Record-Setting Day
Last week, we were scratching our heads when Mo Farah said the following:
“One day, when I have a good plan, I’ll be able to see how close I can get. Times are nothing. When Usain Bolt ran 9.58 for 100m, how many people remember the world records set before? They are there to be broken, whereas gold medals can never be taken away from me.”
– Mo Farah talking to The Telegraph‘s Oliver Brown.
While we think track and field’s obsession with times in rabbitted race after rabbitted race is absurd, we also think Farah’s point here is ridiculous. Usain Bolt became a legend because he obliterated the field by running a world record at the Olympics. Bolt’s dominance which was a result of his super-fast times has made him one of the biggest celebrities in all of sport.
Later on, we have several quotes from Brown’s piece on Farah from France and it appears as one of our Recommended Reads. It’s certainly worth a read: Hard work, not drugs, has made me a winner, says world and Olympic champion Mo Farah.
Those of you who believe in the “every little thing you do matters” theory of distance training got a boost last week when Moscow 1500 bronze medallist Johan Cronje “attributed his own success in 2013 to two factors — a different attitude and eating fewer desserts.”
Our personal thought? Technically, yes the theory is true but philosophically it’s often not. What the hell does that mean? Well it’s easy to not see the forest amidst all the trees.
The big picture is most important. Having a healthy, motivated, confident and relaxed athlete leads to success and often times obsessing over every detail doesn’t lead to that.
Some times the teetotaler on a college team (who is so proud of himself for not having a beer in season) is the same person who repeatedly is staying up to 3:30 am to get his Chemistry homework done, not realizing that sleep is critical to success. Obsessing over too many details can be stressful and result in an anxious, unhappy athlete.
So the first sub-4 minute mile was run on Alaskan soil last week. That’s pretty cool. Kudos to New Balance and Jack Bolas for getting the job done. The bad news? It came on a 413 meter indoor track. Does that mean it deserves a tiny asterisk?
More: Jack Bolas Runs First-Ever Sub-4 Mile On Alaskan Soil On an indoor 413-meter track. MB: Jack Bolas will attempt the first Sub 4 minute mile in Alaska
Congrats to the Pittsburgh Three Rivers Marathon, Inc. The people in Pittsburgh, which hosted the 2000 US Olympic men’s marathon trials, do running right. Three Rivers Marathon, Inc is a non-profit with the goal of “promoting the love of running.” While Competitor Group, a private equity group is dropping elite support, the Three Rivers Marathon is upping it to $150,000.
So if you are looking for a marathon in 2014, consider taking a look at Pittsburgh which is the first weekend in May.
LetsRun.com came out this weekend advocating that people not run any of Competitor’s events (Rock N Roll Series, NFL Run Series). Over a million unique visitors visit LetsRun.com each month. We can make a difference. Capitalism is a two-way street. Support events that support the sport of running.
LRC Editorial No, Thank You: We Don’t Need Competitor Running The Vast Majority Of Big Running Events In This Country
So last week, World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) president John Fahey announced that a “steroid passport” will be out by the end of the year. That’s great news and another blow to prospective drug cheats.
Can someone please tell us why new tests get announced ahead of time publicly time after time? Whether it was the EPO test 10 plus years ago or the steroid passport now? To us, the fear of getting caught is a huge reason not to cheat. Is WADA afraid of what will happen if they don’t tip people off? A big thumbs down to WADA for yet again letting the cat out of the bag.
Spring it on the cheats and catch them en masse.
2012 BUPA Great North Run – The 2013 Race of The Year? We Know One Thing Running Has Now Had Its Rope-A-Dope
The BUPA Great North Run certainly lived up to the hype.
When people ask us, “What can we do to make running more popular?” We normally have a lot of suggestions but also recognize that running will never be soccer, the NFL, etc. as there isn’t the inherent random outcome in running that there is in say the NFL due to turnovers (or soccer due to the fact you can dominate and lose which is also true in baseball – you can hit the ball hard as hell and get out or dribble it and get on).
Distance running, and this is one of the reason’s letsrun.com is so popular, is often more about the anticipation of what is going to happen than what actually happens. If you know the runners involved, their back-stories, their prep races, etc. it’s all very exciting to analyze. If you don’t or if you miss the break, it’s not.
In a distance race, nine times out of ten you are waiting for that one moment when the break is made. Who is going to go and when? Is the first move going to be the final move and be decisive?
That’s why it infuriates us when time after time the broadcasts of major marathons, particularly Boston which historically has been on live on TV, repeatedly miss the big break in the race, either through ineptitude, an interview of the wheelchair winner or because often times the women’s race has ended right around the time the men’s race is getting interested (the women’s start needs to be pushed forward so it ends when the men are half-way).
The men’s race at the BUPA Great North Run had it all and it was on live on the BBC so there were no commercials and fans didn’t miss a moment of it.
1) There were three legends leading the field – Haile Gebrselassie, Kenenisa Bekele and Mo Farah. You didn’t need to go letsrun to read a preview to know who was running, what their background was and what you could anticipate.
2) It had a thrilling sprint finish and unexpected winner.
3) It had something you basically never, EVER see. Bekele dropped off before half-way and came back and won the race. This wasn’t just let’s wait for the break. Before one would even expect a break, Bekele was done. And then wait, he’s back. But surely he’ll get out-kicked by Farah. Then the move was on. Bekele made his late race break. And it worked.
After the race, we learned that Bekele fell off on purpose. This was running’s version of Muhammad Ali‘s Rope-A-Dope. Those watching the race live saw Bekele fall off and likely thought, “Wow. He really is done. He can’t even keep up with the 40 plus year old Haile Gebrselassie at a modest pace.”
Now that the race is over and Bekele had won, people (well at least his agent who is a bit biased) are speculating whether he can break the marathon world record in London next year. What a turnaround.
It also totally turns around our view of his 2013 season.
Yes, Bekele disappointed in the 5k when he dropped out in Hengelo and was just fourth in the Ostrava. So maybe at age 31, he’s no longer got the wheels to excel at a shorter distance. No big loss. Bernard Lagat moved up from 1500 to 5k just fine. (It’s also interesting to note, Bekele is less than a year older than Mo Farah).
Long distance wise, Bekele has been doing just fine. He won the Prefontaine 10,000 and now the BUPA Great North Run. Welcome back Kenenisa. We’re sorry if we started to write you off a little too early.
What a race. It’s hard to really put into words how good it was. It was almost as if you had an All-Star Game or even Legends Game that proved to be the most entertaining game of the year.
Women’s Performance Of The Year??
The men’s race the BUPA Great North run was full of drama and intrigue but the women’s race was all about the pure brilliance of 2013 London Marathon champion, Priscah Jeptoo. 65:45 for 13.1. Wow.
Yes, the course was downhill (just over 30 meters which is only worth about 6 seconds) and downwind (according to weatherunderground it was between 14 and roughly 21 miles per hour, but with gusts over 30 mph) so we’ll have to analyze what it all means. Maybe we’ll try to get LetsRun.com’s stat/wind expert John Kellogg to weigh in on it later with a detailed analysis (Remember, he’s the one guy in the world who predicted the possibility of the 2:03:02 in Boston before it happened (MB: Official John Kellogg Is a Genius Thread (He Predicted The 2:03 on Boston), but a quick glance at his post-2011 Boston Marathon analysis (JK Babbles About The 2011 Boston Marathon) reveals a 20 mph tail-wind can be worth 10-12 seconds per mile. That’s A LOT.
But regardless of what the 65:45 is worth on a loop course, we know one thing – we were very impressed by it. When you are handily beating two of the greatest women’s runners in history in Meseret Defar and Tirunesh Dibaba, who both showed they were in good form in Moscow, then you are running a hell of a race. Additionally, when you are approaching the fastest 13.1 time ever run (65:40) and that time belongs to the fastest road runner in history, Paula Radcliffe, who ran it on the same course, you are doing something very impressive, particularly when you run the last half of the race at 30 flat pace.
To be fair to Radcliffe, a quick look at weatherunderground for September 22, 2003 (when Radcliffe ran 65:40) shows the wind was a lot less – less than 10 mph (and coming from a less favorable direction NW versus SW) – when she blitzed her time, but kudos to Priscah Jeptoo.
Sergio Sanchez Tests Positive…
Last week, it came out officially that 2010 World indoor 3000 silver medallist Sergio Sánchez of Spain is a doper as he tested positive.
Big breakthroughs in today’s era rightfully often bring a lot of doping scrutiny.
Look what Sanchez did in 2010:
Going into 2010, Sánchez had a 1500 pb of 3:39 and a 3000 pb of 7:43. What did he run that winter? 7:32 for 3000 and 4:52 for 2000. 4:52 for 2000 is crazy good.
That type of improvement deserves some scrutiny. Sanchez got the scrutiny and said all the right things.
The thing about Sanchez getting busted that makes his case most interesting is he went WAY out of his way to deny doping.
Back at the end of December 2010, thanks to the great translation work of LetsRun.com visitor, Stewart Atkins, we had up on LetsRun a piece that Sanchez wrote for a Spanish newspaper where he talked about being strong enough to avoid the temptation to dope which he admitted was rampant in Spain:
“It’s very easy to walk into a doctor’s office with 7000 bucks in your pocket (5000 euros) and tell the doctor that “the time has come to reach my full potential. Do anything you have to do, here are my veins. Just make me into a champion.” I could have done that. But I would have had a short future. With all of the huge advances in science, I’m sure it would’ve been easy to use something and then break 3:39, which I had run off of hard work alone.
“But I kept a cool head, even as I was going through some awful times financially. My parents split up due to some abuse issues in September of 2004 (during the Olympics) and I ended up being basically homeless. I kept on training though. I was doing road races trying to earn 750 dollars a week (500 euros) to try to make the 3300 or so (2500 euros) I needed to each month to live. I lived like that for 2 years. Those who knew what was going on told me that what was happening was a real shame, because I had talent and it was being wasted.”
Sanchez then attributed his breakthrough to his dad finally giving him a loan and telling him to train properly and some doctors giving him a new nutrition program.
A good friend of ours at LetsRun, himself a big student of the sport and a former two-time Foot Locker finalist, believed Sanchez’s story and friended Sanchez on facebook and said he even posted his blood test results online to try to assuage the skeptics.
Such a good story, except it wasn’t true. He’s now tested positive for EPO which doesn’t innocently get into your system.
Shame on him.
More: MB: Sergio Sanchez: hardly surprising, but…
From the LRC Vault from 2010: Spanish Athletics Doping Scandal: Sergio Sanchez Opens Up About Doping in Spain
*Spanish Distance Runners Alberto Lozano, Sergio Sanchez And Angel Mullera Test Positive
*MB: Is 7:32- 3000m man- SERGIO SANCHEZ (Esp) the Real Deal?
*MB: Is Rupp pulling a Sergio Sanchez?
The US Women – The Best at the 1500 in the World?
Last week, we had a stat where we wondered if the US was the best 1500 nation in the world on the men’s side. Really the stat was maybe more about being the deepest as America has more sub 3:35.00 guys on the year than anyone.
This week, it’s time to look at the women. Again, the cut-off we used was just below the ‘A’ standard. The women’s ‘A’ standard is 4:05.50 but we hate how the IAAF picks random numbers like that and used 4:05.00 instead.
# of Sub-4:05.00 Runners in 2013
USA – 7
Ethiopia – 4
Russia – 4
Morocco – 3
Great Britain -3
Canada – 2
Sweden, Bahrain, Australia – 1
Now, last week, we also had a stat showing the number of sub 13:12 runners to make the US men look good in the 5000. Sorry, there is no number in the 5000 that we can cherry pick to make the US women look great in the 5000.
# of Sub-15:00 5000 Women in 2013
Ethiopia – 8
Kenya – 8
USA – 2
Rest of World – 0
The Kenyans and Ethiopians are SO much better than everyone else. Jenny Simpson, the top non-African in the world, is just the 14th fastest in the world at 5000.
Ten Quotes of the Week (that weren’t Quote of the Day)
“To do this (be the best in the world at distance running), you can’t be distracted. It would be great to run around with the family every day, go shopping, take the children out. At my level, though, I can only afford to do that for one week maximum. Otherwise I have to eat, sleep, train – nothing else.”
– Mo Farah talking to The Telegraph‘s Oliver Brown.
“He (Bernie Montoya) comes with a lot of hoopla, but he’s still very untapped aerobically. He has lots of room to grow there especially on the track. In cross country, it’s difficult for any freshman to be a major player. We’ll see the fruition of all this work pay off on the track.”
– Arizona State coach Louis Quintana talking about freshman Bernie Montoya who ran 4:01.32 in an article in the Azcentral.com about how Montoya’s not breaking 4:00 might have been a good thing. We 100% agree.
If Montoya wasn’t fully developed aerobically in high school, he’s going to be a monster.
“Shortly after the Olympics I drove past a woman who was taking a picture of my gold postbox in Teddington. So I stuck my head of the window and started doing the ‘Mobot’
– Mo Farah talking to The Telegraph‘s Oliver Brown.
“When he was competing, Montgomery would buy books in the airport so he didn’t look out of place in first class on the plane, but he never read them. In prison, for the first time in his life, he finished a book and read voraciously. He went through the Bible multiple times, and he finished the Twilight series.”
– an excerpt from a piece in USA Today by Rachel Axon on former World Record holder Tim Montgomery.
“Generally, if the government says do something, you put two fingers up. I think we’ve proved that one of the best ways to get people active is offer a big event to aim for. If you’ve got an exam, you do some homework. If you’re in an event, you train. A bike ride, a swim, a run, it’s the incentive of the big occasion that gets you out there.”
–Brendan Foster, the creator of the BUPA Great North Run which soon will celebrate its one millionth finisher.
“I remember when I was in sixth form at school, watching the 10,000m – a big race, Ethiopia versus Kenya. As soon as the class finished we stormed out and went to the TV. I remember Haile was leading and Paul Tergat was pushing, pushing and pushing. Haile was just there and it came right to the line, we were all leaning forward and Haile stuck his chest out.
“That was one of the greatest races I’ve ever watched and from that point I said: ‘I want to be Olympic champion.'”
– Mo Farah talking about how he was inspired by an elite to become a runner.
“A federal judge has ruled that Lance Armstrong, the disgraced cyclist who admitted to doping earlier this year, is allowed to lie in his memoirs.”
“You never know. It depends on the schedule, the time, how fit you are but in sport, everything is possible,..
Did anyone expect in 1952 that Zatopek would win three golds in a row? And don’t forget he had the Finnish athletes and how strong they were. But he did it..4.
It is not easy even to win a single gold, but why not? The 10,000m is a straight final, the marathon is a straight final; only the 5,000m is not. Maybe he could win two of them and take another medal or something unique and historical.”
– Haile Gebrselassie urging Mo Farah to consider going for the 5,000, 10,000, and marathon triple at the 2016 Olympics.
The quote is inspiring for sure but a little ironic as Gebrselassie himself never even ran a single step in an Olympic 5000. And he only ran the 5000 at Worlds in his first ever Worlds (1993 when he got silver). Geb never pulled off the double himself. Maybe he realizes now the error of his ways.
“I intended to ride clean.”
– Lance Armstrong in the new documentary due out in November by Alex Gibney (an Academy Award winner who has done films on Enron, Elliot Spitzer and US torture in Afghanistan) talking about his 2009 comeback in the Tour de France.
Gibney thought the quote indicated Armstrong did indeed dope in 2009, which he denies to this day.
“The first race of my life in the U.S., my coach said, ‘I want you to run very, very fast in front of everybody,’ and I said ‘OK.’”
(Lopez) Lomong explained a person in a golf cart drove the course before the runners to show them the way, something he didn’t entirely understand.
“I knew the person driving the golf cart was part of the race, so I raced him,” he said.
Lomong passed the cart, but got off course and eventually took third in the race.
– excerpt from a great piece in the Enid News and Eagle on Lopez Lomong’s recent speech at Northern Oklahoma college. The article is very inspiring and reminds us of his incredible life story.
Other News of Note:
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.
“It was a great race. It was a great finish. I thought when Kenenisa went with a mile to go. I thought the pace was just ridiculous and I thought I can come back and close the gap slowly. I managed to close it a little bit but you can’t take away what he has. He has the great speed and it came down to the last 200 meters – right for the line – but it was a great race. … I am definitely disappointed to have finished second, but I didn’t just finish second – I finished second to a great athlete.”
– Mo Farah talking about his thrilling half-marathon loss to Kenenisa Bekele yesterday at the Great North Run.
“I challenge him to come on this campaign, tell the truth, tell the world that he has used performance enhancing drugs. … He would be ashamed but he would be a man to come forward and we can work together. If he can’t come face to face we know what he is. He is not a man.”
– Drug cheat Ben Johnson calling on Carl Lewis to “come clean” and admit to doping himself.
“Why in the world did you think that you had to make the lies so big? Why did you have to involve the whole cancer community? Why did you have to use the power of your story to go after people who were trying to tell the truth?”
“I do think that psychologically for Lance, his cancer work allowed him to give his lies a lot of force. Because he could feel kind of righteous anger as he’s vilifying people publicly. Even though, of course, he’s telling a lie.”
– Academy Award director Alex Gibney, the guy who previously did documentaries on Enron, Elliot Spitzer and US torture in Afghanistan, talking in a Q & A about his new documentary on Lance Armstrong, “The Armstrong Lie,” which was screened this week. Initially, Gibney had produced a “Root for Lance!” documentary with a Matt Damon voice-over that had to be scrapped once it was clear Lance was a doper. Gibney reveals that he believes Lance admits in the film he doped at the 2009 Tour, which Lance still denies, as Lance says in the film he “intended” to be clean in 2009..
“We have a problem with the Competitor Group – a for-profit company owned by the $2.8 billion Calera Capital – owning many of the biggest races across the country, getting millions of dollars in public subsidies (think tax dollars), being allowed to close down public streets for hours on end, without doing anything to give back to the sport of running.
We at LetsRun.com love the professional aspect of the sport. It is our passion. It is also our belief that the pro runners are the ones who inspire future generations of runners. … We’ve long watched the rise of Competitor Group with suspicion and thought to ourselves, ‘It would be so much better if a non-profit like the New York Road Runners became the US Road Runners and put these races on all over the country. That way instead of the excess money going to private equity group it would go back into the sport whether it’s to elites or youth running programs.'”
– Excerpt from an LRC editorial that is critical of the Competitor Group’s recent decision to drop support of the sport of running (versus the fitness activity) in a chase for increased profits.
“To this day, I get comments about that speed golf record. I did a high school camp last month and somebody asked me about it. Here I was running sub-3:50 miles at one time and yet they still love to talk about the fastest round of golf.”
– Speedgolf legend (and WR holder of the most sub-4 miles at 136) Steve Scott talking about how he’s still gets comments on his epic golf round of 95 strokes in 29:33 back in 1979. Bernard Lagat and Nick Willis are competing in the World Speedgolf Championships next month. Interview with Lagat about his speed golf debut here.
“I had the ability to run 9.92, 9.8. I needed the ability to break Maurice Greene, Ben Johnson’s record. And to get that ability you’ve gotta be enhancing. At the time, it was worth the risk. To secure a real contract, to secure Gatorade, secure the fame that you want to secure, 9.92 wouldn’t do it.”
– Convicted drug cheat and felon Tim Montgomery talking about why he turned to drugs during his sprinting career to break the 100m World Record. This quote is a perfect example of why the minimum 4-year doping ban (supported by Asbel Kiprop here) is so important. A 2-year ban leaves the risk-reward ratio to dope too much in the favor of doping.
“I looked for Coach among the faces in the crowd but as I got closer to the main stand there was a boo. Then another, and another. The noise was getting louder and louder with every step. By the time I’d reached the sidelines, everybody in the bleachers was cat-calling me. Man they looked annoyed. Some people were even shouting, cussing, saying that I’d stopped on purpose because I knew I wasn’t going to win. They jeered me for limping away.”
“‘What the hell is this?’ I thought, feeling sick – seriously sick. ‘Where did this come from?’ My world crashed in; I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. … [I thought] is this really working? Should I really continue? All these things that I do, no matter how hard I try, this might not be for me. This track and field thing is tough.”
– Usain Bolt, talking about how he wanted to quit the sport when he was 19-years old and was booed by Jamaican fans for dropping out of a 4×400.