Meet Japan’s Galen Rupp, Run Through The Finish Line, Is Cricket Bigger Than Track? And Who Drinks More? The Irish Or Aussies, Race Walkers Or 1,500 Runners?

The Week That Was – December 30, 2013 – January 5, 2014

January 6, 2014

Previous versions of The Week That Was can be found here.

Happy New Year. We hope you are excited about 2014 like we are. We were pleased to see the calendar turn because a New Year always ends the total lack of races that take place at the end of each year. With a new year comes New Year’s Eve, New Year’s Day, and New Year’s week races. There were a slew of them which we won’t really talk about below too much but you can read about here or here and also here. The biggest, based on prize money, was the São Silvestre 15k Road Race in Brazil, where Kenyans Edward Rotich and Nancy Kipron won more than $25,000.

There was one race of note that we don’t think showed up on the home page. At the We Run Rome 10k, Ethiopian star Tirunesh Dibaba won easily in 32:00. So clearly she’s in pretty good shape as she gets ready for the buildup to her first marathon in London in April.

Questions? Comments? Email us.

Trying To Get You To Think …

Trivia: Do you know who Mahendra Singh Dhoni is?

Article continues below player.

Why do we ask? Simply because we found it interesting to note that the Indian cricket player, whom we’ve never heard of, is #7 in the world in terms of endorsements while Usain Bolt is #8 according to Forbes.

Speaking of Bolt, he (and Mo Farah) both have new TV ads out in the UK. Bolt’s is pretty funny. You can watch both of them here.

Meet Japan’s Version Of Galen Rupp

If we told you that there was a supreme junior athlete in Japan who ran a 61:47 half marathon in November of his freshman year and then did the following on the glamor opening leg of the Hakone Ekiden – the biggest race of the year in Japan (and which was held last week) …

Alberto Salazar will be smiling again if Osako gets this good.

Freshman year (2011):
1st place, won by 53 seconds. 62:22.

Sophomore year (2012):
1st place, won by 23 seconds, 62:03

Senior year (2014):
5th place, lost by 49 seconds, 62:14.

… you might think, “He’s stagnating. Who is his coach?” (We didn’t list his junior year as he ran a different leg where he was third).

Well, the athlete in question is Suguru Osako and his coach is Alberto Salazar.

Stop – we’re not saying Salazar’s not a great coach, we’re just trying to get you to think as we did above. On the track, Osako certainly isn’t stagnating. After running 13:47 and 28:35 in high school – yes, high school – he’s continued to improve in college:

2011: 13:31.27
2012: 13:33.94
2013: 13:20.80

2011: 28:42.83
2012: 27:56.94
2013: 27:38.31

(Salazar started working with him just before the start of 2013).

Seeing those times, it’s interesting to compare Osako to Galen Rupp as Osako enters his final few months of college. Here are the PRs of Osako and Rupp on January 1st of the year 23rd year (when they both were 22 – both have May birthdays, so it’s a great comparison).

Galen Rupp At Age 22
1,500/mile: 4:01.8
5,000: 13:30.49
10,000: 27:33.48
Suguru Osako At Age 22
1,500/mile: 3:42.68
5,000: 13:20.80
10,000: 27:38.31
Overall: Osako

Now, have we changed our tune and are saying fans should expect Osaka to medal like Galen Rupp? Definitely not at 10,000m. It’s just interesting to compare the two.

To expect someone to mimic Galen Rupp’s improvement from age 22 to age 26 would be foolish. Japanese fans, you can hope for it, but please don’t expect it. No human in the history of humanity has gone from being a 10,000 runner at age 22 who struggled to break 4:00 in the mile to being a 3:50 indoor miler at age 26 except for Galen Rupp.

Making things harder for Osako is the fact that no Japanese runner has ever run under 3:37.42 for 1,500m (about 3:54 for a mile, the Japanese mile record is 3:58.89). In today’s era, even at a longer distance race like 10,000m, one needs great speed to medal. It’s safe to say Osako will never have that speed (although we believe he won a Japanese collegiate title at 1,500), but anything is possible in the marathon.

More: Some Reflections On The Ekiden
*Toyo University Grows Lead And Comes Through With Second-Fastest Hakone Ekiden Win
From The Vault: Japan Running News Vault (Dec. 2012): Waseda Ace Osako to Join Salazar’s Nike Oregon Project
MB: Jan 2013: Suguru Osako and the Oregon Project

This Race In China Makes Sure You Run All The Way Through The Finish Line

Mare Dibaba in 2010.

Have you ever dreamed big while out on a run? Maybe imagined what it would be like to dominate a major city marathon. Once you hit the 26 mile mark, knowing you had the race secure, you could just relax, start to celebrate and take in the adulation of the adoring crowd?

That’s how we always envisioned it.

But that certainly wasn’t the case in China last week.

The New Year of 2014 got a very quick world-leading time on just the second day of the year when Ethiopia’s Mare Dibaba, in her first marathon in 17 months, ran a course record 2:21:36 to win the 2014 Xiamen Marathon. Second place was some five minutes behind (2:26:36). But Dibaba wasn’t celebrating early in this one. At least we hope not. Why? Because every second under the old course record of 2:22:36 set by China’s then 18-year-old Zhang Yingying in 2008 (that mark is still the world junior record) was worth $500.

As a result, Dibaba won $71,000 for her efforts – $40,000 for the win and $31,000 for the record. Not too bad. It will be interesting to see if she would have got more or less by running Xiamen over Dubai later this month. Dubai pays $200,000 for first and $80,000 for second.

Speaking Of Not Getting To Enjoy Your Victory …

2013 World Cross-Country champion Japhet Korir returned to his winning ways on the mud by winning the IAAF XC meet in Antrim, Northern Ireland on January 4th, where he beat Uganda’s 10,000 meter man Thomas Akeyo over 10km. That race was on Saturday, but Korir had to quickly get to Italy to race the 57th Campaccio Classica del Cross on Monday, where he faced a rematch against 2013 World XC silver medallist Imane Merga of Ethiopia. In the World XC re-match, Korir once again got the best of Merga but they were only second and third as Albert Rop got the win.

Rop is certainly someone to pay attention to in 2014. Remember, the now 19-year-old ran 12:51.96 for second in Monaco last summer (in a race where Galen Rupp ran 13:04 and Bernard Lagat was a DNF) but didn’t compete at Worlds as he switched his allegiance to Bahrain from Kenya.

More: Mare Dibaba Sets Course Record At Xiamen Marathon (2:21:36) In her first marathon in 17 months, Mare Dibaba, who has a 2:19:52 PR, went out fast and was on 2:19:29 pace at 30km before fading. 38-year-old Mariko Kiplagat won a tactical men’s race in 2:08:06.
World Champion Japhet Korir Has Best Outing Since Worlds, Wins In N. Ireland – Fionnuala Britton Is 4th
LRC Vault:
Monaco 5,000: Four Men Break 13:00 But Americans Lagat And Rupp Struggle

Who Drinks More: The Irish, Australians Or Kenyans?

So three world-class athletes are walking down the street. One is a world champion Irish race walker, one is a Kenyan star 1,500 runner and one is the Aussie 1,500 record holder. One of them goes into a pub and has a drink, which one was it?

Based on last week’s news, clearly the Australian, possibly the Kenyan but definitely not the Irishman.

We’re sure many of you imbibed a little on New Year’s Eve so we found these alcohol-related quotes last week to certainly be topical.

Did you know that Australia’s 1,500 national record holder, Ryan Gregson, wants to be a bar owner when he retires?

“I would eventually like to end up in the bar/nightclub trade, and I’ve scoped out a spot on the Gold Coast that would work really well. When I was a kid I was thinking more nightclub, but now I’m thinking bar. I reckon most seedy nightclub owners look like they have a connection to the drug trade, and that’s not my thing. A bar would be a safer way to go.”

Ryan Gregson, Australian 1,500-meter record holder, talking to Runners Tribe about his plans for post-Olympic life.

Now that doesn’t mean that all 1,500 stars like to drink. Asbel Kiprop‘s case is a strange one, Kiprop, the greatest 1,500m runner on the planet, is either a crazy boozer or a complete teetotaler. In case you missed it, world and Olympic champion Kiprop was accused of assaulting a security guard in Kenya in a drunken rage. Kiprop claimed he was just trying to find a place to eat and doesn’t even drink. Taking it a step further, he reportedly said the following to Kenya’s The Star refuting the assault charge:

“One can’t train and use alcohol since it is prohibited by Olympic laws and personally I don’t drink and I know its consequences.”

(For the record, drinking hasn’t been banned by the IOC; Kiprop’s statement is just hyperbole you often find in Kenyan newspapers).

The one person we know who isn’t going into the pub is the Irish walker:

“I look at some athletes in Ireland who hit one high and then came back down and I don’t want to be one of them. The typical Irish thing, ‘oh, your man went on the beer for a year,’ or whatever.”

– 2013  50k walk world champion Rob Heffernan of Ireland talking in a great profile on him and his plans for 2014.

We enjoyed the profile on Heffernan but didn’t like how he had words of praise for Russian dopers for all the work before they dope: “Doping comes when there’s big money and professional teams but, before they get that far, they’ve (got) brilliant systems in place and that’s what we have to concentrate on, getting your system right.”

Quotes Of The Week (that weren’t quote of the day)


“But like New Year’s Eve drinking, you had to know when to say when, because a sudden change in conditions (i.e. John Law) could lead to real difficulties, as I learned one unfortunate winter’s morn when I went out on an ill-conceived out-and-back twelve miler from my Boston apartment …

So there I was about six miles from home, discomfort turning to actual pain, and I realized I was experiencing a mild case of penile frostbite – or as close to it as you can get without seeking medical attention or nursing derision. My choices were limited, and polarizing. Do I stuff my hand down there to create some warmth, but at the same time reduce speed and therefore stay out longer in the elements? Or, do I turn on the jets and get home as fast as I can while upping the wind-chill in the process?”

Toni Reavis blogging about dealing with every man’s biggest fear when running in the cold. Toni has since learned the errors of his ways and moved from Boston to San Diego.

More: Toni Reavis On Running In The Cold And Dealing With Dreaded Penis Frostbite


“Another aspect of the Kenyan runner’s mentality is their virtue of patience. These guys sure know how to hammer a run, but also know how to ‘jog’ (read: practically walk) for a float in a fartlek session or in a warm up/cool down. Kenyan life teaches patience in itself, whether it be Eldoret traffic (Far worse than Sydney or Los Angeles peak hour!), 1 hour lines at the bank or 90 minute waits at restaurants. The majority of people in Sydney are in a rush and trying to fit the most they can into every day. Iten is most definitely a more laid back lifestyle and that is reflected in the athlete’s training.”

James Nipperess, Australia’s steeple national champ, writing in his first blog entry on from Lornah Kiplagat‘s high altitude training center in Iten, Kenya.


“Running is a sport that rewards constancy, in both pace and attitude, which may explain why Joy Johnson was so good at it. As a senior citizen, she ran an average of three marathons a year, buttressed by dozens of shorter races, always with a bow in her hair. … Over time, as she lost her husband to cancer, as age and injuries claimed even her younger running partners, she stuck to an unwavering daily routine. She awoke at 4 a.m. and fixed herself some coffee and a bowl of oatmeal, taking time to read the Bible before heading out to the nearby track at Willow Glen High School, the same place where she once taught. There, she walked and chatted with a group of regulars known as the ‘track pack’ before accelerating into her own workout …

Her answers about why she ran were simple every time: Running made her happy. It helped her sleep well at night. More than once she remarked that when the time came, she hoped to die in her running shoes.”

– Excerpt from a New York Times article on 86-year-old Joy Johnson by Sara Corbett, who almost died in her running shoes as she was gone less than 48 hours after slipping and falling during mile 20 of the 2013 ING New York City Marathon.


Australian Olympic Steeplechaser (And Former Florida Gator) Genevieve LaCaze On How She Met Her Current Boyfriend, Aussie 1,500 Record Holder Ryan Gregson:

Genevieve LaCaze: Well I can answer this one because it stuck with me the day we met. It was national cross country 2007 and he had just won. He walked up to me with his little entourage of Brett Robinson, Kevin Batt & David Ricketts, took his shirt off and said “Hey Genevieve – do you like what you see?”

I paused … And walked away … But he sure left an impression.

The next 6 years I kept in touch, dropped hints here and there and finally he took the bait. The rest is history …

More: Australian Olympians Ryan Gregson & Genevieve LaCaze Are Dating


“Whether it is a junior meet or university meet, you see syringes all over the track. Nobody has given it a thought. The onus lies in the training center to start education programs and start randomly testing the kids so that there is fear.”

Ashwini Nachappa, a former track star in India who is the president of Clean Sports India, an organization that fights corruption in athletics, talking in a New York Times article examining why Indian athletes are the most doped in the world.


Doping controls can work without actually catching dopers, provided they act as a large enough ‘risk’ to change the behavior of the candidate doper. … Retrospective testing, better resolution of testing, more testing and the biological passport concepts all aim to do the same thing – obviously to catch, but also to dissuade, doping.”

– Excerpt from an article last week on the great Science of Sport website, where Ross Tucker (inspired by’s “Clean Or Dirty” poll) looked at the track and field world records from a statistical standpoint.

More: Inspired By’s “Clean Or Dirty” Poll, The Science Of Sport Analyzes The Suspected Dirtiness Of The World Records Scientifically

Video Of The Week – More Haile G Dancing

Last week, we shared with you how US marathoner Becky Wade had traveled the globe for a fellowship exploring different running cultures. In Ethiopia, she had the privilege of going to Haile G‘s house and watching him dance. We even included a seven-second clip of him dancing. Probably not long enough to give him a fair rating.

Well, Becky has emailed and said our post last week motivated her to upload a longer clip of Haile G showing his moves.

Wade just uploaded the clip seen below last week as the “internet was way too slow in Ethiopia.” She hopes this video entertains. Oh yeah, the woman in the lower left-hand corner in 2012 Olympic Champion Tiki Gelana, whom Wade now realizes may have some moves of her own, as Wade wrote, “Tiki Gelana was holding back on me!”

What About The Sport?

Before we get to the full batch of Recommended Reads below, we thought we’d share with you an excerpt from a piece we enjoyed on Brett Larner’s Japanese Running News site. Brett wondered why tens of millions of people in Japan will watch 15 hours of the two-day collegiate Hakone Ekiden on live TV in Japan when maybe just 10,000 watch the NCAA cross-country championships live in the US live on the Internet.

He, like us, thinks the Ekiden format is much better than the cross-country format as an Ekiden allows many story lines to be told to the TV audience at once. You can watch the battle for the lead, but also the battle for top 10 (guaranteed entry for the next year), whereas in most American races, it’s next to impossible to follow multiple story lines.

Watch a regular race and most of the time you will only see a few people going head-to-head or somebody time trialing. It’s exciting for serious fans and the average person might watch it once or twice, but there’s no overall story there, no larger drama or plot. It seems to me that the situation in track and field and road running now is much the same as if baseball were just a series of home run derbies or soccer an endless series of penalty kicks. The hardcore fans might like it and the average person might be entertained by it once or twice, but build an entire sport on it? Baseball and soccer both have a lot more going on, requiring a range of skills from different people to build something complex and compelling.

That’s what you have in an ekiden relative to an ordinary track, road or cross-country race. Just like home runs and penalty kicks factor into their sports, pure speed and head-to-head competition factor into an ekiden, but only as elements of something bigger, killer plays in the overall game. There is strategy, not just tactics, room for somebody like Ichiro and other skills that runners who are not the fastest can bring into play to contribute to the evolution of the overall game. Just as baseball and soccer appeal to mass audiences as multi-dimensional team sports, so does the ekiden in Japan.

During an NCAA cross-country race, the nature of the race makes it so that you have little idea what place the teams are in until way after it’s over (the mid-race quick score tallies are notoriously inaccurate), so multiple story lines are hard to follow.

In major marathons, there are tons of story lines going on but the problem is even supposed geniuses like ESPN do a poor job of getting those out to you. For example, the drama of the chase pack or the battle for top American honors was largely missed by ESPN this year according to Larner:

In comparison I can’t help but think back to last year’s NYC Marathon broadcast on ESPN. NYC does a great job these days of putting together interesting, varied fields with a range of different athletes. ESPN’s broadcast was good from a technical standpoint but completely monotone. Only the famous names up front, period. How about showing what the top Americans are doing? How about showing that guy in the red singlet by himself in the distance who’s coming up and running people down, or at least saying who he is? What’s the point in having an intriguing, multi-dimensional event if you’re only to present one dimension?

That reminds us, we Tivoed the ESPN broadcast while we were in New York covering the marathon this year, meaning to watch it when we got home to see if it was any good. Maybe that should be our New Year’s resolution for 2014 as we still haven’t watched it.

More: Why Do Tens Of Millions Watch 15 Hours Of Distance Running In Japan? Brett Larner’s Got Some Ideas

Recommended Reads

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 1/6:

– Olympic and World marathon champ Stephen Kiprotich talking confidently about his prospects for a fast marathon time at 2014 London, for which he starts training next week. In November, Kiprotich was much less confident about his time prospects as he told us before New York there was no way he could run 2:03.

Sunday 1/5:

Prakash Singh, 2012 shot put Olympian for India, talking in a New York Times article examining why Indian athletes are the most doped in the world.

Saturday 1/4:

– Double World and Olympic 1,500 champ Asbel Kiprop denying the allegations that he drunkenly assaulted a security guard in Kenya.

Friday 1/3:

Nick Symmonds talking to why he’s left behind Nike’s Oregon Track Club and signed with the Brooks Beasts Track Club.

Thursday 1/2:

Wednesday 1/1:

– Irish 50k walk world champion Rob Heffernan talking in a great profile on him.

Tuesday 12/31:

– American Ben True talking about his 2013 campaign, which did include a World XC team silver in the Miracle on the Mud.

Questions? Comments? Email us.

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