WTW: Even Kenyan Teens Are Embarrassed To Run, Kenya Rules Ethiopia In Quantity But Not Quality, And Hope For Galen Rupp?

by LetsRun.com
April 4, 2014

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

Last week was a busy one for us as 1.1 was in Jamaica learning the key to sprinting and there was hot half-marathon action at Worlds in Copenhagen and in Berlin as well. In the US, the Carlsbad 5000 was held.

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We covered all of those events extensively as they took place so you can read most of our analysis of those events at the following links: *LetsRun.com Goes To Jamaica – IAAF Caribbean Day In The Life *2014 IAAF World Half Marathon Championships *2014 Berlin Half Marathon *2014 Carlsbad 5000.

Now that 1.1 has recovered from  Jamaica and the rest of us going to major league openers, we add a little more insight into last week.

Questions? Comments? Email us.

Even Teen Phenoms In Kenya Are Afraid to Run Because They’re Afraid They’ll Be Made Fun Of

We know that many high school coaches in America struggle with trying to get talented preps to fully embrace the sport and become real runners – not just dilettantes. Running isn’t necessarily cool, particularly if it means embracing the short, shorts.

As one wise friend of ours who played basketball in high school said about running in high school, “No offense to you guys, but cross country running was just barely above the Goths at my high school.”

Well guess what? The fear of embracing the sport even exists in Kenya. Check out this excerpt of an article from The Standard on Geoffrey Kipsang, who at 21 was crowned 2014 IAAF World Half Marathon champion last week:

“His pieces of advice inspired me a lot. And even after this, I still faced another challenge since I feared to train in public,” he said. Kipsang, who lacked confidence in athletics, was afraid that locals would mock him while in training and this saw him take too long to engage in full-time training. He could win the inter-class competitions in school and take a low profile thereafter.

More: Double victory: Kamworor and Cherono triumph at the World Half Marathon in Copenhagen
*LRC 2014 IAAF Half Marathon Coverage Page

Galen Rupp Fans, There Is Hope For You

Galen Rupp has accomplished many things an entire generation of American born distance runners only dreamed of accomplishing – Olympic silver, an American record of 26:48.00 in the 10,000 etc.

Despite all of that, Rupp fans must cringe every time he lines up to face Bernard Lagat as for his career Rupp is 1 for 19 against Lagat in races they’ve both finished (both has one DNF against the other).

Rupp fans, don’t despair. As you get ready for the outdoor season, we provide you with some hope. Take solace in the fact that China’s Wang Zheng is the new Asian record holder in the women’s hammer after her monstrous 77.68 heave last week.

What the hell does the women’s hammer have to do with Rupp and Lagat?

Well Wang, like Rupp, has a rival from her own country, three-time World bronze medallist Zhang Wenxiu, whom up until last week, Wang almost never beat as explained by the IAAF:

Being roughly of the same age as Zhang, Wang had met with the previous Asian record-holder 42 times and only won twice. She had won two National Grand Prix Finals, in 2010 (71.19m against 70.88m) and in 2013 (71.77m against 70.12m), but was defeated in Moscow (75.58m against 74.90m) and then the National Games in September (73.68m against 71.48m).

So Rupp may be 1-19 against Lagat, But Wang was 2-40 against Zhang until last week.

More:Wang Zheng (77.68) smashes Asian hammer record in China

Stat of The Week

When people think of dominance in distance running, many think Kenya and Ethiopia and assume the countries are roughly equal.

We’ve always thought of it a bit differently. There are WAY more Kenyan runners than Ethiopian. Don’t believe us. Check out this stat that ace statistician Ken Nakamura put out after last weekend’s great half-marathon action.

Leonard Komon wins the Vattenfall Berlin Half Marathon in sub-60 last weekend as compatriot Abraham Cheroben also breaks 60

Leonard Komon wins the Vattenfall Berlin Half Marathon in sub-60 last weekend as compatriot Abraham Cheroben also breaks 60

Number of sub-60 minutes half marathon runners by countries

Number of sub-60 Nation












6 Countries (POR, RSA, USA, ESP, RWA, BRA)

That stat right there is pretty amazing. Kenya has had almost four times as many men go sub-60 in the half-marathon as Ethiopia and leads the third place country Eritrea by nearly a factor of 20 to 1.

That’s not a one-off occurrence.

We decided to look at the 83 men who have broken 13:00 for the 5000 and see where they came from. Again, a huge dominance by Kenya although not quite to the same extent as in the half-marathon.

Number of sub-13 Nation












7 Countries (GER, KSA, ERI, BRN, GBR, AUS)

There are way more elite Kenyans than Ethiopians. If you look at Olympic gold medals won (male and female) since 2000 (the year of LetRun.com’s founding), Ethiopia leads 13 to 11.

If you’ve got any ideas as to why Ethiopia has more gold medallists but way less elites than Kenya (besides perhaps sexism as Kenya leads in men’s gold 9 to 5), please email us your theories.

More: Ken Nakamura: List Of Fastest Half Marathon Debuts In History *Chronological List Of All Sub-60 Half Marathons In History

Eritrea won a much deserved men's team gold at the 2014 IAAF World Half Marathon Championships. *More Photos

Eritrea won a much deserved men’s team gold at the 2014 IAAF World Half Marathon Championships. *More Photos

Email of the Week/Proof Positive That It’s Impossible To Please Everyone

After the 2014 IAAF World Half Marathon championships were over, we went out of our way to hype up the team gold for Eritrea. While many in the media were having their stories focus on the ‘failure’ of Eritrea’s Zersenay Tadesse to win a sixth individual title, we instead played up the first-ever team gold for Eritrea after seven straight runner-up finishes (Geoffrey Kipsang And Tiny Eritrea Have Days To Remember At 2014 IAAF World Half Marathon Championships).

What did we get in return? This email from an outraged LetsRun.com visitor:


On your last post you deliberately chose to diminish the victory of an emerging country by calling it “tiny”. This is a place of sport not politics so please refrain yourself from galvanizing and destroying a beautiful game. It’s truly disgusting, again shame on you!


Weekly Free Training Advice From Kenya

Put this one in the ‘common sense’ category.

Last week, we came across an article that explained why 2:19 marathoner Lucy Kabuu was a total disaster at the Moscow World Championships, where she was just 24th.

“On the eve of the race, she ate nothing because the food there did not go down well with her. She decided to give it a go but without energy, she fell back but she hung on to finish,” said Kabuu’s husband Josphat Maina to Capital.FM.

So there you have it, eat something the night before you run a marathon.

In case you already knew it was a good idea to eat before a marathon, we do have some more subtle free training advice from Kenya. The Kenyan women put up a perfect score by going 1-5 at the World Half Marathon championships last weekend. Women’s world champion Mercy Cherono revealed the key to the Kenyan success:

“Our coach Edith Masai advised us to talk during the race. We could create space, study our opponents and whisper to ourselves. And the strategy worked well. That’s why I fired away in the final stages.”

To be honest, talking to your teammates in a race is a good strategy. If your opponents here you talking, particularly in a language they don’t understand so they can’t tell how stressed you truly are, they are going to be unnerved by it and think you are so relaxed you are able to carry on a conversation.

For the record, Kenyan coach Edith Masai, a 3-time world XC champion (short course), said the strategy wasn’t her invention but something she learned from former AK head coach Mike Kosgei.

As Masai told The Standard after the race, “There was no magic. I just borrowed winning tactics from our then coach Mike Kosgei (former AK head coach). Kosgei always insisted that athletes should be talking during competitions to disorient the opposition. It destabilises (sic) their plans.”

More: *Lucy Kubuu looking for 1st ever global medal – as it’s revealed she bombed in Moscow because she didn’t eat at all the night before the race
Our winning tactic: Talking to one another in the race boosted Kenya’s performance, says Masai

Did You Know? Widespread Team Cheers Were A Novel Development At The First Modern Olympics in 1896

“They (the Greeks) had never heard organized cheering before and loved when the B.A.A. members cheered, “B.A.A! Rah! Rah! Rah!” (Greece) King George I “twice called spontaneously for the American cheer, once in the stadium and once at a royal breakfast he was hosting.”

– edited excerpt from an article in The Hartford Courant about the gold medal won in the first modern Olympics in 1896 by Bill Hoyt, a Harvard student who had to fake an illness to go to the Olympics as the president of Harvard wasn’t a fan of sports. The article also reminded us that it was the 1896 Olympic Games, where the marathon was the #1 event, which inspired the starting of the Boston Marathon in 1897 as many of the US Olympians came from the BAA.

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


‘‘It’s easier to win a medal at the Olympics than go through the past two years…… The last thing I’d say is just hug your kids and give them a big kiss.’’

– 2000 Olympic long jump silver medallist Jai Taurima, talking about the fact that his two-year old daughter Rose has terminal leukemia in an article in the Sydney Morning Herald.

More: Jai Taurima reveals daughter’s battle with leukaemia

Longtime University of Texas Publicist Bill Little Describing A True Hot Dog In Track and Field

“One of my earliest memories of almost 40 years of covering the (Texas) Relays was Ray “Jackrabbit” Saddler, who was a superb quarter miler for TSU. In a prelim of the Mile Relay, Saddler was waiting to run his leg of the race, and he was eating a hot dog. “Here,” he said, turning to a companion as his relay teammate approached with the baton. “Hold this. I’ll be back in 46 seconds.” And he handed his friend the hot dog, and returned in 45.8 seconds.

– The excerpt comes from a great history of Texas’ most famous track meet by Bill Little on texassports.com. Speaking of the Texas Relays, did you know that in 1927 the Tarahumara Indians competed and raced from San Antonio to Austin, long before Born To Run author Christopher McDougal was even alive? Or how about the fact that big time football coaches like Knute Rockne of Notre Dame used to be brought in as referees?

More: A History Of The Texas Relays

Ashton Eaton on what he dislikes about being a professional track and field athlete

“You can’t do a lot of the fun things you’d like to: snowboarding, parkour, cliff jumping, F1 racing. You’re pretty much married to the couch.”

More: Q&A With Eaton on IAAF site.

1972 Olympic marathon gold medallist Frank Shorter explaining that he thought it was an advantage that he wasn’t only a runner – he also was a law student

“I never had the sense as the race (1972 Olympic marathon) approached that it would define the rest of my life. It was a goal. That was my attitude,” he said. “It made it easier going in when I thought that there weren’t many people who train for the Olympics and go to law school full-time. “I always had a hedge. It was a hedge. I was prepared to do something else. I do think about it, and incorporate that and use that for notoriety.”

More: Frank Shorter reflects on 1972 Gold and says he thinks he had an advantage since he was also a law student

Geoffrey Kipsang wins the World Half *More Photos

Geoffrey Kipsang wins the World Half *More Photos

Newly minted World Half Marathon gold medallist Geoffrey Kipsang of Kenya talking about the advantages of training with Olympic marathon gold medallist Stephen Kiprotich of Uganda

“We are used to calling him the gold medallist. I wanted to fight so that I could also be called a gold medallist.”

More: Kipsang talks to the IAAF after winning world half gold
*LetsRun.com 2014 IAAF World Half Marathon Coverage Special Section

Boston marathon champ Amby Burfoot explaining why he’s not going to give up being a serious runner even if doctors don’t think training at a high level is good for you long-term

“I subscribe to the old saw: ‘Exercise—it might not add years to your life, but it adds life to your years.'”

“I’m not afraid to call myself an exercise addict. I have always been afraid of dying on a run. But the way I look at it now, it’s not that running will have killed me. Running has enhanced my life immeasurably, but it could also ‘trigger’ a life-ending event that probably would have happened even sooner except for my running.”

More: WSJ.com: BAA head Dave McGillivray and former Boston champ both have learned the runner’s can have heart disease, but neither is giving up on running even if it kills them

Michael Johnson: Without talent, hard work is meaningless

“(Usain Bolt is) extremely talented and is one of those athletes born with out-of-this-world talent. There’s no doubt about that.”

“You can practice for 10,000 hours but it’s (still) critical to have talent,” said Johnson, who is the only man to win both the 200m and 400m at one Olympics in 1996. “We can’t fool ourselves in sports. It’s all about athletic ability now. Everyone at the highest level has it.”

– former 200/400 gold medallist Michael Johnson talking to Yahoo Singapore. He also said talent was ‘first and foremost’ in making a champion.

More: More to Usain Bolt than just out-of-this-world talent: sprint king Michael Johnson
*MB: Michael Johnson slams Michael Gladwell – talent is key

Two-time Olympic decathlon champion Daley Thompson calling a spade a spade (saying he was way more talented and hard-working than everyone else)

“I have met tens of thousands of athletes in all sports. I’ve only met a couple of people who have more talent than me, and I don’t think I’ve ever met anyone who worked harder than me. And I’ve definitely never met anybody that’s got both those things. That’s just the way it is.”

More: Daley Thompson at his controversial best

Valerie Adams, who has won 13 New Zealand Championships, on whether she would be taking the 2014 championships seriously considering she’d ultimately win by 5.43 meters.

“I’m going to prepare for it like a competition, but I’m not going to rip my undies up to throw some massive throw. I’d like a big throw, don’t get me wrong, but that’s not my ultimate goal. My ultimate goal is to go out and throw well technically, but it’s not a training day.”

More: Valerie Adams is pumped for men’s shot battle: “It’s almost like I’m the warm-up before the big game comes along”

And the greatest feeling two-time world XC and two-time world 5000 world record holder Zola Budd ever had in running was:

“All the years I was running, including winning the World Cross Country Championships, didn’t come close to the feeling I had of finishing the Comrades.”

– Budd’s comments about the ultra marathon come from a great long interview of her by Gary Cohen where she talked about her training, the 1984 Olympics at age 17 where Mary Slaney fell, and a whole lot more. As for Comrades, which she’ll run for a second time this year, she also said, “There are about 14,000 people running it and it doesn’t matter if you are first or the last person to finish. There is this elation and a feeling that you’ve done it. It’s so special.”

More: Zola Budd Interview

Other News of Note:

NIJEL AMOS LOOKING GOOD – Runs 45.77 The guy who ran 1:41 at age 18 is hopefully on his way back. If he truly gets back to where he seemingly was headed in 2012, the 800 is going to be THE EVENT to watch up through 2016 with him, Aman and Rudisha.

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 3/31:

Track and Field NewsGarry Hill joining the cause. USATF still has a lot of work to do. #USATFChange

Sunday 3/30:

Ken Goe agreeing with LetsRun.com. USATF still has a lot of work to do. #USATFChange

Saturday 3/29:

Steve Soprano blogging from sunny Jamaica, where Zharnell Hughes broke Yohan Blake‘s “Champs” record by running 10.12. Later in the day, Steve went to Usain Bolt‘s sports bar, where track was being shown on the TVs in the bathroom.

Friday 3/28:

Moses Kipsiro speaking to The Daily Monitor after being dropped from the World Half Marathon championships by the Ugandan Federation, after he spoke up last week about alleged sexual assaults in the Ugandan camp of minors by a Ugandan coach. Truly despicable. We called Kipsiro a hero earlier this week and 100% believe this must be addressed by the IAAF. *MB:Moses Kipsiro dropped from Ugandan Team …

Thursday 3/27:

Toni Reavis.

Wednesday 3/26:

Zola Budd Pieterse saying how she felt at age 17 when the entire Los Angeles Coliseum started booing her in the middle of the women’s 3,000.

Tuesday 3/25:

– Public address announcer Frank Zarnowski describing the chaotic scene after Flo-Jo ran her almost certainly wind-aided 10.49 world record. On a day when read readings were often over 5.0 m/s, the idea that suddenly it popped up at zero is absurd. Of course, more than 89% of LRC visitors think the record is absurd for for another reason.

Questions? Comments? Email us.