Birmingham Preview: Mo Farah Dodges the Competition (Again), A Spectacular Men’s Mile, Ajee vs. Eunice, and David Rudisha Goes For The World Record?

August 23, 2014

After going a whole month without any Diamond League meets, you won’t have to wait long for the next one as the Sainsbury’s Birmingham Grand Prix will take place on Sunday just three days after Stockholm’s DN Galan. The headline is home nation favorite Mo Farah‘s return to the Diamond League in the men’s 2 mile, but it shouldn’t be as the race itself isn’t that interesting as Farah is the only world-class talent in the field.

The real race of the meet from a perspective is a scintillating men’s mile with Asbel KipropAyanleh Souleiman and Silas Kiplagat all running well and Americans Leo Manzano and Matt Centrowitz searching for a sub-3:50 clocking. There’s also David Rudisha vs. Adam Kszczot in a rare 600, Ajee Wilson vs. Eunice Sum in the 800 as well as a women’s 2 mile and men’s 3,000 steeplechase.

If you’d like to watch the meet, viewing info is here.

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Full start lists

Men’s 2 mile (11:48 a.m. ET): Mo Farah’s first DL race of 2014 

The good news about the men’s 2 mile on Sunday is that reigning World/Olympic 5k/10k champ Mo Farah will be racing in a Diamond League meet for the first time this season. And that’s about it for good news.

Farah beat up on weak competition at last week’s European Championships, but that can be excused: it’s not his fault that Ethiopia and Kenya aren’t located in Europe. But now that we know Farah is fit (he closed in 52.3 to win the 5k in Zurich, with a 2:22 last kilometer), there’s no excuse for him to be facing a totally watered down field on Sunday in Birmingham when the rest of best 5000 runners in the world — including Farah’s training partner Galen Ruppran the 5,000 in Stockholm on Thursday. The final DL 5,000 is next Thursday in Zurich, and guess what? Farah’s not running that one, either.

It’s understandable that Farah wants to race in front of the British fans in Birmingham. And the meet director is in a sticky situation because Birmingham is sandwiched in the middle of an eight-day period that features three DL meets, so it’s hard for him to get good 5,000 guys (that’s why there shouldn’t be three DL meets in an eight-day span). But not that hard, Farah himself has shown, money talks. Farah should either face a legitimate field – or not race at all. Looking through the entrants in Birmingham, this race should be a glorified workout for Farah. He wouldn’t have much problem running the 2 mile here on Sunday and recovering in time to do the 5,000 in Zurich.

Just look at the following stats and decide for yourself which field you’d rather see Farah face (Birmingham stats do not include Farah).

It's been over a year since Farah was in a Diamond League race. It’s been over a year since Farah was in a Diamond League race.

World/Olympic medallists

Stockholm 5,000: 6
Birmingham 2 mile: 0

Sub-13:10 5,000 guys

Stockholm 5,000: 10
Birmingham 2 mile: 1

Average 5,000 PR, top 5 guys

Stockholm 5,000: 12:49
Birmingham 2 mile: 13:13

Emmanuel Bett is the only guy in the field apart from Farah who’s ever broken 13:10 and that was over two years ago. Zane Robertson was the bronze medallist in the 5,000 at the Commonwealth Games, but he just raced the 5,000 in Stockholm. He’ll be tired and didn’t run well in Stockholm anyway (13:43). Apart from that, the field mostly consists of British runners who wouldn’t be competitive in a normal DL race plus Americans Will Leer and Jordan McNamara, who are no match for Farah over 2 miles.

We just don’t understand what Farah gets out of this race other than a paycheck. He’s spent the entire summer getting back into racing shape and now that he’s ready to go, he’s not going to race anyone? We’re pretty sure that people are still going to respect Farah next year as his championship credentials are pretty terrifying. Yes, Farah could risk losing his aura of invincibility, but so what? Being unbeatable is supposed to be easy and Farah lost a race at Pre last year and it didn’t prevent him from completing the double at the 2013 Moscow World Championships. The fans in Birmingham will still be happy to see Farah, but it would be better if the sport if he was running in Stockholm or Zurich or facing a legitimate field here.

The full field is as follows:

BETT Emmanuel Kipkemei KEN 5th in Glasgow 5k; 6th at Beach to Beacon 10K, 3rd Falmouth RR
EMANUEL Lee GBR 7:45.12 (3k) 7:45.12 (3k) 2-time NCAA champ at UNM hasn’t broken 3:40 for 1500 this year
FARAH Mo GBR 8:20.47 Defending world 5k/10k champ looked close to old form with 5k/10k double at Europeans
FARRELL Thomas GBR 7:47.54 (3k) 7:47.54 (3k) Former OK State stud was 7th at Commonwealths, 12th at Euros in 5k
HAY Jonathan GBR 8:03.35 (3k) 8:05.19 (3k)
KOMBICH Ismael Kip. KEN Rabbit
LANCASHIRE Thomas GBR 8:00.29 (3k)
LEER Will USA 8:19.11 Ran 3:34 1500 PR on July 19 but last in Falmouth Mile last week in 4:09
MCNAMARA Jordan USA 7:50.48 (3k) Wins in Eugene on 7/26 + road mile in Pittsburgh on 8/1 but just 4th in Falmouth Mile
OSAKO Suguru JPN 7:54.68 (3k) 8:02.11 (3k)
ROBERTSON Zane NZL 7:41.37 (3k) 7:41.37 (3k) Commonwealth Games bronze medallist but just 12th in Stockholm 5k in 13:43
RONO Geoffrey Kipkoech KEN Rabbit
VERNON Andy GBR 7:45.49 (3k) 7:45.49 (3k) Silver in 10k at Euros; bronze in 5k

LRC Prediction: Farah in a cakewalk.

Men’s Mile (11:38 a.m. ET): Can this stacked field top May’s Bowerman Mile?

Remember that great mile at the Pre Classic in May? The one where Ayanleh Souleiman ran the fastest mile since Alan Webb‘s 3:46.91 in 2007 to lead nine men under 3:51? Well eight of those nine men will be on the line in Birmingham for what promises to be another great race. There are three men who we think could win and we’ve broken down the case for each of them below (from least to most likely).

Asbel Kiprop: The world champ

The two-time defending world champ was only 7th at Pre but has been very consistent since then. Kiprop defeated Nijel Amos to win the Paris 800 in a then-world-leading 1:43.34 on July 5, ran a very quick 3:28.45 in Monaco (getting outkicked by Silas Kiplagat over the final lap) and was narrowly edged at the line in the 1500 at last week’s African Championships, taking silver behind Souleiman. Yes Souleiman beat him, but they pretty much ran exactly the same last lap – Kiprop was just too far back with 500 left. This hasn’t been an extraordinary year by Kiprop’s standards but he’s still very, very good and a threat to win whatever race he’s in.

Ayanleh Souleiman: The African champ goes for the ‘Triple Crown’

Souleiman was only fourth in Monaco in 3:29.58 but he’s run three races since then (not counting prelims) and has excelled in all three. First, on July 25, he just missed his 800 PR and ran 1:43.69 to win in Huddinge, Sweden. On August 14, he used a 37.7-second last 300 to beat Kiprop, Ronald Kwemoi and everyone else to win gold at the African Championships. And on Thursday, he ran a strong race to finish second behind Poland’s Adam Kszczot in 1:45.49 (but ahead of the world’s two fastest men this year, Nijel Amos and Pierre-Ambroise Bosse).

Additionally, if Souleiman wins this race, he can lay claim to the title of World’s Best Miler. He’s won the first two big miles on the DL circuit (Pre and Oslo) and a win in Birmingham would give him the triple crown. The mile is only 109 meters longer than the 1500, but the extra distance can make a difference — Olympic 1500 champ Taoufik Maklhoufi told us that he much preferred the 1500 to the mile after the Pre Classic.

The one strike against Souleiman is that he’s been racing a lot recently. This will be his fourth race in 12 days and he will have raced a hard effort (although it was only an 800) just three days before the race. It can be tough to bounce back quickly from a that many races — remember that Souleiman didn’t make the final at Worlds last year in the 1500 after doubling back from the 800. That’s why we say the odds are the winner will be…

Silas Kiplagat: Mr. Consistency

Kiplagat may only have one global medal in his career (silver at Worlds in 2011) but if it’s a Diamond League race, Kiplagat can be counted on to “medal” almost every time out. Since he made his Diamond League debut in 2010, Kiplagat has run 26 DL races (all 1500/miles). He has won 12 of them (46%) and finished second in an additional seven. That means he’s finished in the top two 73% of the time. Put differently, he’s more than twice as likely to finish in the top two than he is to finish anywhere from third to last. Those numbers are even more impressive when you put them in the context of his peers and the U.S.’s top two guys over that span (all stats since Kiplagat’s DL debut on July 22, 2010; only counts 1500s/miles).

Name Races Win % Top-2 %
Silas Kiplagat 26 46% 73%
Asbel Kiprop 27 46% 71%
Ayanleh Souleiman 14 36% 64%
Leo Manzano 22 5% 9%
Matt Centrowitz 14 0% 0%
Kiplagat celebrates his win in Rome earlier this year Kiplagat celebrates his win in Rome earlier this year

Perhaps Kiplagat would trade his success on the circuit for Centrowitz’s success in championship races (3rd, 4th, 2nd in last three global champs) but his record in DL races is nothing short of spectacular, even eclipsing that of Kiprop, the consensus choice for the best 1500 runner of the past five years.

The other advantage Kiplagat has over Kiprop and Souleiman is that he’s fresh: he hasn’t raced since his phenomenal 3:27.64 in Monaco on July 18. You can spin that the other way and make the argument that he’s rusty, but based on his history of success in DL races, it’s likely that Kiplagat will be ready to go on Sunday. He’s won three of his last four DL races and hasn’t finished first or second in his last nine. He’s the man to beat in Birmingham.

The Quest for Sub-3:50

Only six Americans have ever broken 3:50 and on Sunday, 2014 U.S. champ Leo Manzano and 2013 U.S. champ Matt Centrowitz will both be aiming to add their names to the list. Both have run well this year and both PR’d in the last DL 1500 in Monaco (Manzano ran 3:30.98, Centrowitz 3:31.09).

They enter Birmingham on slightly different trajectories, however. Manzano is coming off a 1:46.60 win in the B 800 in Stockholm on Thursday, where he beat World Junior champ/1:43 man Alfred Kipketer of Kenya. Centrowitz also ran a tuneup 800 last week in the UK, but he was dead last in a disappointing 1:51.32. Centrowitz didn’t seem too down on himself in his post-race interview but it’s not a great sign that he only ran 1:51 as he’ll need to run two 1:54s consecutively if he wants to break 3:50 on Sunday.

Still, if the pace is hot in Birmingham, both have a shot to get under 3:50 as their times in Monaco convert to about 3:47 for the mile.

CENTROWITZ Matthew USA 3:50.53 3:50.53 PR’d in mile at Pre & 1500 in Monaco but was last in an 800 last week in 1:51
CHEBOI Collins KEN 3:49.56 3:49.56 Has finished 6th in last three DL mile/1500s
CHEPSEBA Nixon Kiplimo KEN 3:50.95 7th in Glasgow was highest DL finish of year
CRONJE Johan RSA 3:50.70 3:50.70 WC bronze medallist was 4th at Commonwealths, 7th at African champs
GRICE Charlie GBR 3:54.61 3:56.94 UK champ was 7th at Commonwealths, 12th at Euros
HEATH Garrett USA 3:53.15 3:53.61 2nd at Michigan Track Classic, 3rd at Falmouth Mile
INGEBRIGTSEN Henrik NOR 3:50.72 3:50.72 Euro silver medallist ran 1:49 in B 800 in Stockholm on Thursday
KIPLAGAT Silas KEN 3:47.88 3:47.88 Won last 2 DL races including 3:27.64 1500 (#4 all-time) in Monaco
KIPROP Asbel KEN 3:48.50 3:50.26 2nd in Monaco in 3:28; 2nd at African champs
MAGUT James Kiplagat KEN 3:49.43 3:49.43 Commonwealth champ was 5th at African champs
MANZANO Leonel USA 3:50.64 3:52.41 PR’d in 1500 in Monaco; 1:46 B 800 win on Thursday in Stockholm
ROTICH Andrew Kiptoo KEN
SOULEIMAN Ayanleh DJI 3:47.32 3:47.32 World leader won African champs; 2nd in 800 in Stockholm
TESFAYE Homiyu GER 3:49.86 3:49.86 Was running well in DL but just 2nd at German champs and 5th at Euros
WOTE Aman ETH 3:48.60 3:48.60 Last race was 3:29.91 6th-place finish in Monaco

LRC Prediction: This isn’t World or the Olympics is it? As a result, Kiplagat is your winner. No sub-3:50 for Centro or Manzano.

Men’s 600 (9:38 a.m. ET): Might The World Record Fall?

Could another world record be in the cards on Sunday? Could another world record be in the cards on Sunday?

For whatever reason, there are a lot of strange events in this meet (there are also men’s and women’s 2 miles). This 600 is one of them, but unlike the 2 mile, it should be a good race as it pits European 800 champ and Stockholm DL winner Adam Kszczot against 800 world record holder David Rudisha (those two will also feature in a loaded 800 at the DL finale in Zurich next week).

The biggest question with an odd distance like this is always “What’s the world record?”

We’lll tell you: 1:12.81 by Johnny Gray in 1986.

Gray was a great 800 runner but Rudisha is arguably the greatest of all-time and Kszczot just took down the presumptive best guy in the world right now, Nijel Amos. It’s possible that they could get the record since Gray was probably in 1:43/1:44 shape when he ran it (he ran a 1:44 in the race before and had a season’s best of 1:43.46 that) and both Rudisha and Kszczot could both run 1:43 right now.

But that record is far from soft. In his epic 1:40.91 world record run, Rudisha hit 600 in 1:14.30.

It will be tough to do. There’s almost no margin for error in a record attempt at this distance. Getting out hard shouldn’t be a problem for Rudisha, but he’ll have to be ready to go very quick from the gun as it’s very difficult to make up ground if you fall behind pace in a 1.5-lap race. Ideally, he’ll get out in just under 48 seconds and then hold on with a 24.x last 200. He’ll have to go out significantly faster than the 49.28 he ran for the first 400 at London 2012.

Positioning is also key (we assume they’ll run the first turn in lanes and then break but can’t say we’re that familiar with the procedure for an outdoor 600) as running any extra distance will kill a record attempt. That’s why Rudisha, with his front-running experience, is MUCH, MUCH more likely than Kszczot to set the world record (though if Rudisha goes out too hard, Kszczot could definitely go by him at the end of the race as he did in Zurich and Stockholm).

This should be a fun change-up before the 800 DL finale on Thursday.

BUBE Andreas DEN 4th in Euros 800; 6th in Stockholm in 1:46
KSZCZOT Adam POL 1:14.55 Running great after Euro win and DL win in Stockholm
LANGFORD Kyle GBR 8th at World Junior 800
LEARMONTH Guy GBR 6th at Commonwealth Games 800
LEWANDOWSKI Marcin POL 1:15.77 3rd in Stockholm on Thursday
LOXSOM Casimir USA 1:14.84 U.S. runner-up was just 11th last time out in Heusden in 1:48
OLIVIER Andre RSA Nijel Amos’ training partner took bronze at Commonwealths
RUDISHA David KEN First-ever 600 for the Olympic 800 champ; Commonwealth silver last month
SOWINSKI Erik USA 2:20 1000 in last race in Austria on July 14; 3rd at USAs

LRC Prediction: Rudisha wins, but no WR.

Women’s 800 (11:19 a.m. ET): Eunice Sum Goes For The DL Title As Ajee Wilson Tries To Grab World #1 Status

This really figures to be a two-horse race between 2014 world leader Ajee Wilson of the U.S. and reigning world champion Eunice Sum of Kenya. Outside of Cuban Sahily Diago Mesa (who’s only raced on the DL circuit once this year), Wilson and Sum are the only runners under 1:58 this year and collectively those two have dominated the Diamond League this year (two wins, one second and one third for Wilson, four wins and a second for Sum).

When the two last raced, in Monaco, Wilson broke through for her first-ever victory over Sum, running a world-leading 1:57.67. After that, Wilson went back to the U.S. where she anchored her 4×800 team to victory at the Run TrackTown High Performance Meet on July 26 and won the 800 at the Michigan Track Classic on August 10. Sum stayed in Europe for the Commonwealth Games and then went to Morocco for the African Championships, winning both. Both will enter riding a wave of confidence as Wilson knows she beat Sum in their last meeting while Sum has two gold medals to remind her of how good she is. Sum can also clinch the Diamond Race title with a third-place finish here.

CICHOCKA Angelika POL 2:00.20 2:00.30 World Indoor silver medallist didn’t make final at Euros
CUMMINS Diane CAN 1:58.39 2:01.38 40-year-old has only broken 2:02 once this year
ENGLAND Hannah GBR 1:59.66 2:00.50 7th at Commonwealth Games 1500; 6th at Euro 1500
JEPKOSGEI Janeth KEN 1:56.04 1:58.70 Didn’t make Commonwealth final but 2nd at African Champs
MARTINEZ Brenda USA 1:57.91 1:59.24 8th in Stockholm 1500 in 4:07
MUIR Laura GBR 2:00.80 2:02.92 Disappointing performances at Commonwealths + Euros; 4:04 in Stockholm
SHARP Lynsey GBR 1:58.80 1:58.80 Silver at Commonwealths and Euros
SMIT Angela NZL 2:00.03 2:00.59 5th at Commonwealth Games
SUM Eunice Jep KEN 1:57.38 1:57.92 World champ coming off wins at Commonwealths, African Champs
WILSON Ajee USA 1:57.67 1:57.67 World leader won Michigan Track Classic on Aug. 10

LRC: Ajee Wilson gets the win. While she’ll lose the DL title in the process, she’ll lay claim to the world #1 status in our minds with a win.

Men’s 3,000 steeplechase (10:43 a.m. ET): The Jairus Birech Show Continues

Jairus Birech has been unstoppable on the circuit this year, winning the last four DL steeples, but he was beaten at the Commonwealth Games by fellow Kenyan Jonathan Ndiku. Birech got revenge on Ndiku by defeating him to win the African Championships and it would have been nice to see the two square off again here in Birmingham.

Instead, expect to see Birech dominate again as Ndiku is the only runner who’s finished within four seconds of Birech in his last five races. If anyone is going to challenge him, it will likely be 2013 World silver medallist Conseslus Kipruto, who was second in Monaco, or perhaps 22-year-old Kenyan Hillary Yego, who finished just behind Kipruto in Monaco.

Americans will be focused on seeing if Andy Bayer an Donn Cabral can get under 8:20 for the first time this year.

BAYER Andrew USA 8:25.71 8:25.71 Dropped 12 seconds from PR in last steeple on July 15
BIRECH Jairus Kipchoge KEN 8:02.37 8:02.37 Has owned the DL this year but just 2nd at Commonwealths; won African Champs
CABRAL Donald USA 8:19.14 8:20.04 Olympian is back to 2012 form with an 8:20 and 8:22 in last two steeples
KIPRUTO Conseslus KEN 8:01.16 8:09.81 2nd in last two DL races (Lausanne + Monaco)
KIPRUTO Brimin Kiprop KEN 7:53.64 8:04.64 2008 Olympic champ was just 10th in Monaco
KIPSANG Lawrence Kemboi KEN 8:19.90 8:19.90
KIPYEGO Barnabas KEN 8:24.10 8:24.10
KOECH Paul Kipsiele KEN 7:54.31 8:05.47 7th in Monaco, 8th in Lausanne
KOWAL Yoann FRA 8:12.53 8:25.50
LAGAT Haron KEN 8:15.80 8:20.01
MILNE Taylor CAN 8:27.81 8:27.81
NGANGA Bernard KEN 8:05.88 8:15.01
SIGUENI Hicham MAR 8:21.78 8:25.20
TALEB Brahim MAR 8:07.02 8:15.48
WILKINSON James GBR 8:22.76 8:22.76
YEGO Hillary Kipsang KEN 8:03.57 8:09.07 3rd in Monaco
ZALEWSKI Krystian POL 8:16.20 8:16.20

LRC Prediction: Birech wins again, one American breaks 8:20.

Women’s 2 mile (10:57 a.m. ET): Dibaba vs. Cherono

Why can’t the men’s 2-mile have a legitimate field like this one? This race features world indoor 3000 record holder Genzebe Dibaba taking on 2013 World 5k silver medallist Mercy Cherono and former Iowa State star Betsy Saina, who has been running great this year with PRs of 8:40 (3k), 14:39 (5k) and 30:57 (10k). Cherono was running very well a few months ago, claiming 3k wins in New York and Lausanne, but since then she’s been inconsistent (7th in Monaco 5k, 1st at Commonwealth Games, 5th at African Champs).

This distance might be a bit short for Saina, so it will likely come down to Cherono or Dibaba, who will have just two days of rest after running the 1500 in Stockholm. Still, Dibaba has been running well of late over a variety of distances (five wins and three seconds in her last eight races over five different distances) and almost held on for the win over Jenny Simpson and Sifan Hassan in Stockholm. Dibaba should probably be favored, but watch out for Cherono if it’s a close race as she has already blown by Dibaba to win one Diamond League race this year.

ATHLETE NAT PB (3k) SB (3k) Comment
CALVIN Clemence FRA 8:53.20 8:53.20
CHERONO Mercy KEN 8:21.14 8:21.14 WC 5k silver medallist; Commonwealth champ but just 5th at African Champs
DIBABA Genzebe ETH 8:26.21 8:26.21 2nd in African Champs 5k; 2nd in Stockholm DL 1500 on Thursday
GORECKA Emelia GBR 8:55.11
GRUNEWALD Gabriele USA 8:42.64 8:52.39 7th in Falmouth Mile last week in 4:36
HAROYE Alemitu ETH 8:45.93 8:45.93 World Junior champ at 5k
JAMAL Maryam Yusuf BRN 8:28.87 8:47.74 2-time world champ at 1500 hasn’t raced since 4:04 1500 in June
JELAGAT Irene KEN 8:28.51 8:28.51 DNF last time out in Monaco 5k
KIBIWOT Viola Jelagat KEN 8:24.41 8:24.41 5th in 1500 in Stockholm on Thursday
KUIJKEN Susan NED 8:39.65 Euro bronze medallist in 5000
LACAZE Genevieve AUS 9:38.74 9:48.44
PLIŚ Renata POL 8:40.42 8:52.55
SAINA Betsy KEN 8:40.65 8:40.65 Breakout year with PRs at 3k, 5k, 10k; won Falmouth RR last weekend
WHITTLE Laura GBR 8:50.37 9:04.62

LRC Prediction: A tough one to pick. We say Cherono.

If you’d like to watch the meet, viewing info is here.

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