WTW: David Rudisha’s Crazy Fast High School, Middle School Love Denied For Ritz And Symmonds, All Hail Zap Fitness, And Don’t Be (Most) Impressed By Marla Runyan’s Blindness

The Week That Was In Running – September 30 – October 5, 2014 by LetsRun.com October 7, 2014 Previous versions of the Week That Was can be found here. Questions? Comments? Email us. We break down the pro action below that was highlighted by the USA Marathon Championships and Asian Games. All the college action is broken down in a separate […]

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The Week That Was In Running – September 30 – October 5, 2014

by LetsRun.com
October 7, 2014

Previous versions of the Week That Was can be found here. Questions? Comments? Email us.

We break down the pro action below that was highlighted by the USA Marathon Championships and Asian Games.

Article continues below player

All the college action is broken down in a separate article here, and a must-read from last week is The Wetmore Formula, our profile on legendary Colorado coach Mark Wetmore.

Don’t believe us on the Wetmore article? Emma Coburn loved it:

Speaking of Emma, she, like many pros, has been enjoying a little time off from running. She did her first run in three weeks yesterday, after some time in Morocco (below), Paris, and her hometown of Crested Butte, Colo.

Nick Symmonds has been busy as well. He’s back running, his biography Life Outside the Oval Office comes out in two weeks and he’s been mountain climbing, but before we turn to this past week’s action we wanted to remind all of you to really watch what you eat:

Good Week/Bad Week

Those That Had a Good Week

Esther Erb (photo via Rider)

Esther Erb (photo via Rider)

  • Zap Fitness – the North Carolina-based club headed by Pete Rea had a current member (Tyler Pennel 2:13:32) and former member (Esther Erb 2:34:01) win the men’s and women’s 2014 US marathon champs held at the Medtronic Twin Cities Marathon last week. Both runners are former small-school stars (Pennel – Western State, Erb – Case Western). Erb, a former Fubright scholar, is now an assistant coach at Rider in New Jersey and runs for the NYAC. Both picked up $26,500 for the wins.
    More: In His Debut, Tyler Pennel Wins 2014 USA Marathon Championships In 2:13:32; Esther Erb Comes From Behind To Win Women’s Title (2:34:00)
    *A Chat with Esther Erb, 2014 U.S. Marathon Champion
  • Edna Kiplagat – the reigning London Marathon champ proved she’ll be a force to be reckoned with at the 2014 TCS New York City Marathon next month as she got the win at the Bank of Scotland Great Scottish Run Half-Marathon in a course record of 1:07:57 – just 16 seconds off her pb.
  • Grant Fisher – 14:43 at Portage – The reigning Foot Locker champ showed that his decision to focus solely on running (he used to also play soccer) probably was a smart one as he ran 14:43 at the Portage (Mich.) Invitational last week, missing Dathan Ritzenhein‘s course record by just 3 seconds.
    MB: Grant Fisher- 14:43 at Portage

Those That Had A Bad Week

  • Zersenay Tadese (Eritrea – 6-time world champ (XC and roads), world record holder half-marathon), Teklemariam Medhin (Eritrea – 2-time world xc medallist), and Ibrahim Jeilan (Ethiopia – two-time 10,000 medallist) – they all struggled at the Rock ‘n’ Roll Half Marathon in Lisbon where they ran just 63:29, 63:34 and 64:10 respectively.
  • Haile Gebrselassie- The 41-year-old ended up a DNF at the Bank of Scotland Great Scottish Run Half-Marathon due to breathing problems.
    MB: Geb DNFs at 19 minutes

Email of the Week – Marla Runyan’s Blindness Is Far From The Most Impressive Thing About Her

Last week on the homepage, we had a link to a Runner’s World feature on Marla Runyan, the legally blind US Olympian: Runner’s World Catches Up With Marla Runyan.

After that, we got a great email from John O’Donnell of Washington, DC, a legally blind reader of LetsRun.com. It’s a great email as he says the media has repeatedly failed to talk about the greatest aspect of Marla Runyan. It’s our email of the week:

Hi Robert,
I just finished the Runner’s World brief chat with Marla Runyon.  I used to shake my head at the media’s lionization of this woman because she was legally blind.  I am legally blind, and I might have been legally blind for some of the time I was racing.  The truth is, with my degenerative impairment, I don’t know when I became legally blind. The simple fact is you need to see very little in order to race, and for many of us, that was one of the many beauties of the sport; ie. that we could compete on equal footing.
The story that everyone missed, while focusing on this eyesight, is that this woman was a national, maybe world, class heptathlete before she became an Olympic finalist in the 1,500 and then a 2:27 marathoner.  That’s absolutely unheard of and it’s astounding regardless of her vision. I mean, think about it: this woman competed in the 100, threw the shot, and long jumped at that level, and then went on to become a world class marathoner. The eyesight isn’t the story here. Try to imagine Dan O’Brien, Brian Clay, or Ashton Eaton finishing fourth at the NYC Marathon. That’s what we are talking about with Runyan. It’s absolutely amazing.  I mean, Rich Kenah was a world class 800 guy, not a decathlete, and after his career as an 800 guy had just ended, still in his thirties, he did the NYC Marathon and ran 2:44.
I’ve never heard of this kind of range in events: male, female, blind, sighted or anything else, and when she was an Olympic athlete, the broadcast media missed it entirely.

John’s email is right on the money. The line “Imagine Dan O’Brien, Bryan Clay or Ashton Eaton getting fourth at the NYC Marathon” is a great one. Sure it’s little hyperbolic as Runyan wasn’t an Olympic gold medallist in the multi, but O’Donnell makes a great point – Runyan’s range was truly remarkable for any track and field athlete, let alone someone who picked up distance running late in life.

Remember, Marla was recruited as a high jumper out of high school (here’s an LA Times article on her from 1986 when she was a 5’4″ high jumper). Then she became a heptathlete in college where she garnered a 5,761 pb, was a competitor at the 1996 US Olympic Trials, and earned a US top 10 ranking by TFN. Then she became a mid-distance runner as moved to the 800 and then quickly to the 1,500 where she made the 2000 Olympics (4:02 pb). By 2002, she was a long distance runner with a top-five and 2:27:10 showing in New York. In 2004, she ran 14:59 and made another US Olympic team – this time in the 5000. All while being legally blind.

More: Runner’s World Catches Up With Marla Runyan

Video of the Week

The men’s marathon at the Asian Games was pretty exciting as three guys ended up battling it out on the track for the medals. Since we imagine many of you don’t know the outcome, we’ll let you see it for yourself before we talk about it.

The three guys battling it out are Kenyan-born Ali Hasan Mahboob of Bahrain, the 2006 Asian Games 5000 champ and 2010 Asian Games 10,000 champ, 2:08:09 marathoner Kohei Matsumura of Japan and 2:08:14 man Yuki Kawauchi of Japan.

Now that’s what we call a race.

After the race, the two Japanese runners were very disappointed not to have won.

Personally, we don’t think the Japanese should feel much shame for being outkicked on the track.   We timed the last 200 of Ali Hasan Mahboob, which he let up at the end of, and it was pretty quick – 30.9

One thing worth noting. If Yuki Kawauchi, who got the bronze, had been the top Japanese finisher he would have been pre-selected for the 2016 Rio Games.

Stat of the Week

4 seconds – amount of time that separated the men’s medallists in the marathon at the Asian Games.
7 minutes, 36 seconds – amount of time that separated the women’s medallists in the marathon at the Asian Games.

Men’s Medallists
1. Hasan Mahboob Ali, BRN, 81              2:12:38 PB Gold
2. Kohei Matsumura, JPN, 25 Nov 86         2:12:39    Silver
3. Yuki Kawauchi, JPN, 5 Mar 87            2:12:42    Bronze

Women’s Medallists
1. Eunice Kirwa Jepkirui , BRN, 20 May 84        2:25:37 NR Gold
2. Ryoko Kizaki, JPN, 21 Jun 85                  2:25:50    Silver
3. Lishan Dula Gemechu, BRN, 17 Feb 87           2:33:13    Bronze


The men’s marathon wasn’t the only crazy race at the Asian Games. In the men’s 800, the top 3 finishers were all DQ’d so the medallists crossed the line 4th, 5th and 6th.

More: Mahboob Completes African Sweep of Asian Games Distance Gold Medals
*Japan’s Kohei Matsumura And Yuki Kawauchi Return To Japan Crushed After Only Going 2-3 In The Asian Games Marathon By A Few Seconds Kawauchi:  “If I was that close I should have won. … I’m disappointed with this bronze medal.  Gold and silver were right there before my eyes.  If I didn’t feel disappointed then it would be time for me to stop being an athlete.”
*Matsumura Extremely Disappointed By 1-Second Loss “I was targeting the win, so even when I actually received the medal at the ceremony I only felt disappointment.  As time goes by that feeling is only getting stronger.
*All Three Medalists Disqualified In Men’s 800m On Day Of Controversy At Asian Games
*6th Placer Who Ended Up Third: “I was sad for the disqualified three guys.”

Tweet of the Week/One Fast High School

Last week, we came across a tweet from David Rudisha who stopped by his former high school, St. Francis Kimuron, to give a pep talk to some up-and-coming athletes.

What caught our eye was the record board in the photo. We thought to ourselves, “How fast are those other guys from Rudisha’s HS?”

So we blew up the picture so we could jot down the names and then did a little research.

St. Francis Kimuron - One fast HS

St. Francis Kimuron – One fast HS

Here are the PBs of those names on the board in the picture.

Lucas Rotich (age 24)
7:35.57 (3,000); 12:55.06 (5,000); 26:43.98 (10,000)
Comments: Rotich’s 26:43.98 is the #2 10,000 performance since 2008, behind only Kenenisa Bekele, who ran 26:43.16 in the same race (2011 Memorial Van Damme in Brussels).

Daniel Salel (age 23)
3:54.72 (mile); 7:38.91 (3,000); 13:08.23 (5,000); 27:07.85 (10,000); 60:41 (half marathon)
Comments: Salel was the 2010 Commonwealth Games silver medallist in the 10,000. He won the 2007 World Youth Championships at 3,000 meters; his classmate Rotich was second. What are the odds of two American high school teammates going 1-2 at World Youths? One billion-to-one?

David Rudisha (age 25)
PRs: 1:40.91 (800)
Comments: We don’t need to say much about Rudisha. World record holder, 2011 World champion, 2012 Olympic champion. Arguably the GOAT.

Stephen Kiprotich (age 23)
8:25.60 (3,000 steeplechase); 61:34 (half marathon)
Comments: No, it’s not the same guy as 2012 Olympic/2013 world marathon champion Stephen Kiprotich (he’s from Uganda), but 61:34 for a half isn’t too shabby. Per All-Athletics.com, only 10 Americans have ever run faster (record-eligible courses).

Cyrus Rutto (age 22)
PRs: 7:37.57 (3,000); 13:12.91 (5,000)

Festus Kiprono (age 18)
PRs: 8:39.0h (3,000 steeplechase)
Comments: Kiprono won the steeple at last year’s African Junior Championships.

That’s pretty ridiculous. In the three-year span from 2007 to 2009, a single high school produced a 1:40.91 800 runner and three sub-13:15 guys.

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

I – Nick Symmonds Explains How He Got Into Running

“One hot August day, just before I began my eighth grade year, I voiced my soccer frustrations to two friends as we sat by our local pool. My friends had just signed up for the cross-country team and suggested I do the same.

Normally I would have laughed at the idea of “running for fun,” but these weren’t just any two friends. Rather, I was lounging poolside with the two prettiest girls in my class. I had a huge crush on one of them and would have gone out for the dance team if she had asked me to. Hormones had recently kicked in and I found the opposite sex fascinating.”

– excerpt from Nick Symmonds new book Life Outside the Oval Office where Symmonds describes his start in the sport. We’ll be reviewing the book soon.
More: Spikes Mag Excerpt from Symmonds’  new book.

II – Dathan Ritzenhein Also Talks About Middle School Romance

“We were boyfriend and girlfriend in the sixth grade, and then she dumped me at the rollerskating party at the end of the end of the year. Then we never dated again until college.”

Dathan Ritzenhein talking to Mitch Kastoff about his now wife Kalin, herself a two-time Foot Locker qualifier.

Kastoff’s piece in the Daily Relay about Ritz’s return to Michigan is full of running info as well. Ritz is now self-coached but does still interact with Alberto Salazar, and he reports that his “training has turned around and everything has gotten so much better” since he’s returned home. As for his proudest career accomplishment, it’s not the 12:56 5000 or the NCAA xc title – it’s making the 2012 Olympic team in the 10,000 after coming up short in the marathon – “the satisfaction of coming back when you’re down on the floor, that’s what I love.”
More: The Parable of the Prodigious Son

III – Dennis Kimetto Talks About What Inspired Him At Age 16

“We didn’t have television or radio at home, so at the 2000 Olympics in Sydney I went to the community centre in the village and watched. The memory of Haile versus Tergat in the 10,000m inspired me. I thought, perhaps I could run at that level.”

– new marathon world record holder Dennis Kimetto talking to the IAAF about how past greats inspired him to take up the sport. Once he agreed to go for it, his father gave him his blessing: ““My father said, train as well as you can and go for it, you can change your life.”

IV – Another Star Also Started Dreaming At An Early Age

“I believed I would be Olympic champion from the age of 14. I didn’t want to live with my regrets, so I never gave up that belief.”

Kelly Holmes, Olympic 800 and 1500 champ from 2004, talking to The Independent.

V – Running Is A Simple Sport (or at least it should be)

“Those Camelbak sacks that carry several liters of fluid and the ever-popular water-bottle belts that look like they ought to be carrying ammunition seem ridiculous for an event replete with water stations. I don’t see any elite runners wearing them.

One of the reasons I started running was because it was simple. It took a pair of shorts, a cotton T-shirt, a pair of socks and a decent pair of running shoes. I’ve learned that there are only two things not to skimp on: shoes and (for the women) a running bra reminiscent of a breastplate.

Since winning the marathon lottery, I have been inundated with emails about the necessity of the latest running technology, including designer sunglasses, sleeves that aren’t sleeves, socks that will keep your feet fresher. Stop right there. We all know that nothing will keep feet fresh at 26 miles. Nothing.

In my opinion, all the running paraphernalia is 80 percent hype and 20 efficacy.”

–  4:45 marathoner Selma Kalousek writing in the New York Times about how running should be a simple sport.

VI – Sometimes It’s Good To Go Back To The Basics

“As I said before, I’ve spent a lot of time the past few months wrapping my head around where I’m at, where I’m going, and fulfilling my ultimate goal of making another Olympic team. I’ve realized that the best way to think about this marathon is to go back to the basics, just like how I became an Olympian- through small steps and consistency and focusing on getting the most out of myself instead of comparing myself to others. When I was in high school I would have laughed in your face if you told me I would be an Olympic long distance runner 10 years later. My coaches, teammates, and friends would have done the same if they were being honest. I was legitimately just trying to make top 5. But when I got to college and gained knowledge and guidance, and put in year after year of training, I found myself standing on podiums. I had to battle back through injuries and plateaus, but every time, I found that small, continuous steps took me big places.”

Lisa Uhl blogging on her websites chaselisa.com last week prior to her marathon debut his week in Chicago.

VII- Weight Gain Is Good (for the Winter Olympics)

“Track is so 20 pounds ago” 

– Summer and winter Olympic medallist Lauryn Williams talking to NBC Sports about how her track and field career is over. Williams, who thought she was totally retired from all sport, may return to the bobsled this winter.

VIII – Maybe It’s Best To Just Avoid Running Farther Than 5k

“I think I could do a half-marathon or I can run with her (Caroline Wozniacki) for the first 5K, but I am done after that.”

– tennis star Serena Williams talking about running since former world #1 Caroline Wozniacki will be running the 2014 TCS New York City Marathon.

More: Serena Williams to Host Road Racing Event in Miami

Performance of The Week

Christine Kennedy ran 2:59:39 last week at Twin Cities. That’s our performance of the week.

Why? Because Kennedy is 59 years old – well maybe we should say young.

On the age-graded charts, a 2:59:39 surpasses even Paula Radcliffe‘s 2:15:45 world record. Runner’s World converts it to 2:14:31.

Thanks to LetsRun.com guest columnist Joanna Harper for alerting us to Kennedy’s run. Harper was right on the money when she wrote, “Obviously, the age-graded tables need to be adjusted, but still Christine’s race was superb by any standards.”


At the Lloyds Bank Cardiff Half-Marathon in the UK, 44-year-old Emma Stepto ran a pb of 1:12:29 which converts to a 66:58.

Doping News That Didn’t Make it On The Front Page

From Race Results Weekly:

The Belarus middle distance runner Natallia Kareiva was convicted of doping via the biological passport process.  Her results are annulled from July 28, 2010 (including her 7th-place finish at the Olympic 1500m final).  She is banned from 22-Aug-2014 to 21-Aug-2016.

Doping Fact That May Only Interest Us

The 2015 list of prohibited substances came out last week from WADA. We took a look at it. Did you know you are allowed to compete in track and field legally drunk but not in the following sports:

Air Sports (FAI), Archery (WA), Automobile (FIA), Motorcycling (FIM), Powerboating (UIM)

The legal limit is .10 for those sports.

On a related note, it appears that something that 1991 World Championship bronze medallist Steve Spence as well as LetsRun.com co-founders Robert and Weldon Johnson once used is now banned: MB: Is glycerol really banned by WADA? Does that mean that Steve Spence (and myself) are dopers?

Recommended Reads

LRC Feature The Wetmore Formula Those who know him best insist there aren’t any secrets to Mark Wetmore’s success as a distance coach. Yet few can match his accomplishments. How does he do it? We go back to his Bernard High roots in the 1970s and do our best to explain. Chris Lear has read this piece and loved it: “This is why I go to letsrun. Thanks for the read.” Discuss On The MBoard: LetsRun.com Investigates: What Makes Mark Wetmore So Special?

LRC The Gunslingers Of Boulder

Runner’s World Catches Up With Marla Runyan People under the age of 25, if you don’t know who Runyan is, read this.

Steve Jones Vividly Recalls Setting The 2:08:05 Marathon WR 30 Years Ago In Chicago Jones didn’t wear a watch, didn’t have a rabbit and thought at 23 he was only on CR pace.

Emmanuel Mutai Talks About Berlin, Being The “Eternal Bridesmaid” And Trying To Win In The Future

Mitch Kastoff Profiles Dathan Ritzenhein And His Return Home To Rockford, Michigan

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 10/06: 

Sunday 10/05: 

Saturday 10/04:

Friday 10/03:

– Beer mile world record holder James Nielsen sharing what his favorite shoes are and how he received a message from Bob Kennedy after he wore them to set the beer mile WR at 4:57.1. If you never read about Nielsen’s feat back in April, check out the LRC beer mile archives here.

Thursday 10/02:

Wednesday 10/01:

Tuesday 9/30: 

– Renato Canova talking about the progression of the men’s marathon world record and how men’s marathoning is at a completely different level than it was 6 years ago when Haile Gebrselassie was the first man to break 2:04 (and there were only 3 men sub-2:05). Canova thinks it won’t be long before we can see sub-2:02:30, namingDennis Kimetto himself, Wilson Kipsang and Kenenisa Bekele as guys who could potentially lower Kimetto’s 2:02:57. What do you think? Discuss on our message board: Renato Canova QOD – He’s right but wrong (Kebede and Korir came from behind, Wanjiru, not Geb attacked in ’08)

Questions? Comments? Email us.