Genzebe Dibaba (14:48) And Lawi Lalang (13:32) Take Home Titles At 2015 Carlsbad 5,000

By Jonathan Gault
March 29, 2015

CARLSBAD, Calif. — The talk prior to Sunday’s Carlsbad 5000 road race centered around records. With the seaside staple celebrating its 30th edition, elite athlete coordinator Matt Turnbull secured international stars Genzebe Dibaba and Dejen Gebremeskel to lead the professional fields, with Dibaba taking aim at Meseret Defar‘s 14:46 world record (set here in 2006) in the women’s race and Bernard Lagat going for Marc Davis‘s 1996 American record of 13:24 (also set at Carlsbad).

When all was said and done, the big records endured. Dibaba had to settle for #3 all-time at 14:48 after a slower 4:50 first mile (15:00 pace), while Lagat missed the American record, taking third in 13:41 (he still broke John Campbell‘s 24-year-old world master’s world record of 13:55). Dibaba still won the race by a commanding 25 seconds, while the men’s victory went to Lagat’s training partner Lawi Lalang, who took the win in 13:32 over fellow Kenyan Wilson Too (13:35). Gebremeskel wound up a DNS. He had battled illness this week and made the trip hoping to race (he pushed back his flight from Thursday to Friday to give himself an extra day to recover), but didn’t feel up to it on the morning of the race and withdrew.

Race recaps, results and quick takes below.

Full elite results

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Lawi Lalang With the Win Lawi Lalang With the Win

Men’s race – Lawi Lalang Runs Away from Too

By the first turn onto Carlsbad Boulevard, the field had already begun to string out as Lalang and Too hopped right on the tail of rabbit Andrew Springer. By 1k (2:38), those three already had a gap of 20 meters on Lagat and Kenyans Joseph Kitur and Sam Chelanga. That lead had doubled by the time the lead trio hit the one-mile mark alongside Robert C Frazee Beach (4:14) and it was clear that, barring a major blowup, Lalang or Too would be the winner. Behind Lagat, Kitur and Chelanga, there was another significant gap to 8:15 steepler Haron Lagat and U.S. Half Marathon champion Diego Estrada in sixth and seventh.

As the leaders reversed direction at the intersection of Carlsbad Boulevard and Christiansen Avenue (the second of four 180-degree turns on the course), Lalang made his move, opening up a 10-meter gap on Too. That gap would remain the same (give or take a few meters) for the remainder of the race (Lalang hit two miles in 8:36 with Too a few steps behind) as no matter what Too tried, he couldn’t close the gap on the eight-time NCAA champion up front.

Lalang broke into a sprint as he made the turn for home onto Carlsbad Village Drive with under 400 meters to go, holding on for the win in a relatively slow 13:32. Too crossed three seconds later in a PR of 13:35 (his previous best, track or road, was 13:47). Lagat, who had dropped Kitur and Chelanga by mile two and spent the final mile closing the gap on Too, finished third in 13:41, slowing to a jog across the line after realizing he had missed the American record.

Top 10 results
1. Lawi Lalang, Kenya 13:32
2. Wilson Too, Kenya 13:35
3. Bernard Lagat, USA 13:41
4. Sam Chelanga, Kenya 13:50
5. Joseph Kitur, Kenya 13:53
6. Diego Estrada, USA 13:56
7. Haron Lagat, Kenya 13:59
8. Ben St. Lawrence, Australia 14:11
9. Dan Lowry, USA 14:13
10. Andy Vernon, Great Britain 14:13

Quick Take #1: Lawi Lalang wanted a faster time but was happy to win after a sub par indoor season

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Lalang opened up 2015 by splitting a 3:52 1600 leg in the distance medley relay at the Armory Classic on January 31. However, he got a bad case of the flu the following week which interrupted his training, leading to a disappointing ninth-place finish (3:57.15) in the Wanamaker Mile at Millrose.

“When I went to New York, [I] ran so bad in that Wanamaker Mile, I came home disappointed because I was training for that Wanamaker Mile and really wanted to actually even win that Wanamaker Mile. So when things happen as an athlete, you need to have a mind perspective where you feel like, ‘I didn’t do what I wanted but there are still more chances to come.'”

Lalang said rather than dwelling on the failure at Millrose, he looked ahead to Carlsbad and the B.A.A. 5K (his next race in Boston on April 18). That approach served him well today as he looked comfortable running to a 13:32 victory, even though he would have liked to have run a little faster (that was the slowest winning time since 2008).

Looking ahead to the track season, Lalang said his main goals are to break 13:00 (his PR is 13:00.95) and make the Kenyan team for Worlds at 5,000. The Kenyan team is notoriously tough to make (though the country has four spots in the men’s 5,000 thanks to Caleb Ndiku‘s Diamond League title last year) so Lalang said if he can get onto it, his goal will be a podium finish at Worlds.

Quick Take #2: Bernard Lagat wasn’t too upset over missing the American record

Lagat elected not to go with Lalang and Too early as he felt they were running very fast and that he would still be on record pace. However, when he saw the first split, Lagat realized he was behind schedule and that it was going to be hard to get the record as he felt that he was already going pretty quick. He picked it up over the second half of the race, keying off Too once he dropped Chelanga and Kitur, but he was never close to record pace.

Lagat didn’t think that the new course (which featured four 180-degree turns as opposed to two in years past) was the reason for the slow men’s times, but rather the midday heat (it was sunny and around 70 degrees) and wind off of the Pacific Ocean, a sentiment Lalang agreed with (and something that makes Dibaba’s run all the more impressive). Diego Estrada said that the combination of wind and heat actually felt like he was “running with a heater in [his] face.” Up next for Lagat is his 10K debut at the Great Manchester Run in England on May 10.

Quick Take #3: Diego Estrada survived a travel nightmare to finish as the second American in 13:56

Estrada, who is based in Flagstaff, was initially supposed to arrive in California last week but his family got sick so he scrapped that plan. Instead, he wound up flying in Friday evening, connecting from Phoenix to Salt Lake City to San Diego. However, his flight from Salt Lake City couldn’t land in San Diego due to fog, forcing him back to, of all places, Phoenix. The plane finally left Phoenix around 2:00 or 3:00 on Saturday morning, arriving in San Diego at 4 a.m. By the time he got a cab to his hotel in Carlsbad, it was 5 a.m.

“It was tough, but coach [Joe Vigil] said, ‘You’re young, you’ll recover.’ I like to think maybe that’s my excuse [for not running faster].”

Estrada feels that his training right now is focused on the marathon as he excels in tempos and long runs, but Vigil wants to keep him on the track for the time being. After he ran 60:51 to win the U.S. Half Marathon Champs in January, many wondered if/when Estrada would transition to the marathon, and while that’s a leap he’d like to take, he is committed to following Vigil’s path for him. And as of now, that path doesn’t involve a marathon.

With that said, Estrada’s desire to tackle the 26.2-mile distance is clear, he desperately wants to make the U.S. team for the Rio Olympics in 2016 and the men’s marathon trials (to be run on February 13 in Los Angeles) are completely wide open. If Estrada can convince Vigil to let him run a marathon, expect to see him on the start line in LA. For now, the goal for Estrada is to make the U.S. team for August’s World Championships at 10,000.

Women’s race – Dibaba Just Misses World Record

Genzebe Dibaba Just Missed the WR Despite the Heat, Wind, and Turns Genzebe Dibaba Just Missed the WR Despite the Heat, Wind, and Turns

Dibaba’s aim was to run 14:40 (4:43 pace) and she was hoping for a first mile of 4:40 from rabbit Emily Lipari. Dibaba’s coach, Jama Aden, was on the press truck and knew before the mile the pace was lagging, yelling to Lipari and Dibaba repeatedly to pick it up. When the two hit the mile in 4:50, they had plenty of company as eight other women were in the lead group. At that point, Lipari dropped out and Dibaba began pushing to make up some of the time she lost.

Once Dibaba started to turn it over, fellow Ethiopians Gelete Burka and Wude Yimer were the only ones to go with her. The three quickly opened up a gap as the pack began to string out, and as the trio approached the second 180-degree turn — the same place where Lalang would make his move in the men’s race half an hour later — Dibaba stepped on the gas once again. Her lead was 10 meters as she crossed the Pine Avenue intersection and by two miles (9:32), the lead had ballooned to around 100 meters. It was Dibaba against the clock.

The strain on Dibaba’s face was evident as the indoor 5,000-meter world record holder pressed and pressed down Carlsbad Boulevard. As she made the final turn onto Carlsbad Village Drive, it still wasn’t clear whether she would get the record. She hit three miles in 14:21 and was all-out. The seconds ticked up…14:43…14:44…14:45…

14:46 passed and Dibaba was mere meters from the line, but it was not to be. She hit the tape in 14:48 — the third-fastest road 5K ever, behind Defar and Lornah Kiplagat. Burka won the battle for Yimer for second, 15:13 to 15:18, while Sarah Brown earned $5,400 as the top American in eighth in 15:48 ($400 for eighth, $2,500 for top American, and another $2,500 from T-Mobile CEO John Legere, who doubled the prize money for the top three Americans in each race).

It wasn’t a great day for the Americans though. Deena Kastor ended up missing the U.S. masters record of 15:48 (she was 12th in 16:05) while Brenda Martinez wound up a DNF.

Top 10 results
1. Genzebe Dibaba, Ethiopia 14:48
2. Gelete Burka, Ethiopia 15:13
3. Wude Yimer, Ethiopia 15:18
4. Susan Kuijken, The Netherlands 15:28
5. Betsy Saina, Kenya 15:31
6. Jessica O’Connell, Canada 15:36
7. Miyuki Uehara, Japan 15:40
8. Sarah Brown, USA 15:48
9. Morgan Uceny, USA 15:52
10. Juliet Bottorff, USA 15:59

Quick Take #1: Dibaba’s assault on the world record books isn’t over — she wants sister Tirunesh’s 5,000 world record of 14:11.15 at the Pre Classic

Dibaba was disappointed not to have broken the record today — she said after the race, through an interpreter, that she thought she could have run faster than 14:46 (the record) with a faster first mile — but today’s race was still evidence that she is in VERY good shape. When you consider the men’s times (and many of the women’s times behind her) weren’t particularly fast and that several of the men’s elites complained about the overly warm and windy conditions, her time of 14:48 is spectacular. Though Dibaba missed out on a world record — and the chance to have a beer named after her at the nearby Pizza Port restaurant — this was certainly a good sign.

The focus for Dibaba now shifts to the track, where her main event will be the 5,000. And there’s good news for U.S. fans on that front: Dibaba’s coach, Jama Aden, said that she will go for the world record of 14:11.15 this year and that she wants to do it on U.S. soil at the Pre Classic on May 30. Hopefully meet organizers can shift the women’s 5,000 to Friday night (May 29) as opposed to Saturday afternoon. Conditions in Eugene are usually very good for distance running — cool and minimal wind — at 8:00 or 9:00 p.m. (when Galen Rupp ran his 10,000 American record last year) but not so much during the afternoon when it is usually hot and sunny.

Aden also said that Dibaba won’t have to go to the Ethiopian national team’s training camp prior to Worlds this year and he thinks that will help her peak better for Worlds as he’ll get to supervise her every day.

Quick Take #2: Jama Aden said that he was not aware drug cheat Hamza Driouch was supposed to be serving a suspension when he participated in a training camp under Aden in Ethiopia that also featured Mo Farah

The 20-year-old Driouch trained under Aden in Ethiopia in January and February even though he was supposed to start serving a doping ban for irregularities in his biological passport which would have prevented him from participating in any training camps. I caught up with Aden and asked him what he was doing with Driouch.

“We didn’t know anything about it,” Aden said. “I found out after Stockholm (where Dibaba set the world indoor record on February 19) and someone told me he’d been banned.”

Aden used to coach Driouch (he won World Junior gold at 1500 under him in 2012) before he switched coaches to Abdelkader Kada, whom Aden said coached Driouch for the past two years. Aden was supervising Driouch’s training again this winter.

I asked why Driouch would participate in a training camp while he was supposed to be serving a drug suspension, and Aden’s answer surprised me greatly.

“I don’t think he knows about it,” Aden said. Aden’s explanation was that the Driouch did not know he was under suspension while he was training with him this winter.

What is very clear is that someone screwed up in this situation. Either Aden/Driouch is lying and one or both knew about the suspension, or the IAAF (or the Qatari federation) made a big mistake by not informing Driouch that he was suspended. Either way, it’s a problem.

As for the question Nick Willis posed when the news broke last month — who supplied the 20-year-old Driouch with drugs — Aden didn’t have an answer.

“I have no idea to be honest with you,” he said.

Full disclosure: Competitor Group, which operates the Carlsbad 5000, paid for the author’s travel and lodging for the race.

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