July 25, 2015
In one of the strangest Diamond League miles in history, Kenya’s Asbel Kiprop won the Emsley Carr Mile at the Sainsbury’s Anniversary Games in 3:54.87 as he demonstrated what makes him both great and vulnerable over the course of four laps in London. Kiprop led the chase pack until just before 800 meters, when he suddenly dropped back and allowed the entire 15-man field to pass him. Instead of dropping out, however, Kiprop hung back there for the next lap before rejoining the leaders with 300 meters to go and pulling away to win the race handily in the homestretch thanks to a 54.6-second last lap. It was a truly bizarre sight to behold; it was almost as if Kiprop was so confident in his fitness that he decided he needed to give himself an extra challenge. Behind Kiprop, American Matthew Centrowitz once again showed his skill in a tactical race, oudueling Ayanleh Souleiman for second in 3:55.03.
Video, results, recap and analysis below.
|Pl.||Athlete / Team||Cnt.||Birth||Result||Score|
|–||Andrew Kiptoo ROTICH||KEN||87||DNF|
|–||Ismael Kipngetich KOMBICH||KEN||85||DNF|
The Race (Discuss: What the F*** was Kiprop Doing?)
Rabbit Andrew Rotich got out quickly, leading the field through 400 in 55.25, but Kiprop showed no interest in chasing a fast time as he did in Monaco last week as he led the main pack through a couple of seconds behind the rabbits. Souleiman ran behind him in second with Centrowitz and fellow American Leo Manzano in third and fourth.
Things got weird on the homestretch just before 800 meters. Kiprop, leading on the inside of lane one, began to slow as he allowed Ben Blankenship and Chris O’Hare to move by him on the outside. A second later, he stumbled but managed to stay on his feet. Instead of fighting for position after almost going down, Kiprop seemed to zone out for a few seconds and within 50 meters he was running in dead last, the entire 15-man field having moved around him. It seemed as if Kiprop was about to drop out, but he instead stayed in the race, content to run the first 300 meters of the third lap in last place.
Without Kiprop, Rotich led through 800 (1:57.60) and Brit Chris O’Hare assumed the lead with fellow Brit Charlie Grice to his outside. No one decided to push the pace on the third lap (60.67), however, a mistake the field (minus Kiprop) would come to regret later. Souleiman took off at the bell with Centrowitz behind him but the slow pace meant that everyone was still in it — including Kiprop, who had started to move up on the homestretch with 500 meters to go and found himself in third with 300 to go.
Souleiman still led on the backstretch but Ben Blankenship was accelerating on the outside and the two of them were level on the final turn with Centrowitz on their inside boxed in and Kiprop lurking on Blankenship’s shoulder.
As Souleiman led the field into the home straight a stride in front of Blankenship, a ton of guys were still in contention and because of this Centrowitz, who is rarely out of position in a race, had no room to move up and had to wait before freeing himself from the box midway down the home straight. By then it was too late, however, as Kiprop had assumed the lead with 75 meters to go and started to streak away from the field, his long limbs carrying him effortlessly along the track. In the end, it was no contest as Kiprop pumped his fist 15 meters from the line, winning in 3:54.87. With room to run, Centrowitz battled Souleiman over the final 50 meters and closed well to take second in 3:55.03, Souleiman third in 3:55.06. British champ Charlie Grice was the best of the rest, taking fourth in 3:55.27 as spots two through nine were separated by just .68 of a second.
Quick Thought #1: What was Asbel Kiprop thinking?
Kiprop is the most talented miler on the planet but in years past has been undone by his tactics. Today was different, however. Normally when Kiprop makes a tactical mistake he puts himself in a bad position, forcing him to run extra distance on the outside or make up too much ground late in a race. While those mistakes aren’t good, they are at least understandable — it can be difficult to get to where you want to be in the late stages of a mile while still saving something for the kick.
But Kiprop’s “strategy” today was truly bizarre. The pace wasn’t particularly fast, but if Kiprop didn’t want to lead, all he had to do was slide to the outside and let someone else take it. In that scenario, he’d no longer have the burden of leading but would still have been in position to strike when the real racing began. Instead, he let Blankenship pass him and then when he stumbled decided to let the entire field pass him, going all the way to the back, and though he did manage to get back to the leaders with 300 to go, it was a far riskier strategy — if someone had made an aggressive move on the penultimate lap, it would have been very difficult for him to respond.
At first, it appeared that he was going to drop out, but Kiprop decided against it and remained in the race, thankfully for all the fans involved. It was a mesmerizing run, and one no one else in the world could pull off. However, we recommend he does not try it at Worlds.
Post race, Kiprop said, “I’ve won the Emsley Carr mile for the second time in a row and that was really exciting. It was my dream to come to London and win at the Olympic Games but unfortunately I had an injury then. I’m looking forward to coming here to win again next year. I was trying to test how it will be for the World Championships.”
Quick Thought #2: Asbel Kiprop is way better than everyone else right now
Kiprop’s last two races can’t be good for the collective confidence of Matthew Centrowitz, Ayanleh Souleiman or anyone else who is hoping to challenge him at Worlds this year. Kiprop’s 3:26.62 in Monaco was utter domination as he ripped apart a world-class field, winning by almost two seconds.
Today’s race was a lot closer but demonstrated Kiprop’s dominance in a different way. In the past, even when Kiprop is extremely fit, other runners could rely on the hope that he would screw up his tactics and allow them to win the race. Well today Kiprop showed that he can totally mangle his tactics and still win comfortably enough that he is able to start celebrating 10 meters from the line. It’s almost as if he was toying with his rivals, in effect telling them, “it doesn’t matter how I run this race, I’m so much better than you that I’ll always win in the end.”
Quick Thought #3: A silver lining for Matthew Centrowitz
Though Kiprop was clearly best, Centrowitz can take away one positive from today’s race: he was finally able to beat Ayanleh Souleiman. Entering today, he was 1-12 in his career against the Djiboutian, with the one victory coming in the semifinals at Worlds in 2013 when Souleiman failed to make the final after doubling back from the 800. With a much slower pace than the 1500 in Monaco last week, Centrowitz was still in it with 100 to, and when that’s the case he usually finishes well, even if he had to extricate himself from a box before he could really get going today.
Centrowitz has made terrific progress on the Diamond League circuit this year. In 2014, Centro was 8th, 8th, 7th, 9th and 9th in five DL 1500/miles. This year he’s been 2nd, 10th and 2nd, and the 10th sounds a lot worse than it was considering he ran 3:30.40 to become the fastest American-born 1500 runner of all time. While Centrowitz’s gold medal chances have certainly taken a hit recently, he remains a strong bet to secure his third World Championships medal in Beijing. Without being boxed today, Centro might have been the only guy able to challenge Kiprop the final 50m.
Quick Thought #4: Other Americans
Ben Blankenship ran a decent race to take fifth but likely won’t be too happy as he was in great position on the final turn and couldn’t take advantage of it. Leo Manzano wasn’t particularly impressive in taking eighth in 3:55.67, but the place is a little misleading as he was just .01 behind seventh and less than .20 behind Blankenship in fifth. Bernard Lagat was third-to-last in 3:57.91, but that wasn’t a bad performance considering he was doubling back from the 3,000, which was run just 19 hours earlier.
Discuss: What the F*** was Kiprop Doing?