February 19, 2016
Last week was a huge one with the 2016 US Olympic Marathon Trials as well as the return of Meseret Defar, in what she called the ‘biggest race’ of her life at 2016 New Balance Indoor Grand Prix. In case you were on the Moon, check out those links as we don’t reinvent the wheel here and regurgitate our initial analysis, but we do provide some new thoughts below.
Putting Galen Rupp’s Win and Kara Goucher’s Post-Race Comments In Perspective
Galen Rupp‘s marathon debut went very well. He dominated the U.S. Trials (just as we predicted) by running 2:11:22 for the win. With a couple of miles to go, it was clear that Rupp was going to be your champion. And before the race had even finished, U.S. distance fans started wondering what it meant. One messageboard poster started this thread when Rupp still had one more mile to run:
Hold on people. Let’s not get carried away. Some perspective is needed here. With Ryan Hall retired and Meb Keflezighi over 40, we know it’s exciting to have a new American marathon hope on the men’s side but Rupp’s win was nothing close to ‘the greatest ever’ run by an American.
As usual, we ask you to let stats, not emotions win the day. A few short months ago, America’s best marathoner not named Rupp, Meb Keflezighi, had run with the leaders in New York for 20 miles. They then pulled away in convincing fashion. What was Stanley Biwott’s margin of victory?
What was Rupp’s margin of victory on Saturday?
Yes, Rupp was under instructions from coach Alberto Salazar to not take the lead until late but it’s clear if he’s going to contend for a WMM or Olympic title, he’ll have to run a lot better. We guess the poster forgot about the Olympic Trials in Central Park in 2007 when Ryan Hall crushed the field by 2:08. Hall then went to Beijing and finished just 10th.
Yes, we know it was hot in LA on Saturday. But it also was warm in Beijing.
According to the LA Times, the temperature at the Trials was 64 (50% humidity) at the start and 76 at the finish (Weather Underground shows 69 at the start and 75 and dew point of 51). In Beijing in 2008, according to the New York Times, it was both much hotter and more humid. According to The Times, the Beijing Olympic men’s marathon began with a temperature of 70 degrees and 72 percent humidity and ended with a temperature of 84 degrees (Weather Underground has it at about 69 at the start and 81 at the finish, dew point of 66).
What was Sammy Wanjiru‘s winning time in Beijing?
A ridiculous 2:06:32 (LRC 2008 Olympic Men’s Marathon Recap: Outrageous Pace Pays Off; Wanjiru Hammers to Kenya’s First Marathon Gold).
But trying to compare anyone to Wanjiru isn’t a good idea. The good news for Rupp fans is that 2:10:00 medalled in Beijing.
Perhaps a better comparison is the 2012 London Olympics as they were run in conditions similar to those in LA on Saturday. For London 2012, Weather Underground shows a start temp of about 72 and finish temp of 76 with more humidity in London than LA (dew point average during the race of about 55 in London versus 50 in LA). The winning time was 2:08:01, which seems like a stretch for Rupp, but the bronze medal was won in 2:09:32 (4th place in that race in 2:11:06 was of course Meb Keflezighi).
So at this point, we’d say Rupp certainly is a medal contender in the marathon but a far more appropriate messageboard question to be asking is this one which popped up on Tuesday.
Rupp’s win certainly provided a big jolt of optimism for U.S. marathon fans, but the guys winning the WMMs and Olympics are INCREDIBLY good. In New York, two-time Boston marathon champ Lelisa Desisa of Ethiopia beat Meb by more than what Rupp beat Meb (1:22) and he only finished third.
“When Kara finishes, her emotions come out and she cries at the finish line. Everyone associates that with weakness. In fact, it’s anything but weakness. I mean, she is so damn tough. I don’t know if it’s she cares more than everybody else or what, but I’m sincere when I say that.
“The scary thing as a coach, when Desi is in third and the person in fourth is the person you think is toughest person in the field, you say, oh s—, we’ve got a game in front of us here.”
Only when Linden turned a 12-second lead to 35 seconds did Hanson start to exhale. “That’s because of utmost respect for Kara,” he said. “People have written her off a thousand times.”
–Kevin Hanson, coach of Des Linden, reacting in a Runner’s World article to Kara Goucher’s tears after Goucher finished an agonizing 4th at the Olympic Trials on Saturday.
Hansen’s quote was FANTASTIC. It’s long bothered us that tears are viewed as a sign of weakness in society.
Like nearly all sports websites, LetsRun.com has a majority male audience. What many male LetsRunners may not realize is that women are biologically more likely to cry as their tear ducts are smaller than men’s and thus hold less water. So when you combine that fact with the fact that so many men are taught from an early age not to cry, you soon understand why one rarely sees male athletes burst into tears after a race. In our mind, Goucher’s tearful post-race interview was one of the best moments of the Trials. It showed the average fan just how much the Trials mean. The top three are given the ultimate in our sport – an Olympic berth. Everyone else, starting most painfully with fourth, is sent home with great disappointment.
The big story in the women’s Trials was almost certainly going to be which of the “Big 4” went home devastated. Someone was bound to lose out and it ended up being Goucher. She ran well – the others just were better. In addition to being criticized by some for her tears, Goucher has been criticized by others for talking about the doping allegations she made against Alberto Salazar and Galen Rupp to David Epstein, Mark Daly and the BBC last year. Ken Goe and others on the messageboard wished Goucher had stayed silent and been more “gracious” to Rupp and Salazar on their big day.
While we understand the sentiment that there is a time and place for everything (that sentiment led us to not ask Salazar anything about the USADA investigation into his team right after the race), we think people need a little context of how it all went down in the media area. Goucher didn’t just go into the media area looking to unload on the NOP. During the initial 5:40 that we filmed her in the media interview area, it didn’t come up at all. Only later, in a second set of interviews, while Goucher was talking to Flotrack’s Ryan Fenton and the Denver Post‘s John Meyer did it even come up.
In her lengthy interview with Fenton, Goucher talked about trying to visualize herself as a champion again. Near the end of the interview, Fenton asked if Goucher now viewed herself as a champion despite the 4th place finish. Goucher said she could, “The last year I’ve had to really grow up and decide who I want to be and what I want to stand for. I think that no matter what happened today, getting through the last year [has been difficult so] yeah, it’s just hard.”
LetsRun.com’s Robert Johnson had walked up next to Fenton as he was finishing up his interview and heard that exchange. He asked Fenton if Goucher had explained what she’d stood for and Fenton said she hadn’t. So Johnson then asked Goucher, who was now talking to Meyer, a question about what she stood for and that’s when our camera started rolling. The result is the part we filmed that went viral about justice coming to the NOP.
An athlete never wants to come across as a sore loser, but the fact of the matter is Goucher wasn’t even in the same race as Rupp. Goucher was in the women’s race, Rupp in the men’s race (which is the perfect example of why having two hugely important sporting events at the same time isn’t ideal). Goucher was incredibly gracious to the three women that beat her and said they were simply better. And while it may be messy, Goucher views the cleansing of her soul as having been critical to that resurgence of her career. So it’s impossible for her not to bring it up if she’s going to be honest about her own comeback.
It certainly would have made for a cleaner narrative if the doping allegations weren’t brought up but this isn’t fiction, it’s real life and real life is messy. Sportswriting may have been largely fictional hero-building 60 years ago but that’s no longer the case. In 1950, the question of whether Peyton Manning’s Super Bowl victory was the result of HGH likely never would have come up, but those questions do now and we have to learn to deal with it.
More: MB: Kara Goucher unloads on Alberto Salazar, Galen Rupp and the NOP – “Justice is coming.” (includes links to both LetsRun interviews of Goucher; we actually had a third interview which was largely a repeat of #1).
*Oregonian’s Ken Goe Is Critical Of Kara Goucher’s “Justice Is Coming” Interview Goe: “The marathon trials stories should have been about the performances.”
*Denver Post’s John Meyer’s article on Goucher’s post-race comments
*Flotrack’s interview with Goucher before we started rolling
*More: RW aticle on Goucher after she finished 4th
Stat of the Week I
It’s often said that Boston is “the Olympics” for the amateur marathoner as that’s the highest level of competition they can hope to qualify for. In a similar fashion, the Olympic Marathon Trials are “the Olympics” for your average collegiate/semi-pro runner. We often are asked how many people are really contending for an Olympic spot. In our men’s pre-race coverage, we gave you 20 long shots plus the Big Three, so 23. Here’s another way to consider it.
15 – # of men’s Olympic Trials qualifiers who ran under 2:13:00 during the three-year qualifying period. To make the team, you had to run 2:13:00 in 70-degree heat.
10 – # of women’s Olympic Trials qualifiers who ran under 2:29:20 (3rd place time) according to USATF.
Email of the Week
In our recap of the men’s race at the 2016 U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials, we wrote, “Father Time may be undefeated, but if they’re playing a seven-game series, Meb Keflezighi just went up 1-0.”
That resulted in a great email from Hawi Keflezighi, Meb’s brother and agent.
Wanted to make a quick correction to your words:
Based on your own words & predictions, this was not Meb’s first time racing Father Time. I think based on your own count of Meb vs. Father Time, Meb has won the 7 game series 7-0.
You know I love you guys. Just had to point this out :)’
We don’t know about 7-0, but Meb is certainly up at least 2 or 3 to zero. The problem is we know a four-game win streak by Father Time at some point is inevitable as the game is rigged!!
Embarrassment Of The Week
Unfortunately, not everyone can watch the Olympic Trials live (or follow the live discussion thread). Many people have families and/or jobs and thus aren’t available to sit in front of a TV/computer for three hours on a Saturday afternoon. Thus many of them were trying to follow the race on the live results page. The fact that USATF and Branch Timing – a division of Flotrack – couldn’t get the results up accurately is unacceptable.
The live results were delayed for much of the race. Then the post-race results were flat-out wrong. Below is a screenshot we got from Chris Lear, author of Running With The Buffaloes, who was on a mountain in Colorado with his six-year-old son on vacation, of what he saw as the results some 1.5 hours after the race.
In the men’s race, Lear told us Meb Keflezighi was listed as having finished in 19th place.
Tweet Of The Week
Since Shalane Flanagan had to be carried from the finish line before she was carted off in a wheelchair, she wasn’t able to partake in the traditional post-race top three photo ops. Phoebe Wright didn’t think that was fair so she produced this:
— Phoebe Wright (@Phe800) February 17, 2016
This Week’s Sign Of The Apocalypse
We always had thought that our friend David Epstein and his colleague Mark Daly were doing great work trying to rid the sport of doping. Little did we know, they apparently have been encouraging it. From The Telegraph in the UK:
In December, national junior (cycling) champion Gabriel Evans admitted to taking the blood booster EPO, saying he had been “curious” after watching the BBC Panorama documentary “Catch Me If You Can”, and suggesting that the culture had been “normalised” because he had read so many reports of professionals doping.
Quotes of the Week (that weren’t quote of the day)
#1 Suzy Favor Hamilton Calls Out Regina Jacobs
“Hey Regina, since I aired all my dirty laundry, want to do the same and toss a few US championships my way?”
–Suzy Favor Hamilton blogging last week about drug cheat Regina Jacobs, who cost Hamilton hundreds of thousands of dollars as the two were the dominant duo in US mid-d running during their careers. The line comes from an excellent blog post about how people’s public persona is often fake. That certainly was the case for Jacobs.
In case you weren’t on this site in 2002, Jacobs was the darling of USATF and the mainstream media for being an ageless wonder who trained with her tiny little dog when it was pretty obvious to us she was a drug cheat. LetsRun.com’s Robert Johnson famously asked Regina Jacobs some drug-related questions way back in January 2002.
A classic from the LRC Archives: At Last, The Questions No One Else Will Ask: Regina Jacobs Answers A Few Drug Related Questions
More: Hamilton’s blog post: A FEW RANDOM (& SOMEWHAT SMART ASS) THOUGHTS
#2 Meb Keflezighi Gives Free Instructions to Galen Rupp About How to Road Race
– Meb Keflezighi explaining what he said to Galen Rupp mid-race at the Olympic Marathon Trials when Meb was visibly animated and motioning to Rupp.
#3 Free Marketing Advice to Runner’s World and USATF / We Should Offer This Guy A Job (We Couldn’t Have Said It Better Ourselves)
“I think that we made a huge mistake in this second running boom, as you say, in the mid-2000s when it really took off. I think we made a big mistake to think that promoting the professional side of the sport would somehow alienate the regular runner. It’s a very bizarre concept because it’s not true in any other sport. Can you imagine if Tennis Magazine put regular people on the cover? Or a basketball magazine just put a regular Y-league player on the cover instead of Lebron James? What kind of sense would that make? I played indoor soccer for fun when my running career was done, and I didn’t hate Cristiano Ronaldo because he was a great soccer player. If we want this boom to continue for years, we have to give people something to be inspired by. This applies to running store owners and magazine editors—anybody who is a gatekeeper for the sport. They need to get rid of the idea that promoting the professional side of the sport is dangerous and could hurt its mass appeal. It’s the exact opposite….
“The promotion of the trials has been weak. And I’ll tell you why. The people inside the bubble are patting themselves on the back saying: ‘This is great. You see all these tweets? All this excitement about the trials?’ Yeah, from people who already know about it. We have to get to the people who don’t know about it. We’ve got to reach outside of that. That’s what we’re not doing. We’re so locked inside this bubble of people that already know this stuff and we’ve got to get outside of that.”
–HOKA One One NAZ Elite coach Ben Rosario talking in a pre-Trials Q&A with Martin Fritz Huber in Outside magazine.
#4 Is doping rampant in the amateur ranks in the UK?
“How is it that times in the Tour de France have got slower since the late 1990s/early 2000s, yet times in the UK amateur TT scene have got quicker? These are just minor TT races; side-of-the-road, one-man-and-his-dog, village-green type events. They are producing world-class times but they are not world-class riders. Sir Bradley Wiggins, Alex Dowsett, Chris Boardman… those guys are world class. These guys are second tier.
“Some of them have only recently taken up the sport, having previously done bodybuilding or rugby. Guys in their mid-forties whose rapid improvement is unbelievable.
-a former GB pro cyclist talking to The Telegraph without revealing his name about how he thinks doping is now rampant in the amateur ranks of British sport. Amateurs in all sports, whether it be cycling, rugby or others, realize they are unlikely to be tested.
Tweet of the Week II
Apparently the fact that the Kenyans are being given advance notice of their OOC tests isn’t as bad as it sounds as the tests are being used for the biological passport.
These Guys Deserve An A+ For Cleverness
Three Arrested In Kenya For Falsely Posing As WADA Officials These con men told athletes they needed to pay them $5,000 in exchange for not testing positive.
Other News of Note
Adidas Offers $1 Million To Any NFL Draft Prospect Who Breaks The 40-Yard Dash Record At The 2016 NFL Combine Catch is you have to do it in adidas cleats.
Kenya Placed On Probation By WADA After Missing Anti-Doping Deadline Kenya had been given until Thursday to provide WADA with details/assurances about formation of it’s own anti-doping agency, but failed to do so.
Shalane Flanagan Q&A On Dehydration, Delirium, And Drama At The Olympic Trials Flanagan goes step-by-step through the race from reacting to Kellyn Taylor‘s move to teamwork with Amy Cragg and getting so dehydrated she needed an IV afterwards. She says her issues were due to dehydration rather than fitness and is concerned about performing in hot Rio.
The Guardian’s Sean Ingle: “Isn’t It Time For An Independent Commission Into Kenyan Athletics’ Drug Problem?” The time was probably quite a while ago.
Worth A Read: OC Register: “Galen Rupp’s Decision To Run His First Marathon At US Trials Raises Eybrows” Quotes from Rupp, Toni Reavis and Craig Virgin including NOP doping allegation talk. Rupp reveals the OT marathon debut was Salazar’s idea.“It took me a little while to wrap my head around it. It’s not something I was really thinking about. … And so it took me a while. There were times where I would be ‘Am I crazy to be thinking about doing this?’”
The New Yorker: “From Drug Dealer to Long-Distance Record-Setter: Kevin Castille’s Redemption” The 43-year-old Castille thinks he’s capable of running 2:15.
ESPNW Profile And Q&A With Annie Bersagel, An “Unlikely” OT Contender Between working full-time as a lawyer and coming back from knee surgery this past summer, Bersagel has had a unique path to the Trials. She shares a low point was when she was coming back from surgery and could only run 1-minute intervals with a 4-minute walk break and a jogger passed her as she stopped saying, “Come on, you can do it, keep going.”
Meet 38-Year-Old Dawn Grunnagle, The Former Oregon Project Member Who Quit The Sport For 10-Years And Now Is In The OT She just made it in the half, getting in four seconds under the standard.
Good Register-Guard Profile On Luke Puskedra Who Talks About How Close He Was To Quitting The Sport A Year Ago Now Puskedra has his Nike contract back and is one of the favorites (outside the “big 3”) to make the team. “When we moved back [to Eugene] it was not for running. I didn’t have the desire to run. It was for her job and moving to Eugene from Portland, that was my closure and I was kind of giving up at that point. It was tough. Moving the last boxes from our apartment there, it was emotional but I thought it was closure.”
The Denver Post: Dathan Ritzenhein, Brianne Nelson And Kara Lubieniecki Are Three Colorado Athletes Chasing Olympic Dreams Ritz talks about the struggle of finishing 4th in 2012 and having to come back and make it in the 10k: “That was probably the hardest thing I’ve had to do. It was like the odds were against me the whole time and all the way up to the start of the race, when it was pouring rain and 50 degrees and I didn’t have the standard. That day was about overcoming my own demons of missing the team, having surgeries, feeling like I was maybe at the end of my career in running. To be able to come back and make that team in the 10K was really the biggest thing for me.”
Meb Keflezighi Says He Wants To Make One More Olympic Team So His Daughters Will Be Old Enough To Have The Memory On Galen Rupp competing, Meb said, “There’s probably one less spot to compete for.” “If I really, really wanted to, I could probably make the trials in 2020, but this is my last chance at making the Olympic team. That’s why I am up here [in Mammoth Lakes] for five weeks away from my family.”
Previous Recommended Reads from other weeks can be found here.
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