The Week That Was in Running – July 25-31, 2016
August 2, 2016
With the Olympics coming up, there wasn’t a whole lot of action to break down from last week, particularly since we already analyzed the 2016 TrackTown Summer Series and the American field at the 2016 TCS New York City Marathon:
That being said, there still were a few interesting things to say about last week. Before we get to the WTW, we urge you to support the Stepanov family by either donating or signing the petition asking that they feature prominently at the Olympics. The whistleblowers need your help. They are only halfway to their fund-rasing goal of 80,000 Swiss francs (if you donate, one dollar basically equals one Swiss franc):
Stat of the Week I
3:35.21 – lifetime 1500 PR of Gabe Jennings, who in 2000 at age 21 won the NCAA mile, NCAA 1500 and US Olympic Trials 1500 (race video).
3:34.88 – lifetime 1500 PR of Colby Alexander, who in 5 years at Oregon scored a grand total of 2 points in the Pac-12 (7th in the 1500 as a freshman).
Yes, US distance running has gotten a lot faster over the last 15 years, but we imagine that everyone over the age of 35 who remembers Jennings’ career well is having a hard time believing, like we are, that Jennings’ lifetime pb is slower than Colby Alexander’s. Alexander ran 3:34.88 last week at the first-ever TrackTown Summer Series meet.
It wasn’t like Jennings was a one-hit wonder. He ran 4:02 in the mile in HS and in 2006, Jennings gave Bernard Lagat a run for his money at USAs as well.
Inspired by Alexander’s PR, we decided to look at how many Americans broke 3:36.20 (the 2016 Olympic standard) in a given year going back to 1998 (that’s as far back as our results database, Tilastopaja.net, goes).
# of Americans Running 3:36.20 Or Faster
2016 – 9
2015 – 8
2014 – 6
2013 – 12
2012 – 14
2011 – 8
2010 – 6
2009 – 4
2008 – 2
2007 – 5
2006 – 5
2005 – 5
2004 – 2
2003 – 2
2002 – 1
2001 – 3
2000 – 4
1999 – 3
1998 – 1
Stat of the Week II
6,700 – number of hours of coverage from Rio de Janeiro that NBC will dedicate to the Olympics according to the Chicago Tribune, which writes that “every second from all 32 events will be available on NBC; the network’s 11 cable outlets, including NBCSN, CNBC, the Golf Channel and Bravo; and on its digital platforms, NBCOlympics.com and the NBC Sports app. Viewers will need a subscription to a cable or satellite provider to access the digital coverage.”
6,700 hours is hard to put in context so maybe this will help. “It’s like watching every NFL football game since 2008,” said Brian Roberts, the president and CEO of Comcast. Put differently, if you wanted to watch all of NBC’s 2016 Olympic coverage, it would take you just over 279 days — and that’s without bathroom or sleep breaks. For comparison’s sake, in Atlanta at the 1996 Olympics, NBC aired 175 hours of coverage.
Stat of the Week II
450,000 condoms — amount of condoms that will be handed out to Olympians in Rio (equivalent to 42 per person).
Videos of The Week
Charles Bethea in the New Yorker published a story on Monday that debated how fast Usain Bolt could run a mile that repeatedly cited LetsRun.com and our messageboard posters. LetsRun.com co-founders Robert and Weldon Johnson were both quoted in the story and both were in agreement that, at best, it wouldn’t be much better than 5 minutes (Rojo said he wouldn’t break 5:00, Wejo thought he could). However, many message board posters disagreed.
We’re going to say it again. Those of you think that Bolt could do something that would make him a player in some high school state meets — like sub-4:30 — are crazy. It seems like many LetsRunners falsely think that since scores of high school boys and even talented high school girls can break 5:00 for a mile that Usain Bolt must also be able to do it. That’s not how physiology works. He’s an elite sprinter, not a distance runner. Under that logic, then please tell us why when Mo Farah, the world’s greatest distance runner on the track, raced a 100m in 2012 he only ran 12.98 – a time that plenty of high school girls can run.
Here is the video of Mo Farah racing that 100 from 2012 (many kudos to mboard poster “Add it up” for finding it)
The New Yorker article also talked about how Carl Lewis could only run a 2:16 800 when he ran it in 1986. In case you haven’t seen that race video, here is Carl Lewis’ 2:16 800:
Physiology still applies to elite athletes. Mo Farah doesn’t become fast at sprinting simply because he’s a multi-time gold medalist and Usain Bolt doesn’t suddenly become fast at distance running simply because he’s a multi-time gold medalist.
Most Ridiculous Headline Of The Week
If you want proof positive that the press will find a way to complain about everything, then we have it for you.
Normally, the press rips business and politicians for lavishly spending money on travel. The headline above is from the Daily Mail and it rips UK Athletics for flying the majority of its athletes to Rio in coach, not business class.
Since the Brits routinely don’t take people with the Olympic standard simply to save money, we are pleased to learn their frugality applies to airplane tickets as well as the cost difference between a coach and business class ticket from London to Rio is about 2,000 pounds ($2,635). It would drive us nuts if, in addition to not sending a full Olympic team, we found out they were sending everyone over in business class. Truth be told, however, we might agree to fly them over in business but make them return in coach.
Regardless, we think the headline by the Daily Mail was absurd. Considering they are spending taxpayer’s money, we don’t think them flying coach class is a ‘mockery’ of anything.
Quotes of the Week (that weren’t quote of the day)
#1 The Most Sarcastic Quote of The Week
“I wanted to contribute to a championship for San Francisco. It’s been one of my goals all year. This is for you San Francisco!”
–Colby Alexander yelling on ESPN when asked what that team competition meant to him after winning the TrackTown Summer Series men’s 1500. Alexander was being sarcastic as he didn’t even know he was on team San Francisco until the draft was held June 25.
Meet organizers certainly deserve credit for trying something new and the athletes almost universally loved the team concept but it’s hard for fans to be into a team when they don’t know the name of the coach or owner, the players on the team don’t wear the same uniform and the team ceases to exist the moment the meet is over.
#2 The Russian Doping Scandal Doesn’t Mean That the Idealism Of the Olympics Has Been Lost As Cheating Has Always Been Going On In The Olympics
“There is evidence that has been documented spanning some 2,000 years when, for example, in 388 B.C. the traveling writer Pausanias wrote of the boxer Eupolus and how he bribed his three opponents at Olympia during the games to essentially throw in the towel to let Eupolus claim victory.”
#3 Zane Robertson Speaks Out About The Doping He Saw In Kenya
“I know what I have seen and I know there are other countries doing just the same [as Russia] and they are sliding positive [drugs] tests under the table and hiding it away with bribe money.
“It’s got to go to a level further than this. Russia is just a scapegoat when there are a lot of other countries out there doing the same thing.
“The IAAF and Wada were threatening to ban Kenya from the Olympics but now they are competing and they are still as non-compliant as ever. I don’t care what testing they have now. I still don’t think it’s good enough.
“There are a few things we can do to really clean the thing up in a year or two. The first thing is to make testing 24/7. In the non-compliant countries, we need to send testers from compliant countries so there’s no chance of bribery and you are sure to get the correct results.”
-Kiwi 10,000-meter runner Zane Robertson, who moved to live and train in Kenya at age 17, talking about doping in the sport. Robertson says he received death threats after witnessing doping in Kenya. He’s now relocated to Ethiopia.
#4 It’s The Balls, Not The Penis, That Matters
“The flash point for a lot of people is, ‘You’re going to allow penises in women’s sports?’ It’s not the anatomy that matters, it’s the hormones.”
– Joanna Harper talking in an article in USA Today about the rumor that two closeted transgender athletes would be going public at the Games.
More: USA Today Wonders If Caitlyn Jenner Will Go To Rio To Celebrate The 40th Anniversary Of Her Gold Medal In The Men’s Competition And Will 2 Transgender Athletes Go Public?
*MB: IOC held recently held a meeting as they believe two closeted transgender athletes may go public at the Games
#5 Common Sense Explains Why Women With Internal Testest Shouldn’t Be Allowed To Compete Without Treatment
“The fundamental issue is why do we have separate competition for women? If you answer truthfully it’s for fairness and equality. If you didn’t have a separate competition women would have no chance to win anything in sport – ever. Female competition exists to protect women.”
–Ross Tucker talking in an excellent 4,000+ word piece in The Guardian by Donald McRae on Caster Semenya entitled, “The return of Caster Semenya: Olympic favourite and ticking timebomb.”
#6 It Would Suck To Have To Represent A Jerk
“When I look at athletes to bring on, beyond world-class standards, it’s character, personality, and communication skills that are important. I’m going to work my butt off for them so I want to make sure they’re a good person and somebody I’m proud to put my name on the line for.”
-agent Merhawi Keflezighi, talking about the type of athletes he likes to represent in a Runner’s World profile.
We’ve Heard Of A Lot Of Bizarre Things Holding Runners Back, But Not This
When a runner is struggling to hit the times people know they are capable of, we feel that way more often it’s due to a physical, not mental, problem. The problem is it’s often very hard to figure out what is holding a runner back. Case in point, read this excerpt from a New Zealand Herald profile of Kiwi 1500 runner Hamish Carson:
The 2013 season was dogged by breathing problems as Hamish was misdiagnosed with exercise induced asthma. After many months battling to find a correct diagnosis it was discovered the middle-distance runner’s vocal chords were spasming during high intensity exercise and closing his airways.
“It was a crazy thing to happen,” he explains. “To fix the problem I went to a speech and language therapist where I was put on a treadmill. Once I reached a high speed and the vocal chords would spasm we’d work on ways to control that. It was very strange. It only took four sessions to sort out and after a year of poor performances, I was miraculously able to breathe again.”
More: Kiwi 1,500 Runner Hamish Carson Is Pumped For His 1st Olympics He’s coached by John Walker‘s old coach, Arch Jelley, who is now 93.
*Q&A With Arch Jelley From 2 Years Ago When He Was 91
Both The IOC And WADA Embarrass Themselves
It was an embarrassing week for the IOC and its head Thomas Bach as they basically threw WADA under the bus by complaining that WADA looked into the Russian doping scandal at the last minute, which created a logistical problem for them.
WADA has a ton of faults, but the IOC’s criticism is off base for the following reasons.
- WADA was created by the IOC.
The biggest problem with the whole Russian doping scandal is that WADA didn’t look into the allegations years ago when they first learned of them as they claimed they didn’t have the power to do so. Well since WADA was largely created by the IOC, that fault really is the IOC’s making.
- No one made the IOC ban Yuliya Stepanova from the Olympics.
The IOC had the opportunity to celebrate a brave woman who risked her life to make one of the biggest doping scandals in sporting history public but instead they are doing what sports federations have done for years – try to ignore PR fallout from a doping bust.
As mad as we are at the IOC however, we feel like the most disgraceful acts last week came from WADA. Fearing criticism, they last week canceled their traditional pre-Olympic press conference. This reaffirms what we’ve been saying all summer long about WADA. They just don’t get it. If WADA was run correctly, they wouldn’t be afraid to hold a press conference in Brazil. Instead, they’d be looking forward to the press conference as it would mark a great day for the anti-doping agency. WADA should celebrate doping busts like a prosecutor celebrates convictions. Instead, WADA still views doping busts as bad publicity and it’s for this reason that in June we asked for the resignation of WADA head Craig Reedie. We want a new head who has a prosecution background.
- IOC President Thomas Bach Throws WADA Under The Bus, Blaming Them For Not Looking Into Russian Doping Earlier
- WADA President Craig Reedie Defends Release Of McLaren Report ,Saying They Acted “Without Delay”
- WADA Disappointed With IOC Decision Not To Ban Russia And Not Let Whistleblower Yulia Stepanova Compete
- 13 National Anti-Doping Organizations Accuse IOC Of Putting Politics And Business Ahead Of Clean Sport The anti-doping groups, including USADA, also criticized the IOC for banning Yulia Stepanova.
*Full Open Statement To The IOC
- NY Times: “Rare Show Of Discord Between IOC And WADA Over Russian Doping Scandal”
- WADA Cancels Its Traditional Pre-Olympic Press Conference
Good Week / Bad Week
How about a thumbs up to the Swedish Athletics Association? Even though world indoor 60m hurdles record holder Susanna Kallur never hit the Swedes’ tougher 12.80 standard (the Olympic standard is 13.00, Kallur has run 12.91) for the 100 hurdles in Rio, the Swedes, inspired by her comeback from injury, still entered the 35-year-old Kallur in the Olympics.
Sweden also earlier in the month took the unusual step of not naming former world 1500m champion Abeba Aregawi to the Olympic team when her meldonium ban was lifted.
It was not a good week for Dennis Kimetto. The world record holder in the marathon, who in his last three marathons has gone DNF (2015 Worlds), DNF (2015 Fukuoka), 2:11:44 (9th at 2016 London), was a DNF at the Bogota Half-Marathon over the weekend (Media Maratón Internacional Bogotá). The race, which is run at 2,600m of altitude (8,530 feet) was won by Tadese Tola (men) and Purity Rionoripo (women).
|Top 3 Women’s Results
1. Purity Rionoripo, KEN 1:11:56
2. Veronica Nyaruai, KEN 1:13:41
3. Amane Gobena, ETH 1:14:11
|Top 3 Men’s Results
1. Tadese Tola, ETH 1:05:16
2. Marius Kipserem, KEN 1:05:31
3. Kiprop Limo, KEN 1:06:19
With the Olympics fast approaching, there is a lot of great track and field journalism being produced.
We really loved the lengthy feature on US shot putter Joe Kovacs by Mark Wogenrich in The Morning Call. Kovacs, the reigning world champ, lost his father and grandmother in the span of two days at the age of 8: After Two Tragic Deaths, Family And Community Helped Single Mom Joanna Kovacs Raise An Olympian.
Justin Gatlin Says He Was In A “Dark Place” After His Drug Suspension In 2006 Gatlin says he thought about joining the military and took stupid risks like driving drunk.
Inch For Inch, Inika McPherson Might Be The Most Talented Jumper On The Planet A lengthy look at the unique rise of McPherson, who at 5’4″ is the shortest woman ever to clear two meters (though that mark was scratched from the records after she tested positive for cocaine).
Learn About Amazing Story Of Uganda’s Last Olympic Champ Before Stephen Kiprotich – John Akii-Bua He was born into poverty as one of 43 children and died a pauper at the age of 47. In between, he managed to somehow win 1972 400H Olympic gold with a WR.
Other articles we’ve tagged as a Recommended Read can be found here.