WTW: Props to Notre Dame and Molly Seidel, A 51 Year Losing Streak Comes to an End, Is Mary Cain = Georgie Clarke, and Shannon Rowbury Day in San Fran

The Week That Was In Running – October 17 – 23, 2016

by LetsRun.com
October 25, 2016

Past editions of The Week That Was can be found here. Questions or comments? Please email us or post them on our fan forum.

Before we officially get started with our weekly recap, can we just say that we hope that everyone who thought Russia shouldn’t have been banned from the Olympics saw this: Russian Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko Promoted To Deputy Prime Minister.

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Great Collegiate SID Work / Molly Seidel Returns

In the past, we’ve used these pages to blast bad collegiate sports information department work so it’s only fair that we hand out some praise when we see some good SID work.

Last week, Notre Dame announced that four-time NCAA champion Molly Seidel, who doesn’t have any cross country eligibility remaining, will return to Notre Dame in 2017 for her redshirt senior years of indoor and outdoor track.

Notre Dame didn’t just send out the information in a bland press release. No, they made a really nice seven-minute short film worthy of someone of Seidel’s stature that you can see below.

Kudos to Notre Dame. If a Heisman Trophy winner in football had already graduated from a college and decided to come back for their redshirt senior year instead of going pro, rest assured it would be promoted in incredible fashion. Here, Notre Dame has made a nice video which hopefully will raise Seidel’s profile a little bit, which can only help her when she eventually does go pro.

Seidel isn’t the only one returning in 2017. Last week, it was also announced that Nick Symmonds hopes to compete in 2017 if his ankle will allow it.

More: MB: Molly Seidel returning to Notre Dame for 2017 NCAA track season

O for 51 – No, Make That 1 for 52

Last year, the Colorado School of Mines men’s cross country team won the NCAA Division II title. However, there was still one thing the program had never accomplished – win its conference title. How is that possible? Because Colorado Mines is in the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference (RMAC), the same conference as perennial DII superpower Adams State. Last year, Colorado Mines won NCAAs over Adams State (100 to 127) but failed to win the RMAC title (Adams State beat them, 33 to 38), just as they had every year since the conference was founded in 1965.

Colorado Mines may have been 0 for 51 at the RMAC meet but now they are an emphatic 1 for 52 as last week they #3-ranked Mines team destroyed #1 Adams State, 20 to 44, by going 2-3-4-5-6 to win the title.

Photo via minesathletics.com

More: CHAMPS! Mines Men Claim First RMAC XC Title, Women Fifth
Somewhat Related: A Look Back At The Only Perfect Score National XC Victory In NCAA History By The Joe-Vigil Coached Adams State In 1992

Drug Testing Expands To Local NYRR Races

Last week it came out that the New York Road Runners was going to expand its drug testing efforts so that it now drug tests at its local races – not just its top international events with professional runners. The NYRR will spend $100,000 a year on the effort – the same amount that it spends on drug testing the pros at its top events.

As anti-doping watchdogs, we are always urging for money to be spent on anti-doping. So our initial reaction was much along the lines of John Roberts, the president of the Central Park Track Club, who said the following to The New York Times about the development: “I very much think drug testing has to be part of the sport at almost every level. It’s unfortunate that that’s where things have gotten. But I can’t think of any reason not to do it, except inconvenience.”

Then we headed over to the messageboard where there was a good discussion on the topic. In a serious of posts, messageboard poster “Bretom” outlined why he has “very mixed feelings” about the development. We found his argument to be incredibly well-reasoned. As a lawyer, he’s fearful he could lose his job if he took a prescription his doctor gave him and then got popped in a race.

Bretom on the messageboard.

Not going to be a popular opinion but I have very mixed feelings about this.

I’m on the bubble for NYRR races – top 40 in their big races (including NYCM), top 15 on their thinner races. I’m much slower than the top WSX and NYAC guys but still competitive. I don’t cheat and the thought that the guys I race against may not be competing honorably really spoils my enjoyment of racing. Or it would do, if I let it. Instead I’m happy to assume everyone’s playing fair and if I should have finished 24th instead of 26th in any given race well, that’s sad but not as sad as life must be for someone who’d cheat in a f*cking amateur road race.

The problem is I’m a full time lawyer and can be struck off for evidence of “moral turpitude” losing, for the sake of a hobby, my only means of supporting myself and my family. I don’t live like a professional athlete. I eat whatever’s put in front of me, drink whatever looks refreshing in a bodega fridge during a long run and will try most any gels or sports drinks. I also take any medicine prescribed to me (but no, I don’t have asthma or Wigginsitis). False positives happen to professional athletes – the chance of one happening to me seems very small but still much higher. I’ll probably sign the waiver and agree to be tested but NYRR should be cognizant of the risk they’re exposing true amateurs to, be very confidant in their testing protocol and be prepared to exercise discretion carefully……

….I just never imagined that something I do for fun might require the sort of diligence and care that we expect as the cost of doing this sport professionally….

I am, for the most part talking about inadvertant positives (though see the Irish sprinter for a recent example of a true false positive). My point(s) are (1) I’m not going to live a hyper-vigilant quasi-professional life and am not particularly interested in navigating the TUE system if a PCP gives me a completely run of the mill prescription, (2) I also take no comfort in the idea that were I to be popped by NYRR (and doubtless made the news as an example of the important strides they’re making in the fight against doping), I’d have lots of expensive, time-consuming appeal rights and (3) any real risk that any of this could happen is not one I can run – personally or professionally.

To be clear, cheating is incomprehensible to me and my entire enjoyment of this sport is predicated on the idea that I’m competing cleanly against other clean athletes. I just hope everyone the sport is thinking carefully as they foist professional responsibilities on amateur athletes and amateur athletes think carefully before they agree to shoulder them.

The local races have $130,000 in prize money and are now going to spend $100,000 in drug testing. Is that an efficient allocation of resources? With that same $100,000 the drug testing by the NYRR of the big name pros could be doubled. It might be easier however to catch people cheating at the local level.

What do you think? MB: NY Road Runners to begin drug-testing local amateurs

More: NYRR Press Release
NYT: New York Road Runners to Extend Doping Tests to Lower-Tier Races

Georgie Clarke Leaves Nic Bideau Mary Cain Leaves Alberto Salazar

Last week, Mary Cain announced she was no longer part of the Alberto Salazar‘s Nike Oregon Project group.

We have two thoughts on it.

  1. We think the key aspect of this announcement is that Cain is a full-time student.

    At Cain’s age (20), it’s tough being a full-time pro runner with nothing else in your life. It appears that Cain may be putting a little less emphasis on running than she did when she first turned pro. That doesn’t mean Cain can’t excel. Cain ran her 1500 best of 4:04 in May of her junior year in HS when she was a full-time student. Andrew Wheating‘s best year (2010) came when he was a full-time student at the University of Oregon (though he graduated before running 1:44/3:30/3:51 that summer, which remain his PRs to this day).

2. Cain’s decision (and her career trajectory at this point) reminds us very much of former Australian teen sensation Georgie Clarke.

In 2000, Clark ran 2:01 and 4:06 as a 15-year-old (Cain ran 4:21 at 15, 4:11 at 16 and 4:04 at 17). She then joined ranks with Australia’s most high-profile coach, Nic Bideau, and made the Olympic semifinals, but she soon found life as a fully-committed pro to be totally stifling. Four years later, she quit Bideau’s group. In 2009, Clarke’s talked to Runner’s World about leaving one of Australia’s high-profile coaches. Those comments could apply to Cain now (particularly if her contract with Nike has been reduced). From the 2009 RW article,  “I was very much a girl who loved my friends, needed my friends. I was very close to my family, and I was away from my family. I wasn’t happy being overseas for seven months of the year. I felt really inadequate about myself, just running, because I had all these eggs in one basket. You’re not getting financial security either.”

Embed from Getty Images

After 2004, Clarke continued to compete but she got a full-time job (while also finishing her university degree). Clarke would keep competing for eight more years — all the way through 2012 –but her PR stayed at 4:06 (she did actually lower her PR from 4:06.77 to 4:06.50 at age 21) and she never made another Olympic team.

For more on Clarke, please read this great 2009 piece on her from RW: Just a Normal Girl (who likes to run a bit) – Georgie Clarke finds herself

More: MB: Mary Cain leaves Oregon Project
LRC Mary Cain Leaves Nike Oregon Project – John Henwood (Not Alberto Salazar) In Charge Of Her Training
 She’s still only 20 and now a full-time student at Fordham.

She Went For It

At least once a year, we like to point out an example of what happens when you go out too fast in a race – you tie up. We do so because we hate reading criticism of American runners in top marathons that “they just didn’t want it bad enough to go out with the leaders.” In running, you can’t just will your body to something it’s not capable of doing.

Case in point, at the 26th Medio Maratón Ciudad de Valencia (Valencia Half Marathon) last weekend, Kenya’s Violah Jepchumba, the world leader at the half marathon this year thanks to the scorching 65:51 she ran in April in Prague, went out very fast — world-record pace through 10k — as she so often does (remember she went out in a road 10k in 14:46). In Valencia, she hit 5k in 15:20 and 10k in 31:01, but in the end, she didn’t even win the race. She faded to a 68:22 runner-up finish in the race won by world half marathon champ Peres Jepchirchir in 67:09.

Jepchumba ‘went for it’ but you can’t will yourself to a world record. Her 5k splits on the warm day were progressively getting slower as she went 15:20, 15:41, 15:58 and 16:31 for the first 20k of the 21.1 km race.

The men’s race, which saw five men break 60:00, was won by 2015 Beach to Beacon winner Stephen Kosgei Kibet in 59:27.

More: *World Half Champion Peres Jepchirchir (67:09) And Stephen Kibet (59:27) Win Valencia Half Marathon
*Who Is Violah Jepchumba?

He Went For It

Sixty-year-old Brian Pilcher tied the American 60+ marathon record by running 2:42:44 at the Bank of America Chicago Marathon on October 9. What made that feat even more notable is that along the way, he destroyed the 60-64 records for the half-marathon, 25k and 30k as he went out hard and tied up. Per USATF:

“According to the USATF Pacific Association, Pilcher’s 1:16:54 was 1 second under Norm Green’s 1993 record and his 25 km time of 1:31:41 destroyed Alex Ratelle’s 1:36:20 mark set back in 1989. At 30 km, his 1:50:53 was almost 8 1/2 minutes under Patrick Devine’s record of 1:59:22, also set in 1989 (fun fact from your editor: Devine, recently deceased, was the uncle of LetsRun.com’s Steve Soprano). Finally, his gun time of 2:42:44 tied Clive Davies’s 37-year-old marathon record.

“Pilcher’s astonishing performance came one week after breaking a 5k age division US record at the Syracuse Festival of Races with an overall time of 16:38 and 5:21 pace. This marked a triumphant comeback for the USATF Masters athlete after dealing with injuries for much of 2014 and 2015.”

Pilcher went out very fast as he was hoping to get the world 60-64 record of 2:36:30. Runner’s World has a fascinating Q&A with Pilcher who certainly is an unconventional runner. He ran 9:33 for two miles as a junior in HS but didn’t run senior year as he wanted to surf with his friends. He then joined the team at Dartmouth but got hurt tobogganing with his fraternity brothers and didn’t run for 30 years until he decided to get back into it when his son started to run in HS.

More: RW A Remarkable Masters Marathon Record, in the Most Painful Way Possible
USATF 60-Year-Old Brian Pilcher Broke Four American Masters Records At The Chicago Marathon

Tweet of the Week I / Free Coaching Advice

This weeks’ free coaching advice comes from two-time Olympic 1500 medallist Nick Willis.

We certainly think learning to run relaxed in a pack (pocket) is crucial to a miler’s success. And it’s something that a few super talents like Asbel Kiprop and Alan Webb aren’t or weren’t good at. We think it’s because they never had much practice at it. It’s tough when you are a super talent at a young age who basically goes straight to the Diamond League circuit where races are rarely tactical. Similarly, on the women’s side, Morgan Uceny, whose career sadly will be forever remembered for her two big falls, didn’t get a lot of practice running in packs, as she was an 800 runner in college.

Tweet of The Week II / It Was Shannon Rowbury Day in San Fran Last Week

Tweet of the Week III / Julius Yego Survives Ugly Car Crash

Star javelin thrower Julius Yego of Kenya somehow survived the car crash below with only a few scrapes.

Instagram Of The Week

Mary Wittenberg, who headed the NYRR for 10 years, was in charge of the New York City Marathon for a decade but this year she’ll finally get the true marathon experience – by running it.

Quote of The Week (that wasn’t quote of the day)

#1 Max Siegel Gets Paid $1 Million + And Gets To Fly To Meets First-Class While Top Athletes Pay Their Own Way To Meets

“(USATF head Max) Siegel is flying first class to watch a meet I had to pay to race. I’m constantly comparing my bank account to the flight search results on Kayak while he’s chartering flights for personal business. Jill Geer emailed me and told me USATF cannot supply me with a copy of Rosetta Stone; meanwhile, Max is getting bonuses off the Rosetta Stone partnership. That’s bullshit.”

Phoebe Wright writing last week on Flotrack about Max Siegel.

#2 85-Year-Old Super Marathoner Ed Whitlock On How He Maintains His Fitness

“The thing is, three hours doesn’t do it any more. That’s the hell of it. I need four hours now. And it’s only going to get worse.”

– Whitlock talking to Spikes last week about how he has to train longer now that he’s older.

More Whitlock News: Telegraph Writer Says 85-Year-Old Ed Whitlock Is His New Sporting Hero

#3 To Each Their Own

“Every time I leave my hotel room ahead of a race, I make a point of kneeling down and screaming out ‘I’m going to be a champion’.

“It started in 2013. I’d been out injured with a hamstring injury but I managed to run well in 1:44.71. I thought, ‘if I can run this well with an injury then the pre-race ritual works for me’ and it has remained ever since. I shout out ‘I’m going to be a champion’ and then say a short prayer.”

-2012 Olympic silver medallist Nijel Amos talking to Spikes last week

Recommended Reads

To read our favorite reads from previous weeks, go here.

Quotes Of The Day And Last Week’s Home Pages

To see the actual quotes of the day from last week or last week’s home page or any home page, go to our archive page.

Past editions of The Week That Was can be found here. Questions or comments? Please email us or post them in our running fan forum.