August 17, 2017
What’s that off in the distance? Could it be? We think it is…
Good god, that’s the Diamond League’s music!
Yes, Worlds is over, but we can still wring a few more weeks out of the 2017 season before heading into the long abyss that is the off season (or as it’s known in America, football season).
We know what you might be thinking: We just had the most important meet of the year. Why should I care about the same people racing each other again a week later? So here are a few reasons to watch Sunday’s Muller Grand Prix Birmingham.
1) These races are important to the athletes because of the new Diamond League format.
Okay, some athletes will tell you that every race is important, but we know it’s not the end of the world if Robby Andrews doesn’t run well in a tuneup race before USAs. But in speaking with the pros in London, many of them are taking Birmingham very seriously. Why? Well, for the first time in its eight-year history, every athlete must qualify for the Diamond League finals in Zurich (next Thursday, August 24) and Brussels (Friday, September 1). Another part of the format change is that the Diamond League finals are now far more lucrative than in years past — each race winner earns $50,000 and the title of Diamond League champion while prize money is doubled (or more) for the rest of the top eight. You qualify for the finals by racking up points at the first 12 meets of the year, and Birmingham is the last of those 12 meets. So for athletes like Jenny Simpson — who currently doesn’t have enough points to run the 1500 in Brussels — it’s crucial they run well in Birmingham.
2) We get to see athletes who weren’t at Worlds.
For the most part, the sport’s biggest stars were all in London. But not all. Olympic bronze medalist Clayton Murphy is the most notable name for American fans as he’ll go in the 800. Update: Murphy is no longer on the start list. Andrews did get to run at Worlds but dropped out of his semifinal with a calf injury. With eight days to rest up, he’ll give it another go in the Emsley Carr Mile in Birmingham.
3) Stars running unusual events.
Have you ever wondered what steeplechase world champion Emma Coburn (still sounds a little weird, doesn’t it?) could do in a flat 3,000? Well, she’s running the first one in nearly two years on Sunday. What about hurdles world champ Sally Pearson in a flat 100? Or Evan Jager in a mile?
Oh, and it’s also Mo Farah‘s final track race in Great Britain. He runs in the last event of the meet, the men’s 3000. It should be a great day, and LetsRun.com will be on-site to cover it for you. We give you the meet details and preview the mid-d/distance events below.
What: 2017 Muller Grand Prix Birmingham
Where: Alexander Stadium, Birmingham, England
When: Sunday, August 20. DL track events (and the international TV broadcast) begin at 10:00 a.m. ET.
How to watch: This meet will air live in the United States on the Olympic Channel from 10:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. ET (full field events are also available on the Gold package for a fee). In the UK, it’s on BBC Two from 1:30 to 2:50 p.m. BST and on BBC One from 2:50 to 5:10 p.m. BST. In Canada, CBC broadcasts all 14 Diamond League events and live streams them also. For full TV/streaming details, see below.
London 2017 medalists listed in bold
Women’s 800 (8:41 a.m. ET): Lipsey & Sharp renew their rivalry
|Alexandra Bell||Great Britain||2:00.53||2:00.62|
|Esther Guerrero Puigdevall||Spain||2:00.77||2:00.77|
|Lynsey Sharp||Great Britain||1:57.69||1:58.01|
This is a non-Diamond League event that will be contested before the international TV window, so the big names are absent. But there are still two World Championship finalists entered in Charlene Lipsey and Lynsey Sharp, and though they finished 7th and 8th in London, that was a result of the stacked field in front of them: both women broke 1:59 in the final. Lipsey and Sharp battled in both the semis and the final in London, and both were close finishes. In the semis, Lipsey drifted in front of Sharp before Sharp pushed her at the line with Lipsey ultimately prevailing by .12 of a second. In the final, Lipsey beat Sharp by .25. Can she make it three-for-three in Birmingham?
Switzerland’s Selina Buchel finished right behind Lipsey and Sharp in their semifinal and will also battle for the win here, as will Ethiopia’s Habitam Alemu, another London semifinalist. Plus there’s American Kate Grace, a 2016 Olympic finalist, who made the 1500 semis at Worlds.
LRC prediction: Lipsey has been the best of this bunch this year. She’ll add this win to the one she picked up at the Anniversary Games a month ago.
Men’s Walk vs. Run (9:01 a.m. ET)
This is a unique event with only two entrants: Brits Tom Bosworth and Adam Clarke. The premise is simple. Both men will start at the 200-meter mark. Bosworth, a race walker, will try to walk 1000 meters before Clarke, a distance runner, can run 1400. Bosworth set a world record of 5:31.08 in the one-mile walk last month, which comes out to 3:26 pace for 1000 meters. Clarke, who ran a pb of 3:38.35 in the 1500 in June, is coming off a 3:42.97 1500 in Sopot on Wednesday. We’ll split the difference and say 3:40 for him, which puts him almost exactly level with Bosworth (3:40 1500 pace is 3:25 1400 pace).
LRC prediction: We’ll give Bosworth the advantage here since he set his WR on his own and could go even faster over a shorter distance. Clarke, meanwhile, could find it hard to crank out the equivalent of a 3:40 1500 solo. We mainly are just hoping there are no slow motion replays.
— WhatTheBearSays (@WhatTheBearSays) August 13, 2017
Men’s Emsley Carr Mile (9:30 a.m. ET): Jager & Andrews against the world’s best (minus Africa)
|Richard Douma||The Netherlands||3:57.60|
|Robbie Fitzgibbon||Great Britain||4:00.18|
|Jakub Holusa||Czech Republic||3:53.46||3:53.97|
|Chris O’Hare||Great Britain||3:52.91||3:52.91|
|Jake Wightman||Great Britain||3:54.20|
Unfortunately for U.S. fans without a British IP, this non-DL race will take place before the international TV window. Still, there are some big names entered, including three World Championship 1500 finalists, led by bronze medalist Filip Ingebrigtsen of Norway. Steeplechase bronze medalist Evan Jager will also be dropping down and given his current fitness, his 3:53.33 pb could go down if this race gets out quickly. Robby Andrews is entered nine days after hobbling off the London Stadium track with a calf injury; we’ll see if his body holds up for this one. Plus British champ Chris O’Hare has a chance to (somewhat) redeem himself after a disappointing last-place finish in the 1500 final at Worlds. The Czech Republic’s big-kicking Jakub Holusa should not be counted out in a slow race.
One thing you won’t see in this race is a Kenyan. Or any African, for that matter. (Yes, Andrew Rotich, but we’re not counting him because he’s the rabbit). That’s a shame. Kenya has totally dominated the 1500 this year, including a 1-2 finish at Worlds, and a Kenyan man has also won the last five Emsley Carr Miles.
LRC prediction: Ingebrigtsen has been running well all year and was the top non-Kenyan in London where he won the bronze. With the Kenyans out of the picture here, he takes the W.
Men’s 800 (10:14 a.m. ET): Clayton Murphy returns to face 5 London 2017 finalists
|Elliot Giles||Great Britain||1:44.99||1:44.99|
|Kyle Langford||Great Britain||1:45.25||1:45.25|
|Guy Learmonth||Great Britain||1:45.77||1:45.77|
|Bram Som||The Netherlands||1:43.45|
Update: After we published this, Murphy pulled out.: MB: Clayton Murphy bombs in Sopot (1:48.71) – Pulls out of Birmingham DL.
This race contains five of the eight 800 finalists from London, including medalists Adam Kszczot and Kipyegon Bett, but the guy we’re most interested in watching is 2016 Olympic bronze medalist Clayton Murphy of the U.S. Murphy attempted a daring double at USAs and it backfired as he finished last in the 1500 final and did not start the 800 final due to injury, missing both teams. He then went almost two months without racing before returning to the track on Wednesday in Sopot, but his result there was not particularly impressive as he finished seventh of eight against a B-level field in 1:48.71 (winning time was 1:47.45). Perhaps that was a product of Murphy shaking off the cobwebs; we’ll see on Sunday. But if he wants to extend his season to the Diamond League final in Brussels, he’ll need to win this race or come close. Murphy has not run a DL 800 this year, and it will take a minimum of six points to get into the final (a win is worth eight, second is worth seven).
Kszczot is the highest finisher from Worlds and he’s certainly one of the favorites in this race as he’s also got a DL win under his belt from Rome this year. Amos was a disappointing fifth in London but could fare better here in a fast one-off race. Asbel Kiprop is dropping down but considering he was not in shape to contend in the 1500 at Worlds, he likely won’t fare much better over the shorter distance in Birmingham. 21-year-old Brit Kyle Langford — who is almost a full year younger than Murphy — will get the chance to prove that his fourth-place finish at Worlds was not a fluke. Could he get into the 1:44’s after running two 1:45’s (the latter a PR) in three days in the semis and final?
LRC prediction: If this race goes slow (winning time 1:44.75 or slower), we’ll take Kszczot, but if it’s fast we like Amos in a one-off race.
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Women’s 3000 (10:40 a.m. ET): The Hellen Obiri show rolls on as Emma Coburn tries a 3k without barriers
|Rosie Clarke||Great Britain||9:15.04|
|Susan Krumins||The Netherlands||8:36.08||9:03.16|
|Eilish McColgan||Great Britain||8:31.39||8:31.39|
|Stephanie Twell||Great Britain||8:40.98||9:01.04|
Hellen Obiri has operated as a one-woman wrecking crew this year, demolishing almost every field put in front of her. She’s won seven of her eight races, the lone exception a runner-up finish in the 1500 at Pre which we’ll excuse considering she lost to world and Olympic champ Faith Kipyegon. Other than that, Obiri has been kicking ass and taking names and considering she wrecked 10,000 world record holder/world champ Almaz Ayana in the 5k last week in London, we don’t imagine she’ll have any problems with this field in Birmingham — even though it contains three other London 2017 medalists. The only question is whether Obiri will try to run fast in an attempt to become the first non-Chinese (read: first possibly clean) woman to break 8:20 outdoors or if she’ll be content to hang with the pack before blasting away during the final lap. Either way, she should win comfortably.
The battle for second will be more interesting. Several of these women, including 10,000 bronze medalist Agnes Tirop, ran the last Diamnd League 3k in Monaco on July 21st (Tirop was 7th in 8:35.37). Obiri won that race handily (of course), but the top returner behind her that is also in that race was Brit Eilish McColgan, who was 4th in 8:31.39 and then 10th in the 5k in London. The Netherlands’ Susan Krumins (8th in 14:58) and the USA’s Shannon Rowbury (9th in 14:59) weren’t far in front of her. The top pick for second, though, is Kenya’s Margaret Kipkemboi. She didn’t run Monaco, but she was 5th at Worlds in 14:48, 10 seconds ahead of anyone else in this field not named Obiri.
There are five Americans in this field. All signs point to Rowbury as the top US finisher. She was the top US finisher in Monaco and at Worlds, has the fastest PR and is better suited to the flat 3k than anyone else in this race. But we’re intrigued to see what Emma Coburn can do without barriers in her first race as world champion. Since she just PRd in the steeple, this race should offer a look at just how much time the barriers add. Below, we’ve taken a look at two athletes comparable to Coburn: Kenyan steepler Beatrice Chepkoech, who has run PRs for both the flat 3k and the steeple this year, and Evan Jager.
|Beatrice Chepkoech||Evan Jager|
|Flat 3k PR||8:28.66||7:35.16|
|Difference (% of steeple PR)||5.93%||5.26%|
Neither is a perfect comparison — Chepkoech, in particular, could likely run a faster steeple — but assuming Coburn can knock off a similar amount of time from her 9:02.58 steeple pb — let’s say 5.5% — that would give her a time of 8:32, which would put her right with Rowbury in the hunt for top American honors. And considering Courtney Frerichs was only 1.19 seconds behind Coburn in London, we’d expect her to be capable of a flat time in the mid-8:30s as well — assuming the race goes fast.
Coburn has only run one flat 3,000 outdoors as a pro, a last-place 8:59.76 finish in Zurich in 2015.
LRC prediction: This is obvious: Obiri wins handily. Rowbury should be the top American but we’re interested to see how Coburn matches up coming off a big steeple PR.
Women’s 1500 (11:26 a.m. ET): Jenny Simpson looks to earn first DL win since 2015
|Sarah McDonald||Great Britain||4:05.48||4:05.48|
|Jennifer Meadows||Great Britain||4:19.36|
|Laura Weightman||Great Britain||4:00.17||4:01.95|
This is a Diamond League event, but only one of the top five finishers from London will be in action: American Jenny Simpson. The two fastest women in the world this year, Sifan Hassan and Faith Kipyegon, have both already qualified for the final and are sitting this one out.
Simpson, however, is only 16th in the standings right now (4 points) but needs to be in the top 12 to run the final (12th has 7 points), so she’ll need to finish a minimum of sixth (perhaps higher depending on how the rest of the field runs) to get in. That shouldn’t be much of a problem. Though Simpson was not great in her first two DL appearances of 2017 (8th in Eugene, 5th in London), she was spectacular at Worlds and has to be regarded as the favorite here. Remember, after Rio last year, Simpson ripped off two of the five fastest times of her career in Paris and Zurich and could be primed to go even faster this year (her PR is 3:57.22; the American record is 3:56.29). Simpson’s last Diamond League win came in Rome in 2015 (see photo, above right).
The next-highest finisher from London is Brit Laura Weightman, who was sixth, followed by Poland’s Angelika Cichocka (seventh). Both women could threaten Simpson — remember, Cichocka won in Rabat back on July 16 — but Simpson is in great shape and has a PR of 3:57 while neither Weightman nor Cichocka has ever broken 4:00. Simpson is also a great tactician, so she will be favored to win any style of race.
In this field, the two fastest women on the year are Winny Chebet of Kenya (3:59.16) and Gudaf Tsegay of Ethiopia (3:59.55), but both of them were eliminated in the semis at Worlds.
American Brenda Martinez is also entered, and she’s one of the few Americans in recent years to actually beat Simpson in a 1500 (she did it at Pre in May). We don’t expect her to do it here, but she’s very fit right now and could challenge 4:00 (her PR is 4:00.94)
Finally, Bowerman TC teammates Colleen Quigley and Shelby Houlihan will suit up. Both have run 4:03 (Houlihan last year, Quigley this year) and look to be in good shape; could Simpson drag them to some fast times?
LRC prediction: Simpson will have had almost two weeks since the World Championship final when she toes the line for this one so we expect she’ll be ready to go and will win to clinch her spot in Zurich. Simpson isn’t afraid to run from the front when she has to, but the priority here should be on winning; she can wait until Brussels to go for a fast time against Kipyegon and Hassan.
Men’s 3,000 (11:45 a.m ET): Mo Farah races on the track for the final time in the UK
|Andrew Butchart||Great Britain||7:37.56||7:37.56|
|Mo Farah||Great Britain||7:32.62||7:35.15|
|Nick Goolab||Great Britain||7:42.22||7:42.22|
|Marc Scott||Great Britain||7:43.37||7:43.37|
|James West||Great Britain||7:58.47||8:00.66|
As in the women’s 3,000, the outcome in this non-DL men’s 3,000 seems preordained with Mo Farah set to dominate in his final track race in the UK. After Farah, the next-highest finisher from the World Champs 5,000 is fellow Brit Andrew Butchart, who is 0-7 vs. Farah lifetime on the track.
In fact, the entire field has struggled against Farah during their careers (though to be fair, who hasn’t?). Guess how many wins they have, combined, against Farah on the track.
That’s right. Collectively, the field Farah will face on Sunday has a record of 0-41 against him on the track.
And it’s very hard to envision him losing in Birmingham. Adel Mechaal of Spain probably has the best chance — he was second to Farah in the 3k at the Anniversary Games and is coming off a fourth-place finish in the 1500 at Worlds. But Farah still beat him by more than a second at the London DL; it would be quite an upset if Mechaal were to somehow take him down.
Considering Farah already has the British record in this event (he ran 7:32.62 at this meet last year to break it), we don’t think he’ll be motivated by time, particularly with the Diamond League 5,000 final against a much tougher field coming up on Thursday. This is about getting one last win (and a nice appearance fee) in front of the home fans.
LRC prediction: Farah FTW.
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