Week that Was: Mo Farah’s Epic Track Career is Over, Ajee Wilson’s Incredible 2017 Continues, Plus Usain Bolt and Conor McGregor
The Week That Was In Running – August 21 – 27, 2017
August 30, 2017
What a week. From the a full solar eclipse in the US to the first of two epic Diamond League finals: 2017 Weltklasse Zürich. If you missed any of that or our lengthy sit-down interview with America’s steeplechase world champ Emma Coburn, catch up now:
Mo Farah’s track career comes to an end in epic and appropriate fashion…with a narrow win
By far the biggest race last week was Mo Farah‘s final race on the track (assuming he sticks to his promise to only race on the roads from here on out). And what a final race it was.
If you haven’t seen the final straight you must watch the final 150:
Farah’s win the DL final in Zurich was the perfect way for a great champion to go out. The world’s most dominant distance man of the last seven seasons went out with a win that displayed the two keys to his dominance – tactical brilliance and a lethal kick.
Farah had the lead at the bell and entering the final turn and that proved to be decisive as he didn’t have to run any extra ground – very important when three others finish with .13 of a second of you.
We feel like the win was the perfect way for Farah to go out because it was a narrow win, as most of Farah’s wins were. During his reign as the dominant distance man on planet Earth, Farah scored narrow win after narrow win. Unlike Kenenisa Bekele or Haile Gebrselassie, whose fitness was leaps and bounds ahead of their rivals when they were in their primes, Farah didn’t win because he was automatically way better than everyone. Based on seasonal best times, it could be argued that Farah was often equally fit as his rivals. But if you are equally fit but are a ferocious competitor with a superior kick and great tactics, then you’re going to be the winner more times than not.
From 2011-2017, Farah only led the world seasonal best list of times in the 5,000 and 10,000 two times in each event (he was #1 in the 5,000 in 2011 and 2016, #1 in the 10,000 in 2015 and 2017). Contrast that to Bekele, who topped the seasonal best list for six years in both the 5,000 (from 2004 to 2009) and 10,000 (2004, ’05, ’07, ’08, ’09, ’11).
As a result of that, Farah’s wins at the Worlds/Olympics were rarely as dominant as Bekele’s, as shown below.
|Margin of victory at Worlds/Olympics for Mo Farah and Kenenisa Bekele|
|Bekele @ 10k
2009 10k – 3.81 seconds
2008 10k – 1.60 seconds
2007 10k – 3.13 seconds
2005 10k – 0.54 seconds
2004 10k – 4.29 seconds
2003 10k – 1.30 seconds
|Farah @ 10k
2017 10k – 0.43 seconds
2016 10k – 0.47 seconds
2015 10k – 0.63 seconds
2013 10k – 0.52 seconds
2012 10k – 0.48 seconds
|Bekele @ 5k
2008 5k – 4.98 seconds
2009 5k – 0.24 seconds
|Farah @ 5k
2016 5k – 0.60 seconds
2015 5k – 1.37 seconds
2013 5k – 0.28 seconds
2012 5k – 0.32 seconds
2011 5k – 0.28 seconds
Farah won his 10 global titles by a total of 5.38 seconds. His average margin of victory was .54 of a second and his median win was by .47 of a second. Of his 10 wins, exactly one came with a margin of victory of more than a second.
Bekele won his eight global titles by a total of 19.89 seconds. His average margin of victory was a staggering 2.49 seconds. Of his eight wins, all but two featured a margin of victory of more than 1.30 seconds. Half of his eight wins featured victories of more than three seconds.
The fact that Farah was able to win so often – and win two more gold medals on the track than Bekele – without being way faster than everyone else is certainly a testament to him. Mo Farah was a GREAT, GREAT champion and last week’s win made us appreciate him a little more.
However, considering the fact that Bekele still holds the world records at 5,000 and 10,0000, and that Bekele ran so fast so often, and that when Bekele won he won by so much, we think it’s safe to say Kenenisa Bekele deserves the GOAT label over Farah before one even considers all of the stuff Bekele has accomplished outside the oval – namely, the 11 World XC titles (six long course) and four marathons under 2:06, including a 2:03:03 pb.
Ajee Wilson loses again…Ajee Wilson’s amazing season continues
Ajee Wilson has had an amazing 2017.
She started the year with a 1:57.67 PB. She’s chopped 2+ seconds off of that and now sports a 1:55.61 pb, which also stands as the American record.
She started the year off with zero global outdoor medals to her name, but now has one thanks to the bronze she earned in London by running 1:56.65.
Last week, she ran faster than anyone had in the history of the world for 600 meters – 1:22.39 (old mark was 1:22.63 by Cuba’s Ana Fidelia Quirot in 1997).
That’s the good news. The problem for Wilson is the unbeatable Caster Semenya was also in that race at the historic ISTAF Berlin meet and Semenya crossed the finish line 0.62 of a second ahead of Wilson to set a new world record of 1:21.77.
It’s worth noting that before the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) lifted the IAAF’s rules on hyperandrogenism, Wilson had never lost to Semenya. They had raced three times and Wilson absolutely DOMINATED Semenya every time they raced. In their three career meetings before the CAS ruling, Semenya had only once finished within two seconds of Wilson. Since the ruling, Wilson has never won, as shown in the following chart.
|Wilson vs. Semenya||Caster Semenya RSA||Ajee’ Wilson USA||Margin of Difference|
|800 m||WK Zürich 2013-08-29||2:01.83 (6)||2:00.35 (4)||+1.48|
|800 m||GGala Roma 2014-06-05||2:02.66 (10)||2:00.18 (3)||+2.48|
|800 m||Bislett Oslo 2014-06-11||2:03.68 (12)||1:59.68 (2)||+4.00|
|800 m||GGala Roma 2016-06-02||1:56.64 (1)||2:03.33 (11)||-6.69|
|800 m||OG Río de Janeiro 2016-08-20||1:55.28 (1)||did not reach final (0)||na|
|800 m||Herc Monaco 2017-07-21||1:55.27 (1)||1:55.61 (3)||-.34|
|800 m||WC London 2017-08-13||1:55.16 (1)||1:56.65 (3)||-.49|
|600 m||ISTAF Berlin 2017-08-27||1:21.77 (1)||1:22.39 (2)||-.62|
Thanks to her fine run in Berlin, Semenya holds the world’s best time at 600m, but Wilson did get a few nice consolation prizes.
One, she beat Francine Niyonsaba for the first time in her career. Before last week, she was 0-8 against Niyonsaba.
Two, Wilson is the American record holder as she crushed the 1:23.59 that Alysia Montaño had run indoors in New York in 2013.
You can watch the 600m race below. Besides the fast times, it’s worth watching for two reasons. One, it’s rare to see Semenya get out hard. Two, the Berlin organizers built a weird structure over the first turn, so fans were sitting on top of the track.
And the crazy stage over the track in Berlin.
The 2017 Chicago Marathon men’s field is lacking in quality by World Marathon Major standards
To the untrained observer, this year’s Chicago Marathon looks like a great field. You’ve got the top American in the world, the Olympic bronze medallist, Galen Rupp, versus the world record holder Dennis Kimetto vs the defending champion and two time World Champion Abel Kirui, versus the world record holder at the half marathon Zersenay Tadese.
However, last week LRC’s Robert Johnson argued how weak he thought the 2017 men’s elite field in Chicago is: LRC Is the 2017 Bank of America Chicago Marathon being watered down so Galen Rupp can win it?
In that article, he compared this year’s Chicago men’s field to the past three editions of the Bank of America Chicago Marathon and found that this year’s Chicago field pales in comparison to a normal Chicago men’s field. We’ve had more time to do some research and now compare Chicago to the other major marathons held in the last year.
Update on 9/20/17. Chicago has added 4 sub-2:07 Africans to the field in Stanely Biwott (2:03:51), Feyisa Lelisa (2:04:52), Ezekiel Chebii (2:06:07) and Bernard Kipyego (2:06:19) so we’ve updated the chart below.
|2017 Chicago||2017 Worlds||2017 London||2017 Boston||2017 Tokyo||2017 Dubai||2016
|2016 Berlin||Avg #|
The average number of sub-2:06 guys entered in the other Abbott World Marathon Majors + Dubai in the last year is 5.6. As of August 30, 2017, Chicago has just two men with those credentials.
The average number of sub-2:08 guys entered in the other Abbott World Marathon Majors + Dubai in the last year is 9. If you give Chicago the benefit of the doubt and count Zersenay Tadese‘s 2:06:51 from Nike’s sub-2 attempt, 2017 Chicago has just one-third as many, 3.
The average number of sub-2:10 guys entered in the other Abbott World Marathon Majors + Dubai in the last year is 12.4. If you give Chicago the benefit of the doubt with Tadese from Nike’s sub-2 attempt, 2017 Chicago has 5.
If you ignore New York, Chicago has less than half as many sub-2:06, sub-2:08 and sub-2:10 guys of any of the majors held in the last year.
And we don’t want to hear the excuse that there aren’t enough quality guys to go around. The fact of the matter is that 35 different men ran sub-2:08 in the first four months of 2017.
Galen Rupp himself should be considered a sub 2:08 guy for sure, but Chicago needs to add a couple more guys to its field to increase its depth.
More: Is the 2017 Bank of America Chicago Marathon being watered down so Galen Rupp can win it? *2017 London men’s preview *2017 Boston men’s preview *2017 Tokyo men’s preview *2017 Dubai men’s preview *2016 New York men’s preview *2016 Chicago men’s preview *2016 Berlin men’s preview
It’s been a storybook 2017 for Konstanze Klosterhalfen
Germany’s Konstanze Klosterhalfen ran yet another pb last week at ISTAF Berlin as she ran 3:58.92 to win the 1500. About the only thing that didn’t go perfectly this year for Klosterhalfen was Worlds, where she was failed to make the final but revealed afterwards that she was sick.
That’s three sub-4s on the year for Klosterhalfen – equal to the most achieved by anyone this year (Sifan Hassan and Faith Kipyegon also have three). Very impressive, especially considering only six women have broken 4:00 this year.
To recap, here is how much the 20-year-old has improved her PBs this year.
800: 1.90 seconds (from 2:01.55 to 1:59.65)
1500: 7.99 seconds (from 4:06.91 to 3:58.92)
3000: 16.85 seconds (from 8:46.74 to 8:29.89)
5000: 25.60 seconds (from 15:16.98 to 14:51.38)
Klosterhalfen is also a delight to interview and she speaks good English. Check out our chat with her after she broke the German national 3k record in Birmingham on August 20.
Don’t forget about Susan Krumins, who has been improving at age 31
Klosterhalfen isn’t the only European having a breakout 2017. The Netherlands’ Susan Krumins (nee Kuijken), who starred collegiately at Florida State (NCAA champ in 1500 in 2009, 3k in 2008), is having an unreal year as well. The difference is her breakout season is coming late in life – at age 31 – as compared to age 20 like Klosterhalfen.
Last week in Berlin, Krumins improved her 1500 PB to 4:02.25 to place third. So for the year, this is how her PRs have improved.
1500: 3.13 seconds (from 4:05.38 to 4:02.25)
3000: 1.67 seconds (from 8:36.08 to 8:34.41)
5000: 7.34 seconds (from 15:00.69 to 14:53.35)
10,000: 11.73 seconds (from 31:31.97 to 31:20.24)
After Worlds, when we were giving out our grades to America’s female distance runners, we docked Emily Infeld in the 10k (as well as Shannon Rowbury in the 5k) a little bit for losing to Krumins. We thought at the time the top American shouldn’t be losing to Krumins. Now we aren’t so sure as Krumins has better pbs than Infeld at every single distance: 1500 (4:07.77), 3000 (8:41.43), 5k (14:56.33) and 10k (31:20.45)
PRs at age 31 shouldn’t shock people anymore. Over the last decade, one of the big themes has been that people have showed you can run your best in your 30s, whether it’s Nick Willis (1500 pb at age 32), Bernard Lagat (5000 pb at age 36), Mo Farah (seven global titles after age 30) or Susan Krumins. The increase in late in life PRs is probably the result of a combination of improvements in sports medicine, coaching and maybe most importantly of all, the fact that the sport is now fully professional.
The second placer in Berlin was Scot Eilish McColgan, who ran a big pb of 4:01.60, putting her close to her mom’s pb (Liz McColgan was the 1991 World 10k champ)
|Liz McColgan PBs||4:01.38||8:38.23||14:59.56||30:57.07|
|Eilish McColgan PBs||4:01.60||8:31.00||15:00.38||32:01 (road)|
The world’s most accomplished rabbit
In Berlin, the rabbit for the women’s steeple was none other than silver medallist Courtney Frerichs.
One last stop before I head back to the U.S.! Pacing duties on deck for tomorrow night's 3k… https://t.co/qIDO8fec0L
— Courtney Frerichs (@courtfrerichs8) August 26, 2017
In Frerichs’ only post-Worlds steeple, she rabbited her teammate Colleen Quigley in Berlin. For the American fans wondering if somehow the US would have gone 1-2-3 at Worlds had Quigley been allowed to run the final (she got DQ’d for stepping on the line in her semi), the answer appears to be no.
While Quigley did break 9:20.00 for the first time (she ran a 4.03-second pb of 9:15.97), that doesn’t seem to be fast enough to have put her in medal contention. That time does move her from sixth to fourth on the all-time US list.
The six sub-9:20 women’s steeplers in US history
- 9:02.58 Emma Coburn (2017)
- 9:03.77 Courtney Frerichs (2017)
- 9:12.50 Jenny Simpson (2009)
- 9:15.97 Colleen Quigley (2017)
- 9:18.85 Leah O’Connor (2016)
- 9:19.48 Stephanie Garcia (2016)
Conor McGregor gets beat and proves Usain Bolt can’t long jump
Last week, much of the sporting world’s attention was focused on the Floyd Mayweather versus Conor McGregor fight.
The fact that millions of people were willing to spend $100 to watch the fight is proof positive of what we’ve always witnessed on LetsRun.com – sports fans love to debate hypotheticals. Who was better in their prime: Farah or Bekele? Michael Jordan or LeBron James?
Questions like that generate endless discussions on talk shows and messageboard forums for a simple reason – there is no way to actually prove the answer 100% as they are hypotheticals. In this case, the hypothetical question of “How would an MMA champion do against a boxing champion?” became reality.
To us, it was obvious that the 40-year-old Mayweather was going to destroy McGregor.
Just like how Jordan’s struggles in minor league baseball showed how basketball and baseball are two different sports, boxing and MMA are two totally different sports, and Mayweather is one of the all-time great boxers. A LetsRun.com poster came up with a great analogy. How do you think a past-his-prime Bekele would do in a 5k against David Rudisha? It wouldn’t even be a contest.
Reading analogies like that helped one member of the LRC team to have the guts to put down a $1,000 bet on Mayweather to score the knockout. He was so confident in his pick, he didn’t watch it. He simply placed his bet and then looked up the result in the morning. (Don’t give him too much credit, professional gamblers were betting bets of $1 million plus on Mayweather).
Anyway, the whole Mayweather vs. McGregor spectacle reminded us that we should appreciate our stars for what they are actually accomplishing instead of wondering what they could do in another era, another sport or another event.
Though we admit, we’ve been guilty of this ourselves – wondering what Usain Bolt could do in a 400 or long jump.
And then the day after the Mayweather vs. McGregor fight, as we were looking for Ajee Wilson’s 600m race video from Berlin, we came across this video of Usain Bolt trying to do a long jump earlier this year in Ostrava.
Not being MMA fans, we couldn’t understand why any MMA fans were betting on McGregor. But then when we were shocked by how bad Bolt looked in his long jump, we realized that it’s hard for fans of a given sport to believe their stars would be mediocre in other aspects of sport.
Other news of note
We’re running out of steam here so we’ll share a couple of tweets with you. The 18,000-participant Hood to Coast Relay was held last week as well as the Crim 10 Miler, where Dathan Ritzenhein raced for the Hansons-Brooks team for the first time.
— Dathan Ritzenhein (@djritzenhein) August 26, 2017
— Jacuzzi Boys AC (@theJBAC) August 26, 2017
More: Kenyan Julius Kogo Wins Crim 10 Miler In 47:01 As Dathan Ritzenhein Finishes 4th (47:31) Ethiopia’s Buze Diriba won the women’s race in 51:49. Kevin Castille set a new WR in the 45+ division of 49:03. *Results
*MB: Crim 10 Mile – nice run Ritz
*MB: Ritzenhein’s shoes @ Crim 10mile
MB: Google geeks got crushed at 2017 Hood to Coast.
*Drunk Hood To Coast Runner Accused Of Stealing Porta-Potty Pickup Truck And Running Over A Runner David Blackmon drove through a field where runners were resting, hitting Cynthia Gillespie and fleeing the scene. Blackmon was arrested while Gillespie was lucky to escape with only bruises.
*Hood To Coast Runner “Very Lucky To Be Alive” After Being Run Over And Dragged By Drunk Pickup Truck Driver
- Profile On The Life And Death Of US Distance Runner Gabe Proctor, Who Took His Own Life This Past May
- Bermudan LJ Record Holder Tyrone Smith Shares The Challenge Of Being A Pro Athlete While Working Full Time As A Car Salesman
- “Justin Gatlin: Not Quite The ‘Bad Boy.’ A Side Of The New World Champion You Don’t Often Read About”
- GB’s Anthony Whiteman Goes Sub-1:50 To Break World M45 800m Record Whiteman ran 1:49.86 to break his own record by .66 and become the oldest man to ever go under 1:50.
- “Seb Coe Is Right To Run With New Ideas For Change” Sports writer Ben Bloom: “Give things a go. … Try – and potentially fail. Because … surviving in this whizz-bang celebrity era without Bolt and Farah is going to be incredibly difficult. Athletics must be prepared to gamble.”
- GR #2: Alan Abrahamson Gives Props To London 2017 Mascot, Hero The Hedgehog
- Jack Daniels Studying The Effects Of Aging On Elite Distance Runners, 45 Years After He First Tested Them
- Another Hero Will Emerge To Replace Superstar Usain Bolt … Perhaps Sooner Than We Think
- It Was A Long Road Back To The Top For Sally Pearson After Her Italian Nightmare
To see our favorite reads from other 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.