What We Learned In Boston: What’s Up With Boris Berian, How Christian Coleman Can Run Even Faster, & How Much Money It Would Take for Jenny Simpson to Race the Steeple Again

By Jonathan Gault
February 9, 2018

BOSTON — With the USATF Indoor Championships one week away, many top American pros are resting up this weekend as they prepare to duke it out for spots at the 2018 World Indoor Championships. But you wouldn’t know it if you were at the Lenox Hotel this morning as six of America’s brightest stars were on hand to meet with the media before Saturday’s New Balance Indoor Grand Prix. It felt a little like the buildup before a prize-fight, in fact, as the meet organizers trotted them out in three pairs of head-to-head matchups: Jenny Simpson vs. Emma Coburn in the 3000, Noah Lyles vs. Christian Coleman in the 60, and Boris Berian vs. Donavan Brazier in the 800. The athletes were into the pugilistic theme as well:

Brazier-Berian I is tomorrow Brazier-Berian I is tomorrow

Each athlete had some pretty interesting things to say. We hit the highlights below, including how much money it would take for Simpson to return to the steeple (hint: a lot), why Coleman’s start is so good, and just what Berian was up to while sitting out the 2017 season.

If you missed our full meet preview from yesterday, check it out now: NBIGP Preview: WR Alert: Christian Coleman Goes For History, Jenny Simpson Battles Emma Coburn, King Ches Races Gebrhiwet & More.

Where in the world was Boris Berian last year?

Boris Berian had an incredible season in 2016, winning the World Indoor title and making it all the way to the Olympic final in Rio. Unfortunately for Berian, he hasn’t finished a race since that Olympic final 543 days ago — a drought that should end in tomorrow night’s 800 (assuming Berian finishes the race, of course). What happened in between?

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Well, for Berian, the troubles actually began early in the 2016 season with a small tear in his Achilles tendon, but with it being an Olympic year, he decided to push through the injury. He took an extended break after that season, and after consulting with his doctors, felt that the injury was healed. He returned to training in March 2017, but two months later he tweaked the Achilles again and was forced to shut down his 2017 season before it started.

Berian took more time off after that, but said he’s almost back to normal now. He started his preparations for this season in October, close to his normal schedule, and that he feels like himself in practice again.

“I’m pretty comfortable running right now,” Berian said. “It didn’t help that I’m a more of a powerful sprint-type runner — on an Achilles, that doesn’t really ever help. But I’m back to doing good pretty tough strides going pretty fast, so I’m pretty confident.”

Berian said that he’s undecided about running any more indoor races this year; it will depend on how tomorrow goes.

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Donavan Brazier’s longest run ever? 7.6 miles.

Brazier is coming off a tremendous run at last weekend’s Millrose Games, where he ran 1:45.35 to become the second-fastest American ever indoors. But with 150 meters to go in the race, he wasn’t feeling good about himself.

“When [EmmanuelKorir passed me with 150 to go, I was like, man this is about to be a slow time, I’m dying,” Brazier said. “But when I saw Korir ran 1:44.2, I was like, man, maybe I should have finished a little stronger to get in the 1:44s (no American has ever broken 1:45 indoors).”

Brazier said to expect another fast time in Boston. He knows that both he and Berian like to run hard from the front and said he expected a winning time of 1:45 or 1:46 in tomorrow’s race.

Brazier was also asked about joining the sub-4:00 mile club in December (he ran 3:59.30 at a low-key meet at Texas A&M) and candidly explained that there wasn’t much special about the occasion.

“When you’re a 1:43 guy, Boris is a 1:43 guy, he can run a sub-4:00 mile,” Brazier said. “There’s a ton of guys that have run sub-4:00, we’re up to 500 Americans now, past that. So running sub-4:00 wasn’t a huge deal at the time.”

Brazier may have earned one distinction with that sub-4:00 however: his longest run ever is just 7.6 miles. We don’t know of anyone in the sub-4:00 club with a shorter longest career run.

“I’m afraid of the distance,” Brazier said. “I don’t run more than, like, seven miles at once. I’m more of a speed guy.”

MB: Has anyone in the history of the world ever broken 4:00 in the mile with a shorter longest run than Donavan Brazier? 

Former training partners turned rivals -- for a day, at least Former training partners turned rivals — for a day, at least

How much money would it take for Jenny Simpson to return to the steeple? $5 million.

Simpson is invariably asked about a return to the steeplechase (an event in which she held the American record until Coburn broke it) at least once a year, so I got it out of the way early in 2018 by asking how much it would take for her to give it a serious try.

“If anyone will pay me $5 million, I’ll run it,” said Simpson with a smile.

Realistically, however, Simpson said the steeple was never an option this year, even with no major outdoor championship.

My steeple days are behind me, but I enjoy the event and I watch it and it’s fun. But it’s not something that I sit down and I say we’re considering what we’re going to do this season and the steeplechase is on the table. It’s kind of not on the table.”

Simpson said that, as usual, the 3000 tomorrow will be her only indoor race of the year, but it doesn’t mean she’s not treating it seriously.

I have been working my tail off just to show off for you guys for nine minutes or so,” Simpson said.

Emma Coburn plans on running the 3000 at USAs, hopes that altitude can give her an advantage

This will be Coburn’s fifth full season as a professional, and in that span she has never competed at the U.S. indoor championships. But with this being an off year and USAs taking place at 5,300 feet of elevation in Albuquerque, Coburn has decided to run USA Indoors in 2018 — and Worlds too, should she make it. Her season is off to a flying start. She ran a 4:38 mile at 7,700 feet in Colorado on January 20 and clocked a 3000 pb of 8:41 last week in New York.

“[The elevation] is a big reason why I’m running it,” Coburn said. “I do think that I have a skill of running at elevation but I think the top few people in the US right now — Bowerman were all up at elevation for the last month too — so it’s kind of an even playing field.”

Race Results Weekly’s David Monti did point out, however, that none of those women have lived their entire life at elevation as Coburn has — she grew up at 8,900 feet in Crested Butte, Colorado, and has been in Boulder since college.

As for tomorrow, Coburn said facing Simpson will be tough.

“I’m racing the best kicker in the world and the best middle-distance runner the US has ever seen, so I definitely hope it doesn’t come down to the last 150 because we’ve all seen how Jenny can crush that and win medals off of that,” Coburn said. 

Coburn also stated that she had never beaten Simpson, though that’s not actually true. She does have one win over her friend, though it came in a race Simpson would rather forget — Simpson’s final race for Colorado at the 2009 NCAA Cross Country Championships (Coburn was 115th, Simpson 163rd).

Two of the fastest men in the United States Two of the fastest men in the United States

Noah Lyles wants to work on his start and run the 100 outdoors

Lyles’ best event is the 200, but he wants to become a better 100 runner as well. Lyles has already flashed potential in the 100 — he ran 10.14 as a 17-year-old in 2015 and won the World U20 champs in 2016 — but he has room to improve as he hasn’t run faster than that 10.14 since. A big part of that is improving his start, hence why he’s running the 60 this indoor season. Lyles began by shaving .04 off his PR by running 6.59 last week at Millrose and will look to go even faster in Boston.

“A lot of [the 60] is on the start,” Lyles said. “I think somebody told me the start can definitely break you if you don’t do it well but if you have a good start, it still won’t give you the race.”

Looking ahead to outdoors, Lyles said he’d like to run the 100 to improve on that event, but still wants to run some 200s on the Diamond League circuit. His ideal plan is to repeat as Diamond League champion and secure the bye to 2019 Worlds in the 200 so he can reduce the pressure on him next year and perhaps qualify for Worlds in the 100 at USAs.

Christian Coleman is the fastest man ever at 60 meters, but says there’s still room for improvement

Coleman, unlike Lyles, doesn’t need to improve much on his start as it’s already one of the greatest in history. He said that starting fast is something that came naturally to him and that he’s worked to enhance that skill under coach Tim Hall.

“I think a lot of it is due to natural ability,” Coleman said. “I’ve always had those quick twitch muscles and I’ve always had great acceleration…the start has always been one of my strengths.”

As for his not-quite-world-record of 6.37 on January 19 — his only other race so far in 2018 — Coleman said he thinks he is capable of running even faster.

“I don’t think it was a perfect race for me at all. I still think there are a lot of things I can work on,” Coleman said. “I think when you’re just looking at it from the outside perspective of just watching the race, it might look like that…[but] you really ask any sprinter, they’ll have a good race and go back and look at the film and realize, I could have [done] this better, I didn’t get through, things like that. My acceleration was decent in that race, but I didn’t transition as well as I think I could have.”

Coleman said he’s eager to take more shots at the world record when it counts the most. His first crack will come tomorrow on national television, but he should get a few more attempts at USAs and World Indoors. For the record, we asked NBIGP meet director Mark Wetmore if everything was in place for a WR tomorrow (electronic blocks, post-race drug testing) and he confirmed that it was.

“I don’t think anybody’s to blame for there not being the right specifications for a world record [at Clemson],” Coleman said. “I’ve just got to continue to work hard and get better and do it again on a bigger stage when they do have the right specifications.”

More: LRC NBIGP Preview: WR Alert: Christian Coleman Goes For History, Jenny Simpson Battles Emma Coburn, King Ches Races Gebrhiwet & More.
Messageboard Talk: *MB: Official 2018 NBIGP Discussion Thread: Christian Coleman in the 60, King Ches vs Hagos & Simpson v Coburn in 3k + BB Returns
*MB: Has anyone in the history of the world ever broken 4:00 in the mile with a shorter longest run than Donavan Brazier? 

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