Stars Impress at African Champs, Olympic Trials are Back in Eugene, The Start Time for Tokyo Olympic Marathon Needs to be Changed

The Week That Was in Running – July 30 – August 5, 2018

August 7, 2018

Last week was a pretty slow one as much of the world took a break to get ready for the upcoming European and NACAC championships, but a few things caught our eye.

Past editions of The Week That Was can be found here.

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Random Opening Thought

Is track and field really so popular that we need to hold a Central American & Caribbean Games championship last week and then a North American, Central American and Caribbean championship (NACAC) this week?

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We think not. And while we are a little bit excited for the European champs that take place this week, please get rid of them in Olympic years. If all of these pointless meets (like Euros in Olympic years) were cancelled, maybe we could have a Worlds every year.

The Olympic Trials Should Rarely Be Held in Eugene

Last week, USATF awarded the 2020 US Olympic Trials to Eugene, Oregon.

We’re sure the Trials will be a success (assuming the stadium is completed on time), but for the long-term growth of the sport it is a mistake.

The optics of it look horrible. USATF initially awarded the Trials to LA (Mt. SAC) as one of the things its highly-paid CEO, Max Siegel, has been stressing is the need for USATF events to be in big cities — that’s why he put the 2016 US Olympic Marathon Trials in LA. But USATF then stripped the trials from Mt. SAC as it got spooked about a pair of lawsuits (one that had already been settled at that point) that threatened to halt construction on Mt. SAC’s stadium. USATF took the Trials away from Mt. SAC in order to give them to Eugene — population: 166,575 in 2016 — which doesn’t even have a stadium built yet. But that’s not why giving the Trials to Eugene was a mistake.

And Eugene is of course the ancestral home of Nike — USATF’s #1 sponsor and the company that USATF signed a 23-year endorsement deal with without bidding out the contract. Rather than bid it out, USATF when it’s all said and done will have paid a pair of ex-Nike employees (via commission) more than $20 million to negotiate the deal for him.

No, none of that is the main reason why awarding the Trials to Eugene was a mistake.

It’s a mistake because the one domestic track and field meet that has crossover appeal to casual sports fans in the US is the Olympic Trials, and its the one time to try and reach a new base of fans. Many track fans don’t realize there is a HUGE difference between USAs and the Olympic Trials — the US Olympic Track and Field Trials do amazingly well no matter where they are held.  

Take Sacramento for example. Yes, they hosted the US Championships last year and the attendance was poor: just 29,743 fans over four days. That’s not a ton — for comparison’s sake, Eugene drew 38,795 in 2015. But do you realize that Sacramento hosted the 2000 and 2004 US Olympic Trials and drew an average of 179,552 fans? That’s more than Eugene has pulled in on average during the last three Olympic Trials, as shown by the following stat.

Stat of the Week I

179,551.5 – average attendance in Sacramento when they hosted the Olympic Trials in 2000 (187,103) and 2004 (172,000).
172,425.3 – average attendance in Eugene when they hosted the Olympic Trials in 2008 (167,123), 2012 (174,153), and 2016 (177,000).

We are actually fine with USATF awarding a lot of track meets to Eugene. With no World Championship berths on the line, Eugene would have been the perfect host for USAs this year as they are indeed TrackTown USA.

But when it comes to the Trials, USATF may want to institute a rule that Eugene can only host once every four Trials. Hold USAs in Eugene every year if you want (and definitely in 2022, 2026, etc.) but the Olympic Trials should almost never be held in Eugene.

Here are the attendances for every Olympic Trials since 1980:

1980: Eugene – 121,727
1984: Los Angeles – 143,826
1988: Indianapolis – 90,070
1992: New Orleans – 137,262
1996: Atlanta – 151,522
2000: Sacramento – 187,103
2004: Sacramento – 172,000
2008: Eugene – 167,123
2012: Eugene – 173,153
2016: Eugene – 177,000

Throw Eugene a bone and let them host once every 12 to 16 years. 2020 would have been the perfect year to do it to reward them for building the stadium, but the optics of how it played out this year don’t look good. We still think the 2020 Trials are going to be unreal, but we hope the Trials don’t go back to Eugene until at least 2032 and maybe 2036.

More: MB: CONFIRMED: It’s Eugene – 2020 Olympic Trials

Stat of the Week II / Nigeria May Be Poor, But That’s Not A Good Excuse For The Disorganization At The 2018 African Champs 

“It’s not being rude … it’s being real. Nigeria is a poor, poor country.”

-Kenya’s Nicholas Bett, the 2015 world champion in the 400 hurdles, writing on his Facebook page as some members of the Kenyan team threatened to quit the 2018 African champs in Asaba, Nigeria, after being stranded in the Lagos airport. Ultimately, the meet was still held but only after the Associated Press reported that “hundreds of athletes were left stranded at an airport, some for three days when they were left to sleep on the floor as they waited for a connecting flight to the host city.”

We understand that Bett was frustrated, but the fact that Nigeria is a poor country doesn’t automatically make them incapable of hosting a major championship. Check out our Stat of the Week II:

$5,927 – GDP per person for Nigeria in 2017 (17th in Africa).
$3,496 – GDP per person for Kenya in 2017 (25th in Africa).

If you remember, Kenya hosted the World U18 Championships last year and did such a good job that the IAAF awarded them the World U20 Championships in 2020.

Burundi’s and the Oregon Track Club’s Francine Niyonsaba also got stuck in the airport but she seemed to have a great attitude about it.

More: List of African countries GDP per capita
*Semenya, Manyonga left stranded at Nigeria airport

Three World Leaders Are Beaten At The African Champs

Once the African champs got underway in Nigeria last week, there were a few really high-quality events, including three different matchups between the world #1 and world #2 in terms of 2018 seasonal best times. Caster Semenya (1:54.25 sb) and Francine Niyonsaba (1:55.86 sb) faced each other in the women’s 800, Emmanuel Korir (1:42.05 sb) and Nijel Amos (1:42.14 sb) faced each other in the men’s 800, and Timothy Cheruiyot (3:28.41 sb) faced Elijah Manangoi (3:29.64 sb) in the men’s 1500.

In the women’s 800, Semenya dominated — as expected — as she won by nearly two seconds over Niyonsaba, 1:56.06 to 1:57.97. If you are counting, that’s now 18 wins in a row for Semenya over Niyonsaba. Niyonsaba actually beat Semenya the very first time they raced in Monaco in 2012 (it wasn’t even close as Niyonsaba ran 1:58.68 and Semenya ran 2:01.67), but since then Niyonsaba has lost 18 times in a row.

There was a rare occurrence for Semenya in the 800 in the rounds of the African champs, another woman finished in front of her (video here, Semenya did run the 400 the day before). That hadn’t happened since Semenya started her win streak in 2015.

In the men’s 800 (video here), Amos flipped the script from the recent London DL as he earned the first victory of his career over Korir (they’d only raced twice head-to-head before last week) as he won in 1:45.20 to Korir’s 1:45.65.

The men’s 1500 also featured a win by the 2018 world #2.

Heading into the meet, Timothy Cheruiyot had been on fire in 2018: the world leader at 1500 had only lost once in 10 track races. Included in those wins were four victories over 2017 world champ Elijah Manangoi, with the only loss coming to Manangoi at the Commonwealth Games (Cheruiyot still earned silver).

However, the 2018 African champion is Manangoi, not Cheruiyot. Manangoi won in 3:35.20 to Cheruiyot’s 3:35.93.

So that means dating back to last year’s World Championships, Cheruiyot has raced 13 times, with 10 wins and three losses. But the three losses were all to Manangoi at an international championship — 2017 Worlds, 2018 Commonwealths, and now the 2018 African champs.

Head to head in their last eight races, Cheruiyot leads five to three over Manangoi, but Manangoi has won the big ones.

The men’s steeple also featured the top two steeplers in the world, albeit not in terms of 2018 seasonal bests. 2016 and 2017 Olympic and world champ Conseslus Kipruto (who in terms of seasonal bests is only #5 in the world this year at 8:08.40) got the win over 2018 world leader Soufiane El Bakkali as Kipruto destroyed El Bakkali after the final water jump, winning in 8:26.38 to El Bakkali’s 8:28.01.

Three other world leaders also competed and won easily — Beatrice Chepkoech in the steeple, Hellen Obiri in the 5,000, and Marie-Josee Ta Lou in the 100.

MB: Nijel Amos takes down Emmanuel Korir to win African 800 gold
*Caster Semenya Completes The 400/800 Double With Strong 1:56.06 Victory
*Caster Semenya Clocks 49.96, Nijel Amos Defeats Emmanuel Korir
MB: Caster Semenya break 50.00 for 1st time – Wins African champs with dominating 49.96
*Hellen Obiri Wins 5,000 Title At African Champs By Nearly 10 Seconds In 15:47 Senbere Teferi was second in 15:56.
*WR Holder Beatrice Chepkoech Leads Kenyan Sweep With 8:59.88 To Win African Champs Steeplechase

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

Elijah Manangoi talking about how important it would be for him to win an African title (before he won it):

“It’s very important (to become the African champ)… because now you see my color… I’m African. So to be an African champion [is a] very, very big thing and very important because we have to start there down and come up. So I was training for All-African Games here since five months back. So that’s why I’m very serious for this race because this is the title that I don’t have now and I would like to have it….To win an African championships is a very, very good thing.”

Manangoi was then was asked what would he say to African stars who feel the African champs aren’t important and this is how he replied:

“I can tell them, my brothers, they are wrong. Because you have to start first at home. This is our home. So I need to tell them to pull up their socks. Africa is [full of] very good countries…I’m really proud I’m African. I am an African, I am a Kenyan. I’m very proud of my country. So I’m looking forward to [winning] a gold medal tomorrow.”

Tweet of the Week

You can read about the amazing Miss Katie in a great feature the El Paso Times wrote on her last week. Trust us, if you are having a bad day, read it and she’ll brighten your mood.

More: 98-year-old secretary Katie Jensen was heart of UTEP track team for 30 years

The Start Time or Location Of The Olympic Marathon Needs To Be Changed

The most important article we read last week came from Brett Larner’s Japan Running News. On Thursday, exactly two years before the 2020 Olympic women’s marathon, Larner ran the course in Tokyo to see how brutal the conditions were. And they were awful — 88 degrees (31 C) at the start (7 a.m. local) and 93 at the finish with a really high dew point (76 according to a messageboard poster, which is a dangerous level in their viewpoint).

Those conditions are unacceptable. The race needs to either a) be moved to a different city or b) run at night. Since we doubt the IOC wants to move a marquee event to a city not named Tokyo, option B may be the best bet. Remember, since temperatures are recorded in the shade, there is a huge difference between running in “88-degree” sunny weather and 88 degrees at night.

It’s been written that local organizers think running the race at night would be too expensive, but that’s only because they are worried about paying for an obscene amount of lights for the television broadcast.


Do you realize that:

1. The 1960 Olympic marathon finished in the dark. Video footage of it exists, and it’s actually much more dramatic. Take a look.

Embed from Getty Images

2. The Tokyo World Champs in 1991 also featured a nighttime finish. Messageboard poster “Kids today” reports that the women’s marathon at the 1991 Worlds started at 7 p.m. on August 25 (sunset was 6:19 p.m.) while the men’s race started at 6 p.m. on September 1 (sunset was at 6:10 p.m.).

Regardless of when the race is held, we do believe that everyone running it should get the same treatment. If Galen Rupp is going to be offered a new hat with ice in it repeatedly throughout the race, then everyone should be offered a hat.

More: JRN: Running the 2020 Olympic Marathon Course Part Two – The Women’s Marathon
*MB: Brett Larner Ran The 2020 Tokyo Marathon Course Exactly 2 Years Before The Race – It Was 88 Degrees (31 C) At The Start

Stat of the Week III / Jake Robertson Impresses

50 seconds – margin of victory for Kiwi Jake Robertson at the TD Beach to Beacon Road Race last week in Maine, the largest in race history. On a muggy day not ideal for running fast — the average finish time at Beach to Beacon was the slowest in the race’s history this year — Robertson went out in 13:30 and tried to get Gilbert Okari‘s 27:28 course record but ended up running 27:37. Stephen Sambu was second in 28:27 and 2016 champ Ben True was third in 28:29.

True was incredibly impressed by Robertson’s winning time. “The time he put up today is ridiculous,” said True after the race.

In the women’s race, 20-year-old Kenyan Sandrafelis Chebet Tuei got the win in 31:21 as American Molly Huddle was third in 31:40.

As for what’s up next for Robertson, who made his marathon debut at 2:08:26 in Lake Biwa in March (just 27 days before running 27:28 on the roads in New Orleans), he’s going to announce his fall marathon plans on Wednesday.

Twin brother Zane, who hasn’t raced at all since dropping out of the Amsterdam Marathon in October, is back working out and “patiently waiting for the right time to start racing again.”

One more note on Beach to Beacon: according to the Portland Press Herald, the race didn’t have drug testing this year and last tested “three or four years ago.” While the chances of someone failing an in-competition drug test are small, big-time races like Beach to Beacon still need to have it as even the threat of testing acts can act as a deterrent to doping.

More: More than 6,500 brave muggy conditions at Beach to Beacon 10K

Make Your Travel Plans Now

With there being a lull in track action for much of the world right now, we were looking for things to write about and decided to compile a list of the big meets for the next year for you so you can start to get ready for them. Here are the major events for the 2018-19 season up through the 2019 Worlds. We’ve bolded all of the major marathons and NCAA, US, and World Champs for you.

XC Events/Indoor Track/Marathons for 2018-2019
Sunday, 16 September – 2018 BMW Berlin Marathon

Sunday, 7 October – 2018 BOA Chicago Marathon
Sunday, 4 November – 2018 TCS New York City Marathon
Saturday, 17 November – 2018 NCAA XC Champs in Madison, WI
Friday, 25 January – 2019 Dubai Marathon
Saturday, 26 January – 2019 Boston IAAF World Indoor Tour event (NBIGP)
Saturday, 2 February – 2019 Camel City Elite Meet at JDL Fast Track in Winston-Salem, NC
Saturday, 2 February – 2019 Karlsruhe, Germany IAAF World Indoor Tour event
Wednesday, 6 February – 2019 Torun, Poland IAAF World Indoor Tour event
Friday, 8 February – 2019 Madrid, Spain IAAF World Indoor Tour event
Saturday, 16 February – 2019 Birmingham, Great Britain IAAF World Indoor Tour event
Wednesday, 20 February – 2019 Dusseldorf, Germany IAAF World Indoor Tour event
Friday – Sunday, 22-24 February – 2019 USATF Indoor Champs at Ocean Breeze track facility, Staten Island, NY
Sunday, 3 March – 2019 Tokyo Marathon
Friday – Saturday, 8-9 March – 2019 NCAA Indoor Champs in Birmingham, AL
Saturday, 30 March – 2019 IAAF World XC Champs in Aarhus, Denmark
Monday, 15 April – 2019 Boston Marathon
Sunday, 28 April – 2019 London Marathon

Outdoor Track for 2019
Friday, 3 May – Doha DL
Saturday, 25 May – Shanghai DL
Sunday, 2 June – Stockholm DL
Wednesday – Saturday, 5-8 June – 2019 NCAA Outdoor Championships in Austin, TX
Thursday, 6 June – Rome DL
Thursday, 13 June – Oslo DL
Sunday, 16 June – Rabat DL
Friday & Saturday, 28 & 29 June – Pre Classic (location TBD)
Friday, 5 July – Lausanne DL
Friday, 12 July – Monaco DL
Saturday & Sunday, 20 & 21 July – London DL
Thursday – Sunday, 25-28 July – 2019 USATF Champs – Des Moines, IA
Sunday, 18 August – Birmingham DL
Saturday, 24 August – Paris DL
Thursday, 29 August – Zurich DL
Friday, 6 September – Brussels DL
Saturday, 28 September – Sunday, 6 October – 2019 IAAF World Champs in Doha

Recommended Reads

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.

Got a tip, question or comment? Please call us at 844-LETSRUN (538-7786), email us or post in our forum.

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