Woody Kincaid Burns Up Nike’s Famed Wooded Track with 12:58 PB for 5000

By Emory Mort
September 11, 2019

BEAVERTON, Ore. — Unheralded American Woody Kincaid took 14 seconds off his personal best to surprisingly win a 5000 race/time trial run on the Michael Johnson Track in the middle of the Nike campus in 12:58.10 as his Bowerman Track Club teammates Lopez Lomong (13:00.13) and Matthew Centrowitz (13:00.39) also easily dipped under the 2020 Olympic standard of 13:13.50.

Yes, you read that right. Kincaid, a man who never finished higher than 5th at the NCAA championships and had a pb of 13:12.22 before last night, has run 12:58.10 and is the 5th-fastest man in US history. He is now faster than the likes of Bob Kennedy (12:58.21), Matt Tegenkamp (12:58.56), and Galen Rupp (12:58.90).

Neither Kincaid’s collegiate coach at the University of Portland, Rob Conner, nor the author could see the finish, blocked by the iconic infield cedar stand, but as we hustled down the backstretch from the start line we heard, through the woods, “Woody Kincaid in 12:58.”


“I think they said 12:58 for Woody?!” the author said to Coach Conner, who responded without missing a beat, “I’m not surprised.”

Conner was one of the few people at the event not surprised as even Kincaid himself was surprised. “I don’t even know if I’m in 12:58 shape NOW!” he joked to a reporter during a long post-race celebration with his many former Portland Pilot teammates, gangs of local high school distance squads circling the track in lanes 4 and 5, and his mom, “But I felt a good race was coming.” However, 12:58 left him “Very surprised. I didn’t feel good before this race and I didn’t know where I stood. I surprised myself to be honest.”

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Regarding the atmosphere, Kincaid said, “This was surreal. It was the first time I felt like a pro runner, to be honest… If the crowd wasn’t here, I would have run 13:20 tonight. But with the crowd it’s like, ‘I know these guys! I can’t…I have to stay in.'” He also credited Lomong, who opened up a gap in the final lap after rabbit and Canadian star Moh Ahmed stepped off the track, “Lopez made it so easy because I was just chasing him down.”

The Race

The start

The race started out hot in the cool, windless conditions, with the first rabbit hitting 400 in 61.1. “Perfect!” exclaimed the official split-taker, as they entered lap 2 and Conner grumbled. The second lap dialed back to mid-64. The three competitors trailed the two rabbits through two more reasonable, but not exactly steady, laps of 62 and 64, for a 4:12 first 1600. About 1200 in the author asked Conner what he thought of Woody’s look: “Honestly, he looks distressed,” the UP coach confirmed, “At nationals, on TV at least, he looked better, and they opened up in 2:30 for the first 1000 there.” Kincaid, sandwiched between Lomong and Centrowitz at the back, confirmed after the race that he was not feeling good, neither the day of the race nor during it. Back on the track, once Ahmed took over as lead rabbit, the laps became very steady — high-62’s and low-63’s — and the small train chugged through 3200 in 8:24. Yes, the splits were 4:12, 4:12 — under the desired pace of 4:14 — but the first mile’s splits had been choppy.

The steadiness from lead rabbit Ahmed held and with 1k to go, they were at 10:30 (63-flat 800), and the author quipped that all they needed was a 2:30 final k for a 13-flat finish. “The goal is 13:13,” Conner added, in case the author had missed that minor detail. Kincaid would later add that despite the final kilometer being “one step after another,” holding on through distress, when he saw the clock at the bell lap he thought, “All I need is a 60.” Kincaid did even better, making up the small gap to Lomong between 200 and 120 to go and etching his name among the fastest US 5000m runners of all time, running 57.47 for the final lap. During the pass, Lomong said he looked over and saw Kincaid, then looked back to see Centrowitz, who claimed he flashed a comic look as the red-clad Bowerman teammates were delighted not only in their own performances but in another breakout from their young friend, now one of the world’s few sub-13 5000m men.

Woody after finish

How did they do it? The crew had been at altitude — Kincaid said running felt really easy upon returning on Sunday evening just 48 hours before the race — in Park City after their excellent performances at US nationals. The idea for a 5000 in Portland came from deliberating how to juggle desires to train at their favorite altitude and while trying to catch a nice 5000 in Europe. “Why don’t we do one in Portland?” the crew mused. So they wrangled the old Hayward Field rail for the track, got USATF to measure out a certified 5000, alerted the greater Portland running community, and presto, change-o, three sub-13:01 performances. Yawn.

The weekend rain had cleared out just in time, leaving behind dynamic skies and cool, crisp air at surface level that didn’t ruffle a single flag among the dozens of flagpoles spectators walked by during a 3/4 mile meandering, eerily-lit walk from the Nike “L.A.” parking garage to the track. Centrowitz said he’s looking to be ready to compete in the 5000 during next year’s Olympic season; Kincaid said it wasn’t difficult to maintain focus after his stirring nationals 3rd-place breakthrough because he knew he was in good shape; and Lomong — soaking up the energy of the fans perhaps more than anyone after race-end — is having a late-career dream season. The crew — minus Kincaid, one supposes — now heads to altitude at St. Moritz before Worlds.

Woody and crowd

With a good race behind them, the trio, plus Ahmed who also got in on the post-race fun (no warm-downs needed!), indulged any and all requests for selfies, interviews, team photos, and autographs. Kincaid was the quietest, as reporters had to really focus to hear his mellow and understated responses over the bubbly crowd, energized by the flamboyant Lomong and social butterfly Centro, two Olympic heroes beloved especially by the many dozens of wide-eyed cross country teens. Though he won the race, Kincaid did, however, almost lose his kit, as a high school mercantilist approached him and asked how much he’d have to pay to get the race-winner’s Bowerman jersey. After a moment, Kincaid — to the kid’s disbelief — started taking off the jersey — “You know what I’ll just give it to you” — but then halted. “Maybe I should ask my coach, I don’t know if I’m allowed to. I don’t want to lose my contract, ya know?” No word on whether the jersey ultimately changed hands, but it’s a fair bet Woody Kincaid’s professional running contract will live to see another season.

Video with Woody below results


1 Woody Kincaid  Nike/BTC 12:58.10
2 Lopez Lomong  Nike/BTC 13:00.13
3 Matthew Centrowitz  Nike/BTC 13:00.39
4. Julian Henninger  Btc Elite 14:49.00
5 Jeremy Freed  Btc Elite 14:50.59
6 Liam Meirow  Btc Elite 15:11.10
Moh Ahmed  Nike/BTC DNF
Amos Bartlesmeyer  Nike DNF

Talk about the race on our fan forum / messageboard. MB: Kincaid 12:58, Lomong 13:00, Centro 13:00 at Nike Track in Beaverton!

More post-race musings:
Kincaid post-race:

Early race:
“Your college coach said you looked distressed 1k or 2k in. How did you feel?”
Woody: “Not good!”

Last mile:
“If I watch the last mile of that race, I lost all form…I lost everything…I was just one step after another, there was nothing left in the tank.”

“I passed Lopez with like 150 maybe 120 to go, I don’t know, I was blacking out at that point.”

“I didn’t feel good before this race, I didn’t know where I stood. You know, I surprised myself today to be honest.”

On what it meant to have his teammates from the University of Portland at the race:
“That’s the only reason I ran fast, that’s the truth. I knew that these guys were here, I knew my friends, I knew half the people in this crowd, my mom was here… it just made it easier.”

Centro on doing the 5k at the Olympics:
“I might do the 10k too, we’ll see!” [laughter]

On preparing for this 5k:
“I’m a strength 15 guy, you know. And looking at WC’s, it’s gonna be 3 rounds in 4 days, and the only time I had a WC or Olympic Games where I had to do that was was in Beijing in 2015 and I got 8th, and [Abdelaati] Iguider got 3rd and a few weeks later he ran 12:59 in the Diamond League…and that just showed me that it wasn’t about [Iguider] being fast, but [about how strong he was]…I said, I’m 30 this year, maybe I could PR in the 8, I don’t know, but I need to start bridging the gap with these guys, Iguider, Jakob [Ingebrigtsen]…”

“I have to run a good 5k if I wanna run under 3:30, if I wanna be able to medal at these World Championships. So I just told Jerry, [let’s train for a 5k this next month and then sharpen up in September].”

Palindrome update:

According to the internet, this week 9/10/19 — 9/19/19 will feature dates that are palindromes (same forward and back). So the reporter was curious to see if any of the race times would themselves be palindromes. Lopez Lomong came very close, clocking a 13:00:13. All were disappointed to not see a truly palindromic 13:00:31. However, let the record show that the runners were racing when the clock struck 9:10:19 p.m. on 9/10/19, or 9101991019. Apparently these palindrome dates will not happen for another 92 years, or when sea levels have risen about 15 feet. We can all rest easy knowing we enjoyed such a moment.

Talk about the race on our fan forum / messageboard. MB: Kincaid 12:58, Lomong 13:00, Centro 13:00 at Nike Track in Beaverton!

Emory Mort, aka LetsRun.com Employee 1.0, lives in the Portland area.

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