The Week That Was in Running
February 4, 2020
At the end of each year, we normally take a break on our Week That Was weekly recap as not much happens in late December/early January in the sport of track and field. We guess we got in the habit of taking some time off as we should have started back up a few weeks ago, but restarting now is better than not starting at all. Since there is no way we can recap everything that has happened so far in 2020, we talk about a few things that most interested us over the last month.
PR of The Year (So Far)
Heading into the weekend, Britain’s Jemma Reekie was a very promising mid-d prospect. At 21, she had already run 2:01.45 for 800 and 4:02.09 for 1500. If she were in the NCAA, she’d be a megastar on LetsRun.com, but it’s tough to stand out on the pro circuit with those PRs, particularly when you were eliminated in the heats of the 1500 at Worlds and are only the third-fastest runner in your training group (Reekie trains with Laura Muir and Gabriela DeBues-Stafford).
After last weekend, there’s no excuse not to know Reekie’s name. She exploded into the world’s consciousness in a little less than two minutes as she skipped the 2:00s, 1:59s, and 1:58s entirely by running a British indoor record of 1:57.91 at the 4J Studios Combined Events, Relays & Masters Championships in Glasgow. It was the fastest indoor time by any woman in 14 years.
You can watch Reekie’s 28.8 last lap below.
— SALMarkMunro (@SALMarkMunro) February 1, 2020
And her amazing run wasn’t the result of some crazy shoe technology that will soon be banned. Her coach Andy Young let everyone know after the race that her spikes feature a plastic plate and will soon be out on the market.
Now that XY women like Caster Semenya and Francine Niyonsaba are no longer factors in the event, 1:57.91 is super fast for a women’s 800. Only two XX women broke 1:58 in all of 2020.
2019 Women’s Top 800 Times (Indoor or Out)
1 1:54.98 Caster Semenya RSA 7 Jan 91 170/64 1 Doha 3 May
2 1:57.72 Ajee’ Wilson USA 8 May 94 169/55 1 NC Des Moines IA 28 Jul
3 1:57.75 Francine Niyonsaba BDI 5 May 93 161/56 2 Doha 3 May
4 1:57.90 Natoya Goule JAM 30 Mar 91 160/50 2 Herc Monaco 12 Jul
5 National Records Fall in One Race
One of the biggest stories of the last six months, if not the biggest story, is that it’s become obvious to anyone with a brain how the Nike Vaporfly technology is totally rewriting what is considered a super fast time in long-distance road running. If Eliud Kipchoge going sub-2 and Brigid Kosgei going 2:14:04 on back to back days in October wasn’t enough to convince you the shoes really do help people run much faster than before and if the scientific studies haven’t convinced you (one scientist, Geoff Burns, told us last week it was not even debatable amongst scientists — it’s scientific “consensus”), maybe some of the early results from 2020, particularly from Japan, will convince you.
Just this weekend, five different national records were broken at the Marugame Half Marathon in Japan.
New National Records at Marugame Half
59:57 – Brett Robinson (Australia) – Old Record: 60:02, Darren Wilson (1997)
60:00 – Yusuke Ogura (Japan) – Old Record: 60:17, Yuta Shitara (2017)
68:10 – Helalia Johannes (Namibia) Old Record: 70:30, Helalia Johannes (2019)
68:35 – Kyun Sun Choi (South Korea) Old Record: 70:06, Kang Soon-Duk (2007)
69:38 – Andrea Seccafien (Canada) Old Record: 69:40, Natasha Wodak (2020)
Prior to the Vaporflys, the Canadian women’s record was just 70:47. Now, after being broken three times in the last two months, it’s 69:38.
Canadian Women’s Half Marathon Record Progression
70:47 – Lanni Marchant – 3/8/14
70:08 – Rachel Cliff – 3/3/18
70:06 – Rachel Cliff – 12/15/19
69:40 – Natasha Wodak – 1/19/20
69:38 – Andrea Seccafien 2/2/20
Brett Robinson wins Marugame Half 59:56 unoff. pic.twitter.com/RmJJwi79qe
— Japan Running News (@JRNHeadlines) February 2, 2020
*MB: Did a premature celebration prevent Yusuke Ogura from becoming Japan’s first sub-60 half marathon?
*MB: Vaporfly madness continues. Australian, Japanese, Canadian, Korean and Namibian Half NRs all fall in Japan
Vaporflys Perform So Well At Hakone Ekiden That Asics Stock Price Drops?
Last month, fast times at the Hakone Ekiden — the #1 race in Japan and one of the most-watched races in the world (the race annually attracts nearly 30% of Japanese televisions) — raised eyebrows. Course records in the 100-year-old race were set in 7 of the 10 individual stages; overall, 13 runners ran faster than previous stage records. Team-wise, the top four teams all set Day 1 records and the overall two-day course record was broken by two teams on day 2.
And the course record holders had one thing in common: Nike Vaporfly technology. Almost all of the Japanese schools gave up on their traditional sponsors and wore the Nike shoes for the race, as shown by this tweet.
【再・箱根駅伝2020 シューズ 一覧】
※@F_shokai_RC さん ありがとうございました！
ユニフォーム：あまりに細かすぎる箱根駅伝ガイド2020 より pic.twitter.com/jmmDjiIRdq
— Rolows ロローズ (@Rolows_13) January 4, 2020
In 2019, 51 athletes raced in Asics, but this year only seven did. The domination by Nike was so striking that Bloomberg published an article about how both Asics and Mizuno stock dropped on the first day of trading after the Hakone Ekiden was over. According to Bloomberg, Asics dropped by 3.8% on Monday — the most in more than two months — while it looks like Mizuno fell by 0.9%.
The biggest star in Nikes was 19-year-old Vincent Yegon of Kenya, who ran the 21.4 km fourth stage in 59:25. That means he ran 58:35 half marathon pace for 13.1 miles and kept going for nearly another minute. Pretty damn good for someone with 13:28/27:47 pbs.
Yegon’s performance was so good, we imagined it couldn’t be just the shoes responsible for such a fast time. So we decided to investigate. We reached out to Japan Running News’ Brett Larner to find an elevation map of the stage — and sure enough, it’s a net downhill leg (unlike most US elevation profiles, the one below should be ready from right to left).
The diagram suggests the stage loses roughly 45 meters in elevation (147.6 feet) overall. We showed that map to LetsRun.com coaching/stat guru John Kellogg and asked him how much he thought the elevation loss was worth, factoring in the uphills. He thinks the net benefit would be 21 seconds.
In terms of the weather, the conditions for the stage were supreme. Dark Sky indicates the temperature was right around 50 degrees (10 C) with a dew point in the lows 30s (O C). The wind was tiny — 4-5 mph — and it looks like it was probably a crosswind, but it’s possible it could have slightly helped Yegon as well (Larner’s report talks about a small tailwind).
Yegon still ran an incredible leg, but if you figure it was aided 30 seconds by elevation and wind and then something close to minute by shoes, it’s closer to a 60:00 performance in the pre-Vaporfly days.
If you are into this type of analysis, you must read the following piece that Larner wrote about a week after Hakone: Coming Down From Hakone – This Year’s Race in the Cold, Hard Light of Day.
In that piece, Larner tried to factor in the performance boost of Vaporflys to see who would have set a course record without the shoes. By his analysis, the only course record holder would be Yegon.
Larner also notes that in the pro ekiden the day before Hakone — the New Year Ekiden — that “eight men broke the records on four of the seven stages, at least one other missed by seconds, the top two teams broke the official overall course record and two more broke the record for the actual current version of the course.”
And we loved how Larner concluded his piece:
A few more years like this and once this painful transition period is past things will probably readjust and it will all seem normal. If it powers the self-belief of the next generation to go beyond current ideas of limitations, great. There’s a lot of great racing ahead. But it’s hard not to feel like something’s being lost. Is it all real? What is this isness?
MB: Holy **** – The Vaporflys just broke the Hakone Ekiden. 4 teams break CRs, 1 guys run 58:35 half marathon pace for 21.4 km
*Aoyama Gakuin Fronts Wholesale Demolition of Hakone Ekiden Day One Course Records
*Aoyama Gakuin Holds Off Defending Champ Tokai on Hakone Ekiden Day Two to Win Overall Title
*Coming Down From Hakone – This Year’s Race in the Cold, Hard Light of Day
Stat of the Month
45 – roughly the number of pounds (20kg) that Irish marathoner Stephen Scullion has lost in recent years according to Cathal Dennehy since giving up drinking and smoking to focus on running in 2015. Scullion ran 2:11:52 in Houston last month, but more importantly, finished in the top 5 in the Gold Label marathon to secure Olympic qualification.
Scullion is now the 81st man with the Olympic standard and World Athletics’ target number of men’s marathoners for Sapporo is 80. We reached out to World Athletics to see if he might be out of luck but they reassured us that anyone with the standard will be allowed to go.
5 Quotes of the Last Month-Plus (that weren’t quote of the day)
#1 A coach tells parents how to coach their own kids: don’t
“There are some very famous parent-coaches – Peter and Seb Coe, Liz and Eilish McColgan and now the Ingebrigtsen family. But for most children and parents it just doesn’t work. I’ll happily share my knowledge and experience of athletics with my son – when asked.
“There’s got to be some advantage to having a parent who’s been a successful athlete. However, I’ve realized when it comes to my son’s running, my job is to be his mum and let his coach do the coaching.”
–Jo Wilkinson, a 2:37 marathoner for Britain who is now herself a coach, writing in an article entitled “The Runner’s guide to parenting” on FastRunning.com.
#2 Retirement for track and field athletes can be an odd experience
“[Retirement] was an odd experience; people kept talking about me in the past tense, like I was dead.”
-Irish Olympic hurdler Derval O’Rourke, the 2006 world indoor champ in the 60m hurdles, talking in an article in The Irish Independent about how it’s hard for athletes to find a new career after they hang up the spikes. O’Rourke, who has a master’s degree in business, has done quite well as she’s written two cookbooks and started an online wellness firm.
#3 We think he’s accomplished quite a lot
“I feel that I’ve never accomplished much in my running. If I’m fortunate enough to get the 6DS3 (6 Decades Sub-3:00), that will definitely be the highlight.”
–Antonio Arreola talking to Podium Runner before the 2020 Aramco Houston Half Marathon. In Houston, Arreola and Steve Schmidt made history as they became the first people to run a sub-3:00 marathon in six straight decades. Schmidt ran 2:58:07 and Arreola ran 2:58:18 but they finished hand in hand as Schmidt started behind Arreola. Arreola, 60, has a pb of 2:46:17 from 2001 and first broke 3:00 in 1976. Schmidt, 59, has a 2:37:03 pb from 1984 and first broke 3:00 in 1979.
#4 You have to be fast to run the 5,000
“The 5,000m is too crazy. You have to be able to run a 3:59 1,500m to even be competitive, and I can’t do that. So I’m moving to the 10,000m. I’m going to run at Payton Jordan this April and hopefully qualify there.”
-New Canadian half marathon record holder Andrea Seccafien talking to Canadian Running Magazine about her intentions to move up to the 10,000 on the track this year. We hate to break it to you Andrea, but you might as well keep moving up. The reality is, to be in the hunt in the 10,000 now, you need to be in sub-30:00 shape and her pb for 5,000 is 14:59. Plus does she not realize that Sifan Hassan closed the Worlds 10,000 this year in 3:59?
#5 Kenenisa Bekele explains why he’s now excelling at the marathon
“Before last year I was struggling with injury. Everyone knows I’m a strong athlete from 15 years on the track. When we came to the marathon I’ve struggled maybe to achieve good results many times but of course this is because of injury, not a lack of my training or my personality. Because of injury I was a bit behind for some years but my health came back and now I’m doing a lot better in the marathon.”
-Bekele talking to Athletics Weekly about his participation in this year’s London Marathon.
Quotes Of The Day And Last Week’s Home Pages
To see the quotes of the day from last week or last week’s home page or any home page, go to our archive page.