WTW: Super Shoes = Super Times, Weini Kelati Goes Pro, And World Athletics Reverses Course

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The Week That Was in Running, November 30 – December 6, 2020

By Robert Johnson
December 8, 2020

With COVID-19 wiping out much of the action for the year, I have taken a long hiatus from writing the Week That Was — my normal weekly column in which I try to put all of the action and news of the last week into perspective. But, inspired by Ken Goe saying he loves to read it, the Week That Was is back as there is a ton of stuff from last week to try to make sense of.

Past editions of the Week That Was can be found here. 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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Reminder: 2020 ends on December 31

I used to start this column every week with thumbs up and thumbs down. Can we get a little nostalgic and re-start that tradition, at least with a thumbs down?

Thumbs down to everyone who has handed out their athlete of the year awards already. What a joke. The last time I checked, 2020 ends on December 31. Yet everyone from World Athletics to Track & Field News to Athletics Weekly has already handed out their AOY awards. It’s a shame as Peres Jepchirchir‘s win in the Sunday’s Valencia Marathon might have changed things.

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She had a near-perfect year as she set two women’s-only world records in the half marathon (65:34 in Prague in September and 65:16 at Worlds in October), won a World Championship gold in the half and led the world in the marathon at 2:17:16 thanks to her win in Valencia.

More: MB: Fair or Foul: Tirunesh Dibaba named greatest women’s track athlete ever by AW readers. JJK not even top 3.
MB: Fair or Foul: Joshua Cheptegei and Letesenbet Gidey both are just #3 in AW AOY awards

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Stat of the Week: 2:10 isn’t what it used to be (and neither is 2:08 or 2:06)

With Fukuoka and Valencia having taken place last week, the 2020 marathon season is almost in the books (Abu Dhabi is this weekend, with the Marathon Project the week after that). Take a look at these stats.

32 – number of Japanese athletes that have broken 2:10 this year, including five who did it in Fukuoka last weekend, led by Yuya Yoshida‘s 2:07:05 win.

30 number of athletes who broke 2:10 in Valencia last weekend, a record. The previous record came in Tokyo this year at 28 (19 people also did it in Seville this year). Before this year, the record was 17 from 2012 Dubai.

21 – number of Americans that have ever broken 2:10 in the marathon.

12 – number of Japanese athletes that have broken 2:08 this year.

5 – number of Americans that have ever broken 2:08 in the marathon.

4 – number of marathons this year that produced at least 14 sub-2:08 performances in a single race. 14 guys went sub-2:08 in Dubai and Seville, and 17 did it in Tokyo and Valencia.

0 – number of marathons in history before 2020 that had produced 14 sub-2:08 performances in a single race.

With the new shoe tech and the lack of racing opportunities due to COVID-19, the depth in Valencia over the weekend was staggering. Can you imagine running 2:05:53 in the marathon and not even finishing in the top 10? That’s what happened in Valencia for Oqbe Kibrom Ruesom of Eritrea, who did leave with the consolation prize of an Eritrean record and €1,600 ($1,940) in prize money.

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Is Kibiwott Kandie a better runner now than he was in 2019?

In our recap of the amazing half marathon in Valencia, we pointed out that while the result seems stunning — four men under the old world record of 58:01 — people shouldn’t have been shocked the world record fell. Since the introduction of the super shoes in 2016, the world records in the men’s marathon and women’s half and marathons had all improved by 0.98% to 1.07%, whereas the men’s half marathon WR had only improved by 0.63%. Clearly, the men’s half marathon record was due for a rewrite.

World Record Progression Before and Post Vaporfly Technology Before Sunday
World Record BV World Record AV Percent
Improvement
Men’s Marathon 2:02:57 2:01:39 1.07%
Men’s Half 58:23 58:01   0.63%
Women’s Marathon 2:15:25 2:14:04 1.01%
Women’s Half 65:09 64:31 0.98%

A simple one percent improvement in the half would take you to 57:48. 57:32 is a 1.48% improvement.

Now, that chart doesn’t mean the shoes are only worth a 1% improvement in time. As Amby Burfoot wrote in the New York Times last year, “papers in scientific journals show that the Vaporfly shoes could improve marathon times up to 3 percent.”

Take a look at Eliud Kipchoge. Before Vaporfly technology existed, he had run six marathons and his pb was 2:04:00. Now it’s 2:01:39. That’s a 1.93% improvement.

Before Kibiwott Kandie started wearing adidas’ version of the super shoe this fall, his half marathon pb was 58:58. If you knock 1.93% off that time because he’s now running in super shoes, you get 57:51. If adidas’ new shoe is just a little bit better than Nike’s, it’s possible that nothing has changed in Kandie’s fitness and his entire improvement is the result of shoes.

More: Utter Insanity: Kibiwott Kandie Runs 57:32 As The Top 4 Finishers Break The World Record In The Valencia Half Marathon
adidas’ “Super Shoe,” The adizero Adios Pro, Is A Huge Winner In Valencia With Half Marathon World Record

MB: Why is anyone surprised by 57:xx in the half?
MB: Adidas shoes better than Nike
MB:What shoes was Kibowitt Kandie wearing when he won RAK Half in February?

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World Athletics reverses course on its shoe rules

I know some people think we talk too much about shoes, so if you are one of those people, either suck it up or skip this section.

On Friday, World Athletics  reversed course and said that prototype shoes would be allowed in competition. This ruling comes just 308 days after they banned prototypes from competition on January 31 of this year.

The way I see it, World Athletics is basically acknowledging what I said all along about the 2016 Olympics — people like Eliud Kipchoge, Shalane Flanagan, Galen Rupp, and others were allowed to get away with mechanical doping. By allowing prototypes (and by outlawing super shoes on the track), World Athletics is tacitly admitting that the super shoes are game-changers for the long distances. If you aren’t wearing new shoe tech, you have little chance of success. The ban on prototypes was only going to reinforce the advantage of the biggest brands like Nike, which were first to market with the shoes for a second straight Olympics.

I understand why World Athletics decided to reverse course as I imagine they were being pressured by the smaller shoe companies. That being said, they had another option: an outright ban of the technology. Swimming did that in 2009 after the full-body suits obliterated a bunch of world records. I loved the quote that Jessica Ennis-Hill‘s former coach Toni Minichiello gave to Sean Ingle at The Guardian.

“World Athletics had a chance to be all in on shoe technology or all out, like swimming did in banning those suits. They have gone all in.

“The rule change means you don’t know if you can believe what you are seeing – is it the athlete or the shoe? I know it has been uneven for a while with the shoes and the (no-prototype) rule was difficult to police, but concerns are that by changing the rules, competition can now be open to possible manipulation.

“Let’s say a brand has two athletes – one they have invested in and as the face of a global marketing campaign and one they haven’t. Which one do you think gets the exciting new prototype?”

“The solution is to push back to the shoe companies to create and agree the rules and have to share their tech to level the playing field.”

The second part of his quote is one I’ve always wondered about. In 2016, Galen Rupp won Olympic bronze in 2:10:05 wearing super shoes. He finished 59 seconds ahead of another Nike-sponsored athlete named Ghirmay Ghebreslassie, who was not wearing the super shoes. Was Ghebreslassie, who won the world title the year before and would win New York a few months later, offered the shoes?

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World Athletics also reversed course on another important item last week. On November 6, 2019, World Athletics (then known as the IAAF) announced it would be dropping the triple jump, steeplechase, 200m, discus and 5000m from the Diamond League as they wanted to “create a faster-paced, more exciting global league.” 394 days later, all of those events are back in the Diamond League without much of an explanation. You can read the World Athletics release on the re-inclusion here, but one thing that struck me as a possible reason that hasn’t been mentioned elsewhere: the compact schedule of next year might have been a big factor. In August 2021, there will be four Diamond League meets in eight days on three continents. Unless you want to have totally diluted events, you need more events to have quality fields.

Related: Read the most popular article on LetsRun.com in 2020: LRC It’s Official: Nike’s Vaporfly Shoe Technology and World Athletics’ Shoe Rules Have Ruined The Marathon (At Least Temporarily)
LRC By Wearing Vaporfly Prototypes, Eliud Kipchoge, Galen Rupp, & Shalane Flanagan Are All Guilty of Mechanical Doping in 2016 – Will Anything Be Done About It?
The Guardian: World Athletics to allow ‘prototype’ shoes after Kandie breaks half-marathon record

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Women’s masters marathon record is broken; when will the men’s record go?

One of the many people running fast in Valencia was 40-year-old Helalia Johannes of Namibia, who ran 2:19:52 to destroy the old masters women’s marathon mark of 2:22:11 that Kenya’s Lydia Cheromei set in Valencia in 2018.

I thought it would be fun to compare the men’s and women’s masters marathon marks to the regular marathon world records to see which one is softer. Kenya’s Mark Kiptoo holds the men’s masters WR at 2:07:50.

Masters WR Regular WR % Difference
Women’s 2:19:52 2:14:04 4.33%
Men’s  2:07:50 2:01:39 5.08%

The men’s masters world record is comparatively much slower. If the men’s percentage difference was the same as the women’s, the men’s masters WR would need to be nearly a minute faster, 2:06:55.

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Kibiwott Kandie vs. Jacob Kiplimo

Kibiwott Kandie and Jacob Kiplimo have now met three times with all three of those battles coming in the last year on the roads. All three have been close contests, as they have never been separated by more than five seconds. Kandie has the edge, two to one.

Kandie won in Valencia last weekend in world-record time, and Kiplimo won at the World Half in October. The first of their matchups, however, didn’t get nearly as much fanfare as the race wasn’t all that significant: it came at the São Silvestre International Road Race (a 15K) last December 31. We don’t know how the video of that finish didn’t go viral.

Check it out:

Kibiwott Kandie Vs Jacob Kiplimo Head To Head Record
Event Location/date Kibiwott Kandie KEN  Jacob Kiplimo UGA 
15km, Road     São Paulo 2019-12-31  42:59 (1) 43:00 (2)
Half Marathon    WC Gdynia 2020-10-17  58:54 (2) 58:49 (1)
Half Marathon     Valencia 2020-12-06  57:32 (1) 57:37 (2)
Wins: 2 1

Data courtesy Tilastopaja

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Japanese track nationals produce several national records

At the Japanese nationals last week, the men’s and women’s 10,000 national records were obliterated. In the men’s 10,000, three men broke Kota Murayama‘s 27:29.69 mark that had stood since 2015, led by Akira Aizawa‘s 27:18.75.

In the women’s race, Hitomi Niiya lived up to expectations as she destroyed Yoko Shibui‘s 18-year-old 30:48.89 NR by running 30:20.44.

So does that prove distance running as a whole is getting better and it’s not all about new shoe technology? That’s certainly possible. The shoes used to produce the half marathon and marathon world records are banned on the track.

But in case you didn’t read our article on the adidas shoes doing well in Valencia, a shoe executive at a company not named Nike told us the following about the new track spikes, “[The] next battleground is spikes. World records are going to be shattered.” We asked him to clarify and he said a 25mm stack height spike is “ludicrous” and to pay attention to the 5,000m and 10,000m world records.

Our reply was, “Isn’t that already happening?” In case you forgot, three of those WRs already fell this summer — all of them run in the new Nike spikes. The same spikes the Japanese runners wore over the weekend.

MB: What spikes were the Japanese runners wearing this weekend when they set their NRs in the 10,000?

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Speaking of new track spikes, it should be pointed that Shelby Houlihan, who didn’t wear the new spikes when she set her 14:23 American record at 5,000 meters in the summer, did wear them over the weekend when she picked up the Olympic standard in the 5,000 at the Track Meet by Sound Running in San Juan Capistrano, Calif.

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The Track Meet

Let’s talk more about the Track Meet. Picking up Olympic standards was the #1 objective there over the weekend, and the women in the 10,000 proved to be the most successful as eight different women (six Americans) dipped under the 31:25 standard, with two of those women joining the top 10 all-time US list.

Fastest US Women Ever At 10,000 Per TFN

  1. 30:13.17 Molly Huddle (Saucony) 8/12/16
  2. 30:22.22 Shalane Flanagan (Nike) 8/15/08
  3. 30:49.57 Emily Sisson (New Balance) 3/29/19
  4. 30:50.32 Deena Kastor (Asics) 5/03/02
  5. 30:55.16 Kara Goucher (Nike) 8/15/08
  6. 31:05.71 Marielle Hall (Bowerman TC) 9/28/19
  7. 31:07.60 Kellyn Taylor (Hoka Northern Arizona Elite) 9/01/20*
  8. 31:09.79 Rachel Schneider (Under Armour) 12/05/20
  9. 31:10.69 Amy Cragg (Brooks) 8/03/12
  10. 31:10.84 Alicia Monson (On Athletics Club)  12/05/20
  11. 31:12.28 Natosha Rogers (Hansons-Brooks ODP)  12/05/20

*mixed-gender race

We wonder how many people would have predicted that Schneider would eventually be on the US all-time list at 10,000 when she was finishing up her career at Georgetown. In college, she was primarily a miler/1500 runner who never scored at NCAAs (best finish was 9th). A move to altitude and up in distance has done wonders for her. Her collegiate pbs were 4:16/16:23.

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In the men’s 10,000, four people picked up the Olympic 10,000 standard of 27:28, led by American Eric Jenkins, who cracked the top 10 all-time US list with his 27:22.06.

Fastest Men Ever At 10,000 Per TFN

  1. 26:44.36 Galen Rupp (Nike) 5/30/14
  2. 26:59.60 Chris Solinsky (Oregon TC) 5/01/10
  3. 27:04.72 Lopez Lomong (Nike Bowerman TC) 10/06/19
  4. 27:07.55 Shadrack Kipchirchir (US Army) 8/04/17
  5. 27:13.98 Meb Keflezighi (Nike) 5/04/01
  6. 27:16.99 Abdi Abdirahman (Nike) 6/08/08
  7. 27:20.18 Leonard Korir (US Army) 8/04/17
  8. 27:20.56 Mark Nenow (Puma) 9/05/86
  9. 27:22.06 Eric Jenkins, Nike, 12/05/20
  10. 27:22.28 Dathan Ritzenhein (Nike) 8/17/09

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Former Cal and UCLA runner Robert Brandt, now running for Georgetown as a grad student, ran 27:39.20 to move to #4 on the all-time US collegiate list, knocking BYU coach Ed Eyestone (27:41.05) down to #5.

Top 5 All-Time American Collegians at 10,000 Per TFN

  1. 27:31.38 Chris Derrick (Stanford) 4/29/12
  2. 27:33.48 Galen Rupp (Oregon) 4/29/07
  3. 27:38.50 Dathan Ritzenhein (Colorado) 4/30/04
  4. 27:39.20 Robert Brandt (Georgetown) 12/5/20
  5. 27:41.05 Ed Eyestone (BYU) 4/27/85

More:  The Track Meet Day 2 Recap: Eric Jenkins (27:22) & Rachel Schneider (31:09) Win 10ks As 12 Athletes Hit Olympic Standard
*The Track Meet Day 1 Recap: Shelby Houlihan And Elise Cranny Pick Up Olympic Standards, Luis Grijalva (13:16) Continues To Roll As Matthew Centrowitz Wins The B Heat
*MB: You’re 27:39 Robert Brandt: Stay at Gtown or go pro?
*MB: Brandt CRUSHES Tinman after trashing them online

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Weini Kelati – the collegiate record holder in the 10,000 – goes pro

Last week, two-time NCAA champ and 2021 NCAA XC favorite Weini Kelati of New Mexico went pro and signed with Under Armour.

L to R: Sharon Lokedi, Weini Kelati, Rachel Schneider. Photo by Justin Britton.

A few days later, she ran at the Track Meet and ran incredibly well, knocking almost a full minute (59.02 seconds) off her 10,000 pb to place second in 31:10.08. Kelati, who defected to the US from Eritrea after World Juniors in 2014, very well could soon represent the US as her agent/coach Stephen Haas tells LetsRun.com her citizenship process is much farther along than Edward Cheserek‘s (she already has her green card). If she gets her citizenship quickly enough, a 2021 US Olympic team spot isn’t out of the question, although the 10,000 isn’t going to be easy to make, particularly if someone like Karissa Schweizer decides to double as the likes of Emily Sisson and Molly Huddle and many others are quite formidable.

As a fan of college track and a former coach, I must admit I’ve never been a big fan of shoe companies paying athletes to go pro early, but understand it — particularly in the case of someone like Kelati, who as an immigrant doesn’t have a financial safety net behind her.

That being said, the timing seems crazy to me. Why wouldn’t Under Armour just wait a few days to announce it? Agree to the contract, but let her run for UNM. Now you could be marketing Kelati as the collegiate record holder and two-time NCAA champ.

I guess Joe Public doesn’t care….

Some on the messageboard have doubted that a 15:14 non-American would get a significant contract. They are dead wrong. With US citizenship on the horizon, a shoe company is hoping she becomes the female version of Meb Keflezighi. While an Olympic medal and multiple World Marathon Major titles are unlikely, she is an embodiment that the American dream is still real and very powerful. Please read this Mark Spezia ESPN profile of how she came to America and tell me you aren’t inspired by it.

“I’ve been with Total Sports for 11 years, and I think this was probably the most interest we’ve had from shoe companies on anybody that I’ve signed,” Haas told LetsRun.com. “That’s over Shelby Houlihan and Jessica Hull.”

More: ESPN 2019 Feature: From a running start in Eritrea to a new home in America, Weini Kelati wins NCAA cross country title
NCAA XC Favorite Weini Kalti Goes Pro And Signs With Under Armour The two-time NCAA champ with PRs of 15:14/31:10 will train in Flagstaff.
*MB: Weini Kelati Signs goes pro, signs with Under Armour

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Other News Of Note

1960 Olympic Decathlon Champ Rafer Johnson Dies At 85 The guy lived quite the life. Played basketball for John Wooden, won Olympic silver and gold in the decathlon, acted in movies, lit the Olympic flame in 1984 and even tackled the guy who killed RFK. *Pay your respects in this thread

Sydney Thorvaldson (16:23) Defeats Brynn Brown (16:50) At High School Cross-Country National Invite In Lubbock, Texas Her speed rating of 168 was the same she ran to win the Terre Haute XC race. 10th grader Tayson Echohawk won the boys race in 15:25.

 Michael Capiraso To Step Down As NYRR President & Chief Executive

To see our favorite reads from other weeks, go here.

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Recommended Reads

The Guardian: “‘It Stretches the Limits Of Performance’ – The Race To Make The World’s Fastest Running Shoe” From shoe company arms races to Ebay scalpers to putting runners with the “wrong” sponsorship at a disadvantage, the article might as well be titled, “How Nike’s Shoes Ruined the Sport.”

World 800 Champ Halimah Nakaayi Of Uganda Writes About How She’s Turned Stereotypes On Their Head In Winning Gold As A Devout Muslim From The Central Part Of Uganda “In Uganda, women tend to be undermined a lot, with a belief lingering that we can’t do certain things or that we’re supposed to be below men in the ranks of society.”

Dathan Ritzenhein Talks About His Transition From Athlete To Coach  “I was ready to move on – my body had just about had it! I was happy that I got just about everything I could out of it.”

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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.

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