WTW: The Marathon Majors Return, What’s Next For Kenenisa Bekele, and NXN Is Cancelled

The Week That Was in Running, September 20 – 26, 2021

By Robert Johnson
September 27, 2021

Last week, fall officially started, NCAA XC started to heat up, and the first Abbott World Marathon Major of the year was held — the first one in nearly a year (357 days, if you are counting). We talk about some of that below.

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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.

If you didn’t read the four NCAA XC-related pieces that we’ve published, do so now as our Jonathan Gault talked to 17 different coaches to try to get a feel of what we can expect this year.

A For Effort / 2021 BMW Berlin Marathon

By now you know that the men’s marathon world record didn’t fall in Berlin, but it wasn’t for a lack of trying. Despite warm conditions (high 60s, 80% humidity at the finish), the men’s lead pack went out fast — 28:47 was the first 10k split and 60:48 for the first half.

Of the five in the lead group, only three made it to the finish line: race winner Guye Adola of Ethiopia (2:05:45), third placer Kenenisa Bekele of Ethiopia (who hit halfway in 61:00 and then ran 2:06:47) and 6th placer Philemon Kacheran of Kenya.

Can we give a shout out to Kacheran, who ran 2:09:29 the hard way — 60:48 for the first half and 68:41 for the second? The 29-year-old, who has a 2:06:05 pb from 2019 Valenica (5th), ran his first four 5k segments in under 14:30 but managed only a 17:56 between 35k and 40k and was even slower from 40k to the finish (8:08, which is 18:31.6 5k pace).

The men’s title went to Adola, who certainly deserves some praise for rallying for the win. At 30k, he was 38 seconds up on eventual runner-up Bethwel Yegon of Kenya, who went out much more conservatively (62:14 first half). Just before 38k, the lead was down to zero as Adola slowed greatly. He covered the 5k from 30k to 35k in 15:21 and the 5k from 35k to 40k in just 15:59, but he was able to pick it back up on the way home as he covered the 2.195 km from 40k to the finish in 6:37 — that’s 15:04 5k pace. Truth be told, Adola may not have needed to pick it back up to win as Yegon only ran the final 2.195km in 7:04, which is 16:05.8 5k pace.


The women’s race was similar as the winner Gotytom Gebreslase of Ethiopia faded greatly between 35k and 40k (17:40) before picking it back up a little to secure the victory (7:35 from 40k to the finish, which is 17:16.4 5k pace). In her marathon debut, the the 26-year-old, who sports pbs of 14:57, 31:14, and 67:52 at shorter distances, ran 2:20:09 after a 69:19 first half.

With her fastest 5k being a 16:25, Gebreslase had 1:15 gap between her fastest and slowest 5k segments — a little less than what happened in the men’s race where the gap between Adola’s fastest and slowest 5k segments was 1:36 (14:23/15:59).

More: LRC Guye Adola (2:05:45) Hangs on to Win 2021 Berlin Marathon After 60:48 First Half; Kenenisa Bekele 3rd as Gotytom Gebreslase Wins In Her Debut


What’s Next For Bekele?

While Bekele came up well short of his world record goal, I personally am feeling good about Bekele’s immediate future for the following reasons.

  1. He’s healthy.
  2. He seems to be in good spirits, talking after the race about how he still wants to break the marathon world record but thinks he just needs more time to train.
  3. He’s signed up for the NYC Marathon, which is six weeks away.

All three of those things go hand in hand perfectly. He needs more time to train? Well guess what, now you have an extra six weeks to get ready for New York.

Now, do I think Bekele, who turns 40 in June, will ever break the marathon WR? No. But can he be a player at the majors and greatly enhance his marathon CV by winning a couple more majors (he’s got two wins currently)? Yes. My big concern though is if he doesn’t have the marathon WR as his goal, he may not be motivated to train at a super high level.

Here’s a thought: go for the course records in New York and Boston. Admittedly, I’m biased as an American, but I’d love to see him go for those, particularly since the odds of the WR are tiny.

Neither record is easy. While both course records predate the super shoe era, they both are quick. Geoffrey Mutai somehow ran 2:05:06 in New York in 2011, not bad for a course that probably runs two minutes slower than a flat course. Earlier that year, with the help of a tailwind, he ran 2:03:02 to set the CR in Boston.

To help with Bekele’s motivation, can we get NYC and Boston to bump up their course record bonuses? Make it $250k, not the $50k it currently is for NY (that’s actually what you get for running under 2:05:30) and Boston.

Tweet Of The Week I / Welcome To The Non-Elite World

Shalane Flanagan is hoping to run all of the world marathon majors this fall. She got started by running a big negative split in Berlin. Unlike the leaders who cratered, she went out in 1:23:42 and came home in 1:14:50 to run 2:37:52 and palce 17th.

What was new for her however was dealing with not having a water bottle at the elite stations.

Tweet Of The Week II / We Hope NCAAs Is This Exciting

In March, the battle for the individual title at NCAA cross country was full of drama. It looks like this year’s battle could even be better.

Check out the finishing straight battle between Iowa State’s Wesley Kiptoo and BYU’s Conner Mantz at Roy Griak last weekend.

Tweet of the Week III/ Crazy Marathon Conditions In China

Tweet Of The Week IV / Absurd Decision Of The Week

Last week, the Nike Cross Nationals — the US high school cross country nationals — were cancelled for the second straight year.

If a private individual or organization wants to err on the side of caution during a pandemic, I’ve got no problem with that.

But what’s crazy about the decision is Nike hasn’t canceled their regional meets. They are going on full steam ahead — actually, they are going on even more than normal as they’ve added an ninth regional this year.

No, please stop.

I’ve got a real problem with that. Please be at least somewhat intellectually consistent.

And check out the statement they made announcing the decision. It’s full of some “real linguistic gymnastics” as Twitter user @NegFive points out.

If Nike really was worried about COVID, they’d either a) cancel NXN/NXR entirely or b) let it go on but require vaccination or proof of a negative COVID test. It would be a good carrot to the roughly only half of US teens that aren’t fully vaccinated.

To be honest, this is an amazing opportunity for another shoe company. Someone should say, “We’re going to honor the results of the Nike Regionals and hold our own nationals a week later.”

And I even have a location. Lubbock, Texas.  There already will be one high school nationals this year – the 1st small school nationals will be held in Lubbock, Texas. Why can’t they also host what used to be NXN?

More: Small School National Championship XC Coming This Fall

*MB: NXN 2021 Canceled

Stat of the Week

$591,970 – cost per Olympic athlete to put on the 2028 Olympics in LA.

To get this number, all I did was take their budget — $6.9 billion — and divide it by the number of Olympians in Tokyo this year — 11,656. If you want to add in the 4,403 Paralympians to the mix, then it comes out to $429,666 per athlete. If that sounds high, realize the LA budget is tiny compared to Tokyo. The official Tokyo budget was $15.4 billion, which comes out to $1.32 million per athlete ($958,964 per athlete if you count the Paralympians).

More: New Los Angeles 2028 chief Kathy Carter insists Games will be “on time and on budget” The budget is $6.9 billion or $591,970 per athlete that will compete.

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 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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