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.
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.
- LetsRun.com’s 2021 NCAA XC Women’s Top 10: Expect Another BYU-NC State Duel
- LetsRun’s 2021 NCAA XC Men’s Top 10: Can Anyone Topple NAU?
- Loaded Teams, New Additions, & The Impact of NIL: Your Guide to the 2021 NCAA Cross Country Season
- Q&A: NCAA XC Champ Conner Mantz on Why He Didn’t Turn Pro, Racing Wesley Kiptoo, & His Toughest Workout Ever
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).
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.
- He’s healthy.
- 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.
- 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.
Shalane Flanagan experiencing fueling stations like the rest of us mere mortals is cracking me up 🤣 pic.twitter.com/fpW3sFwP2T
— Bjorn (@BjornOn) September 27, 2021
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.
Conner Mantz vs Wesley Kiptoo lived up to the hype!
Watch this finish!pic.twitter.com/f2bORFLJGJ
— USTFCCCA (@USTFCCCA) September 24, 2021
Tweet of the Week III/ Crazy Marathon Conditions In China
Conditions for today's National Games Marathon in Shaanxi, China were atrocious. The winners were Zhang Deshun (2:32:31) and Renqing Dongzhibu (2:14:26). pic.twitter.com/PKjGpJPLkK
— David Monti (@d9monti) September 26, 2021
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.
That first sentence is doing some real linguistic gymnastics to try and frame this as positive…
— Brandon (@NegFive) September 25, 2021
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?
*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.
- Jordan Hasay, who turned 30 yesterday, hasn’t had a good race in 2.5 years but is hoping that changes in Boston Sarah Lorge Butler reveals Hasay is really happy with new coach Pete Julian and Julian reveals was stunned by how bad she ran in New Haven, “That was more shocking to me than winning would have been.” *MB: Jordan Hassay Reads “the message boards”
- Taylor Dutch: After having series of panic attacks in workouts, Courtney Frerichs started seeing a psychologist weekly and says it helped immensely “[My therapist] was able to be a combination of sports psychology, but also just therapy. We address everything versus it just being performance related. I started to realize how much so many of these struggles were present just in life as well. I look back at school, my childhood, there was this innate perfectionism that obviously came out quite a bit in running, but was always there.”
- JGault: Q&A: NCAA XC Champ Conner Mantz on Why He Didn’t Turn Pro, Racing Wesley Kiptoo, & His Toughest Workout Ever
- Jared Ward shares a week of training 7 weeks out from NYC It’s a cool week to look as it was 106 miles with a “Michigan” workouts early in the week and then a 20 miler with 4 miles a MP at the end.
To see our favorite reads from other weeks, go here.
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