WTW: SUPER FAST Times, But What Do They Mean? Plus Justin Gatlin Retires

The Week That Was in Running, February 7 – February 13, 2022

By LetsRun.com
February 15, 2022

What a weekend.

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In case you were off the grid over the weekend, you missed quite a lot. First the US high school record in the indoor girls’ 800 was broken by two talented teens, then the US record in the indoor mile almost fell, then the North American and US records in the women’s indoor 5000 were obliterated, then the US record in the indoor men’s 1000 went, then the men’s NCAA 3000 record, and last but most certainly not least, then US, Canadian and British men’s indoor 5000 records fell.

We try to make sense of it all and more below.

Past editions of our Week That Was weekly recap 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. 

Talk about this article on our forum: MB: 12:53, 13:05 in a B heat, 14:31 – We try to make sense of the CRAZY fast times put up over the weekend.

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Grant Fisher Stunned The World, But Should We Really Have Been Stunned?

LetsRun.com blew up on Saturday night when Grant Fisher took down Olympic silver medallist Moh Ahmed and ran 12:53 for 5000.

At first glance, the time was stunning, but if we take a step back and think about it, should we really be that stunned? Fisher is clearly an all-time top US talent. In high school, he joined Dathan Ritzenhein as only the second American boy to win two Foot Locker XC titles (Edward Cheserek, Lukas Verzbicas, and Abdirizak Mohamud weren’t American citizens when they did it). He also broke 4:00 in the mile. In college, he won an NCAA 5000 title as a 20-year-old sophomore. The guy who finished third in that NCAA 5000 in 2017?

Justyn Knight, who has a 12:51 5000 pb.

As a pro, Fisher quickly started to live up to his promise. He lowered his 5000 pb from 13:29 to 13:11 in 2020 and then to 13:02 in 2021. In 2021, he ran one of the fastest debuts in 10,000-meter history (27:11.29) before getting 5th in the Olympics, just 2.51 seconds off of a medal and just 3.17 seconds off the win.

Those accomplishments all indicate Fisher is one of the greatest US talents ever and now he has the PB to back it up.

12:53 indoors seems crazy fast but that’s simply because fast, professional indoor 5000s are hardly ever run. Fisher’s 12:53 was the first sub-13:00 indoor 5000 in 10 years and 1 day.

Unless you have been living under a rock, you will also know that times don’t mean what they used to because now virtually everyone is running in a super spike. As mentioned above, Fisher was far from the only person to set a record last weekend. Elite track times are being readjusted just like the marathon times were a few years ago.

At BU last weekend, guys in the 4th heat of the mile were breaking 4:00 and in the 4th heat of the 5000 were running an NCAA DII record of 13:33.68.

Consider these stats.

87 – number of collegians who have broken 1:50 in the 800 this year at the NCAA D1 level (counting flat track/altitude conversions), a record.

75 – number of collegians who have broken 4:00 in the mile this year at the NCAA D1 level (counting flat track/altitude conversions), a record.

120 – number of collegians who have broken 8:00 in the 3000 this year at the NCAA D1 level (counting flat track/altitude conversions), a record.

89 – number of collegians who have broken 14:00 in the 5000 this year at the NCAA D1 level (counting flat track/altitude conversions), a record.

To put those numbers in perspective, we created a table to show you how many people broke those barriers in 2018-2019, the last indoor season before super spikes came out. The table also shows you the corresponding time for those rankings (e.g. the 87th-fastest 800 runner) in 2018-19.

Standard # of competitors breaking time in 2021-22  # of competitors breaking time in 2018-19 Corresponding time for place in 2018-2019 Difference
Men        
1:50 for 800 87 59 1:50.59 0.59
4:00 for mile 75 33 4:03.76 3.76
8:00 3000 120 51 8:09.70 9.70
14:00 5000 89 43 14:11.99 11.99
Women        
2:08 for 800 95 60 2:08.91 0.91
4:40 for mile 56 35 4:42.85 2.85
9:20 for 3000 69 54 9:22.91 2.91
16:20 for 5000 60 61 16:18.40 -1.60

And that’s before the 2021-22 NCAA indoor season has even come to an end.

Ok. We know what some of you are thinking, “That’s not a fair comparison as most collegians got an extra year of eligibility.” Fair enough. There are some sixth-year seniors skewing those numbers (but the indoor season isn’t over yet so those numbers will go up) but I will point out that NCAA swimming times right now aren’t way faster in 2022 than they were in 2019.

Women Men
2019 50th best time 500 freestyle 4:41.64 4:17.12
2022 50th best time 500 freestyle 4:44.67 4:19.25
2019 50th best time 1000 freestyle 9:56.13 9:11.85
2022 50th best time 1000 freestyle 9:59.27  9:09.07

Source: USA Swimming

Regardless, let’s look at the pros.

The mile isn’t a good event to compare as internationals normally run the 1500. The 5000 also isn’t good as hardly any pros run that indoors. So let’s look at the 800 and 3000s.

Men  2019 2022 Diff
50th best performance at indoor 800 1:47.94 1:47.60 0.34
50th best performance at indoor 3000 7:54.27 7:47.34 7.07
Women      
50th best performance at indoor  800 2:03.74 2:04.17 0.43
50th best performance at indoor 3000 8:58.81 9:02.64 3.83

The various tables support what my gut tells me. The new spikes don’t help you too much in the 800 but they definitely help you in the distances and it helps the men more than the women. One top men’s college coach says he mentally just adds one second per 400m for distance races to compare to pre-super shoes times. That’s too rich for my blood. Three seconds per mile — maybe a bit less as that’s what a preliminary analysis of the outdoor NCAA stats last May revealed – seems about right.

If it’s three seconds per mile, then it would be 5.6 seconds for a 3k, 9.3 seconds for a 5k and 18.6 seconds per 10k (assuming it stayed constant, which a scientist told me might not be the case).

Add 9.3 seconds to Fisher’s time from last weekend and you get 13:02 – which is basically the time Galen Rupp ran in 2014 (13:01.26). That makes sense to me. Rupp was one of the greatest American talents in US history, as is Fisher.

Add 9.3 seconds to 33-year-old Emmanuel Bor‘s time of 13:00.48 and you get 13:09.8. Guess what his indoor pb was before Super Spikes? 13:10.23. That seems right to me as well. Otherwise it doesn’t make sense that Bor is suddenly 10 seconds better than ever at age 33.

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Justin Gatlin Hangs Them Up

Last week, US sprinter Justin Gatlin had a big week. He turned 40 and announced his retirement all on the same day (Thursday).

 

View this post on Instagram

 

A post shared by Justin Gatlin (@justingatlin)


Yes, Gatlin was a drug cheat who sat out four years from 2006 to 2010, but what he accomplished as an athlete after serving his drug ban is remarkable. He won the Olympic 100 gold in 2004. He also won world championship gold 13 years later in 2017 at the age of 35.

If Usain Bolt came back to the sport this year and won Worlds, he’d basically accomplish what Gatlin did as he’d win his last world title at age 35, 14 years after the first.

Yes, yes. We know what some are thinking. Gatlin might have still benefited from the drugs he took back in the day or he might have still been on drugs. 

Fair enough. We agree it doesn’t make much logical sense that one would need drugs to compete at 24 but not at 35, but he was cleared to compete, and as history majors (at least one of us anyway), we know that no male sprinter had accomplished anything similar.

We just hope moving forward, he owns his association with Trevor Graham and BALCO. When we had our much-publicized dust-up with Gatlin, it was because we were bothered he’s never really owned up to actually doping even though he was part of a group at the heart of BALCO.

Plus when he did come back to the sport, he elected to be coached by doper Dennis Mitchell. Then he said he was dumping Mitchell after Mitchell was caught offering testosterone to an undercover reporter, only to quietly resume working with Mitchell a year later.

More: From the archives. One of the most famous interviews in LRC history: Justin Gatlin Does Not Want to Talk About His Drug Past and Things Gets A Little Testy With LRC’s Wejo
*MB: Justin Gatlin Calls it a Game – LetsRun.com

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Stat of the Week

15 – number of Japanese men who broke 61:00 at the All-Japan Corporate Team Half Marathon Championships, where Hiroto Hayashida of the Mitsubishi Juko got the win in 60:38. The race generated the 16 fastest half marathon times from Japan in 2021 and is likely to dominate the 2022 list as well. In all of 2021, only one Japanese man broke 61:00 (since we always harp on how Japan outshines the US in the marathon, it’s worth noting that two American men did it)

3 – number of Japanese women that broke 70:00 last week at the All-Japan Corporate Team Half Marathon Championships, where Kenya’s Dolphine Nyaboke Omare won in 67:56. In 2021, four Japanese women broke 70:00 for the year (10 US women did it).

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Speaking of 70:00, Olympic marathon bronze medallist Molly Seidel almost broke 70:00 last week as she picked up $300 and the win at the Mesa Half Marathon Marathon in Arizona in 70:09.

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Olympic 400m Semifinalist Jonathan Jones Steps Up to 800, Runs #2 Time in NCAA

On Saturday, the University of Texas’s Jonathan Jones, a 44.63 400m man and Olympic semifinalist in the 400, stepped up to the 800 at the Tiger Paw Invite at Clemson and ran 1:46.93. There are few things LetsRun.com readers enjoy more than speculating what a top 400-meter runner could run if they move up to the 800 meters, so it should come as no surprise that the following thread was quickly posted on the LetsRun messageboard:  JONATHAN JONES!!! HOOKEM – 1:46.93!! 

The ninth post on that thread: “This guy should be a 1:43 man outdoors. 44.6 in 400 and he ran a 3:55 1500 as a teenager. He’s a faster version of Donavan Brazier.” 

We wouldn’t go quite that far, but it’s interesting to note that Jones is now ranked more highly in the NCAA in the 800 (2nd) than in the 400 (11th). It’s also worth noting that, as the poster indicated, Jones has a middle-distance background. Though Jones has always raced the 400, he ran 1:48.16 for 800 in 2016 at age 17 and 3:55 for 1500 in 2017 at age 18.

You’ve always needed good speed to become world-class in the 800, but the 400/800 star is enjoying a bit of a renaissance right now. Just look at last year’s Olympic champions. Athing Mu ran 49.57 (#8 in the world) and set the collegiate record to win NCAA outdoors last year, while Emmanuel Korir was 6th at Worlds in the 400 in 2019 (after failing to make the 800 final).

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It’s Ridiculous That the American Record Attempt in Chicago Last Week Didn’t Have a Proper Live Stream

On Friday night, Cooper Teare and Cole Hocker came up just short in their attempt to break Bernard Lagat’s American record in the mile. It was an exciting race featuring two of America’s most popular young runners, yet the way the live stream came together (or rather, didn’t come together) was farcical.

Hocker announced the record attempt almost two weeks earlier at the Millrose Games, yet by Wednesday, just two days before the meet, there was still no announcement about whether the attempt – which was held as part of the Windy City Invitational, a meet hosted by the University of Wisconsin at the Track & Field Center at Gately Park in Chicago – would be streamed. At that point, LetsRun.com reached out to Wisconsin coach Mick Byrne offering to stream the meet for free but we never got a firm answer.

Because Wisconsin is in the Big 10 conference, anyone streaming the event needed permission from the Big 10. And the Big 10 didn’t grant anyone permission, for reasons that remain unclear (we have reached out to the Big 10 for an explanation). The race was eventually streamed, without permission, both by the Oregon Track & Field Instagram account and by a LetsRun visitor on YouTube, and while those streams were better than nothing, it could have been so much better.

In the year 2022, it’s absurd that a big-time record attempt had to be streamed without commentary on a smartphone. A professional broadcast would have provided positive attention for the athletes, the facility, and the schools competing and would have greatly expanded the audience (OregonTF still had over 5,000 viewers watching on Instagram Live and that was despite barely any publicity). Multiple entities offered to stream this thing, for free. The Big 10 needs to explain why it stood in the way of this. 

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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.

Got a tip, question or comment? Please call us at 844-LETSRUN (538-7786), email us or post in our forum.

Talk about this article on our forum: MB: 12:53, 13:05 in a B heat, 14:31 – We try to make sense of the CRAZY fast times put up over the weekend.

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