WTW: Zach Panning was super brave (but foolish), Femke Bol & Noah Lyles love to compete, and how fast is BU?

The Week That Was in Running, January Janaury 29 - February 4, 2024

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If you missed our extensive on-site coverage of the 2024 US Olympic Marathon Trials or our on-site coverage of the 2024 New Balance Indoor Grand Prix, catch up now as we don’t repeat ourselves.

Zach Panning doesn’t get the storybook ending … at least not yet

At the beginning of high school, Hansons-Brooks marathoner Zach Panning looked like this:

On Saturday in Orlando, Panning was one of the fittest runners on planet Earth and looked like this:

Zach Panning, Conner Mantz and Clayton Young in Orlando. Kevin Morris photo

And for 15 miles at the 2024 US Olympic Marathon Trials, he put on a show, absolutely hammering the pace on a warm day for marathon running. As Jonathan Gault noted in our race recap, “for the 15-mile stretch from 5 miles to 20 miles, Panning averaged 4:49/mile (2:06:17 marathon pace) and did not run a single mile slower than 4:53.”

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Then the combination of the fast pace, lack of drafting, and heat took over and Panning started to fade. Sadly, there would be no Sammy Wanjiru-like ending to this one as Panning eventually ended up 6th in 2:10:50. His Olympic dream will have to wait at least another four years.

Was what Panning did incredibly inspiring and 100% baller? Absolutely.

Minutes after the race ended, a message board poster posting under the name “Calling it now Panning making 2028 team” started a thread entitled Zach Panning… American Hero and wrote, “What an absolutely legendary full send performance by a man who gave everything. I love Mantz and Young, but Panning gave me chills with how gritty he was.”

While I’m not ready to give him an Olympic spot in four years, I 100% agree with the post. Riding in the elite men’s truck on Saturday with a close-up view of Panning’s run, I was incredibly inspired by what he tried to do. He should be 100% PROUD of the effort he gave.

Panning had right to be proud of the effort he gave. Photo by Kevin Morris.

But was it smart?

Absolutely not.

What did Eliud Kipchoge‘s sub-2 marathon exhibitions teach us? Physics is real and drafting helps. All elite cyclists and triathletes know how big of a deal drafting is, but for some reason runners — even after the sub-2 exhibitions — often forget it’s not a smart idea to serve as the unofficial rabbit in a marathon. There is a reason why INEOS had a rotating group of seven pacers in their sub-2 attempt and why most of the big-city marathons pay people to rabbit races.

Kipchoge was fronted by 5 men and trailed by 2 more in his 1:59:40
They even had lasers pointing to where each pacer should line up

LetsRun.com coaching/stat guru John Kellogg says you save roughly 5-6 seconds per mile if you’re running behind a pacer.

If you think that’s extreme, realize Kipchoge ran his 1:59:40 when his official marathon PR was 2:01:39. In that 2:01:39 in Berlin, he ran behind the pacer(s) for about 16k (next to him until 25k). With an extra 26.2 km of pacing in Vienna a year later, he ran 1:59 faster. Since Kipchoge did not have to grab his bottles in Vienna (a guy on a bike handed them to him), I’m subtracting 15 seconds from that number. So call it a difference of 1:44 between Berlin and Vienna. 1:44 works out to 6.4 seconds per mile — right around what Kellogg estimates drafting is worth.

If I was coaching an Olympic Trials hopeful, I’d forbid them from pushing the pace before mile 15 as you are wasting energy. End. Of. Story.

Would Panning have made the team if he hadn’t led the race for well over half of it? We’ll never know.

Panning shouldn’t feel too bad about not learning the key lesson of the INEOS 1:59 Challenge. The great Kipchoge himself did something similarly foolish in Boston last year when he pushed the pace for 19 miles before fading late to 6th.

How much faster is BU than a normal indoor track? 

There’s a reason people go to Boston University. The track is fast.

How much faster than a normal indoor track is it?

Well, miler Vincent Ciattei of Under Armour Dark Sky Distance raced at the Bruce Lehane Scarlet & White Invitational at BU on Saturday and then at the New Balance Indoor Grand Prix at The TRACK at New Balance on Sunday.

At BU, he ran and won the mile 3:52.07. Across town at The TRACK the next day, he ran 3:37.33 to place 5th in the 1500, which is equivalent to a 3:54.75 mile.

Is BU’s track worth 2.7 seconds for the mile? No. Ciattei was a little in the hole from his 3:52 the day before. But I texted one collegiate coach afterwards (without mentioning Ciattei) and asked, “How much faster is BU than a normal good indoor track for the mile?” They texted back, “2 seconds seems about right.”

Ciattei wasn’t the only person to do double duty in Boston last week. High school junior Sadie Engelhardt of California, who captured the New Balance Nationals indoor and outdoor mile crowns last year, ran the 1000 at BU in 2:41.00 on Saturday. According to TFN, 2:41.00 would have been equal to the collegiate record as recently as 2016. Maybe that shouldn’t shock me as the indoor high school 1000 record — Mary Cain‘s 2:35.80 — is much faster than the collegiate one of 2:38.58 (Danae Rivers, Penn State).

On Sunday, Engelhardt won the international HS mile at the NBIGP in 4:34.45 — the #3 indoor US HS time ever.

Femke Bol continues to improve

Track & field fans really should appreciate Femke Bol. In an age where big-time talent seems like a burden rather than a gift to be cherished for so many female sports stars, Bol loves to race and competes regularly.

Bol opened up her 2024 season over the weekend in Metz, France, while her main rival Sydney McLaughlin-Levrone wasn’t even at her main sponsor New Balance’s meet in Boston.

And Bol was sensational in Metz as she opened up with a 49.69 400 before doubling back an hour later with an overall 200 PR of 22.64 (Dutch indoor NR). 49.69 is more than a quarter-second faster than Bol opened up last year in Metz (49.96) and Bol went on to run a 49.26 indoor 400 world record later in the season. If the 23-year-old ends up dropping 0.27 off her 400 hurdles PR of 51.45, that would put her at 51.18.

Only twice has McLaughlin-Levrone run faster than Bol’s PR in the 400 hurdles. McLaughlin-Levrone ran 51.41 to win USAs in 2022 before coming back a month later and winning Worlds in 50.68.

The main goal for Bol indoors is to win the World Indoor title in the 400 in Scotland.

And mid-d fans, rejoice — her coach Laurent Meuwly told Athletics Weekly he thinks Bol would would be great if she moved up to the 800.

“I think she’s also able to perform over 800m,” said Meuwly. “She showed in Boston (in the 500 last year) that she has this efficiency, and she’s pretty good in all the endurance sessions because of it. I can imagine [the 800m] might also be an option.”

MB: Bol 49.69 opener

Noah Lyles loves to compete as well and he impresses in a golden singlet

Bol is far from the only big star who loves to compete. Noah Lyles is the reigning world 100m and 200m champ but he’s already competed twice this year. He ran his first big meet of the year at the New Balance Indoor Grand Prix on Sunday — which also featured 2022 world 100m champ Fred Kerley running his first indoor 60m ever — and Lyles came away with a win and a PR for the second year in a row, as he ran 6.44 to narrowly get the win (previous PR of 6.51).

And the great news is Lyles too says he wants to go to World Indoors. Thank you.

Since Lyles has talked about breaking Usain Bolt‘s world records, if you are wondering how fast Bolt ran in the 60, I have the answer for you. It’s estimated that Bolt covered the first 60m of his 9.58 WR in 6.29 seconds. Now that was wind-aided (+0.9) so if you factor in the wind it’s worth a 6.31 in still conditions.

MB: The WR in the 60 meter dash is held by Usain Bolt with a 6.29. Christian Coleman doesn’t own the record.


I know New Balance was the big sponsor of the NBIGP, but can I give out some love to adidas? I loved the yellow singlets they have given to their 2023 world champs for the 2024 season. At LetsRun.com, we’ve always believed a bright yellow singlet/speed suit was special and now adidas agrees.

Lyles competes for the 3 stripes and he won 3 golds last year
Marco Arop looked pretty good in all gold as well as he ran 2:14.74 for 1k. Photo by Kevin Morris.

Marugame Half Marathon notes

Last but not least, how about a thumbs up to Kokusai University’s Richard Etir, who set a Japanese collegiate record at the Marugame Half Marathon on Sunday by running 59:32. In the women’s race, 22-year-old Dolphine Omare of Kenya got the win in a course record and big personal best time of 66:07 (previous PR of 67:56) as Kenya’s Caroline Kariba (who attends Kamimura Gakuen HS in Japan) ran 67:36. Kariba, who has a 15:23 5,000 PR, is old for a high schooler as she turns 20 in April.

Japan Running News’ Brett Larner reports there was a 3 million Japanese yen bonus for the women’s course record (slightly more than $20k) and a ¥1 million bonus for the collegiate record.

More: MB: High School girl runs 1:07.38 Half Marathon

Last Week’s Home Pages

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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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