It’s taper time for Boston marathoners, and Tyler McCandless makes a quick return to cloud259 with advice on how to spend the last week before a race. Elsewhere in episode 22, we ponder how Ryan Hall and Shalane Flanagan will run at Boston, recap the crowning of Wilson Kipsang at the London Marathon, and tell the tale of a toad that stole the hearts of Manchester, England.
The ASICS Greater Manchester Marathon and the “Race for the Golden Toad” between Cloud259 and Marathon Talk of the U.K. takes place this Sunday, April 6. The contest is based on lowest average time for each squad – Gregg and Brenn for Cloud259 versus Martin, Tom, and Tony for Marathon Talk. What’s at stake beyond international bragging rights and podcast supremacy? The winning team gets to keep this fellow for a year until the next cross-Atlantic clash, to be held in the country of the winning team.
Following is info on the five combatants. May the best team win.
Age on race day: 45
Marathon best: 3:08:39 (Philadelphia 2010)
Other running accomplishments: Never DNF’d (except twice); 20:04 for 3 miles in a business suit
Secret weapons: Carb loading with mother-in-law’s Brazilian cheese bread (pao de queijo)
Occupation of considerably more talented wife: Journalist
Height: almost 5’11”
Age on race day: 40
Marathon best: 2:56:40 (New York 2013)
Other running accomplishments: Beat Lance Armstrong at NYC Marathon (7 years after the fact when Lance’s result was thrown out).
Secret weapons: Big kick in the last 0.2 miles to make up for slow warmup over first 26
Occupation of considerably more talented wife: Fashion designer
Weight: Depends on what’s in the rucksack (British for backpack)
Age on race day: 42
Marathon best: 2:48:24 (London 2008)
Other running accomplishments: 17-minute 5K pushing twins in a double stroller (buggy for those who speak U.K.)
Secret weapons: Relentless positivity; winning smile
Occupation of considerably more talented wife: Elite distance runner/two-time Olympian
Height: nearly 5’9”
Age on race day: 39
Marathon best: 2:49:57 (London 2008)
Other running accomplishments: A 9:24 Ironman PB and a Comrades finisher
Secret weapon: Bathing in magnesium flakes; CrossFit; paleo diet
Occupation of considerably more talented wife: Photographer
Age on race day: 49
Marathon best: 2.58.49 (London 2006)
Other running accomplishments: Former Guinness world record holder for fastest marathon dressed as a baby (3:13) and schoolboy (3:37)
Secret weapon: As a Mancunian (native of Manchester), knows the course inside out
Occupation of considerably more talented wife: CBT Therapist
We may see something big from Deena Kastor, the U.S. marathon and half marathon record holder, who headlines the Rock ‘n’ Roll Dallas Half Marathon this Sunday, March 23.
Deena turned 41 last month, and after a punishing World Champs marathon in Moscow last August she indicated that her days as an elite runner may be at or nearing an end.
The video above tells a different story. Taken by her husband Andrew Kastor, coach of the resurgent ASICS Mammoth Track Club, it shows Deena running comfortably at a 5:00 per mile clip. Behind her is Mammoth TC teammate Lauren Kleppin, who just ran a 2:28 at the Los Angeles Marathon, a 13-minute PR. We don’t know the context of this workout, but if Deena can drop a 2:28 marathoner in training, it bodes well for her to at least break the U.S. master’s record of 1:11:50 for the half marathon, which was set by Colleen De Reuck in 2006 at the Philly Half.
The elite running scene shifts from Mondo to asphalt this weekend with two marquee events. Many of America’s best will be either at the Gate River Run in Jacksonville, Fla. on Saturday, or the NYC Half on Sunday, headlined by internationals Mo Farah and Geoffrey Mutai.
The Gate River Run doubles as the U.S. 15K Championships. Ben True is the defending champ and told us in a recent podcast that he’s fit, but a bit tentative after skipping indoors with a balky hamstring. Expect to see Chris Derrick, coming off X-C victories both at Edinburgh and in the U.S. Cross Country Championships at Boulder, mixing it up with True. Bobby Curtis, who was runner-up to True last year, should also be in the hunt.
Shalane Flanagan, prepping for Boston, is the class of the River Run women’s field, which also features Janet Bawcom, Amy Hastings, and Amy Van Alstine, coming off an upset win over Jenny Simpson at XC Champs at Boulder. Look for Shalane to roll early, in patented fashion, and also hold off the lead men in the “equalizer” competition, which gives the elite women a six-plus minute head start.
At the NYC Half Farah and Mutai, the clear frontrunners, will give us a sneak preview of next month’s London Marathon. Mo won the NYC Half in 2011 and has a PR of 1:00:10 in the distance. Mutai has a 58:58 personal best in the half (on a faster course) and ran 2:03:02 at the wind-enhanced Boston marathon. Mo is the world’s best 10k runner, and Mutai is the world’s best marathoner. We give the edge in this race to Mo, since we think the half marathon is closer to a 10K than a marathon. For Mo to win, he needs to stay close to Mutai and then unleash his superior kick; whereas Mutai would need to work harder to gap Mo and then hold Mo off. We suspect Mutai would gladly trade a loss in NYC for a win in London.
Besides those two, Meb Keflezighi is back in form having just won the U.S. Half Marathon Champs in Houston with a 1:01 in January. Matt Tegenkamp will be making his half marathon debut.
The women’s side is tougher to call. The two best PRs in the field are Hilda Kibet (1:07:59 last year at the Roma-Ostia Half) and Caroline Kilel (1:08:16 at the World Half Marathon Champs in Birmingham, U.K. in 2009). There are at nine women just behind them with 1:09 or 1:10 PRs, including Desiree Linden (formerly Davila). Molly Huddle, the American record holder in the 5,000 meters, is making her half marathon debut, as is Sally Kipyego who won silver in the 10,000m at the 2012 Olympics. Huddle showed great form at the end of 2013 and recently ran a 15:13 5,000m indoors.
Among runners we’ve interviewed in our podcast, True, Nick Arciniaga, Jeannette Faber, and Tyler McCandless are racing in Jacksonville, while Reid Coolsaet, Jeffrey Eggleston, Jason Hartman, and Lisa Stublic are in the Big Apple.
Ben True is set to make his 2014 racing debut on March 15 at the Gate River Run, and in Episode 21 he discusses the upcoming season, the possibility of running a marathon, and how to run a fast 5,000m. We pepper him on a few USATF controversies and one of last year’s more memorable races. Elsewhere in the episode, Brenn reads a telling passage from Alberto Salazar’s book 14 Minutes and compares AlSal to Steve Jobs, Gregg moans about the weather, and we take aim at our British rivals as the Manchester Marathon approaches.
From one angle, the US Indoor Track & Field Championships was another strong weekend for Nike distance running. Eight of the 12 qualifiers for the World Indoor meet in the 800m, 1500m, and 3000m represent the brand, including five of the six men. Four of the five competing athletes from Alberto Salazar’s elite Nike Oregon Project finished first or second and qualified for World’s. As track goes, Nike prides itself on performance and the NOP is its premiere group. Check, check.
From another angle, never has an indoor track meet been such a public airing of a company’s dirty laundry. Not only did Salazar by numerous media accounts lose his cool, to put it mildly, but he was able to merit a DQ of another Nike coach’s athlete on no evidence, pointing a spotlight not only on the discord between the competing Nike training groups but more so on the inability of the USATF to govern the meet. The USATF is largely funded by Nike. And we haven’t even mentioned the Gabriele Grunewald fiasco that started the whole mess.
The more you look, the uglier it gets. In a statement on Grunewald’s ruling reversal USATF CEO Max Siegel either weakly defended or sold down the river those who made the initial ruling to DQ Grunewald as people who “volunteer their time to serve the sport.” Are we to take this as an explanation for what happened, that those making the initial ruling were unpaid citizens, perhaps with insufficient knowledge of track? That’s not exactly a Nike puppet state, that’s no state at all.
The good news: the off-the-track action was so egregious that the athletes and journalists have gone on record criticizing Salazar and the USATF, which is a touchy business given possible repercussions in terms of access to meets and athletes. Popular ex-Nike athletes Lauren Fleshman and Nick Symmonds had previously called for change in the sport, but when Nike’s current superstars Shalane Flanagan, Will Leer, and Lopez Lomong speak out and when the primary media site for track and field news letsrun.com gets in on the act condemning behavior and demanding answers, it signals the dam has broken. Kara Goucher has signed on to the budding T&F Athletes Association. Expect more to follow. The runners are unifying for change.
Salazar is a remarkable character, seemingly sketched out of a Greek tragedy. Having literally come back from the dead, he has forged a legacy both as athlete and coach transcending running. He’s Vince Lombardi but with MVPs from an actual playing career. It is ironic that what has brought about the public condemnation was Salazar getting his way. His ability to defend his athletes beyond reason and to exert absolute control over the results (initially) was his undoing in Albuquerque.
Salazar is coaching some of America’s (Galen Rupp, Mary Cain, Jordan Hasay) and the world’s (Mo Farah) most precious distance runners. Nike executives may forgive the dark side of his behavior for the sake of winning to a point, but the implosion last weekend is a distraction they (and one would guess, the parents of Mary Cain) may not tolerate again. For Nike, the athletes are the ones selling the brand, not the coach.
It is difficult but not impossible to imagine Salazar offering a public apology and the USATF, having hit rock bottom, changing for the better. The on-the-track distance running action at the Indoor Champs was thrilling, capping a surprisingly robust season for the sport in the U.S. The one race that wasn’t close, the women’s 1500m, was won by rising superstar Cain, only 17. This train wreck should help the sport grow on more stable footing.