Elites improve (a lot) after marathon debuts

In our latest episode we discussed marathon debuts and how much elites typically improve from their first attempt at the distance.Here’s a look at the data:

We looked at the 10 fastest active U.S. women marathoners and compared their debuts to their personal bests (excluding Renee Baillee who has not yet attempted a second 26.2 miler). The remaining group improved by an average of 8 minutes and 55 seconds. At one extreme, Desiree Linden (née Davila) improved by 22 minutes from her 2:44 opener in Boston 2007. Shalane Flanagan chopped off 6 minutes off her 2:28 debut in New York in 2010, and hopes to go even faster in this fall in Berlin. Kara Goucher had the best American debut of all time with a 2:25 at Boston in 2008 and managed to improve by a minute three years later in Boston.

Only one woman in the group has not improved on her debut – Amy Hastings opened with a 2:27:03 in Los Angeles in 2011, but her second best was oh-so-close: only 14 seconds slower at the 2012 Olympic trials.

Among other big names, Paula Radcliffe had an incredible 2:18 debut in London 2001 and still got 3 minutes faster with her 2:15:24, which is still the world record by a wide margin. Buzunesh Deba the Ethiopian-born runner who trains in New York, opened with a 2:44 at Quad Cities in 2008, and has chopped 24 minutes off that with her 2:19 at Boston this year.

The evidence of improvement is true of men as well: Ryan Hall, Meb Keflezighi and Dathan Ritzenhein have PRs and average of 4:48 faster than their debuts.

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Episode 27: Becky Wade preps for an encore

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In Episode 27 we chat with Becky Wade, a bright young star with a global perspective on the sport. Before her debut victory in 2:30:41 at the California International Marathon in December, Becky spent a year on a Watson Fellowship surveying running cultures abroad. Wade is now squarely on the map among elite U.S. distance runners as she prepares with the ASICS Mammoth Track Club for the Chicago Marathon this fall. Elsewhere in the episode, we discuss racing at the NYRR Team Championships in New York, and Gregg sets his sights on the U.K.

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Episode 26: Christo Landry joins the A-list

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With his American record–tying run in the 25K and wins at Cherry Blossom and Peachtree, Christo Landry has vaulted to the top of the USARC leaderboard. In Episode 26, we ask Christo about his recent emergence, his training, and this fall’s Chicago Marathon, where he hopes to demolish his 2:14:44 PR.

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Episode 25: Craig Leon and the Art of Improvement

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2:13 marathoner Craig Leon has notched three consecutive top-15 finishes at World Marathon Majors and this fall will run the Chicago Marathon, where he set his PR last year. Steady improvement is the name of his game, and in Episode 25, Craig shares some of his secrets – including the identity of one speedy pancake. Elsewhere in the episode, we survey this week’s USA Outdoor Championships and the recent Diamond League meet in New York, and Gregg uses a comment about the World Cup to lay out a better future for running.

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USA Outdoors Start Lists, And The Winners Are…

Note: This article has been revised to account for updates to the men’s 1500 field.

The distance events at the USATF Track & Field Championships kick off Thursday in Sacramento, and there are clear favorites in most of the races. In an “off” year with no Olympics or World Championships, it’s all about winning, as second or third won’t win you a ticket to a larger stage.

If Galen Rupp runs the 10,000, he should cruise (his qualifying mark is full minute faster than the next fastest, Ryan Vail‘s 27:44). Jenny Simpson and Molly Huddle should handle the 1,500 and 5,000. Evan Jager and Emma Coburn are heavy favorites in the steeples, and Duane Solomon should take the men’s 800. The women’s 10,000 also boasts a heavy favorite in Shalane Flanagan, but this is where things get interesting.

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Kim Conley en route to a PR of 8:44 in the 3000m at Diamond League NYC

Also in the women’s 10,000, which starts at 8:20 PM PCT on Thursday night (11:20 EDT) is Sacramento’s own Kim Conley, who ran 31:48 at Payton Jordan and who more recently set a PR in the 3,000 at the adidas Grand Prix in New York. She and Jordan Hasay, who ran 31:39 at Payton Jordan, will hope to be within striking distance of Shalane and utilize their track speed towards the end. It may not be as easy for Shalane to break these two as it was for her to break the field in a hot race at U.S. Outdoors in Des Moines last year.

Will Galen Rupp run the men’s 5,000, and if so, will he be challenged? The 5000 is the day after the 10,000. If Rupp doesn’t scratch after the 10,000 (and if he’s not busy attending to newborn twins), he’ll be facing relatively fresh competition. Bernard Lagat ran an un-Lagat-like 13:31 at Pre, but historically Lagat has had Rupp’s number, including at last year’s 5,000 at USAs when Rupp was seen as the favorite. Hassan Mead should also be in the mix. Missing from the race is Ben True, who is hoping to run a fast 5000 at the Diamond League race in Paris on July 5.

The men’s 1,500 and the women’s 800 are both wide open. Without Matt Centrowitz, the men’s 1,500 will likely go to Leo Manzano or Will Leer, with David Torrence in the mix. Brenda Martinez and Channelle Price go head to head in the women’s 800. It will be interesting to see what  Maggie Vessey will be wearing, and after her strong performance and fashion statement at the Prefontaine Classic, whether she’ll compete for the win.

Adidas Grand Prix: Tales of the Unexpected

David Rudisha is not often upstaged in a Diamond League race, but though he won the 800m this time around, the audience was clearly distracted. Intermittent and progressively louder roars from the crowd signalled something unusual going on. It was a competition in which not one but two high jumpers – Qatar’s Mutaz Barshim and Ukraine’s Bohdan Bondarenko – approached the world record. Some come to these races to watch the sprints, others to watch the distance events, but the jumpers taking flight were the most transcendent performers of the day.

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Back to the 800. Because Rudisha is currently a 1:44 guy and not the 1:41/42 version of years past, the question is not how fast he’ll run, but whether he’ll win. Heading in to the race, Duane Solomon had the season’s best time among the competitors, and four others had run faster than Rudisha this year. The pacemaker opened the kind of gap on Rudisha that Rudisha has been known to open on the pack. Solomon was the  lead predator on Rudisha’s shoulder, poised to strike.

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We asked Solomon after the race whether at any point he thought he had it. “The backstretch from 500 to 600, I was kind of hesitant. I wanted to pass Rudisha. It was kind of windy and I wanted to bide my time. I think I waited a little bit too long. In the last hundred when I really wanted to pass him, he got stronger. He’s still the best in the world. I’ll come back a little better next time, I’ll come back more aggressive.” Rudisha won in 1:44.63, Solomon finished third exactly half a second back in 1:45.13.

The headliner in the women’s 800 was Mary Cain, but it was Jamaica’s Natoya Goule who took hold of the race from the get-go. “There were too many people in the race. I’m not going to be left around by the back getting kicked on and stepped on and all that, because I’m the smallest. I’m not going to stay at the back and get run over,” said Goule.

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There were other pleasant surprises, from even smaller competitors. When 10-year-old Jonah Gorevic of White Plains took out the first quarter of the Youth Mile in 71 seconds, gapping a field of bigger 11-12 year olds, it seemed a classic, if plucky, pacing blunder. But the kid kept at it, pulling off 78, 78, and 74 second laps, kicking to a 5:01.55 finish, the fastest recorded time at that age. The press huddled around Gorevic after the race, which the boy, who resembles a cross between Ryan Vail and Galen Rupp, handled with aplomb.

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With about 700 meters to go in the women’s 3000m, a race broke out where none had been expected. Kim Conley had moved into second and was closing the gap on leader Mercy Cherono. “My plan had been really to try to wait and then kick hard, but I just couldn’t help myself. Mercy kind of lulled in pace for a second, and I could see that maybe it was possible,” Conley said. Cherono regained her pace, while Conley held on to finish fifth with a 3-second PR of 8:44. She’ll be running the 10,000 at the US Championships.

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While Cain opted for the 800, high school junior Alexa Efraimson stuck her nose in the women’s 1500m. At the Pre Classic, another mid-distance wunderkind, Elise Cranny, caboosed the 1,500 and was pulled along to a  4:14. In New York, Efraimson was right behind Jenny Simpson, Brenda Martinez, and Shannon Rowbury at the bell – only two strides behind Sweden’s Abeba Aregawi. Her 4:07.05 was the second fastest high school 1,500 of all time behind Cain’s 4:04.62 last year. Morgan Uceny ran 4:04.87, her fastest 1500 since she crashed to the track at the 2012 London Olympics while being trailed by Aregawi, then competing for Ethiopia.

Efraimson gave everything she had, if the amount of time spent doubled over and breathless after the race is any indication. A few minutes later, by the side of the track, she was still having trouble catching her breath. Written in marker on her calf was an inspirational quote, the kind of thing you’d see in a high school yearbook, and one that seemed to explain her excellent performance.

Elexa-AdidasGPPhoto by Gregg Lemos-Stein

For more Adidas Grand Prix photos, click here.

 

 

2014 Adidas Grand Prix Photo Gallery

Photos by Andy Kiss

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