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The Season of the Kick

A year after Mo Farah won double Olympic gold with explosive final laps in the 5,000 and 10,000 meters, the world’s best track runners seem obsessed with showing off their closing speed. It looks as if the elites are trying to send messages to Mo nearly every race, whether he participates or not, and the reigning champ has made a few super-quick statements of his own.  We’ll see who has the last word in Moscow this August.

One consequence of the kick-happy trend has been slower times overall. In 2012, 16 different runners broke 13:00 in the 5,000, for a total of 21 sub-13 performances.  An amazing 11 of them were at one race, the Paris Diamond League event, which was won by Ethiopian Dejan Gebremeskel in a world-leading 12:46.

So far in 2013, there have been only three sub-13s, all in the Rome Diamond League meet won by Ethiopia’s Yenew Alamirew in 12:54. His countryman Hagos Gebrhiwet was second in 12:55 and Kenyan Isaiah Koech was third in 12:58. None of them would have cracked the top 7 at the 2012 Paris race.

But oh, those kicks: In every big 5,000 over the past few months, the winner has closed in at least 53 or 54 seconds. To put that in perspective, the world-leading 800 meter race this year was Duane Solomon’s 1:43:27 at the U.S. Champs. In that race, Solomon ran his second lap in 53:17.

Here, in reverse chronological order, is a rundown of the Season of the Kick:

Lausanne Diamond League (July 4)  Alamirew runs a final lap of 54-flat and a sensationally fast final 200 in about 24.1 (according to the timers at LetsRun.com) to beat Gebrhiwet in 13:06.69.

Birmingham Diamond League (June 30) – Farah runs a final 400 of 53.4 and a final 200 of 25.8 with Alamirew and Gebrhiwet in hot pursuit. Mo’s winning time is 13:14.24

U.S. Track and Field Champs (June 23) – Bernard Lagat blitzes by Galen Rupp toward the end of a 54.22 final lap, but Lagat’s winning time is just 14:54.16 after a super-slow opening two miles. N.C. State’s Ryan Hill finishes third with the second quickest final lap, 54.57.

European Team Champs (June 22)  Farah runs the fastest final lap he has ever run in a 5,000 meter race, closing in 50.89. Still, Farah’s winning time is a pedestrian (for him) 14:10.

Rome Diamond League (June 6) – Alamirew’s world leader of 12:54 is punctuated by a 54.02 final lap ahead of Gebrhiwet and Koech.

Prefontaine Classic (June 1) – Kenya’s Edwin Soi closes in 53.5 or 53.6 (again according to LetsRun.com) to take down Farah, who was coming off an unspecified illness. Soi’s 13:04 win hands Farah his first loss in an outdoor track event in two years.

NEXT UP: The next major international men’s 5,000 is July 19 at the Diamond League meet in Monaco. The World Championships men’s 5000 is August 16 in Moscow.


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