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Episode 54: From Boston to London

Gregg and Brenn look at clouds from both sides in Episode 54: the figurative clouds of doping in the sport, and the literal clouds forecast for Sunday’s London Marathon. We collaborate on Gregg’s A to F goals for London and offer shout-outs to listeners and teammates who are primed to break three.

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Episode 44: Olympic Marathon Trials Predictions

In Episode 44 we share pre-race thoughts from past guests who are running in the Olympic Trials in L.A. on Saturday (and a few who aren’t). When asked who may surprise to the upside, Nick Arciniaga and Tyler McCandless had the same answer. Gregg and Brenn offer their predictions. True to form, Gregg plays it right down the middle while Brenn plays the longshots. On your mark, get set…

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Levins shines at Armory Track Invitational

As Cam Levins limbered up for the 2-mile race at the Armory Track Invitational on Saturday, it was easy to take pity on him. A half hour earlier Levins had bounced mile specialist Chris O’Hare, 3:54.74 to 3:57.26. Now standing beside him on the start line was a fresh Galen Rupp.

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Cam Levins wins the mile at the Armory Invitational.

The Nike Oregon Project is well known for its post-race workouts, but this was a race, not a workout. Had Levins been there to pace Rupp, it would have been insulting, as Levins had just destroyed a 3:52 miler. And if he was there truly to race Rupp, well, he wasn’t being given much time to savor his mile victory, was he? Levins’ 2-mile PR is the Canadian record 8:14.69, Rupp’s is the American record 8:07.41, after which Rupp did a 5 x mile workout, finishing in 4:01. Levins being sent back to double against Rupp would be like Rupp being sent back to double against a fresh Mo Farah. Best of luck.

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As Darth Vader’s theme music from the Empire Strikes Back filled the arena, Levins and Rupp, in their black NOP singlets, shadowed pacer Trevor Dunbar for the first half of the race. With three laps to go, to the surprise of nobody, Rupp swung wide and took the lead.

Levins stuck to Rupp, and the gap to Ben Blankenship in third was about five meters with two laps to go. Then things got weird. Blankenship surprisingly closed the gap, and with slightly over 100 meters to go made a move to pass them both just at the moment when Levins, unaware of Blankenship, powered around Rupp and into the clear. Blankenship ran by Rupp, dodged a lapped runner, momentarily lost his balance, and stepped on the infield. Japan’s Sugura Osako chased down Blankenship for 2nd. Levins, astoundingly, had won again, by a clear margin no less. Understudy, no more.

Levins and Rupp are both scheduled the run the 5,000m on the same track at the Millrose Games on Feb. 14, Valentine’s Day.

Preceding Levins’ heroics was an impressively routine victory by his NOP teammate Jordan Hasay in the women’s 2-mile. When Hasay made her move with 300 meters to go, nobody could match her kick, and that was that. Abbey D’Agostino, who had gotten the best of Hasay in the latter stages of their college careers, was a scratch.

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Mary Cain was the cover girl on the meet’s program and was flocked by the media in the interview room after her fifth place finish in the women’s 800m. Cain’s 2:02.75 was a significant indoor PR for her, and the adulation she receives is understandable given the 18-year old is positive, winning with the press, and a fantastic miler. Still, the (slightly) older winner of the race deserves a ton of respect. Ajee Wilson, at 20 years old, is America’s best young 800 meter runner and one of the best in the world. When one reporter asked Wilson about Cain after the race, Wilson patiently explained that there were several other accomplished women in the event to worry about as well.

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The men’s distance medley was highly touted as a record-breaking attempt, and the U.S. anchor leg Pat Casey received the baton in great shape, having to “only” run a 4:02.5 split in the 1600 to break the old mark of 9:25.97. Ireland’s Ciaran O’Lionaird, nearly four seconds back of Casey when he got the baton, made it exciting for the fans by closing the gap.

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Though it seemed unlikely he’d be able to actually pull off the comeback, O’Lionaird did run a 3:52 at the Wanamaker Mile in 2013, and the mere prospect of such an upset made the world-record setting victory for the U.S., after Casey took off in the last quarter mile and O’Lionaird could not respond, that much sweeter.

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Erik Sowinski embraces Pat Casey after Casey anchors the WR 9:19.93 DMR.

All photos by Sue Pearsall. See our gallery of photos from the Invitational.

 

 

 

Highlights and teasers, 2013 to 2014

As Father Time gives way to Baby New Year, it’s natural to take a look back and forward. One of the general trends we noticed is that at the end of the year, it was a different cast of characters grabbing headlines than at the start.

After an early Diamond League meet, Nick Willis tweeted:

So hard to be on your game through a whole season at the world level. Could be totally different guys going well in Moscow.

— Nick Willis (@nickwillis) June 1, 2013

This actually summed up the year for Willis himself, who struggled with an injury early in the season but dominated late season action in New York City, with convincing victories over quality competition at the 5th Avenue Mile and the Race to the Finish Line 5k.

So here are a few lists to add to the pile of year-end lists, focused primarily though not exclusively on action in the U.S.

Savviest prize money grab 2013

3. Jenny Simpson
2. Stephen Sambu
1. Kim Smith

Kim Smith nabbed the $100,000 for the best cumulative results in the BAA Distance Medley’s 5k, 10k, and half marathon. Given the fat payout, she faced surprisingly thin competition. Smith added $12,500 the hard way, with a 6th at the NYC Marathon. Stephen Sambu won the same BAA Distance Medley prize for men. Jenny Simpson won $25,000 for a single race: the 1500m at the Hy-Vee “Women’s Mile” at Drake Relays. She supplemented that with $30,000 with her silver at the Worlds 1500. Kate Grace gets honorable mention for a 5-day stretch in which she won $5,000 at the US Road Mile Champs in Des Moines and $10,000 for finishing 3rd at Drake.

Best start to the year 2013

3. Lopez Lomong
2. Galen Rupp
1. Hagos Gebrhiwet

Lopez Lomong won the Wanamaker Mile, upsetting defending champ Matt Centrowitz, then set the American indoor 5,000 record. Galen Rupp set the American indoor record in the 3,000. Hagos Gebrhiwet beat Rupp indoors and appeared unbeatable in the early Diamond League meets. The three were unable to build on their early season successes.

Best end to the year 2013

3. Laura Thweatt
2. Nick Willis
1. Molly Huddle

Molly Huddle beat Shalane Flanagan twice late in the year to take the NYRR Dash to the Finish 5k and the US National Road Racing Champ 12k races.

Breakthrough races 2013

3. Jason Hartmann 4th at Boston Marathon
2. Cheserek beats Kithuka at NCAAs
1. Sowinski beats Symmonds and Solomon at Millrose

Jason Hartmann had finished 4th at Boston in 2011, but the heat in that race made it seem an outlier. His DNF at NYC in the fall showed how fickle the sport can be.

Likely marathon PRs 2014

3. Tyler McCandless
2. Matt Tegenkamp
1. Shalane Flanagan

Tyler McCandless has set his sights on a sub-2:12 this year. That might seem audacious for a guy with a 2:16:46 PR, but the Steve Jones-coached athlete led for much of the U.S. marathon champs last year at Twin Cities and plans to look for faster courses than the hilly and humid Kauai, Hawaii, where he has won three straight years.

Matt Tegenkamp brought his impressive track and road credentials to the marathon this year and was disappointed with his 2:12:28 debut in Chicago.

Shalane Flanagan‘s track PRs of 14:44 in the 5,000 and 30:22 in the 10,000, as well a her half marathon best of 1:08:31, all point to something a minute or two quicker than her 2:25 marathon best at the 2012 Olympic Trials. She is the best woman marathoner in the U.S., and at one of these races it’s all going to come together for her.

Most dominant wins 2013

3. Nick Willis at 5th Avenue Mile
2. Jenny Simpson at Drake Women’s Mile
1. Shalane Flanagan at US Outdoor Champs 10,000

Best strategic win 2013

3. Efraimson outkicks Baxter at NXN
2. Arciniaga wins US Marathon Champs
1. Bekele beats Farah at Great North Run

In how many races late in the year did a seemingly dropped runner come back to win? Nick Arciniaga fell of the pace several times while nursing a sore achilles, but he stormed back in a dramatic finish to take his first national title. Kinenisa Bekele‘s win stands out because of the larger context. Mo Farah, coming off the 5,000/10,000 double at World’s, looked unbeatable, while Bekele, after losing his dominance on the track, had been written off by many. His whole career now has a promising second act.

Best performance by shoe
1. Adidas Adios Boost

Perhaps it’s just that many of the best marathon runners in the world are signed with Adidas, but that shoe was all over the podium in late season marathons.

Best early season matchups 2014

3. Jenny Simpson versus Shalane Flanagan at US Cross? Neither is confirmed, but Simpson has hinted at it and Shalane won it last year, even though she ran Boston.

2. Mary Cain versus Ajee Wilson versus Iceland’s Mary Cain (Anita Hinrikdottir) at the Millrose Games.

1. Mo Farah versus the field at the London Marathon, which could include Kenenisa Bekele and will likely include the world’s best.

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