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In Episode 48, we recount the high drama at the U.S. Olympic Trials, where America’s best distance runners left nothing on the track, and we discuss the participation of Intersex athletes at the Games. Gregg welcomes a new runner to the fold.
Jenny Simpson and Brenda Martinez, here pictured at the 2015 5th Avenue Mile, won spots on the Olympic team in a dramatic 1500m race.
In Episode 28, we digest the daylong street festival of running that is New York City’s 5th Avenue Mile. We’ve got post-race interviews with the pro race winners Jenny Simpson and Jordan McNamara, as well as Brenda Martinez and Irishman Paul Robinson. We also chat with Central Park Track Club masters runner Daniel Gercke, who shares keys to his remarkable improvement after a late start in the sport. Elsewhere in the show, Brenn recounts his double mile, and the recently relocated Gregg offers his first impressions of running in the U.K.
Jenny Simpson again punctuated a dominant track season with a win at the 5th Avenue Mile. Simpson’s 4:19.4 was her third win and second consecutive sub-4:20 at the race, following last year’s 4:19.3. Including Simpson’s victory last year, it was only the fourth time in the 34-year history of the event that the winner broke 4:20. As runner-up, Brenda Martinez, who closed fast to a 4:19.6, ran the ninth best time in the event’s history, slicing 4.6 seconds from her own winning time in 2012.
The race was a much tighter victory for Simpson than last year’s, which she won by more than four seconds. “Last year I don’t think I had a strategy to go out hard. I just kind of went by feel. I was kind of surprised how the race came to me. This year was different. I was ranked #1 in the world coming out of the track season and just ran a great 3k. My fourth race in four weeks, I said just run it as I’ve been running and go hard from the gun. With that plan in mind, I think it was actually a little harder. The pressure was there.”
The race was a clean sweep for New Balance, which sponsors Simpson, Martinez, and Ireland’s 22-year-old Ciara Mageean, who finished third in 4.21.2.
Early in the race Jordan Hasay, Mary Cain, and Treniere Moser from the Nike Oregon Project settled in behind Simpson as Martinez hung back. Hasay gamely gave chase before fading in the final kick, and the hard charging Martinez nearly caught Simpson at the line. Hasay, Moser, and Cain ended up 8th, 9th, and 10th with times ranging from 4:23.9 to 4:25.5. While Nike clearly dominates men’s middle distance, on the women’s side New Balance, for now, has gained the upper hand. Throw NOP’s Shannon Rowbury into the mix, along with NB’s Kim Conley, Abbey D’Agostino, and Emma Coburn, and these two groups are destined to clash well into the future.
Regardless of sponsor, that the United States is home to the best women’s miler (and 1500m runner) on the planet deserves a little shouting from the rooftops.
In the men’s race, a trifecta would have payed handsomely, as Jordan McNamara, Garrett Heath, and Irishman Paul Robinson stormed by favorites Matt Centrowitz, Augustine Choge, and Will Leer to win, place, and show. Robinson’s performance came out of the blue, as he was even less touted than the other Irishman (Ciaran O’Lionaird) in the race, though probably equally unexpected as countrywoman Mageean in the women’s run. It was a good day for Ireland: even Feidhlim Kelly of The Irish Examiner got into the mix, scorching the Media Race with a 4:27 victory.
Back to the pros: Leer and Lawi Lalang took to the front, but the two burnt fuel in a mid-race surge to claim the $1,000 bonus for being in the lead at the 800-meter mark. Leer got it in what would be a mid-race photo finish, if there were such a thing. The stipulation of the bonus held that the runner in the lead would still have to break four minutes, which Leer did by finishing in 3:55.9.
Remarkably, 15 of the 16 competitors ran faster than 3:58 and a mere two-tenths of a second separated McNamara’s winning time of 3:51.0 from fourth place finisher Choge.
In the final kick, it appeared that last year’s third-place finisher Heath would claim his first victory at 5th Ave. Relatively stocky and well-muscled, Heath swung his arms wide in an attempt to ward off McNamara on one side and Robinson on the other, but McNamara snuck around, raising his arm at the tape. Said McNamara after the run, “I was in dead last with 600 to go, everybody was going so fast I thought man, eventually it has to settle and it did. The last 400 people started coming back and I got excited. Once you start getting excited, cool things can happen.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
For more Adidas Grand Prix photos, click here.
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.