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Clap your hands twice – almost as fast as you can, but not quite.
That’s probably around .15 seconds, or the amount of time Lopez Lomong broke the American indoor 5000 record by Friday night at the Armory in New York. His 13:07.00 beat Bernard Lagat’s 13:07.15 on the same track in the 2012 Millrose Games.
To take down a legend like Lagat, everything had to go right for Lomong, and it did: A fast track, a talented group of teammates from the Oregon Track Club to pull him along, and most important of all – nearly perfect pacing. Take a look at the Lomong’s splits for each 1000 meters:
1st 1000 – 2:39.9
2nd 1000 – 2:37.8
3rd 1000 – 2:36.5
4th 1000 – 2:38.5
5th 1000 – 2:34.4
Breaking it down even further, LetsRun.com’s Robert Johnson was at the track reporting lap-by-lap splits, and none of the leader’s laps were faster than 30 seconds or slower than 33 seconds. An amazing 19 of the 25 laps were in the 31s!
When chasing a record or a specific time, the hard part isn’t getting consistent splits in the early going. The hard part is expending the right amount of energy throughout the race such that you don’t slow down at the end, or on the other hand, have too much left in the tank. Lomong maintained his pace beautifully at the end, running solo for a final four laps of 30.74, 31.06, 31.23 and 30.58. This suggests he got the race just right – like baby bear’s porridge in Goldilocks.
Lagat, by the way, went sub-27 in his last lap a year ago, so one could argue he could have gone faster overall by kicking earlier, but who knows for sure.
In an upcoming podcast, Brenn and I will discuss optimal pacing and how it usually plays out in the real world. Stay tuned.
None of the 13 competitors in the women’s Wanamaker Mile on Saturday ran in last year’s 1500m “Metric Wanamaker Mile.” Absent are Jenny Simpson (last year’s winner), Shannon Rowbury (2nd last year), and Morgan Uceny (who won the 800m at Millrose last year), all of whom represented the US in the 1500m at the 2012 Olympics. And yet this year’s race, loaded with young talent and with no clear favorite, is just as compelling without them.
Sixteen-year-old prodigy Mary Cain (4:32.78 indoor PR), former prodigy Jordan Hasay (still just 21), and 20-year-old Dartmouth junior Abbey D’Agostino, who barely missed qualifying for London last year with her 15:19.98 at the dramatic Olympic trials 5000m, headline the youth movement. Sarah Brown (nee Bowman) beat Cain in the mile at the Armory on Jan. 26, running 4:31.61. Emily Infeld (22 years old) is the 2012 NCAA indoor 3000m champ and 4th place finisher at the 2013 USATF x-c championship, and has been training with Shalane Flanagan and Kara Goucher in Jerry Schumacher’s Oregon Track Club group. Her sister Maggie finished 4th in the Metric Wanamaker Mile last year. Kate Grace (24), running for Oiselle, which recently signed Lauren Fleshman from Nike, has been slashing new PRs and beat both D’Agostino and Hasay in the 3,000m at the University of Washington Invitational. Giving the race the slightest of international feels are Canadian Olympians Sheila Reid (23) and Hilary Stellingwerff (31). A third Canadian Olympian, Nicole Sifuentes (5th last year), was originally slated to run but is out with a plantar injury.
Cain has both a blistering kick and home track advantage. The trick for her will be retaining contact with the leaders for the first seven laps so that she and the crowd can ride the wave of high drama in the eighth. I expect D’Agostino or Reid to take it with a time in the high 4:20s, with Grace and Cain in the mix. Whoever wins, expect to see several of these runners at Rio in 2016.
Unlike the women’s race, the men’s Wanamaker Mile has a clear favorite and plot line. Twenty-three year old Olympian Matt Centrowitz is the defending champ, it’s seen as his race to win, and the question is whether he will
- break his Armory record of 3:53.92 from last year’s race
- break Bernard Lagat’s Millrose record of 3:52.87
- beat Galan Rupp’s 3:50.92 from earlier this season
- go sub-3:50 and take down Lagat’s indoor American record of 3:49.89
Centrowitz controlled last year’s race from the front, a tactic he repeated to win the mile at Boston two weeks ago (3:56.26) and that seems to work for him when Leonel Manzano isn’t in the race. There are some high-upside guys who could pose a challenge: Lopez Lomong, Lawi Lalang, who ran 13:08 in the 5,000m at the meet last year, or Robbie Andrews (winner of the High School Mile at Millrose in 2009). It’s unlikely, though, that they will bring it in the low 3:50s.
Centrowitz is such a smooth runner that it seems he leaves energy unspent on the track. Despite how smooth he might appear, though, we can’t assume that he’s left gears untapped, gears that we wouldn’t see until his veins are popping out of his neck and his head bobs back and his form goes all to hell.
In order to knock all the names off the list, Centrowitz will probably have to win the race by several seconds and run it as a personal time trial, much how Rupp ran his 3:50. In three months Rupp will turn 27, and Alberto Salazar has not been afraid to push the pedal to the floor on Rupp’s short track races, which aren’t even considered his forte. The incentives are different with Centro, who has a longer horizon and less reason to risk a race for a record. He ran a 3:31.96 1500m at the Lausanne Diamond League meet outdoors last year and he’ll likely run sub 3:50 for the mile at some point, but it’ll take elite international competition to push him to it.