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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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
All photos by Sue Pearsall. See our gallery of photos from the Invitational.
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.
While Galen Rupp may be disappointed that he didn’t win the 3,000 yesterday at the New Balance Grand Prix in Boston and that his time (7:33.67) fell short of Bernard Lagat’s indoor American record of 7:32.43, both he and the winner Hagos Gebrhiwet (7:32.87) beat the meet record of 7:34.50, run by Craig Mottram in 2008. The memorable Dejen Gebremeskel/Mo Farah race in 2011 was won by Gebremeskel in 7:35.37. Yesterday Rupp dispatched Gebremeskel, who finished 3rd in 7:43.32, with surprising ease.
Lagat, at 38 twelve years Rupp’s senior, put up the most surprising result of the weekend, showing that he’s ready to take a shot at Rupp’s 2-mile indoor record at the Millrose Games in a few weeks by running 7:34.71 for the 3,000 at an indoor meet in Karlsruhe, Germany. It’s quite something that the American distance runner who’s the greatest threat to Rupp these days is 38.
Tirunesh Dibaba, meanwhile, lived up to her nickname by destroying the field in the 2-mile, running 9:13.17 and slicing over eight seconds from her time in the same race last year (9:21.60). Dibaba has run the Boston meet nine times in the last eleven years, winning her last seven races. Still only 27, she’ll be fun to watch as she makes her marathon debut in London on April 21.
The Dubai Marathon has been so incredibly fast the last two years, we’re wondering if its stats are inflated somehow. A record five runners broke 2:05 last Friday, led by Ethiopia’s Lelisa Desisa who used a big kick to win a close race in 2:04:45. Last year, four runners went under 2:05 in the desert. If you add the emperor Haile Gebrsellassie’s 2:04:53 in 2008, a total of 10 runners have gone sub-2:05 in Dubai. That compares with 17 who’ve done it at all other marathons combined.
Aside from Haile, none of the runners with amazing Dubai times have done much on other courses. Granted, four of the five who broke 2:05 this year were making their marathon debut, and may go on to great careers. But last year’s top three of Ayele Abshiro, Dino Sefir and Markos Geneti all made Ethiopia’s Olympic team on the strength of their Dubai times, and all three DNF’d at the London Games. Fourth place finisher Jonathan Maiyo of Kenya has not broken 2:09 elsewhere.
It will be interesting to see how the Dubai alumni perform in 2013. Abshero is next up in the star-studded London field on April 21.
Total sub-2:05 performances:
Dubai – 10
Berlin – 7
Rotterdam – 6
Boston – 4
Chicago – 2
Frankfurt – 2
London – 2