Everyone was happy for Meb Keflezighi’s 62:46 win at Sunday’s Dodge Rock `n` Roll Half-Marathon in his hometown of San Diego. Though he’d run the nearby Carlsbad 5000 before, technically, it was Meb’s first race at home as a pro, and first since competing in the Aztec Invitational as a UCLA student 15 years ago – at least as best coach Bob Larsen could recall. And though matters turned into more of an exhibition run than competition for the hometown hero after Kenya’s Martin Lel dropped out after 10K, with so many old friends cheering him through the picturesque bayside course, and his proud dad Russom holding him aloft at the finish, it was a priceless day, nonetheless.
A full compliment of Keflezighis made the half journey, too. Meb tweeted: “Proud of my sis Ruth, nephew Jacob, niece Segen for finishing their 1/2 marathon finishes. Very proud of my wife’s sub 2 hrs debut. Way 2 go.”
Last night Coach Larsen hosted a very nice pizza party for Meb and his young family at his elegant Mission Beach condo to celebrate. Also on hand were Sam and Sabrina Grotewold, ex-pats from New York City, and RnR women’s marathon champion Buzunesh Deba and her husband Worku Beyi. In fact, the performance of the day belonged to the lovely Bronx-based Ethiopian who is still scaling the heights of her career.
Deba’s 2:23:31 RnR win represented not only a three minute PR, it broke Kenyan Margaret Okayo’s long-standing course record (2:25:05) and 1984 Olympic champion Joan Benoit Samuelson’s California record (2:24:52). And she had to earn it, too, disposing of friend and countrywoman Misiker Mekonnin Demissie (2:25:01) with a 69:18 first-half assault. When Demissie finally caved in during mile 18, Deba maintained for her eighth win in ten marathon starts.
Coming on the heels of her 2:26:34 win in March 20th Honda Los Angeles Marathon, Deba’s tenth marathon came just 20 months after her debut in Moline, Illinois at the Quad Cities Marathon September 27, 2009! Her only losses to date have come at home at the ING New York City Marathon (seventh in `09, tenth in 2010), and both those coming against World Marathon Majors fields. Imagine what she might be able to run if she cut back from that marathon every two months schedule she’s kept since her debut? Buzunesh says her next start will be this fall back home in the five boroughs. Watch out. Okayo holds that record right now, too.
Mo’s Got Mo
Congrats to Portland-based Mo Farah of England, winner of the Prefontaine Classic 10,000 meters on Friday night. Only 6000 availed themselves of the excellent Runnerspace.com live on-line coverage which showed Mo besting perhaps the deepest 10,000 meter field in the U.S. since the 1996 Olympic Final in Atlanta. His 26:46.57 also repped a UK record. This guy is for real. My only question is whether he can hold his peak till the World Champs in Daegu?
After sitting at the back of the large lead pack throughout, Mo moved with a swift precision into third following the 21:31 8K split. The ease with which he moved up is what told you he had some fresh legs beneath him. And when he put himself on the lead, he rode the Hayward Field crowd all the way home, disposing of the feared Ethiopian kicker Imane Merga handily in the final 200. Though Al Salazar-trained Galen Rupp failed to start due to Eugene’s high pollen count, and Jerry Schumacher-trained Chris Solinsky dropped out with a balky hamstring, Mo’s win just reinforced the work being done out in Oregon.
High School Hop
The Samsung Diamond League divides this week with competitions Thursday at the Bislett Stadium in Oslo, and Saturday at Icahn Stadium in New York City at the Adidas GP. Through the early season Diamond League meets, no standout like last season’s David Rudisha in the men’s 800 has emerged, and no real rivalries have been established either as athletes settle into their fitness and preparations for the Daegu World Championships in Korea in August. In fact, I’m more excited about the high school Dream Mile in New York City than for any of the pro races.
With Lukas Verzbicas of Illinois coming in to defend his Dream Mile title off his American high school record two-mile (8:29.46) at the Prefontaine Classic in Oregon last Saturday, and Jantzen Oshier of Trabuco Hills, California hot off a 4:00.83 1600 meter win (4:02 mile equivalent) at the CIF meet in Clovis, there is a budding rivalry setting up in the high school division more so than in any of the pro events.
Nadal – Federer
We watched the French Open earlier yesterday from Roland Garros in Paris with Rafa Nadal taking on Roger Federer for the eighth time in a Grand Slam final. Rafa won his record-tying sixth French Open in four sets to join Bjorn Borg in that rareified atmosphere. Odd how tennis, golf, baseball, football, soccer, basketball,cricket, lawn darts, billiards, pie-eating, et al tend to pit their best against one another on a consistent basis. You must wonder what they are thinking. We in running and track somehow manage to avoid that.
With the World Championships the track & field focus of the season, Usain Bolt is again separated in Oslo this week, while in New York we will see if Pre 100-meter winner Steve Mullings of Jamaica (9.80) can muster up against Tyson Gay who posted a world-leading 9.79 in Clermont, Florida this past weekend. If our guys controlled tennis, there’d be two tournaments going on simultaneously with Nadal at one and Federer at the other. Then again, the stadium would be empty, because we’d stage 10,000 games outside at the same time the championship match was being played. What are those other sports thinking?