At the 20th running of the Carlsbad 5000 in 2005, Ethiopia’s Dejene Berhanu captured a third straight title (13:10), and country woman Tirunesh Dibaba set the ninth women’s world’s best time on the singular seaside course (14:46). Steve Scott closed our Fox Sports broadcast with the following aside, after another freshening wind had come up with the late morning sun over the Pacific Ocean, causing the crucial second mile heading north along Carlsbad Boulevard to slow in comparison to the earlier run age-group races.
“If they ever want to challenge Sammy Kipketer’s 13-flat course and world record,” commented Steve, “they are going to have to move the start time of the men’s race to earlier in the day when the conditions are better.”
Nothing more than astute analysis from the most qualified Carlsbad 5000 observer ever. After all, Steve had co-designed the course and won the first three years races. When the Carlsbad show aired, however, Elite Racing boss Tim Murphy – as was his want – went ballistic, telling Steve and I to mind our own business, and let him conduct the (expletive deleted) event. Jeez. Sorry, Tim. Just trying to help. But from then on we shut the hell up.
But here it is again, Carlsbad weekend. And for the fourth straight year Competitor Group elite athlete coordinator Matt Turnbull has spun the same magic the late, great Mike Long used to spin when the event was owned by Elite Racing, turning out the kind of top-end field that only Carlsbad seems to be able to muster on U.S. roads.
For the second straight year Matt has enlisted former World 5000m champion and two-time Olympic medallist Eliud Kipchoge of Kenya to assault Sammy Kipketer’s 2000 & 2001 world road record – one of sixteen WRs in event history to go along with its eight American records. Kipchoge came in last year with the same goal and won, but in only 13:11.
“I tried very hard,” recalled Kipchoge, who arrived in San Diego last night. “But I had to fight the wind, and that made it very hard for me to break 13 minutes. This year, I feel as though I’m in better shape. I’ve been pushing myself and my training has definitely gone well. I’ve run 7:29.37 for 3000 meters and 12:55.72 for 5000 meters.”
Kipchoge is among only a small handful of men with the skill-set to take on Kipketer’s Beamonesque 13 minute time for 5000 meters on the road. He arrives as 2010’s world #1 ranked 5000 man, and he’ll be challenged by world #4 Ethiopian Dejene Gebremeskel, 21, last year’s runner-up at Carlsbad. He, too, arrives in Carlsbad in top form, having run a PR of 7:35.37 for 3000 meters indoors at Boston in February while running with one shoe for the entire race after he lost the other in a start line collision with a fellow competitor. His track PR for the 5,000 is 12:53.56.
“Right now there’s not a breath of wind, and the skies are blue,” reported Turnbull at 9 a.m. Friday morning from Carlsbad. “It will be interesting to see what it’s like in three hours. I think it’s a good idea (to move the elite start to earlier in the day). We might get lucky at 12:15 p.m. and get perfect weather, but having made the investment to bring these guys over it’s not leveraging our assets to their best advantage (to run them after noon).”
Carlsbad competition starts at 7:05 a.m. with the men’s masters division, continues through the morning with women’s masters at 8:00, wheelchairs at 8:50, men 30-39 at 9:25, women 30-39 at 10:20, the people’s walk at 10:25, men and women 29 & under at 11:30, and ends with the men’s invitational at 12:15, and the women at 12:17 p.m.
With both invitational races essentially going off at the same time, not only are changing conditions an issue, but coverage itself gets compromised, too. Though there is (sadly) no longer any TV or web coverage, the print media in attendance still has to decide which gender’s race to cover, since they can’t watch both simultaneously. In the days when ESPN or Fox Sports Net was still covering Carlsbad, producers had to split their resources rather than being able to mass their assets for each race.
It would be as simple as figuring which gender has a better shot at a record performance – this year the men – then scheduling that race sometime in mid-morning before the marine layer clears and the winds come up. On top of which, by the time the elites go off, the biggest crowds of the day, the masters fields, have already gone home, lessening the atmospherics.
Of course, it’s always easier to criticize. But sometimes critics have a point.
(Toni Reavis covered Carlsbad from 1989 to 2010)