Winds of Change Not Blowing in Carlsbad


     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)


(We again remember with fondness three-time Carlsbad champion Dejene Berhanu, who died at his own hand last August 29th.)   

5 thoughts on “Winds of Change Not Blowing in Carlsbad

  1. Hi Toni,

    I too, agree with you that the Elite Race needs to be run earlier in the morning in order to have a good opportunity to break the records. As the Co-founder of Elite Racing in 1988 and Race Manager from 1987 to 1992, I slowly added races to accommodate the size of the crowd. I too, recommended many times to run the race right after the Master’s Races and before the 30 and under race. This would allow the optimum number of racers to either stay an hour later or come an hour earlier to enjoy the race in the cool still morning. Unfortunately, I never won that argument either :).

    Also, as a runner who participated in the first Carlsbad 5,000, who is still running in it 26 years later, I have a few other comments.

    1. It is annoying to have men (25K folks) in the Women’s Master’s race and it is annoying to have the men winning any of the Women’s races. Is that really necessary ???/

    2. I did like the women’s fit shirts :)… Did you get that idea from the Surf City USA® Marathon.

    3. It took some of the participants 20 – 30 seconds just to get to the mat startline because of the size of the crowd, narrow startline and poor managment. Perhaps you should use wave starts like we do at the PMCU O’side Turkey Trot so that folks can actually have a chance at running their best times.

    4. Maybe you should sell the race to someone who cares. At even $50/entry fee, it doesn’t fit into your pricing plan ($120 – $150/participant/event), so why keep it, and have your C and D team work an extra weekend. Those of us who have been involved from the beginning would be happy to maintain the quality of the event established during the earlier years 1987 to 1991.. Checkout how many World records and American records we had in those years and you’ll see my point :).

    Happy Running !

    Kathy Kinane
    President of Kinane Events, Inc.
    Former Co-Founder of Elite Racing 1988
    Race Director of PMCU O’side Turkey Trot and Surf City USA Marathon

  2. 2011 Carlsbad now in the books.
    From race report:

    “The pre-race hype centered on defending champion Eliud Kipchoge’s stated intent of breaking the course and world records of 13:00, set in 2000. The 26-year-old Kenyan’s hopes took a hit right before the race started at 12:15, when the winds, which had been calm all morning, began to blow.”

    You don’t have to be Carnac to figure this out. This is the Carlsbad spring weather pattern. Just before noon the sun comes out, the wind picks up, and the second mile is now run into that headwind. That said, both genders provided compelling competitions.

    Last year’s runner up Dejene Gebremeskel of Ethiopial sat on the Kenya’s defending champ Kipchoge, then outkicked him for the win 13:11 to 13:13. Third went to America’s Bobby Curtis in 13:48, a huge drop off, as the field was the weakest in depth in years. But that’s the difference between the old Elite Racing philosophy, and the corporate cost cutting of Competitor Group.

    2009 Cbad women’s champion and 2010 runner up Aheza Kiros of Ethiopia used her experience to mirror countryman Gebrmeskel’s strategy. She sat in behind World Cross Country seventh-placer Pauline Korikwiang of Kenya before pulling off a one-second victory in 15:13. America’s 2011 half-marathon and 15K road champion Jen Rhines finished third in 15:37.

    So there we have it. Exactly the same story of the conditions foiling any attempt at reducing the men’s world record at Carlsbad, because who knows who is either too stubborn or just doesn’t care enough to tweak the start schedule.

    Not to say we’ll see those sturdy records go in any case. They are very strong. So why build it up as a WR attempt when nobody has come within ten seconds of Sammy Kipketer’s 13-flat time in a decade? Like so often happens in running, we get hung up on time, so even with close, compelling competitions, the lead comes out as “Records Fail to Fall”.

    Time to quit focusing on time, and be pleasantly surprised when and if they do come.

  3. Quick follow up. New Balance has come on board at a low level of sponsorship this year at Carlsbad. They will provide some footwear and bags for age-group prizes, and technical t-shirts for all participants. The hope is to sign the Boston-based company to a title sponsorship for 2012 and ahead. Carlsbad, due to its singular nature and small town location has had difficulty throughout its history in acquiring title sponsorship that matches the prestige of the event. New Balance with its re-focus on pro athletes would be an ideal fit.

    While the very top end of both fields is excellent, Carlsbad lost some added weight this week. San Diego’s own Meb Keflezighi, who had planned to race Carlsbad, is out with a lingering knee injury suffered in New York the day before the New York Half Marathon March 20th when he had a run in with a dog in Central Park…Also out is Tariku Bekele of Ethiopia, one of the world’s outstanding 5000m runners, and younger brother of Kenenisa, Olympic gold medallist and multiple time world cross country champion.

  4. Interesting, and sadly ironic, name choice for Competitor, since they’ve managed in the last few years to so downplay the elite competition that it means very little in the scheme of things. They’re pros at branding and marketing their events, few event management companies do it any better these days, but the fact that world and national-class athletes are in their events doesn’t seem to matter. Can’t they do both? Elite Racing managed to strike a good balance for many years; much of that success due to the remarkableness of Mike Long. Kudos to Matt for all his hard work, he had some tough shoes to fill but is doing quite well, no thanks to the higher-ups at Competitor Group. I wonder sometimes if he feels like he’s beating his head against a wall.

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