San Diego, CA — The Carlsbad 5000 has built its impressive reputation on record performances. To date 16 World and eight U.S. records have been notched on the sun-drenched seaside layout north of San Diego. Often scheduled in close proximity to the IAAF World Cross Country Championships – until the IAAF turned that annual test into a biennial – Carlsbad has benefitted from that close association.
For years Elite Racing’s legendary pro athlete recruiter Mike Long would net several World Cross medalists to come celebrate their titles with a romp along the beach. With Mike’s tragic passing in July 2007, the role of recruiter has been taken up by Matt Turnbull, who has proven equally adept at coaxing the best to the streets of Carlsbad.
Currently, both the men’s and women’s records are held in Carlsbad, and 46 of the fastest 50 men’s road 5Ks in history have been run here, 22 of 50 for women. And we certainly expect the cats to come out of the bag quickly in the 29th edition of the road classic. But 2014 promises something more, shoulder-knockin’ competition.
CURRENT CARLSBAD RECORDS
World Record, Men 13:00 Sammy Kipketer (Ken) – 2000-2001
World Record, Women 14:46 Meseret Defar (Eth) – 2006
American Record Men 13:24 Marc Davis (USA) – 1996
American Record Women 14:54 Deena Drossin (Kastor) – 2002
Come Sunday morning at 11:15 a.m. (Pacific Daylight time) Dejen Gebremeskel, Ethiopia’s Olympic silver medalist at 5000 meters from London 2012, will be gunning for an unprecedented fourth-straight Carlsbad title. He shares three-peat honor with inaugural CBAD champ, Steve Scott of the USA (1986-`88), and fellow Ethiopian Dejene Berhanu (2003-`05). Though DJ comes into Carlsbad in top form off his bronze medal at the recent IAAF World Indoor Championships in Sopot, Poland in the 3000 meters, he will be facing a long-time nemesis who has had his number in six of their eight finals meetings over 3000 and 5000 meters, yes, including in Sopot where America’s Bernard Lagat won the silver medal to Dejen’s bronze (both behind Kenya’s Caleb Ndiku’s gold).
Here is why Carlsbad 2014 shows such promise. Kenyan-born Bernard Lagat came up the ranks as a 1500m/miler. With the foundation of his 3:26.34 1500m speed (Brussels, 2001, second on the all-time list) he still has the acceleration advantage against any natural 5000m man, even at age 39. It’s a remarkable testament to his commitment, constitution and construction. “Kip” is already eyeballing Eammon Coghlan’s world master’s mile record of 3:58.15, as Lagat will turn 40 on December 4th of this year.
Thrice Carlsbad champion Dejen Gebremeskel, though 15 years Lagat’s junior, has yet found the elegant Lagat too much to handle in each of the last three IAAF World Indoor Championships over 3000m — 2010 Doha, 2012 Istanbul, and 2014 Sopot. In each Bernard has been able to inch ahead of Dejen, if only by a hair, to win two golds and one silver medal, while Dejen has a record of 10th, 5th, and 3rd. But Bernard’s margin over Dejen was a skinny 17/100ths of a second in Sopot, and in six of their eight meetings dating back to the 2009 New York Grand Prix, the margin has been whisper-thin one-tenth of a second or less.
The only two times Dejen has bettered Bernard has come over the 5000 meter distance, notably at the 2012 Olympic 5000 final where Dejen took silver (to Britain’s Mo Farah’s gold) while Bernard could only manage a kiss-your-sister fourth. But even then, the difference between the two was a solitary second.
However, though DJ has his sights on history this Sunday morn, neither he nor Bernard can simply look to the other as his lone competition. Lurking dangerously nearby will be Kenya’s Augustine Choge, himself a 1500 meter man with 5000 meter strength. In fact, Choge has a better record against Lagat than does Gebremeskel.
They have met a total of 18 times from 1500 meters to 5000 meters since 2005. In 2012 at the World Indoor Champs in Istanbul Bernard barely edged Augustine in the 3000m final (7:41.44 to 7:41.77), and overall Bernard leads Augustine 13 to 5. But at their primary 1500m distance, they are tied at three apiece. Though indoors at 3000m Bernard again dominates 6 – 1.
The other big name coming to Carlsbad Sunday is Ethiopian charger Tariku Bekele, the 2012 Olympic bronze medalist at 10,000 meters. In their head-to-head career, Bernard leads 4 – 2 in the outdoor 3000, but only once did the two go a close 1st – 2nd, that in Rieti, Italy 2010 at the IAAF World Challenge, with Tariku nipping Bernard by three-tenths in 7:28.70. Over 5000 meters, Bernard holds a 4 – 3 advantage, but only one of those matchups brought either man to the line first, Bernard at the 2007 IAAF World Championships after which Tariku took fifth.
Based on all these matchups over the years, the prolific Mr. Lagat seems to hold the upper hand on all his opponents. But Carlsbad is Gebremeskel territory. History beckons. Question is what will he have to do to drop the aging wonder before the final turn onto Carlsbad Village Drive for the last 300m?
We shall find out Sunday around 11:28 a.m. Pacific Daylight time. There will be a live webast beginning with a pre-race show at 10:15 a.m. California time.
The women’s competition precedes the men’s at 10:45 a.m. While no clear favorite or potential record setter appears evident, like the men, the women promise close competition. There is also the matter of money, as Competitor Group is offering, for the first time, an added U.S.-only purse of $15,000 ($2500 to first U.S. finisher) out of total purse of $50,000 ($5000 to each overall winner).
The women’s race will feature a return engagement between 2014 U.S. Indoor 3000 meter champion Gabriel (Gabe) Grunewald of Team USA Minnesota and 4th-place finisher Jordan Hasay of the Nike Oregon Project. Gabe clipped Jordan in the final lap in Albuquerque, causing Jordan’s coach Alberto Salazar to file a protest. After that protest was denied, he appealed to a jury of appeals. Again turned down he offered “new” evidence in the form of enhanced TV pictures of the two athletes legs, and hours later the appeal was upheld. Grunewald was disqualified, which knocked her off the World Championships team, and put Jordan in as her replacement.
Next, Grunewald’s agent Paul Doyle threatened to file a complaint, and it took an intercession by USATF CEO Max Siegel days later to end the growing controversy and reinstate Grunewald as champion. One doesn’t get the feeling that there is bad blood between the two athletes, but all eyes will be on them nonetheless.
They will be joined by 2013 800-meter World Championship bronze medalist Brenda Martinez training out of Big Bear, California. The UC Riverside graduate began her breakout season last year in Carlsbad with a fifth-place finish in 15:44. Following her performance at the World Championships, Brenda has her sights set higher in 2014.
Emerging American standouts Amy Van Alstine and Lindsey Scherf look to continue their so far successful 2014 campaigns. Representing Northern Arizona Elite, Amy was the surprise winner of the U.S. Cross Country Championships in Boulder, Colorado in February, then finished third two weeks ago at the U.S. Road 15k Championship at the Gate River Run in Jacksonville, Florida. She wants a sub-15:30 PR. Lindsey Scherf won the renewed Gasparilla Distance Classic Half Marathon in Tampa, Florida February 23rd, then ran fifth in Jacksonville at Gate River, and just last week finished third at the Azalea Trail 10k in Mobile, Alabama in 32:33.
Heading up the International contingent is Ethiopia’s Gotytom Gebreslase, 19, fourth in CBAD 2012 (PR 15:32). She will look to become the sixth straight Ethiopian women’s champion, and and 10th overall. She will face Italian standouts Margherita Magnani who arrives with two recent indoor PRs in the 1000 & 1500 meters, and Italian national 5000m champion Viola Giulia (16:05).
Great Britain’s Julia Bleasdale is also a CBAD returner, finishing sixth in 2012 in a PR 15:47. Eighth at both the 5000 & 10,000m in London 2012, Julia will move up the California coast following Carlsbad to compete on the track at Stanford where she hopes to run the Commonwealth Games qualifier. Danger will also lurk in the person of Betsy Saina of Kenya, the 2012 African 10,000m bronze medalist. Saina was also a three-time NCAA Champion in 2012 while racing as an Iowa State Cyclone. She won her titles in Cross Country, then on the track in the 5000m & 10,000m.
The 29th running of the Carlsbad 5000 takes place Sunday, March 30, and for the first time will be webcast live. The pre-race show begins at 10:15 a.m. Pacific Daylight time (1:15 p.m. EDT). The elite women’s invitational race will begin at 10:45 a.m., followed by the elite men’s invitational at 11:15 a.m. Our pre-race webcast will begin at 10:15.