Carlsbad, CA. — Warm and windy, not the alliterative conditions they were hoping for at the 30th Carlsbad 5000. Perhaps serene and swift would have been more like it. And yet, despite the less than ideal racing conditions, they darn near got world record number 17 at the event dubbed “The World’s Fastest 5K”, a moniker CBAD has more than earned over its first 29 years, as it has hosted 16 world and eight U.S. road records over that span.
But it didn’t quite happen in 2015, as Ethiopia’s Genzebe Dibaba could only scare the 2006 mark of 14:46 set by countrywoman Meseret Defar here in the seaside town 30 miles north of San Diego.
The younger sister of two-time Carlsbad champ Tirunesh Dibaba finished in 14:48, third-best road 5K in history, but a full 25-seconds in front of runner up Geleta Burka, also of Ethiopia, the 2013 Carlsbad women’s champion.
With off-shore breezes starching the seaside flags today when the pros got around to racing, the faster overall times organizers expected on the newly designed (for elites only) two-loop course along Carlsbad Boulevard never came to pass. It didn’t help that four-time defending invitational men’s champion Dejen Gebrmeskel of Ethiopia withdrew with an illness just hours before the race.
In his stead eight-time University of Arizona NCAA champion Lawi Lalang of Kenya took the win in 13:32, tying the fourth slowest winning men’s time in CBAD history. Fellow Kenyan Wilson Too lived up to his name taking place number two while Bernard Lagat, the ageless American master, finished third in 13:40, notching his fourth masters record of the year, though missing out on the open U.S. record of 13:24 held since 1996 by San Diego native Marc Davis.
Lagat actually bettered the Davis mark last year while finishing second to Gebrmeskel in 13:19. But when a cone marking the southern most 180-degree turn on the course was misplaced by 13 feet, the record was denied (and the cone setter dismissed).
In the pro women’s race the youngest member of running’s premier female dynasty captured the third Carlsbad title for the Dibaba family. 24 year-old Genzebe Dibaba led an Ethiopian sweep in Carlsbad this year to join 29 year -old sister Tirunesh in the Carlsbad winner’s circle. Tiru won Carlsbad in 2005 (14:51) and 2012 (15:01), while 33 year-old Ejegayehu finished 8th in 2003 (15:30).
Pacer Emily Lipari of the Boston Athletic Association tried her best, but came through mile one 15 seconds slower than asked, dropping the odds that the youngest Dibaba would pick up her fifth world record since February 2014, though she had just set the world indoor record at 5000m last month in Stockholm, Sweden at 14:18.86,
But with a the new course featuring an upgraded opening 270 meters, a U-turn, and that brisk off-shore wind, a controlled 4:36 mile was too much to ask. Instead, the women passed the mile in 4:51 at which time Lipari exited the scene, leaving Dibaba fronting 2013 Carlsbad champion Gelete Burka and 2009 World Championship bronze medalist at 10,000m Wude Yimer — all of Ethiopia. Last year’s runner-up Betsy Saina of Kenya fell behind in fourth leading the chasers.
After the second U-turn at Christiansen Way at the north end of the loop, Ms. Dibaba pulled free, though it seemed her record attempt was blown. Heading south she hit two miles in 9:34 (4:43), only two-seconds faster than Brit Julia Bleasdale came through in 2014 when she went on to win in 15:06. Elite athlete coordinator Matt Turnbull and I were doing a live-to-tape race call and astutely assumed there was no chance for a sub-14:46 record. Nearly, stupid us – well, generally stupid us, but this time more pointedly dumb-ass.
In the final 1.1 miles Dibaba dug deep and even didn’t look beautiful for a stride or two as she pressed the accelerator to the floor to deliver all the turbo-charged horsepower she could develop. Coming down Carlsbad Village Drive in the final stretch it looked like she might even pull the record out. But at the tape she was two seconds shy. She covered the last 1.1 miles a full 16 seconds faster than last year’s champion. There was one consolation, however, she got the family record, bettering older sis Tirunesh’s 2005 world record 14:51 by three ticks.
Gelete Burka took second in 15:12, Yimer came home in third.
Not a good day for the American women. 2000 & 2002 champ Deena Kastor was eyeing Colleen DeReuck’s master’s record 15:48, but came up well short at 16:05. Interestingly, that was two seconds slower than Deena’s debut time in Carlsbad in 1993. Also, top American from the last two years, Brenda Martinez, was off her water today, and dropped out, later tweeting she wasn’t feeling well, and had trouble breathing properly. Sarah Brown, the ex-Tennessee Volunteer NCAA indoor mile champ made her road 5K debut after succumbing to hubby Darren’s two-year lobbying effort. Now a local out of Solana Beach just a few exits down the I-5, Sarah arrived in 15:48, happy with her 8th place, top American finish. Happier still, because T-Mobile US president and CEO John Legere announced he would double the U.S. prize purse for the top three U.S. finishers.
For the invitational men’s competition organizers contracted former Georgetown All-American Andrew Springer of the NJ-NY Track Club to handle the pacing duties. Then, after Dejen Gebrmeskel pulled out, there were discussions held whether a pacer was even necessary, anymore. But Lawi Lalang, the rangy Kenyan from the University of Arizona, and training partner of Bernard Lagat and Sam Chelanga, was anxious to put his disappointing indoor season behind him. So Springer was tasked with a 4:10 first mile.
And he came close, hitting 4:14. From there the race settled into a two-man battle as Lalang and Too began opening up and pulling away.
Wilson Too is a new comer to the U.S. road scene. He has a best of 13:47 on the track over 5000m and a road PR of 27:36 for 10K,neither of which would lead one to believe he would challenge for the 2015 CBAD win. But such is the nature of racing, and it wasn’t until the final stretch down Carlsbad Village Drive that Lalang’s victory was assured.
“I came here on a mission to run really fast after my disappointing indoor season,” Lalang said following his win. “I love this weather. This is my kind of weather. I love flat and downhills. That’s where I liked the course. I was totally prepared for this. But I knew after 1Km that we were a little behind (the pace). That’s when I began to push.”
Bernard Lagat won the race for third over Chelanga and Joseph Kitur. The 40 year-old master beat the old U.S. 5K road record by 34-seconds, but was a little sorry he couldn’t take down that open U.S. record that still remains with Marc Davis.
“The new course, I didn’t think it was slow,” he said afterwards standing with his 9 year-old son Miika as wife Gladys and daughter Gianna were out exploring Carlsbad. “I came through the mile in 4:18, but I felt we were running much faster than that. I don’t know what it was. It was hotter than last year, and there was a little bit of a breeze coming in. That was the only problem I had today.”
The conditions were the talk of the pro ranks rather than the new smaller footprint course. Just as running is the only sport where growing older is finally embraced because you enter a new division where you become the youngster for a while, so, is running one of the few times when you want chillier weather along the beach. Like clockwork, as midday approached, the off-shore breezes arrived.
The best racing weather of the day always attends the master’s races at 7 a.m. for men and 8 a.m. for women. The master’s fields are also the largest of the day. So if race officials want another world record in the open divisions, it may necessitate a new start time rather than simply a new course.
Thus, while the Midwest and east continue to suffer through their unrelenting winter onslaught, SoCal basks in summertime warmth. Just wish it didn’t have to be today in Carlsbad.
1) 14:48 Genzebe Dibaba (Ethiopia)
2) 15:13 Gelete Burka (Ethiopia)
3) 15:18 Wude Yimer (Ethiopia)
4) 15:28 Susan Kuijken (The Netherlands)
5) 15:31 Betsy Saina (Kenya)
6) 15:36 Jessica O’Connell (Canada)
7) 15:40 Miyuki Uehara (Japan)
8) 15:48 Sarah Brown (USA)
9) 15:52 Morgan Uceny (USA)
10) 15:59 Juliet Bottorff (USA)
11) 16:00 Werknesh Kidane (Ethiopia)
12) 16:05 Deena Kastor (USA)
13) 16:07 Katie Matthews (USA)
14) 16:09 Violah Lagat (Kenya)
15) 16:30 Charlotte Purdue (Great Britain)
16) 16:39 Sarah Pagano (USA)
17) 17:16 D’Ann Arthur (USA)
Official Men’s Results:
1) 13:32 Lawi Lalang (Kenya)
2) 13:35 Wilson Too (Kenya)
3) 13:40 Bernard Lagat (USA)
4) 13:50 Sam Chelanga (Kenya)
5) 13:53 Joseph Kitur (Kenya)
6) 13:56 Diego Estrada (USA)
7) 13:59 Haron Lagat (Kenya)
8) 14:11 Ben St. Lawrence (Australia)
9) 14:13 Dan Lowry (USA)
10) 14:13 Andy Vernon (Great Britain)
11) 14:14 Luke Caldwell (Great Britain)
12) 14:15 Ben Bruce (USA)
13) 14:22 Mikael Ekvall (Sweden)
14) 14:26 James Leakos (Canada)
15) 14:29 Ethan Shaw (USA)