Cape Elizabeth, ME. – After going through his final checklist, race director Dave McGillivray sprung a question on me at last night’s TD Beach to Beacon 10k organizing committee meeting at the Cape Elizabeth High School.
“Toni, what’s the fastest women’s 10k so far this year?”
The question was more than pertinent given the quality of the elite women’s field at this year’s 20th Beach to Beacon, led by three past champions including defender Mary Keitany of Kenya who set the course record in 2016 at 30:45.
Being out in California most of the year, I am more of titular member of the hard-working organizing committee, but like to join the final gathering on the race week at the high school cafeteria.
“Jeez, Dave,” I said softly – as one does when called out by a teacher after failing to do your homework – “I don’t know off the top of my head.”
My confession brought Dave to the edge of a guffaw and chiding ridicule.
“What! Toni doesn’t know something about running?”
The room joined in the good-natured hectoring (though it was nice to know they were under the impression that I generally knew what I was talking about).
In search of redemption, I quickly opened Safari on my iPhone and dove into the IAAF.org website searching for world leading times for 2017.
Doing so I was reminded how this whole subject of records continues to both define and haunt the sport of athletics. After all, Citius, Altius, Fortius, right? Yet at least since the 1960s, Fraudius, too. So how to measure a sport defined by the best when that which constitutes the best instantly raises red flags?
In the midst of the European Athletics controversial recommendation to erase all world records set prior to 2005 – when blood tests were first saved for future testing – a strong backlash by certain affected athletes generated a reconsideration to instead return the records-wiping to 1991 when out-of-competition testing was first introduced.
What is of note is that the IAAF is at least making an attempt to come to terms with this existential dilemma that it helped create with its previous administrations’ craven denial and uncovered complicity. A recent investigation by the UK’s Daily Mail suggested that the 2012 London Olympics may have been the dirtiest games to date.
Like leadership across a wide swath of the globe that looks out more for their own interests rather than those of their constituencies, the powers that be in athletics had long besmirched their offices with greed and venality. However, the new administration has begun a journey to return trust and legitimacy and hopefully regain the good name of this ancient game of speed and power.
When I found the data I was searching for on the website, I all but slapped my forehead out of rank ignorance. But, hey, I reminded myself, I’m old, short-term memory fades – sort of like the president saying something six hours ago that has little impact on what he believes two minutes later.
Anyway, Kenya’s Joyceline Jepkosgei memorably (to many) not only ran a world record 64:52 at the Prague Half Marathon this past April, she bettered world marks at 10k (30:04),15k (45:37), and 20k (61:25) en route. 30:04 will be a tough time to beat this Saturday, especially given the strength of the B2B women’s field, where winning often trumps record-setting. I’ll have a full field rundown after tomorrow’s press conference.
Bernard Kimeli is the 2017 men’s 10k world leader at 27:18, a time he ran in April in Paderhorn. That is 10 seconds quicker than Gilbert Okari‘s 2003 B2B course record.
But let’s not get too hung up on records. With five former champions on hand, including both defenders, Ben True and Mary Keitany, and a women’s field that could just as easily constitute the world championship final in London next week, the 20th TD Beach to Beacon 10k promises a special day of racing. That much I know without Dave’s prodding or having to look deep into the web.