I mean, what can you say at this point? There’s no winning here. If you embrace this weekend’s marathon performances in Vienna and Chicago at face value, you have to be wearing pretty tight blinders because of what history has shown us in recent times shenanigans-wise. And if you poo-poo them, then you’re just a cynic and a hater and nobody wants to hear it.

Yesterday in Vienna, the wondrous Eliud Kipchoge became the first person to go sub-two hours over the classic marathon distance in a staged exhibition sponsored by the petro-chemical company INEOS.  In it, organizers shaved every impediment as close to the bone as possible, and then went into the marrow in several others like replacement pacers, so that Kipchoge’s 1:59:40.2 time was ineligible for record purposes. Not that they ever said they were going for a legit record.

Eliud Kipchoge goes sub-2 in Vienna!

Immediately after crossing the line, the Olympic champion celebrated by hugging his wife and friends before sprinting back up the course to high-five fans like he just finished the Carlsbad 5000 (which he actually did in 2010). No problemo.

And today (October 13, 2019) fellow Kenyan Brigid Kosgei tucked in behind her two male pacers at the BofA Chicago Marathon out on the ragged edge of 2:10 pace through 5K heading toward an unwavering 2:14:04 world record, even when one of the oldest adages in the sport says you can easily lose your marathon in the first 15 minutes by making an error in pacing. Evidently that rule no longer applies.

Vaporfly Next%

Then there are the magic shoes, sneakers that look like they are about to enter the Mr. Olympia shoe contest, and you’re left with a sinking feeling that this running world of ours has moved into an all new territory, where nothing is as it seems, nothing is as it once was, and where logic and gravity no longer seem operable.

Old Guard, New World

I was texting with two of my generations greatest runners this morning as we exchanged views on Chicago. Today, Bill Rodgers and Patti Dillon’s best times and one-time American records are two miles behind today’s standards. Bill put Brigid’s Kosgei‘s time into context: “Kosgei is faster than Amby Burfoot (1969 Boston Marathon champion), who took 7th at Fukuoka in 2:14 in 1968.. I let him know..fun stuff.”

And here’s Patti: “It’s hard to get excited about performances, and I do…and then I feel silly because of the cloud.  The everyday runner trying to get a decent time, or a Boston qualifier, I’m excited…no clouds.”

I know how she feels, because I was at San Diego’s Mission Bay Park yesterday for the USATF Master’s 5Km Cross Country Championships where the old spirit of camaraderie and competition for its own sake seemed like it ought to have been exhibited in black and white only.

Cal Coast runners Jacques Sallberg (257) and Roosevelt Cook (139) on their way to 1st and 2nd at master’s cross country championship in San Diego.

Cynicism is its own deadly disease; it can cut the heart out of any enterprise. And this sport is no stranger to cynicism. For instance, Brigid Kosgei is represented by the same agency as three major recent doping positives: Asbel Kiprop, Jemima Sumgong, and Rita Jeptoo, the 2013 Chicago champ and disqualified 2014 champ.

And I’m sorry to have to bring that fact up, because in this small universe of a sport we’ve known and been hosted by Rosa Associates many times over the years.  Just the same, the connection to past sins does exist, and though courts in Kenya exonerated Federico Rosa, and despite the fact that Chicago still invited Brigid Kosgei and men’s champion Benson Cherono, for some that past connection is all the proof that’s needed to assume that what we just saw can’t be possibly be kosher. 

It’s the same people who look at the spate of drug positives that have come out of East Africa in recent years and say, “put them all away!” and “you can’t believe any performance you see.”

But from the other side of this unbalanced world, there are just as many  who say, when we do it, it’s called cheating, while what you guys do is get away with TUEs (Therapeutic Use Exemptions) and everything is fine. 

In it’s way, it’s like what the mob bosses always used to say when they got hauled up before a congressional committee.

“When we do it you call it criminal conspiracy. When you do it, you call it passing laws.”

Guess it all depends on who’s holding the gavel or the prescription pad.

And so it goes, round and round, each accusing the other in a sport which maintains the most transparent drug protocol of any sport, yet gets hurt by that very transparency as other sports use euphemisms while keeping all their offenses on the QT. 

As the Wicked Witch of the West so aptly put it as she melted away in the Wizard of Oz, “what a world, what a world.”  And what a weekend it was.

I guess some of us are getting old just in time.


12 thoughts on ““WHAT A WORLD!” (RECORD)

  1. On a related note… witness Paula Radcliffe’s heroic world record ( head bob and all ) at the 2002 Chicago Marathon – which only stood for six months when she bested her own record at the 2003 London Marathon. And then at the 2004 Olympics in Athens she suffered a melt-down and dropped out at just a bit over 2 hours into the race. No fiction writer would dare to cram so much drama into just a 3-year span for a marathoner.

  2. I don’t question Kipchoge’s sub-2 NEARLY as much as I do Kosgei’s 4 minute PR or Sifan Hassan’s 10k/1500 double at the World Champs. My gut tells me testing hasn’t caught up with microdosing of illegal substances. No proof, just my cynical gut feeling.

    1. Paula Radcliffe is a huge doper (likely EPO) who refused to publicly release her blood values even after Ross Tucker repeatedly told her to. Yet you do not criticize her. Nike not only has many athletes who’ve been exposed as major drug cheats (Tyson Gay, Florence Griffith Joyner, Justin Gatlin, Carl Lewis etc) but they have also been shown to engage in microdosing and experiments meant to determine how much of an illegal substance can be taken without triggering a positive. Evan Jager was listed as “likely doping” by WADA in files leaked a few years back. Marion Jones and Lance Armstrong never tested positive. It is not only the abuse of TUE’s that’s routine in the USA but actually also EPO and anabolic steroids (i.e testosterone) abuse. This article (https://www.dailymail.co.uk/sport/sportsnews/article-7566671/Box-banned-drugs-left-kitchen-flat-Alberto-Salazar-shared-Mo-Farah.html ) deeply exposes that the Nike Oregon Project used EPO (one of its athletes tested positive for this) and that a lot of anabolic steroids were out in the open in a Nike Oregon Project apartment — for many athletes including Steve Magness — to see. USA athletes abuse steroids and EPO and human growth hormone and and yet they are given a free pass even when their “biological passport” turns up anomalous results. USA athletes also get illegal infusion levels of allowed substances (e.g L-Carnatine etc). Former Nike employees and athletes have exposed the huge doping problem. Nike has the laboratory experience to be able to dope athletes without it being detected. The fact is you turn a massive blind eye to the extensive doping problems of USA and Brit athletes. Galen Rupp has been on anabolic roids since age 15 circa. Federico Rosa was exonerated and so his athletes should not be tainted by allegations. Alberto Salazar said in the 1990s that it was impossible for a USA athlete to make it to the podium without doping.

      Another issue you are apparently unware of is that it is simple to get away with huge doping on EPO etc without the need of microdosing. All a person needs to do is receive a saline infusion in the bloodstream or drink a lot of water. Any testing of the blood or urine taken thereafter will be unable to detect the illegal substances (it is always said that it is only stupid people who get caught by tests). Moreover USA athletes (they get EPO from China) can do this without the need of hiring any chemists because many of them have the “Cercacor Ember tracker” device which within a few moments tells them their hemotocrit and hemoglobin levels and other blood values and hydration levels etc. Thus they are able to know how much water they need to drink or how much saline infusion to take in order to mask their major doping (i.e bring their blood values within normal parameters for test purposes). Thus they have got their doping down to an exact science. Moreover there is also the phenomenon of “gene doping” (look it up) and it too is undetectable. Gene doping/gene therapy injects/transfers genes into a person in order to activate the expression of performance related genes and to inhibit genes that are detrimental to performance.

      So in the USA there is:

      1.) EPO massive abuse and steroids abuse and HGH abuse etc which is easily masked by saline or drinking lots of water.

      2.) Micro-dosing

      3.) TUE abuse (even “squeaky clean” Ryan Hall doped by taking lots of asthma medication). Many USA athletes also take steroid pain medication (corticosteroids) after claiming to be in “pain” (e.g Sandi Morris). Others take ADHD medication (e.g Simon Biles) for performance enhancement.

      4.) Gene doping

  3. And to think, it was just 3 short days ago you referred to Paula’s World Record time as “Way, way out there”! By the way, Kosgei should have been DOA after that first 5K.

  4. Without Nike I think professional track would be pretty much dead….so careful what you wish for….

    Kipchoge was huge on Twitter yesterday with the non sporting crowd….the video of Kipchoge finishing and his pacers all excited was RT everywhere….part of what made it a wonderful event were all these top athletes, including Centrowitz and the Inge brothers, all working towards someone else’s goal….how often does that happen…I thought it was marvelous. Fancy shoes, pacers and all. Stuff the general public couldn’t care less about.

    1. T

      Don’t disagree. Great spectacle. Very well marketed. Somehow wish the inside game could market as well. It was an easily understood goal, the first man ever under two hours in the marathon.

      Question is, where you go from there? Where do you go after Usain Bolt? Or just have to think of other spectacles? Get rid of the old model. Maybe this is what a new form of professional running will look like.

      We want to see Kipchoge versus Bekele, yes? Why wait for London or Dubai or any of the so-called majors to do it? Find a Jim Ratcliffe willing to back it. then promote it then stage it and have at it.

      Kipchoge is just made himself a name. He got outside the sport, he got outside the bubble. Now’s the time to promote him. Play up Bekele as his John Landy meeting Bannister at the 1954 Empire Games mile in Vancouver,.

      Then match it up. But this is like Meb winning New York City in 2009. He was never going to be any hotter than a day after – until Boston 2014 when he revived the fire. But never hotter again like the day after that. This is Kipchoge’s moment. Not another Olympic title not another Berlin or London.


    2. New Balance does an enormous amount for women’s running, and Brooks is an important contributor to elite running, too. We could survive quite well without Nike

  5. Very much my reactions as well, Toni, thanks. But it’s not cynicism, and certainly not hating, but instead well earned skepticism. And not just because we’ve been burned so many times, but because it seems the powers that be as well as the participants just don’t seem to care. Salazar gets a 4 year ban, but not a single athlete? “Passed all the tests.” Right, never seen testing fail to expose cheaters. And the monstrous enabler, Nike, unscathed. Perhaps because the 2021 Nike WCs would then be threatened? And what would USATF do without that Sugar Daddy? Too big to fail? And I’m a 38 years long Nike lover, not hater. And anyway, all we are mostly seeing are time trials. Then a world class 1500m to finish off a 10,000 meters? Massive PRs after heats in the heat? Here’s what I “hate”: that I can’t celebrate seeming amazing performances and admire the performers. Why aren’t the athletes, including those giving those amazing performances, screaming for a meaningful means for ensuring validity?

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