Tag: Haile Gebrselassie

BLOWING IN THE WIND

Visual Aid
Visual Aids

Watching last night’s Distance Night at the Pre Classic on RunnerSpace we, like everyone else, including commentators Tim Hutchings and Paul Swangard, were a little baffled by how far off the pacers were from their pre-race projections – other than in the women’s 800m, which hit the split, but was way too fast for the quality of the field.  Now this morning reading LetsRun we see that a headwind on the backstretch of Hayward Field was at least partially responsible for the slowish times.  So my question is, and this applies to both track and road races, why, in the name of God don’t event organizers place small flags at different intervals to let the crowd and TV audience see for themselves what the conditions are?

If Tim and Paul never mentioned the wind, and instead began supposing why the half-way split in the 10,000 meters was 13:33 instead of the requested 13:18, something as simple as a series of small flags lining the inside of the track would give everyone the instant information needed. Same should apply at road races.

How many times have I sat aboard a lead camera motorcycle and been asked, ‘How are the conditions out there?’, and not been able to tell which way the wind was blowing because I, too, was moving, thereby creating our own breeze.  So unless there was a flagpole atop a nearby building, I wouldn’t be able to tell shit from Shinola – not that I generally can anyway.

Haile in Phoenix 2006
Haile in Phoenix 2006

Yet in 2006 when Haile Gebrselassie came to Phoenix trying to break the half-marathon world record – he did, 58:55 – our TV producer Rich Jayne had erected  six-foot high sticks beside each kilometer clock with crepe paper in Ethiopian colors streaming in whichever direction the wind was blowing. So not only could Haile tell whether the wind was helping or hurting, but Ed Eyestone and I in the lead vehicle calling the race live could tell our viewers who could also see for themselves.

Come on, organizers, try helping fans (and commentators). This wouldn’t cost anything in the larger scheme of things, and yet would instantly elevate the experience. How many tracks must a man run around…

Rant over.

END

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MARATHON RECORD HOLDER MAKAU – STEPPING UP, STEPPING OUT

With the powerhouse fields lined up for the swift Rotterdam and London Marathons this spring, there is no guarantee that current marathon world record holder Patrick Makau (2:03:38, Berlin 2011) will still hold that designation after April 21st.  Yet, amidst the scramble to the top of the marathon food chain, Makau has slowly been coming round to the need to step out of his more reserved natural shell and branch out as a spokesman for his sport.  We saw evidence of this recently at The Hapalua, Hawaii’s Half Marathon where Makau visited a local school to address the eager young track team.  Now, Makau is being featured in a short anti-malaria public service video, encouraging his fellow Kenyans to use netting to combat the mosquitoes which carry the disease.

Though spokesman may not be his default setting, one can see the growth of Makau as more than just a runner and record holder.  In this he is following in the footsteps of such brethren as Paul Tergat and Haile Gebrselassie, the two men who held the marathon world record before Makau.

Like many of his fellow top Kenyan racers, Makau supports an every expanding array of personal and tribe-based  requests.  Now, he is using his well-earned fame to take on issues of greater and more expansive social import.   For this he is to be applauded.

WORLD CROSS COUNTRY – NO MARCH MADNESS

Competition is an examining tool, a measuring stick.  It is an auger to uncover the known from the proposed.  Unfortunately, in the world of distance running the answers are no longer in question; which is one reason why the public has lost interest in the outcome of the sport’s competitions.  What’s to uncover, which anonymous individual from East Africa will be today’s champion?  We already know who is going to win before the starter’s pistol is ever fired.  Which is why if running ever hopes to reengage the public at large, it must find a way to reframe its competitions.

While the U.S. senior men’s team won a hard-earned silver medal at yesterday’s IAAF World Cross Country Championships in Bydgoszcz, Poland behind Ethiopia’s gold and in front of Kenya’s bronze, given that the Kenyan team was “the weakest in 20 years” according to BBC commentators, the results only underscored their dominance.

World Cross Champion Japhet Korir
World Cross Champion Japhet Korir

Not only did unknown Japhet Korir become the youngest man ever to take the individual men’s gold medal for Kenya, even as the top five places all went to fellow East Africans, the fact that the Kenyan squads — junior and senior, men and women — still won the majority of the day’s other medals over a course which was decidedly not African friendly, testified to the lack of competition offered by the rest of the world.

In fact, many of the old-world cross country powers no longer even sent teams to compete. Germany, Norway, Russia, and France all remained at home rather than make the short trip to neighboring Poland.  When its own member federations lose interest, how exactly does the IAAF propose to woo sponsors and attract sports fans? (more…)

POOR WEATHER FORECAST FOR KENYAN OLYMPIC TRIALS

Out of Africa

Ngong, Kenya – With fewer electronic pursuits available in rural Africa, time is spent more in the age-old give and take of robust conversation, where, whether the topic is sports, politics, or society at large, the time is filled in spirited debate.

Today, having flown back to Nairobi last night from a rainy and chilly Eldoret, we began this morning at breakfast wondering about the ominous forecast for this Saturday’s Kenyan Olympic Trials at Nyayo Stadium downtown.

Right now the sun remains well blanketed by a deep layer of clouds while temperatures remain down right frigid (for Kenya, mind you. This isn’t Enterprise Falls in January by any stretch).   The long-range forecast for Saturday’s Trials call for temps between 14-16C with overcast skies and perhaps as much as 8mm of rain – check for the Fahrenheit and inches equivalency at your leisure, makes for an instructive and interactive blog reading experience.

Vivian Cheruiyot all smiles after 10,000m win

With such weather conditions, any athlete with a slight injury could face unexpected problems.  One such athlete that comes to mind is Vivian Cheruiyot who won the Kenyan women’s 10,000-meter Trials last Friday at Kasarani Stadium. Saturday she hopes to double in the 5000.  Last week Vivian complained of a small ankle injury, but then closed the final 400 meters of the 10,000m in 60-flat to secure her position on the team.

Such vagaries of weather and Trials’ timing are the wildcards which cannot be forecast.  Since the Kenyan Trials’ system calls for two automatic qualifiers and the third position added by selection, one would assume, all things being equal, that the 2011 double World Champion would have a foot up even if the weather produced a result below par. Hopefully, the sun will emerge and let the true talent decide the selection.

*****

Another topic which necessitated a second pot of coffee this morning at the Margarita Hotel was the question of whether time being pushed too much these days in the marathon at the risk of great competition?

There are only so many men capable of running 2:03 or 2:04 in the marathon.  That much we know.  On top of, it now requires a pacer capable of breaking the world record at 30K just to put those few men in position to assault such times over the entire 42.2k distance.

In 2011, Peter Kirui paced both Patrick Makau’s 2:03:38 at Berlin, and one month later, Wilson Kipsang’s 2:03:42 in Frankfurt.  Only because he dropped out in Berlin was Kirui not rewarded with the 30K world road record.  He, in fact, led Makau past the mark in Berlin, then continued to the finish in Frankfurt after pulling Kipsang through 30k in near-world record splits.

At the same time, men who are capable of attempting a marathon world record do not relish the challenge of another top guy in the same race.  It requires a completely different mindset to attempt a world record as opposed to racing for a victory. That Patrick Makau managed both last fall in Berlin against former record holder Haile Gebrselassie is the exception, not the rule. (more…)

THE CULTURE OF RUNNING IN EAST AFRICA

     Take away that they have grown up at an altitude higher than the New York Yankees salary cap, and cut the air like six-inch stilettos, one reason the Kenyans and Ethiopians kick everyone’s butt in distance running is, well, what are their options?

Go to any East African village famous for producing championship runners and you’re not likely to find many arbitrageurs, or Bernie Madoff-like Ponzi schemers. And that just might be the corollary to why America has only intermittently produced world-class distance runners. We produce world-class most everything else. Something’s gotta give.

A post-industrial society is not distance running’s ideal seed bed. Here running is better suited to individual achievement and general fitness, while in an agrarian society, especially one formed at high altitude, running finds its most fecund soil.

You spend a few hours a day tending the animals and crops, walking high-country dirt roads for transportation, eating fresh, unpolluted food, and dreaming big dreams in the black night air of winning thousands of life-transforming dollars at races in far flung capitals – like every fourth fellow in the village seems to have done – and maybe running tops your to-do list tomorrow, too. By the same token, find yourself with an underwater mortgage working part-time on stuffed-crust pizzas, maybe your chances of fleetness have deteriorated a tad.

“Anything is Possible”

A mural on the side of a building in downtown Addis Ababa shows Haile Gebrselassie in full stride.  Ethiopia’s iconic runner and one of, if not the best ever has his motto alongside, “Anything is possible”, writ large in Amharic, one of the principle languages of the country. (more…)

BERLIN MARATHON PREVIEW

     The Fall marathon season kicks off in Berlin Sunday morning with both world record holders on the line anxious to prove themselves ready for the run up to next year’s Olympic Marathon in London.  With Ethiopia’s Haile Gebrselassie and England’s Paula Radcliffe sharing top billing, it marks only the third time in history that both the men’s and women’s world record holder will compete on the same day.  In 1989 Belayneh Densimo of Ethiopia and Ingrid Kristiansen of Norway ran in New York City, and in 2005 Kenya’s Paul Tergat joined Paula Radcliffe in London.

Sunday in Berlin, both record holders arrive with questions and high hopes.  The oft-injured Radcliffe is returning to marathon competition for the first time since finishing fourth in ING New York City Marathon in 2009 where she was compromised with tendinitis in her knee. In the mean time she has given birth to her second child, son Raphael, and then had to overcome post-partum hyperthyroidism and a bad disc in her back.  Haile Gebrselassie is making his first return to the distance since dropping out in New York City last November in mile, also due to a knee injury.  Though he rashly announced his retirement in the aftermath, Haille quickly reversed his decision, and even signed up for the February 2011 Tokyo Marathon.  Another knee problem in training, however, forced him to withdraw. But he comes to Berlin with his old smiling countenance and good cheer, a sign he is in form.

 This will be Radcliffe’s first go over the swift Berlin layout, while Haile has won four times in the German capital, and set two world records there, as well. (more…)

Alamirew Impresses in Diamond League Opener

   

     The second Samsung Diamond League Athletics season kicked off today in Doha, Qatar.  As expected the meet featured many world leading performances. Perhaps none was better, or more appreciated, than the men’s 3000 meters, won by 20 year-old Ethiopian Yenew Alamirew, the new distance sensation from the land of Haile Gebrselassie and Keninisa Bekele.  The smiling assassin continued his impressive display of finishing speed with a 7:27.26 win over a major field of former world and Commonwealth Games champions from Kenya.  He led the top four men under 7:30, and the top six to PR performances.

(more…)