(21 Dec. 2018) Today, in this season to be jolly, we wish a happy 74th birthday to famed Italian Coach Renato Canova, who has prepared many a great runner for what were the athletic performances of their lives.
In the summer of 2012, while sipping tea at the Kerio View Hotel in Iten, Kenya, I asked Coach Canova if he were put in charge of the U.S. distance program what changes he would make to maximize performance against the Kenyan runners who have dominated the sport for so long.
“First thing, the U.S. is better than Europe,” said the white-haired Italian as we looked out over the sweep of the adjoining Rift Valley. “Their 5 and 10-kilometer base is already moving. When you start getting sub-27 minute 10K, and many, many 27:10, 27:20 – 27:20 is enough to run a marathon in 2:05.
“But for many years there was the mentality in Europe and the USA to go for very high quality (training), but to reduce the volume. So we had a pyramid that was very, very high, but the base was very, very narrow. And it could not produce any results. So you need to increase the base while maintaining the same difference in the parameters (top to bottom). Then the pyramid becomes higher because the base has become higher, not because you have made the top higher. (more…)
To date, there have been 317 “official” sub-60:00 half marathon performances dating from Moses Tanui‘s 59:47 win in Milan in April 1993 (366 when we add what are/were considered the *aided courses like Lisbon ‘98). Rupp’s own 59:47, though ineligible for record purposes due to Rome’s net downhill, point-to-point course, nevertheless was an excellent prep for next month’s Boston Marathon, as Rome mirrored the p-t-p, downhill Boston layout.
Historically, his 59:47 half-marathon PR places Rupp equal 211th best all-time (258th on all courses), but equal-fourth with New Zealand’s Zane Robertson on the all-time non-African related breakdown. (Again, noting Mo Farah, GBR, has a 59:22, 59:32, and 59:59 to his credit)
1 Marilson Gomes Dos Santos – BRA – 59:33 – 7th, Udine, Italy `07 – equal 137th best performance ever
2 Antonio Pinto – POR – 59:43 – 1st, Lisbon `98 = = 226th best (all courses)
3 Ryan Hall – USA – 59:43 – 1st, Houston `07- =185th best ever
10 Jake Robertson – NZL – 60:01 – 1st, Lisbon `17 – =326th best
(This January Jake Robertson won the Aramco Houston Half Marathon in 60:01 against a loaded international field to equal his 2017 PR).
The half-marathon world record has stood since 21 March 2010 when Eritrea’s Zersenay Tadese won the Lisbon Half Marathon in 58:23, breaking his own previous mark by eight seconds set the year before on the same course (which had been slightly altered to comply with record standards from the layout that Pinto ran his sub-60 on in ‘98).
To show the rapid improvement in – and scheduling of – half-marathon races, it is interesting to note that only six of the 317 (366) sub-60 half marathon performances to date were set in the 20th century: (more…)
Iten, Kenya – When we pulled up to the small ramshackle clump of buildings where today’s run would begin shortly after 6:00 a.m., the first dusty blue trace of the new day was beginning to limn the horizon to the east. Inside our Landcruiser we ferried the three-man Kenyan Olympic marathon team who was beginning their journey to London for their August 12th date with destiny: two-time World Marathon champion Abel Kirui, 2011 London Marathon champion Emmanuel Mutai, and 2012 London winner Wilson Kipsang. The three, along with the women’s Olympic team of Mary Keitany, Edna Kiplagat, and Priscah Jeptoo had taken up residence at the nearby Keiro View Hotel just yesterday for the final training cycle leading to London.
As we spilled out of our vehicle, dozens of athletes were already massed by the side of the lumpy dirt road awaiting their heroes’ arrival. Nearby a cock’s crow rose on the soft morning breeze. Temperatures were chilly enough for jackets and tights and no less than long-sleeve shirts for the 22 kilometer Cattle Dip Loop, as the athletes call this traditional route around Iten, Kenya, the town dubbed “Home of Champions”.
Today’s run would also serve as a field test for a new wireless sensor technology developed at the UCLA Wireless Health Institute that holds the promise of re-ordering the level of sophistication that athletes and coaches can bring to their training. Small accelerometers worn on the laces of each shoe would monitor, record and transmit the stride characteristics of Abel Kirui and Wilson Kipsang throughout their run. With this information in hand they and their coaches will be better able to analyze the small asymmetries in ground contact time, back-kick dynamic, pronation and supination during the varied runs in their training regimen.
As Pegasus Sports Performance CEO Bill Shea, an interventional radiologist by training, outfitted Wilson and Abel with the sensors and the small cell phone which they will wear to transmit the signal to the internet and onto our computers, another group of athletes came coursing by at flank speed, already fully into their morning’s training.
“On any given day 600 athletes will be in training in Iten,” said famed Italian coach Renato Canova, who lives in Iten eight months of the year to monitor his stable of athletes. It is out of this culture of running that the great champions of Kenya have emerged since legendary Kip Keino first put Kenya’s Central Highlands on the map with his Olympic 1500 and steeplechase victories at the 1968 Mexico City and 1972 Munich Olympics.
As the run gets under way, the pace is easy and controlled. Some 120 athletes, 40 from Wilson Kipsang’s training group, fill the narrow red-clay roads, making passing difficult for the few motor vehicles up and out at this hour. (more…)
Following this weekend’s U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials in Houston, Texas will be the annual Running USA conference set for January 15-17 at the Hyatt Regency Houston. This year’s conference theme is Passing the Torch: Running Toward the Future. The special guest speaker at Monday’sAshworth Youth Awards Luncheon will be Shellie Pfohl – Executive Director of President’s Council on Fitness, Sports and Nutrition.
As Running USA is currently fashioning its own Youth Initiative, it might be instructive to look back at the history of the President’s Council on Physical Fitness, Sports and Nutrition as it relates to Running USA’s Running Toward the Future efforts.
After a report raised concerns about the physical fitness of America’s children relative to their European counterparts in the early 1950s, it was President Dwight Eisenhower (not JFK as many believe) who created the President’s Council on Youth Fitness, and confirmed it via cabinet-level status. The Executive Order specified “one” objective as the first Council identified itself as a “catalytic agent” concentrating on creating public awareness. And guess who was the first chairman of the Council? None other than Vice President Richard M. Nixon! Certainly not the man anyone would think of first when fitness comes to mind.
Notwithstanding, a plan of action was developed at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point in 1957, and the first nationwide pilot study of 8,500 boys and girls ages 5 thru 12 resulted in the first national testing program which many of us who are old enough remember quite well. (more…)