RUDISHA FOCUSED ON TIME AT ADIDAS GP

David Rudisha

The build-up to the London Olympics is well underway. On June 9th the reigning 800-meter world record holder David Rudisha of Kenya will make his U.S. debut at the Adidas Grand Prix in New York City, the sixth stop on the 2012 Samsung Diamond League tour.  During a media teleconference this morning, Rudisha spoke about his dual goals in 2012 of winning the London Olympics and attempting to break his own world record of 1:41.01, set in Rieti, Italy in 2010.

“To run 1:40 is possible,” said the reigning World Champion. “I am planning still to do that because I think I can still go under 1:41, but it’s tough. Any world record is very hard to break it, even if it is your own world record. You need to do some good planning also on how to do it. I am looking forward to that but my plan is the world record will be after the Olympics. I’m keeping my focus, my main concentration to the Olympics, which is the only main title I’m still lacking in my career. I don’t want to take any time or do anything else before I finish that task.”

Interesting how the idea of winning the Olympic title and running a world record have long since been separated into two distinct categories, as if the two were different disciplines altogether.  And in many ways they are.  But has something been lost in the process?  Has the long-time emphasis on running world record times with pacers become so prevalent that the focus on competition between and among carbon-based life forms been diminished along the way?  And since that change in focus, has the sport lost some of its appeal to a broader audience when racing was the thing, and the world record was merely the cherry atop the cake of victory? Continue reading

DISTANCE RACING HAS HIT THE WALL

Lawi Lalang wins 2011 NCAA Cross Country title

Lawi Lalang wins 2011 NCAA Cross Country title

Politically incorrect or not, the truth is both indisputable and self-evident:  The utter domination of distance running by athletes from East Africa, a continuing trend which has seemed to peak in 2011,  has now begun to shrink the sport itself.  The atrophy is as evident as the hollows beneath Demi Moore’s cheekbones.

More evidence was on display again today at the NCAA D1 Men’s Cross Country Championship in Terre Haute, Indiana in the person of Arizona freshman Lawi Lalang of Kenya.  A wholly inexperienced distance runner who showed up on the Arizona campus last fall “with no competitive running experience whatsoever” according to his Wildcat bio sheet, Lalang was, nevertheless, an easy runaway winner in today’s national championship over his more seasoned competitors.

This stark difference in talent was a contributing factor which led to the recent departure of sub-4:00 high school mile star Lukas Verzbicas from the track program at the University of Oregon to train full-time for triathlon at the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs – VERZBICAS CHOOSES TRIATHLON OVER RUNNING.  That was a particularly troubling loss, since it represented another strand of running’s DNA being torn away.  But young Lukas was quite straight forward about his decision.  After winning the ITU World Junior Triathlon Championship this year, he looked at what lie ahead, and didn’t see himself being able to run what he considered world-level times against the Kenyan and Ethiopian runners.  So off he swam /biked to triathlon where no such (dominant) competition awaited.  But the Lukas loss is just another example in an increasing trend that has diminished a once robust sport. Continue reading

STEP BY STEP

     In the classic Three Stooges episode, Slowly I Turned, first Mo – then Larry – smashes, hits, punches, and tears poor Curly’s clothing before knocking him to the ground, all for reminding him of his confrontation with Larry (then vice versa) in Niagra Falls over a woman.   After Curly innocently utters the offending city’s name, triggering the attacks, Mo and Larry’s refrain goes, “Niagra Falls! Slowly I turned, and step by step, inch by Inch…”  (Of course, all men can recite Stooges episodes by heart. Women think they are dumb. Men agree, but then remind them, “stupidity is the point. It’s purposeful stupidity, a whole different animal than the unintentional kind most often voiced by candidates running for President).

Well, Galen Rupp might not wear his hair in a bowler like Mo or a frizzed out ‘fro like Larry, but step by step, inch by inch the 25 year-old from Portland, Oregon is proving the American distance running equivalent the Stooges’ classic set piece.

Yes, I questioned the London 2012 Olympic medal chances of Mr. Rupp upon his seventh place finish in Daegu at the World Championships 5000 meters (RUPP‘S DILEMMA), but today at the final Samsung Diamond League meeting of the year in Brussels Rupp took another stride in his step-by-step, inch-by-inch approach to the London Olympic podium in the 10,000 meters. Continue reading

CHANGING THE COMPETITIVE MODEL

     Track and field is a sport of extremes, taking the most basic athletic abilities of running, jumping, and throwing, and distilling them into the Olympic motto: Citius, Altius, Fortius.  For centuries the world was intrigued by the demands and outcome of these quests.  However, since Mexico City 1968, when the newly post-colonial nations of the world began competing internationally, the outer limits of speed in both sprinting and distance running have settled into predictable patterns. Four decades later we are seeing the full results of that predictability as the sport of track and field continues to wither on the vine.

After watching the first round of Samsung Diamond League finals from Zurich yesterday, I did a quick workup of the fastest times in the world in 2011for 5000m, 10,000m, half-marathon, and marathon gathered from the IAAF site. As always, the numbers reveal an unambiguous, but intriguing story.  Continue reading

DIAMOND LEAGUE, BIRMINGHAM

It’s an interesting time on the Samsung Diamond League track & field circuit these days as the ninth in the fourteen-meet tour was staged in rainy Birmingham, England today before a sell-out crowd of 12,700 in refurbished Alexander Stadium.  With Brits taking four wins – Dai Green in men’s 400m hurdles (48.20), Jenny Meadows in women’s 800 meters (2:02.06), Philip Idowu in the men’s triple jump (17.54 meters), and Mo Farah in the men’s 5000 meters (13:06.15) – the crowd certainly went home with a sunny disposition. But with the World Championships looming in South Korea at the end of August, everything must be judged through a Daegu filter.  So what to take from today’s results? Continue reading

WEEKEND THOUGHTS

Proud Father

     Everyone was happy for Meb Keflezighi’s 62:46 win at Sunday’s Dodge Rock `n` Roll Half-Marathon in his hometown of San Diego. Though he’d run the nearby Carlsbad 5000 before, technically, it was Meb’s first race at home as a pro, and first since competing in the Aztec Invitational as a UCLA student 15 years ago – at least as best coach Bob Larsen could recall. And though matters turned into more of an exhibition run than competition for the hometown hero after Kenya’s Martin Lel dropped out after 10K, with so many old friends cheering him through the picturesque bayside course, and his proud dad Russom holding him aloft at the finish, it was a priceless day, nonetheless.  Continue reading

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.

Continue reading