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The Chicago Marathon: A Showdown of Distance Running Titans

October 14th, 2014

Rita Jeptoo won her 4th marathon in a row at Chicago. Photo: Boston Globe

The World Marathon Majors’ penultimate race occurred Sunday in Chicago and, sticking with tradition, finishing times were fast and the competition was fierce. Some of the world’s best runners joined the crowd of 45,000 participants for the annual 26.2 mile journey through downtown Chicago.

As we reported previously in our World Marathon Major preview, the main story behind this year’s Bank of America Chicago Marathon was the showdown between former Olympic track stars Kenenisa Bekele and Eliud Kipchoge. With over a decade of competition against one another on ovals around the world, seeing the two running 26.2 miles on city streets certainly warranted the attention.

Eliud Kipchoge

Eliud Kipchoge defeats his rival Bekele. Photo: ESPN

As in many of the Bekele vs. Kipchoge showdowns of the past, the majority of the race was run with the two tightly bunched up among some of the world’s other great runners. In this case, Sammy Kitwara and Dickson Chumba joined Kenenisa and Eliud for the first 20 miles at 2:04 marathon pace. While Dennis Kimetto’s world record may have been out of reach at that point, Bekele’s past heroics led one to believe that with a fast finish, the course record could still be in jeopardy. However, Bekele’s near invincibility on the track did not transfer over to the road this time and Kipchoge ended up getting the better of his rival, finishing at 2:04:11 in winning time. Kitwara and Chumba also got the better of Bekele with their finishing times of 2:04:28 and 2:04:32 respectively. Chumba’s time was the best third place finishing time ever in a marathon. Bekele held on for fourth place and his second sub 2:06 with a time of 2:05:51.

While most of the media’s attention was given the men’s race, the women’s group had its star power on display as well. Rita Jeptoo came to Chicago with a target on her back and still dominated the event. Her defense of last year’s title was her fourth Marathon Major win in a row, a streak few have ever achieved, and secured her the World Marathon Major title and the $500,000 prize (on top of the $100,000 purse she earned by winning the race). While her time of 2:24:35 is significantly slower than her personal best of 2:18:57 (Boston Marathon, 2014), she showed that she could stay dominant no matter what the racing style is. Her previous wins came in fast races, and to maintain her composure in a tactical race and finish a minute ahead of the rest of the pack shows that has the potential to keep this streak going for a while.

The final stop on the World Marathon Major tour is the TCS New York City Marathon on November 2, 2014. Dennis Kimetto may have taken the World Record from Wilson Kipsang, but a win in New York would assure Kipsang the World Marathon Major title, surely $500,000 is a nice silver lining after losing the record.

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Dennis Kimetto Creates History in the Marathon

October 1st, 2014

Kimetto on the podium with his official record time. Photo: The Telegraph

For the fourth time in six years, the men’s marathon world record has a new owner. Dennis Kimetto followed in the footsteps of the phenomenal athletes before him by blazing through the streets of Berlin and into uncharted territory. While recent trends might indicate that his hold on the record may only be temporary, his time of 2:02:57 gives him the right to claim first under the 2:03 barrier for eternity. Dennis wasn’t the only runner that came prepared for the record assault as second place finisher Emmanuel Mutai also surpassed the previous world record, finishing in 2:03:13.

Read more…

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World Marathon Majors Light Up the Fall

September 19th, 2014
Run Berlin Marathon Shalane

Shalane Flanagan looks to add the marathon to her portfolio of American records in Berlin (photo: Runner's World)

Within the next few months, new history will surely be written in the marathon event. Three of the world’s biggest cities are going see their roads taken over by some of the world’s best athletes along with thousands of other runners as the World Marathon Majors 2014 season resumes. Perhaps some of you will be joining the crowd in Berlin, Chicago, or New York?

The BMW Berlin Marathon, scheduled for September 28th, is home of the past five world records at the distance. Last year, Wilson Kipsang covered the course through the German capital in an astounding 2:03:23, breaking his countryman Patrick Makau’s world record by 15 seconds and cementing his name at the top of the legendary distance. With Kipsang racing in New York this year, the men’s champion is sure to see a new face at the top of the podium in Berlin. That face could belong to Dennis Kimetto, the favorite who boasts the strongest personal best in the field with his 2:03:45 victory from the Chicago Marathon last year. Kimetto faces stiff competition from the likes of former Marathon Major winners Emmanuel Mutai and Tsegaye Kebede as well as the World Half Marathon Champion Geoffrey Kamworor Kipsang. With the pace always set to break the world record, this men’s race in Berlin is sure to be fast and furious.

The women’s race in Berlin does not have as many former major champions as the men’s but is particularly interesting to Americans with Shalane Flanagan taking her first attempt at a flat fast course in a non-championship race. She will surely be targeting Deena Kastor’s American Record of 2:19:36 along with her first World Marathon Major victory. She will not be alone on the German roads though as Paris Marathon champion, Feyse Tadese, and last year’s Berlin runner-up Tirfi Tsegaye will be looking for the win as well.

Read more…

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Europe and Africa Crown Champions in 2014

August 14th, 2014

The second largest and second smallest continents on the planet are hosting their respective championships this week and there are a lot of great races yet to be run. The African Championships started on Sunday in Marrakech, Morocco and the European Championships took off yesterday.

Already storylines are developing as Nijel Amos of Botswana won yet another championship, cementing himself as the king of the 800m for the year, while Nigeria’s Blessing Okagbare continues to add to her own medal collection in the sprints. Marrakech has not treated all favorites equally as Genzebe Dibaba, who was unstoppable earlier this year during the indoor season, lost to fellow Ethiopian Almaz Ayana.

Isaac Makwala Runs a lap

Isaac Makwala ran the fastest lap around a track ever on African soil. (image: IAAF)

While Nijel Amos was able to dominate both the Commonwealth games and the African Championships, his countryman, Isaac Makwala had to recover from a disappointing Commonwealth appearance to win his title at the African Championships. The African record holder in the 400m came to Morrocco and won each of his heats before dominating the final and setting a record for fastest 400m on the African continent.

Pavey running

Jo Pavey leading the pack (Image: IAAF)

While Zurich has only seen action for two days, already there has been historic performances on the track beginning with Jo Pavey’s age defying win at 10,000 meters. The 40-year-old left her younger competitors behind and added a European gold medal to her Commonwealth silver medal less than a year from when she had a child. She is a truly great runner who happened to have to run in the shadow of World Marathon Record Holder and fellow Brit Paula Radcliff, so to see her continue to excel is a treat so many years later.

Mo Farah completed the British sweep of European 10,000m titles today in his first major track race of the season. After dominating the 5,000m and 10,000m over the past few years, he was the clear favorite but he has had a series of difficulties in preparing for the track season from before his collapse at the New York City Half Marathon back in March up to recently visiting the hospital for stomach issues. Given the circumstances, the win is impressive. It will be interesting to see how he responds to the tougher competition of late season track meets if he chooses to compete on the track in the coming months.

While those of us on this side of the Pacific Ocean are eagerly awaiting the chance for American track stars to get back to what they do best, we can all still follow their competitors in Morocco and Switzerland.

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Pozo 5K 2014 Race Results

July 9th, 2014

What a wonderful day at the Pozo Saloon! We had the most participants in the history of the race. While we did not have any records broken, there were some speedy times. I will let you look at the results to see who ran what (see results below). We would like to thank all of our friends, who woke up extremely early on a holiday and drove out to the middle of nowhere, to help make this event such a success. We honestly could not have done it without your help. So thank you very much!

Another big thank you to all of the participants! You helped us raise over $4000 for Jack’s Helping Hand. That is amazing! For more detailed information on Jack’s Helping Hand, check out our blog post here.

Thank you to the Pozo Saloon for their continued support of the 5K. We really appreciate you support.

Thanks to Josh at J. Carroll for the screaming deal on the awesome T-shirts! They were very popular.

Thanks to San Luis Ambulance for providing medical response and care on the course.

It seems that this little race is quite popular, as we continue to see many of the same names year after year. A few of the names are Ivan Huff and his group from Paso Robles High School, the Hungerford Family, the Mackinga Family, Kevin and Mary Cooper, the Wilson Family, Matt Ruane, and Carol Sinsheimer.

Thank you also to many of the employees of Running Warehouse and Tennis Warehouse. Your help and enthusiasm was wonderful!

Erik and Marissa Dube, father and daughter tandem

I hope that everyone involved had a good time, and I truly appreciate all of your help in raising money for a wonderful cause!

See you next year!

Read more…

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Elite Oregon Club Teams Take to the Track

June 25th, 2014

Galen Rupp in an OTC uniform (photo: oregonlive.com)

Of late, American distance running is going through a bit of an identity crisis spawned from the fact that the athletes participating seemingly have no identity. When the best track athletes graduate from college and sign endorsement contracts, they join a team that in many cases spans the globe. While an endorsement deal is a momentous time for both brand and athlete, it is also a great feeling to be a part of something larger than one’s self. It is difficult for fans to grapple with these teams in the same way that they root for their favorite basketball team or university. At the same time, runners have always come together in training groups centered around coaches, but with endorsement deals taking precedence, they haven’t branded themselves as unique.

However, that started to change a little bit when Vin Lananna took over as the University of Oregon Track coach and dragged Frank Gagliano (later replaced by Mark Rowland) to Eugene to revive the Oregon Track Club. The Oregon Track Club has a tremendously successful history and its revival as an elite program was an integral complement to the community Lanana was trying to foster. This brought a wave of quality athletes to Eugene to sign with Nike, but instead of the generic Nike singlet, they wore an Oregon Track Club jersey, which was the first bit of differentiation among Nike athletes.

Meanwhile, Alberto Salazar created a group in 2001 in Portland. Seeing that Portland is also in Oregon, someone decided that his group was also the Oregon Track Club. Alberto Salazar had a heart attack in 2007 and recruited Jerry Schumacher as his replacement. Jerry brought a new crew while Alberto’s heart mended. There were three groups with three different coaches that hardly interacted with one another, wearing the same uniform.

In 2011, Oregon Project athletes started looking different. There was no formal announcement or marketing push, there was just a black uniform with a mysterious skull garnished with olive branches that Galen Rupp and company started wearing. Last year shoes and apparel with this logo became available through Nike catalogs to stores like ours. Enticed, we jumped on it instantly knowing that there is certainly a market for it.

Shalane Flanagan rocking her new kit (photo: entirelyamelia.com)

The process of differentiating the three Oregon groups completed earlier this year when Jerry Schumacher’s team became the Bowerman Track Club and Shalane Flanagan debuted their new uniform and logo at the Boston Marathon. The name originated from the local Portland team, Bowerman Athletic Club. The local youth and open athletes that were in BAC will be rolled into BTC with their new, very fast company.

So now, three of the premier track clubs in the country, each boasting Olympic medalists, finally have distinguishable brands and additional ability to cultivate a following. Hopefully, this inspires other premier clubs in the country, like the Brooks Beasts and Asics Mammoth Track Club, to produce gear for their fans as well.

Read more…

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Week in Running: June 14-21

June 23rd, 2014

Dipsea Runner Runs through Heart Attack.

USA’s oldest trail race and favorite Bay Area fixture, the Dipsea race, was held two weeks ago. The race was won by 56-year-old Diana Fitzpatrick, a feat made possible by the race’s unique handicap structure. Reported earlier this week, this storied race gained another remarkable chapter as 72-year-old Wolfgang Zech ran and finished the 7.5 mile race while enduring a heart attack. The Dipsea’s hardy terrain and flights of steps, totaling 672 stairs, is a challenge for any heart. Appropriately, the toughest section of the race is named “Cardiac Hill,” a name that has a whole other meaning to Zech Wolfgang. However, he plans to run next year and every year after as long as possible. Considering its beauty, it is hard to fault his enthusiasm and we applaud his commitment.

Dipsea Runner Battles More than Stairs (Image: Douglas Zimmerman)

Molly’s Run at the Mini is anything but Mini

On the opposite coast, 5,870 women took to the streets of New York City for The Oakley New York Mini 10k. The race, which started the year that Title IX became law, is fixture on the racing circuit for many of the best female runners in the world. In this year’s edition, Molly Huddle crossed the line first making her the first American Champion in 10 years. Huddle, the American record holder in the 5000m, added another American record to her resume by besting Mary Slaney’s women-only road 10k time of 31:38 by one second and beating a slew of great runners from around the world.

Electric Foam 5k’s Bubble is Popped

Electric Foam 5k as Advertised

Gone are the days when the only option for a local fun run or race meant lining up on a road with some friends and finish covered only in sweat.  Nowadays, there is something for all kinds of runners out there. If you are willing, you can cover yourself in color or mud, or you can take on obstacles or even zombies. The number of these runs has grown exponentially.

Electric Foam 5k in Reality (Images: Runner's World)

If foam is more your style, you may be disappointed that the Electric Foam 5k has gone out of business. The event, which marketed itself as the “Foamiest 5k on the planet,” did host a run in Madison that lead to headlines infused with wonderful puns like: More Bust than Bubble and More Duds than Suds as well as some calls to the better business bureau.

With any successful product, as obstacle racing certainly is, people line up to jump in with their own rendition.  The Electric Foam 5k was undoubtedly an ill-conceived attempt to join in the fun without putting in the work that it takes to put on a successful event. As someone with experience at countless events, both working and participating, the work involved to put on a good event is substantial. This serves as a good warning for organizers and participants alike: do your homework.

If you are inclined to run through some foam, the 5k Foam Fest appears to be the better answer.

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