As mentioned in Running Warehouse’s preview of the coming World Marathon Majors, Shalane Flanagan is waging an assault on Deena Kastor’s American record this Sunday at the Berlin Marathon. Shalane’s resume suggests that she has the talent necessary to attempt the feat, with her 10,000m record and medals at the Olympics and World Cross Country Championships. That said, the marathon record might be Deena’s greatest accomplishment in a spectacular career. Shalane may be the next in line of spectacular women holding the top spot on the list of American marathoners, but it is going to take a truly special performance. Deena reminded us last Sunday of the phenomenal athlete that she is the best way she knows how, by tearing up the roads.
With the Diamond League season coming to a close today, the track season is effectively over. Sure, there is the Continental Cup serving as the true end to the season, but after the exhausting season and most of the storylines already written: the Continental Cup serves more to figure out who’s minds and bodies went on vacation early than figuring out who the best athletes are. So, as far as this blog is concerned, the season’s over.
Running Warehouse caught on to some of track and field’s great narratives early and today’s meet served as a fitting end to some of them. Nothing feels better than a good “I told you so,” and that is exactly what I’m going to do with this blog.
Most recently we told you that the American middle distance running crew are the best in the world and Brenda Martinez’s 800m win today emphatically confirmed that. She ran a blazing 1:58.84 and showed the world that she is still a force to be reckoned with after a disappointing USA Championships and a midseason break to regroup. This means that no less than 3 Americans look like they could be next year’s women’s 800m World Champion and several more Americans aren’t far behind. With our previously mentioned success in the 1500, it is an exciting time for our middle distance fans out there.
Back in July, we told you that there is a pair of great steeplechasers representing the United States with fast times and beautiful hair. Admittedly, I wrote the blog about Emma and Evan in anticipation of Evan breaking the American steeplechase record in Monaco and had to make some alterations after he missed the mark. Well, earlier today he did break his American record with a third place finish in the event. This year of fearlessly chasing the best in the world over the barriers is hopefully a perfect juncture to next year’s World Championships and the 2016 Olympics, as he is still so new to the event.
Our final story started way back at the beginning of the season but a picture in one of our “week in running” blogs didn’t do Christian Taylor justice. Christian is one of the greatest athletes on the planet, who proves time and time again, that he can do almost anything he wants with his legs. The triple jump gold medalist defended his hop, skip, and jump territory last week by winning the Diamond League title and went after the long jump title today. Beginning the season with a spot on the world’s best 4 X 400 meter team at the World Relays and ending the season with Diamond League titles at both horizontal jumps would have been truly super-human. As it turns out, he is human and had to settle for 3rd in today’s long jump and the Diamond Chase. He is certainly still an amazing athlete to follow and it will be interesting to see which event he chooses to conquer next.
With the track season ending, our focus will turn to the major fall marathons and the races leading up to them. The Berlin Marathon is at the end of the month and world records are always at risk when that gun goes off. This weekend’s Great North Run will serve as a great appetizer for marathon fans as Mo Farah takes on Olympic bronze medalist Tariku Bekele and one of the fastest half marathon courses anywhere. There will be plenty of great races to come while we wait for tracks to heat up again next year.
Today’s 1500-meter race at the Zurich Diamond League has tipped the scale for American middle distance women. The ladies in Red White and Blue can justly claim to be the best in the world in the 800-1500 for 2014.
In Switzerland Jenny Simpson dove to the line to earn the win in the Diamond league final by a mere hundredth of a second over countrywoman Shannon Rowbury. This feat earned Jenny the overall Diamond League trophy, the accompanying $40,000, and an automatic entry into next year’s World Championships (meaning Team USA will have 4 women at next years World Championships). The race also adds to an amazing season for Shannon who bettered her personal bests at 1500m and 5000m and broke the American Record in the 2-mile.
Jenny and Shannon are running so well that it is easy to overlook women like Brenda Martinez who notched a solid 4:01.36 season best today. Brenda started the season well by anchoring USA teams to American records and gold and silver medals in the 4 X 800 and 4 X 1500 at the IAAF World Relays but has mostly flown under the radar since.
Equally impressive to the Americans’ success in the women’s 1500m is their American peer’s success in the 800m. Beginning with the indoor season where Chanelle Price won the World Indoor Championships in that event, American women have repeatedly held their own in the two-lap event this year.
Chanelle backed her indoor championship up with her second place finish in the Doha Diamond League event and her first ever sub 2-minute performance. Brenda Martinez was the next athlete to perform internationally with her own sub 2 minute 800 to win the Hangelo World Challenge meet in the Netherlands. Laura Roesler finished her dominant final collegiate year with a win at the NCAA championships and a second place at the USA Track and Field Championships. Beating Laura at those championships was the phenomenal 20-year-old Ajee Wilson.
Hindsight shows that Ajee Wilson’s win at the USA championships was only a tune-up for her race at the Monaco Diamond league a few weeks later. In Monaco, Ajee ran a world leading time of 1:57.67 to end Eunice Sum’s 14 win unbeaten streak.
So far there are 6 American women under 2 minutes for the 800 this year, 2 more than the next best country Russia, and there are several other Americans that have run 2:00 or 2:01. With the Diamond League final for the women’s 800m being held next week it will be interesting to see if any American women can mimic the success of Jenny Simpson with a win there. Either way, American success at next week’s 800m in Brussels would only add to the middle distance success that USA has seen this year, but after today, American’s have already done enough to claim dominance for the year.
After over a month of hibernation, Americans hit the track again at yesterday’s Stockholm Diamond League meet. In virtually every event of the meet, we got to see whether our American stars came in rested and ready to go or possibly stale from the time off. How they might fair against the rest of the world, many of whom were coming off of continental championships, added to the intrigue.
All told, USA won 6 of the 16 marquee events contested in the meet. These wins covered the whole range of track and field with Americans victories in the shot put, long jump, 200m, 100m hurdles, 400m hurdles, and 1500m. American women stole the show with four wins while men took the other two.
The shot put victory went to one of the elder statesmen of USA track and field: Reese Hoffa. Reese has been hurling heavy objects around the world for over a decade now and it is wonderful to see the former orphan still winning on some of the worlds biggest stages and continuing to build his legacy.
Tianna Bartoletta proved again that she is an incredible athlete with her win in the long jump. Formerly known as Tianna Madison, she was a world indoor and outdoor champion jumper but recently has seen more success in the 100 meters with her fourth place showing at the Olympics and the lead off leg on the world-record setting 4 X 100m in London. Her win in the long jump proves that she can still be a threat at multiple disciplines. Furthering her athletic resume, she also has international success in the bobsled.
Allyson Felix has been setting tracks around the world on fire since she was a high school student. She got another win in the Stockholm 200m to add to her endless collection and put her in the driver’s seat for the overall diamond league title in that event with the remaining competition.
Queen Harrison led a trio of Americans in the 100m hurdles. The Virginia Tech graduate was the youngest of the American winners in Stockholm and is truly finding her own this year with a big lead in the diamond league chase for the event four years after winning the Bowerman award (Heisman for track) in her senior year of college.
Michael Tinsley has been running on the international circuit for a long time now but the late-bloomer hadn’t made a World Championships team until he was selected to run for USA in London in 2012. He made the most of his first global championship with a silver medal in London and clearly isn’t slowing down two years later with this win in Stockholm.
Rounding out the 6 American victors is Jenny Simpson. Furthering the notion that she may never run over steeple barriers again like she did in college at Colorado, she beat a stout field in the 1500m in Stockholm and is proving that her world championship success from Daegu, a race that seemed to come out of nowhere, was no fluke and she is one of the most talented runners in the world.
With these wins and some other solid performances in other events, Americans proved that for the most part, they were more rested than rusty after the break. With three Diamond League events left and then the Continental Cup, that break may pay off for many of our favorites.
Rob Krar is good at running 100-mile races through the mountains. In June, he took the Western States Endurance Run title and this past weekend he won the Leadville Trail 100, running the second fastest time in both races’ history. In conquering the Sierra Nevada and Rocky mountain ranges’ most storied ultra races, Rob has put himself on the map as one of the world’s best runners, something that would have been hard to predict for the former middle distance runner from the banks of Lake Ontario.
Rob has always been good at running. As a young track runner, Krar earned himself a scholarship at Butler University and boasts personal bests of 1:51 and 3:44 in the 800 and 1500 respectively. The Canadian native hardly has the prototypical background of an ultra marathon champion. Following his time at Butler, Rob moved to Phoenix to pursue a career as a pharmacist and mostly gave up competitive running. The city life in Phoenix wasn’t to Rob’s liking and when the opportunity to transfer to Flagstaff came along, Rob made the move.
Many runners have made their way to Flagstaff to log countless miles on the town’s endless mountain trails, but Rob ended up there by a different route. What was to be a short stint in Flagstaff to earn his pharmaceutical certifications, is now going on 8 years with no plans of leaving. Clearly, Rob also started lacing up the running shoes again.
Rob didn’t turn into an overnight champion. After running sparingly between his time at Butler and his arrival in Flagstaff (he graduated from Butler in 2001 and transferred from Phoenix to Flagstaff in 2006), his body had to adjust to training regularly again. It took a year or so before Rob’s running returned to form. At first, he took to the roads and notched personal bests of 2:25 in the marathon and 1:05 in the half marathon. Despite the competitive success, running on pavement took its toll physically and mentally and after extended time off for an injury to his heel that required surgery, he took to the trails in earnest. He has been destroying trail races since, from winning the Sportiva Mountain Cup in 2012 to his Leadville domination this weekend.
If Rob’s victory at Western States showed that Rob has arrived as a true ultra star, his win at Leadville showed that he’s not content to simply bask in his newfound stardom. Krar seems to have a genuine love for the trails and is more intent on covering as many miles as possible than chasing after adoration (Although his signature beard does have its own twitter account @RobKrarsBeard). For Rob, there is no rest for the weary as he is set to run Steamboat Springs’ Run Rabbit Run 100 mile race in less than a month. A win there would make for a truly legendary summer.
From our home on the pacific, the closest many of us Californians come to a true adventure in the Alps is a ride down the Matterhorn Bobsleds ride at Disneyland. With countless races in the United States worthy of any runner-traveler’s bucket list, it is easy for Americans to forget about the rest of the world. However, the Sierre–Zinal trail race through the Alpine wonderland of South-Eastern Switzerland is worthy of our attention for its beauty alone. The course features views of some of the most renowned peaks of the alps: Zinalrothorn, Obel Gabelhorn, Dent Blanche, and of course the Matterhorn in real life. Doug Meyer of Run the Alps does a better job describing this magical race than I do in his blog here.
The race, which celebrated its 40th birthday last year, is hardly content to let its panoramic scenery be the only draw and many of the world’s best trail runners are invited each year to take part in the festivities. The course is crafted in a way that no particular skillset is favored and runners from a variety of backgrounds can find their way to the podium. At 31 kilometers, the race is hardly a sprint but it is short enough that the field is not exclusively seasoned ultra runners. There is some highly technical terrain that requires dexterity and the ability to adapt to a quad-burning crawl, but there are also much smoother sections of dirt road that reward runners that can handle a swifter pace.
Where there are advanced trails and elite competition, the venerable Kilian Jornet always seems to be involved. This race was no different as Killian rose to the top for the seventh time this year in a world-class trail race. This time, American Jo Grey from Washington appeared to give him a challenge until the final 4km of the race but Kilian was able to open up over a minute on Joe before they eventually crossed the finish.
Americans did well on the podium, in addition to Grey’s silver, as Stevie Kremer of Colorado took the women’s race after a pair of second place finishes prior to Sunday. With her second win on the Skyrunning circuit she now has the lead with 3 of 5 races complete.
The Skyracing series continues in the Swiss Alps with the Matterhorn Ultraks on August 23rd and concludes with the Limone extreme race in the beautiful Lombardia region of Italy.
USA 7 Mile Championships takes over Davenport, Iowa
The Quad City Times Bix 7 is one of many gems on the USA road-racing calendar each year. The race, named for jazz musician and Davenport, Iowa local, Bix Beiderbecke, is the largest non-marathon race in the Midwest each year. It has a list of past champions that reads like a road running hall of fame, with names like Bill Rodgers, Joan Benoit Samulson, and Khalid Khannouchi. The race typically fields a star-studded international cast but in some years it plays host to USA championship races, which have seen winners like Meb Kelfezighi and Ryan Hall. This year was an American only year, as it again hosted the USA 7 mile championships. Each champion brings home a shiny new trumpet as his or her trophy in honor of the race’s namesake.
Coming into the race, the two athletes that dominated the headlines were this year’s Boston winner and former Bix champion Meb, and Molly Huddle. Huddle, another former Bix champion, is fresh off her American record 5000m in Monaco. Molly certainly lived up to the pre-race hype as she took the lead from the gun and never looked back, winning by over a minute. Meb was not quite as triumphant as some hamstring troubles took him out of the race at mile 5 after leading the early miles. Sean Quigley won the race in a kick after numerous runners shared time in the lead.
Commonwealth Games shows off some former NCAA stars
As we mentioned in our Commonwealth games preview blog: Glasgow, Scotland played host to most of the English-speaking world’s best athletes outside of Americans. While Americans don’t participate in the Commonwealth games, there was a good representation of former NCAA athletes that have adopted America as their training home at some point in their lives.
UTEP’s Blessing Okagbare set the Commonwealth Games record in the 100m and won the 200m while representing her home country of Nigeria. University of Oregon alumni Brianne Theison Eaton, wife of decathlon world record holder Ashton Eaton, won a gold medal in the heptathlon for her home country of Canada. Southern Utah’s Cam Levins got himself a bronze medal in the 10,000m for Canada, While Stephen Chemlany of Iona and Kenya won silver in the Marathon. Shane Brathwaite of Barbados and Texas Tech won bronze in the 110 hurdles, and others surely represented American universities as well as their home country in virtually every event in the competition.
The success of these athletes truly speaks to the NCAA’s ability to develop star track and field athletes. Considering that the vast majority of athletes in the NCAA are American yet the Commonwealth games doesn’t feature them, makes the success of the American system admirable worldwide.
Ethiopian Athletes leave IAAF World Junior Championships Facility, Seeking USA Asylum
Many of the world’s greatest track athletes unfortunately come from some unstable regions in the world. Ethiopia in particular has seen more than its fair share of turmoil in recent memory. With political tensions coming from Egypt over large damming projects on headwaters of the Nile River, the ever-anxious border with Eritrea, formerly part of Ethiopia, as well as porous borders with similarly volatile countries: Eritrea, Sudan, South Sudan, and Somalia. Ethiopia is right at the cross-roads of many unsavory situations.
With that in mind, one could hardly blame four young Ethiopian athletes from seeking a better life in their escape from the IAAF World Junior Championships that concluded last weekend in Eugene, Oregon. Amanuel Abebe Atibeha, Dureti Edao, Meaza Kebede, and Zeytituna Mohammed left the athletes village on the University of Oregon campus in a sedan headed for Portland last Friday. They have been found by police and are confirmed to be safe and unharmed. Political asylum is a long hard process and these young athletes have a tough road ahead of them whether it is in Oregon or in Ethiopia.
This is not the first time that runners have used their talents to escape their countries’ unrest. Following the 2008 World Cross Country Championships in Edinburgh Scotland, a group of Eritrean runners never boarded their flight home and have lived in Scotland ever since. Their escape of landmines and civil war has resulted in minimum wage jobs and a cold apartment in Glasgow. This story particularly hits home here because Tewoldeberhan Mengisteab, the oldest of the athletes finished 52nd in those championships… I finished 51st in the same race and we recorded exactly the same time. We are the same age, have a similar skill set, but hardly share similar paths in life. Stories like this certainly add a bit of perspective to the lives we live.
Running Warehouse’s home is a truly beautiful place to be a runner. San Luis Obispo County is full of open space covered in countless miles of trails. Within the immediate area one can run on the beach or up to 3000 feet of elevation within a 15 minute of drive from this office. We are truly blessed, but every blessing comes with a curse, and our curse is poison oak. The scarlet letter of our trail running faithful shows itself every spring and reappears far too frequently throughout the summer.
In most years, the track world would be centrally focused on a world championships or Olympics right now. However, with world championships held on odd years and Olympics in their own quadrennial cycle, there is a gap every four years from these popular events. This allows several smaller championships to shine through during this period and different story lines appear to fill the gap.
The World Junior Track and Field Championships took place this past weekend in Eugene, Oregon and many of the world’s best young track athletes made history. It was the first world championship held in the United States since the World Cross Country Championships occurred in Boston in 1992. With the full spectrum of events held over 6 days of competition, there are far too many stories to cover in just one article. But with many young stars turning out performances that rival their much older peers on the open circuit, the meet certainly deserves mention.
While the sun may have set a while ago on the British Empire, much of the pomp and circumstances of the time endures to date. The Commonwealth Games, especially for sports fans, are the epitome of those traditions. Glasgow, Scotland plays host to this year’s edition of the quadrennial sports festival that mirrors the Olympics, albeit in a smaller scale for most of the English-speaking world outside of the United States.
Many of the world’s greatest track athletes are invited, making the event a significant fixture on the track calendar. With countries like Jamaica, Kenya, Australia, New Zealand, and India being represented, the competition is sure to be intense. Of course, the United Kingdom will also bring their best athletes to Glasgow as well. However, in this competition they represent their home nations of England, Northern Ireland, Scotland, and Wales instead of wearing the Union Jack.
While the withdrawal of Mo Farah is a big blow to the event, there is still enough great talent in the mix to create legacies and introduce new heroes. The most prominent name on the marquee is surely Usain Bolt, but he is only committed to Jamaica’s 4 X 100m relay team. Other prominent stories include Kenyan David Rudisha, world record holder in the 800, continuing his comeback from injury. New Zealand’s Valerie Adams is continuing her unprecedented winning streak in the shot put, and Englishman Greg Rutherford is hoping to add a matching Commonwealth medal to his Olympic gold in the long jump.
The Opening Ceremonies occurred yesterday and featured Rod Stewart belting out his hits and Scottish terriers leading each country in the parade. Also, during the opening ceremonies, £3.1 was raised for the charity Unicef to help children world wide with some of the participating countries being some of the neediest. While athletes don’t take to the track until Sunday, competition has started in earnest today with swimming, track cycling, gymnastics and many other sports already handing out medals. England’s Brownlee brothers, Alistair and Jonny did do some running today to win gold and silver (respectively) in the triathlon while Jodie Stimpson won for England on the women’s side.
The Commonwealth of Nations is, at best, a rough alliance of countries that share some language, culture, and an increasingly distant history under one monarchy (many times an unsavory history at that). The ability of the countries to come together and celebrate many of their greatest athletes is worthy of notice. Athletes like Bolt and Rudisha, choosing to travel to Glasgow and represent their countries instead of saving their legs for more lucrative meets in the months to come, is a testament to the games and their prestigious history.