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Archive for the ‘track’ Category

Mo Farah! The double European track gold medallist. Take a bow slim.

 

It is all about the 10k just at the moment. (Some 5k thoughts – on what was a far more exciting race – will appear down the line, time-permitting)

Once upon a time there was a runner named Mo. He got down to some training, got some good results and promptly had the expectations of the UK running community placed on his shoulders as reward.

Thank heavens Chris Thompson, with his own triumph-to-tragedy-to-triumph story, has joined the party this year and made sure Mo is not the only Brit under 28 minutes in 2009/2010. Which is a ridiculous situation to be in, but there you go.

So with Chris T in tow, and lets not forget, more than just in tow really, looming large on the 10k in particular: less than two seconds separated their season’s bests when they hit the European champs. It may have provided Mo with just what he needed, consciously or subconsciously, to produce his best. Having someone sneak up behind in may have spurred him on as the season unfolded, or it may just have been the camaraderie of having someone else as a medal contender when they faced Europe’s finest in Barcelona.

Either way the 10k on the opening evening of the champs was a fairytale race that developed (almost) exactly according to the script. As the top two in Europe this year, Mo and Chris were always going to have big parts in setting up the race shape. They have two very different strengths however and therein lay the catalyst for a good race. If Mo had his way, a final lap burn-up would have suited him fine (this is the 10k mind, we’ll get to the 5 another time, where perhaps his kick is not the showstopper it is at this distance). For Chris, burn-ups were not the ticket. He would have wanted a good, (“honest” is the word sometimes used to describe this, nobody likes a dishonest race after all, whatever that is) hard race, at a tempo that would get rid of any pretenders hoping for a super-slow-big-kick race to be on the menu.

So with the pesky first half of the race out of the way, Chris made his move. Stretching the pack with around 10 laps to go. It sparked Mo into action and he got right into the flow, settling in amongst the top few as the pack thinned. Then with about 8 laps to go the script looked to be wobbling before going downright awry, with Mo no longer able to resist the urge to get the hell out of dodge and power on, and off he went. Once he got to the front he had no option really, but to pick it up. He wanted to go and his superior conditioning/ability meant that it was a fairly brutal move for the rest of the pack to try and cover. Obviously they did try and cover it. There was no way they could let the pre-race favourite disappear without a fight. So in this covering response from the chase pack, it became clear that Chris was actually pretty close to his limit and was exposed ever so slightly by not responding immediately and strongly. So Mo and his Spanish shoulder buddy, Ayad Lamdassam, pulled away strongly, leaving Chris to head up the chase pack looking for the final medal. This was worrying in that Chris was not on his own and could be swallowed by the bunch forming quietly on his shoulder when the bell went and the bronze was there for the taking.

Two things were happening up front whilst (while?) this was going on. Firstly, Mo was not able to shake Lamdassam, and secondly he was aware that his move had put Chris into some difficulty. So, attempting to kill two birds with one stone, namely he needed to get the pesky Spaniard off his shoulder and out in front of him where he could keep an eye on him and time his unleashing of “mo’s monster” (when it came to final lap time) perfectly, and he also needed to try and slow the pace down enough for Chris to get back into the race. For this to come off, Lamdassan had to take the bait (and the lead) when Mo slowed and stepped into lane two. Surely not? An experienced international campaigner would call this desperate bluff for what it was and tell Mo to get the hell on with it? But amazingly Lamdassam bought it hook line and sinker. So as he scuttled unwillingly past Mo, into the lead, Mo looked back and gestured to Chris to come up and join them at the fast kids party. Obviously Chris didn’t have the legs for this; if he did he would have covered the move in the first place. Still, it may have given him encouragement to see his team mate pulling for him midrace.

Chivalry done, Mo then got down to the business of sitting and kicking. The unlucky Spaniard really had no chance, stuck out to dry in the lead, waiting for the inevitable. And when it was delivered it was with the finality and confident drive of a runner who knows he will not only avoid being passed again this race, but was about to put some serious daylight between himself and the second placer in the space of just a lap. Oh to be a kicker. Ask Geb if he found it a useful tool on the track. Or indeed pose the same question to the legend Paul Tergat. His impressive CV would be ratcheted up a few notches, had he even half the kick of his perennial rival Geb.

So Mo stretched seemingly effortlessly away to the gold, Chris got down to the business of holding off his own pesky cling-on, the Italian Daniele Meucci for the bronze medal. As they pushed each other harder and faster around the bell lap, the Mo-broken Lamdassam came into view. Could they catch him? Suddenly the race for bronze was a race for silver. Chris snatched it by the smallest of margins; he and Meucci were given exactly the same time. It was inches.

 

So a British one-two in an event that has never previously had a British champion. What a race. And it got good exposure on the national news reports, turning distance running (albeit momentarily), into coffee machine and water fountain conversation usually reserved for ball-based sporting endeavours. “Wasn’t that Mo Farah splendid?” “He was toying with the field“ etc etc. There was even some talk of Olympic glory come 2012.

Hush now, let’s enjoy the medals he has won. Wining hardware in a global championship is a LOT harder. The cream if Europe he certainly is, but there are probably a dozen Kenyans and a dozen Ethiopians (and at least one Eritrean) who could take care of business, and Mo along the way, over 10k.

Let’s see Mo consolidate this outstanding championship performance with some world class performances in what remains of this year’s Diamond League meetings. A Sub-13 this season or next would go an awfully long way in turning him into a global contender. A 12-something guy, with proven championship BMT and a big kick to boot (sub-55 only need apply). Now there’s a tasty battle to take to the big boys in 2012.

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It was such a lovely summer evening I couldn’t resist getting down to the track to watch a bit of the inter-uni track and field match between birmingham (UK), cornell (US) and penn state (US) teams. with a few invited guests in each event.

herewith the full 3k  from one location (sorry).

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EhkU-3E9TOA

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The absolute legend that is Kenenisa Bekele.

Something I’ve been thinking about with mild melancholy for some time: Are we in the throes of a changing of the guard within the very top echelon of distance running? Will we look back on this time as the phase when he became beatable again?

It seems to me he may be vulnerable at the moment. Not in any sense other than that he may not be the absolute belter he was three, four or five years ago. Look, let’s keep some perspective, he could show up at just about any race the world over and win. But things have changed there’s no denying it.

His record at the world cross country champs will never be beaten. I can make that unequivocal statement because the short race has now been removed from the program, and for someone to match his 11 individual gold medals would require too much longevity at the top, a minimum of 11 years in fact. So I’ll throw that out there (it’s not a bold statement at all when you consider it). But since his DNF at the 2007 world champs where Zersenay Tadese stomped all over him in the blistering Nairobi heat, he hasn’t had the same dominating success. Caveat: He did win it the following year in Edinburgh, in amazing fashion after his shoe came off and he stopped to retie it and still came back to win! But last year he didn’t run and Gebremariam stepped in to ensure the individual title stayed in Ethiopia. This year it’s looking unlikely that he will run. He is refusing to commit one way or the other at this stage, and why should he? But if he does compete I’m not sure he will come away victorious.

2010 has not been kind to KB as yet. It began as it has for the past few years, with him competing in Edinburgh at the World Cross Challenge meeting held around the foothills of Arthur’s seat, Holyrood Park. A nasty place to run, hilly and twisty, but with good memories for the king, having won his most recent World XC title there. But this year it was different. A cold snowy January had resulted in a lot of snow still sitting on the course. “White mud” as Hayley Yelling called it. KB was beaten, and well-beaten at that, by a trio of Kenyans. The enormity of their achievement, whilst not lost on the runners themselves, was largely underplayed by the commentary and the resulting media. In fact, it was huge. When had KB ever been beaten as a senior in a cross country race?? Aside from his DNF at Worlds 2007… um…never. And this wasn’t losing out in a mad-sprint finish either, this was a relentless pounding that broke him with almost half of the race remaining. He seemed untroubled in the interview immediately afterwards but I get the feeling that as more time passed, it sunk in a bit and it shook him up, being beaten like that; and as a result he has lost some confidence and the aura of invincibility (even if only in his head).

The 2008 World Champs in Berlin seems a long time ago all of a sudden. He was pushed in the 5k by Bernard Lagat and came up trumps in a cracking final few laps and final sprint; and again knocked over his 10k rival Zersenay Tadese in the 10k. So no chinks in the armour then…

I had been eagerly anticipating his indoor performances this year, especially his hyped world record attempt over 3k in our own NIA in Birmingham. He pulled out of the event the night before, citing a calf injury. Disappointing but oh well. He had to have been pretty close to competing otherwise he wouldn’t have left the announcement so late, would he?

A couple of weeks later and another much publicised attack on the 3k mark, this time in Liévin. Again he withdrew at the last minute, citing the same injury. Surely if this injury had troubled him enough to pull out of Birmingham and troubled him enough to pull out of Lievre two weeks later on the day before the event again, he’d have known in between that he couldn’t make the Liévin meet? I read all about the “only in spikes” reasoning etc, but I’m just saying.

Conspiracy theory: Whilst I think he does have some sort of calf niggle, it’s not that that is stopping him from competing. I suspect he is trying to get himself into shape and hit the splits in particular workouts he has that will tell him he is in the right form to have a crack at the world record. After the years of dominance you can be sure he has a pretty concrete package of workouts he can run through and that he knows will get him into world-smashing shape. Am I talking shit? Probably.

Still, it’s nothing more than the musings of a fan, and he could disprove everything by delivering a world crushing performance in Poland. That would set him up for a great European summer on the track and make all this speculation look even more foolish than it already does.

If, however, he does continue to struggle with his calf injury and is unable to race World XC, or set any more records on the track, it will be the drawing to a close of the most magnificent distance-event track athlete we have ever had the pleasure of witnessing. And the dusk on his track career may well prove to be the dawn of his road running career, and by road running career I mean one thing, the Marathon. Another chapter in his running life and may it be just as successful as his track career has been, even with the bar set in the cirrus, as it is.

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