Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘Bernard Lagat’

This will be the final in the series. We could get carried away here and I want to wrap it up.

I am bending the rules slightly by including two memorable moments in this post. A double whammy to finish it off.

 

11 March 2012

Bernard Lagat’s indoor Gold medal in the 3000m.

Bernard_Lagat_Istanbul_2012 from wikipedia

This happened early in the year, in March. Lagat is one of the all-time greats and deserves a full report on his career at the very least at some point in the future. For now, suffice to say that a man who has been winning races for well over a decade, and is now in his late 30s, who still has the drive and physical ability to compete with the youngsters on the track, is very impressive. Winning the 3000m indoor world title was a fitting way to acknowledge this. Bernard knows how to run a race tactically and how to turn it to his best advantage. To encourage the race to play into his hand. Add to that he has a sniper-like ability of timing his kick to perfection and of ensuring he is in the right place to execute the kick in the first instance. His all-round approach to racing is something all distance runners could learn from. Turning back the clock on a regular basis is another of his many admirable talents. We may not see another sub 3:30 from him over 1500m (his PB is a mind boggling 3:26.34) but I certainly believe we have at least another season or two of top flight entertainment from this top flight competitor.

Results.

Pos Athlete Country Time
1 Bernard Lagat USA 7:41.44
2 Augustine Choge Kenya 7:41.77
3 Edwin Soi Kenya 7:41.78

 

Footnote: How about the race for silver. 0.01 seconds separating 2nd and 3rd. Augustine Choge is another classy competitor, consistently producing high level performances over many years. (Who can forget Choge knocking Craig Mottram into 2nd at the Commonwealth Games in Melbourne in 2006. Mottram was in top shape at the time having won a bronze medal in the World Champs 5000m the previous year, and now on home turf. But Choge with the middle distance pedigree, had the kick to comfortably take care of business on the bell lap. Choge’s winning time was an incredible 12:56 , with Mottram running 12:58 for second!)

 

6 October 2012

Zersenay Tadese’s World Half Marathon gold.

Zersenay Tadese 20th IAAF WHM from zimbio.com

In many ways the things to like about Zersenay are similar to the things to like about Lagat. They are both consistent at the highest level and almost always win their specialist event. They also both possess the wherewithal to do everything in their power to shape the race to suit their strengths. Zersenay is not a sit-and-kick kind of guy. But he is a winner. This combination means that in any race he runs he will at some point show up in the front, driving the pace on, attempting to to ride competitors off his wheel, cycling style. Relentless grinding to make sure no-one is left, and if they are, they have nothing left to kick with. A great tactic that has served him well in all formats of distance running, road, cross country and track.

 

He has been less successful on the track due to its tendency to favour kickers, on top of which, a certain Kenenisa Bekele was on the scene at this peak during many of Tadese’s bigger track races. Olympics, World Champs etc. The ominous Bekele and at least one of his compatriots were able to live with whatever Tadese dished out, knowing with certainty that if they could withstand the beating Tadese was administering, they would be able to kick past once the bell sounded.

 

But transfer those same skills to road running and suddenly Zersenay is in pole position. Road racing encourages and rewards hard running. And Tadese has shown time and again he is up for the challenge. Marathons are not his thing. Something in the chemistry is wrong. It may not be righted before he retires, but it shouldn’t blemish his road racing ability over the half marathon distance. If ever there was a marriage between an athlete and a distance, you would need to look hard to find a couple more suited than Zersenay Tadese and 13.1 miles. (Paula and the full distance jumps to mind, but she has not achieved the repetitive championship success Tadese has enjoyed).

 

This year’s race in Bulgaria was Zersenay’s FIFTH world title in the previous SIX editions of the event. (In 2006 the IAAF decided to make it a 20km event instead of 21.1, bless them. Tadese still won of course and thankfully the distance was returned to the standard half marathon the following year). Last year, 2011, was the year he didn’t win. He ran hard and fast, fighting to the end, and he lost in the final few hundred yards to Wilson Kiprop. If you watched the race you will remember that once he crossed the line he could barely walk. He limped off with assistance, and carried that injury for months after that. He had effectively raced the world half champs with the injury, and nearly secured the win regardless. Such was his determination and also such was his affinity with the event.

 

Zersenay Tadese is already a great in the running world, his World Cross Country Title alone ensures that status. But with the five world road racing titles to his name he is an all-time great. I would love to see him add a few more to that tally. Each year it seems more unlikely but each year he delivers regardless. So here’s hoping he can hold off the challengers, fierce as they are, for another couple of years.

 

 

Footnote: He also has six team silvers to his name from the World Half Marathon Champs

 

Read Full Post »

NIA Grand Prix 2-mile indoors

 

This will be the first in a series of highlights from the 2012 season.

There are many things that make something a highlight, and with any series like this you leave out more than you include. But that’s no reason not to do it. Let’s relish in the performances we loved from the year.

 

Mo

 

Saturday 18 February

 

Without the promise of a world cross country champs in March, the powers that be having decided it was more suited to a biannual championship –  a shame in my opinion – the first real highlight of the early year elite distance running scene was Mo’s 2 mile race indoors in the Birmingham Grand Prix.

 

There’s no bias with it being in Birmingham, it was simply the first time he was lined up against some real competition, in the year when it ALL mattered. The Olympic year.

 

How was he doing? How had winter training gone? Was he handling the pressure of being world 5k champion and favourite to win the 5 and 10 in London? Everyone was itching to see him in action. Birmingham provided the platform.

 

The grand prix in Birmingham has been regarded as the biggest indoor meeting in the world for a number of years. The entry lists are always strong and this year was no different. Mo was up against Tariku Bekele, perennial high quality performer Eliud Kipchoge and Moses Kipsiro, with pacing by Remmy Limo and Gideon Gathimba. In addition there was domestic British interest in Johnny Mellor toeing the line as well. He might not have been contesting for the win, but the fact that he was lining up against these guys was an indication of how far he had come and the fantastic form he had been showing in recent times.

 

galen 2 mile ARA week before this race, there had been another 2 mile race, in the US. Mo’s training partner Galen Rupp had run an incredibly strong and almost entirely solo 8:09.72 for the win and the American record. Since they had been training together Mo was expected to be in similar shape. Galen had taken the record from Bernard Lagat incidentally, who was in the Birmingham meeting, but was running the 1500m. If there is one thing Bernie (and his coach James Li) know how to do, it is shape a season. Starting out with a 1500 instead of going head to head with your main Olympic 5k rival is a sensible decision both from a racing position and from a training position. Sharpen up with some under distance races early season.

 

Back to the 2 mile race. The race was touted as being Mo’s attempt on the long standing British record (8:17 John Mayock) as well as the 39-year old European record (8:13.2 Emile Puttemans). But in reality these records didn’t mean much. They were sugar coating on the cake of the actual race. What the fans wanted to see was Mo versus the guys on the track. The guys who could challenge, push and perhaps beat him. The race got underway and the pace was brisk. The world record was never going to be troubled, but Gathimba took them through the opening mile in 4:04 so there were no passengers. Arne Gabius from Germany was running an incredibly courageous race and was hanging onto everything he could. He really stood up that day.

 

midrace 1Once the final few laps approached, the contenders shuffled around trying to position themselves to stick in the winning strike for home. The last lap burn up was just that and coming off the final bend Mo, Eliud, Tariku and Kipsiro were covered in that invisible blanket cliché. Eliud Kipchoge has a history of starting seasons well so it should probably not have been too surprising that he held the others off for the win. Mo managed second with Kipsiro and Bekele third and fourth. Less than a second separated them.

 

2 MILES – Men   OFFICIAL RESULTS
1 Eliud Kipchoge KEN 8:07.39 PB
2 Mo Farah GBR 8:08.07 NR
3 Moses Kipsiro UGA 8:08.16 NR
4 Tariku Bekele ETH 8:08.27 PB
5 Arne Gabius GER 8:10.78 PB
6 Jonathan Mellor GBR 8:40.50 PB

 

 

Finishing in 8:08.07, Mo had broken the British record and the European record. He had also bested his training partner by a second. But tellingly he hadn’t won the race. The media naturally chose to run with that story. What happened Mo? Where was the kick Mo? Are you overtraining Mo? The usual none-too-deekipchoge win 2p journalistic type inquisitions that they think the public wants to read about. (Perhaps the public do want to read that kind of stuff, who am I to know?)

 

Fact is, all keen fans of distance running had seen what they wanted to see. A strong Mo kicking hard and racing hard. The fact that he had been edged out was neither here nor there. This was February. It didn’t matter. It matters in August. In many ways, being beaten here in his first high profile race and in his home country, may have been a good thing. When is getting beaten a good thing? Well, when it takes some of the pressure from an expectant public off your shoulders it is a good thing. And when it shows the world that just because you won the 5000m world champs the year before, it doesn’t mean the rest of the professional distance running world are simply going to hand you wins. They will race you even harder, and want to beat you even more. It showed everyone that winning in August was going to be tough. But it also showed everyone that Mo had trained well over the winter and was in a great position (possibly the perfect position) leading into the transition from indoor to outdoor season. He was up for the challenge.

 

The running year was underway. The unavoidable conveyor belt to the Olympics had begun. This 2 mile race cracked open the 2012 distance season, and what a season it turned out to be.

 

Were we sure that Mo could do the double? No. But by gosh we knew we were in for an exciting ride.

 

Footnote: Lagat didn’t win his 1500m, but ran 3:36 and probably got what he needed from it. A month later he went to world indoors and won the 3000m gold medal.

Footnote 2: Johnny Mellor held on for an 8:40.5 Personal Best. Great run Johnny.

Read Full Post »