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Olympic Men’s 10,000m Final

 Mo with flag from article.wn.com

Part 3 of the year’s highlights finally brings us to the holy grail of global Athletics, the Olympic Games.

We may be making more than one stop at these Games before this highlights series is over. But this is the first, and this one is looking back at the Men’s 10,000m final.

4 August 2012

A magical Saturday evening in August. The height of summer. An incredible atmosphere swirling in the stadium of the blue riband sport of the Olympics.

Home ground advantage to Mo Farah. Years of build-up had come down to this. The challenge of the 5,000m may have loomed large on the horizon, but tonight was about only one thing, his first battle with sporting immortality, in the 10,000m.

Alongside him, and to the undoubted benefit of both runners, he had his training partner of recent years, and good friend, Galen Rupp. Their coach, Alberto Salazar was trackside, providing a calming influence on his athletic charges. Salazar was also there to shout splits and information during the race. His duo was taking on the might of distance running, currently residing in a small section of the planet we like to mark as East Africa. Kenya and Ethiopia. Mo and Galen would be attempting to wrestle a small portion of the global distance running magic away from East Africa and redistribute it in the western world, specifically in the UK and USA.

 

There are many excellent reports on the race itself and how it unfolded. Here’s what happened in a few badly worded sentences. The race went out slow; the Bekele brothers went to the front for a while and then slipped back into the pack. Then the Eritreans took up the running and Tadese took it out hard. You knew from then it was unlikely to slow much. Allegedly Galen was a bit antsy at this point and wanted to close the gap. Mo calmed him down and told him to save everything for the last lap. And so it went. The race ground everyone but the contenders out and on the final lap Mo unleashed his kick. The Bekeles went with him, Galen momentarily losing ground over the first 200. Galen came storming back over the final 200 as the Bekeles, first Kenenisa and then Tariku fell off Mo’s vicious kick. In the final 50m Galen was possibly the strongest of all, but Mo had it won and looked as though he may have had a drop more in the tank, albeit on the red line, should any “leaning over the precipice and looking into precisely nothing” be required.

Wikipedia’s typically factual and readable version is here. Here is another write up, by The Guardian this time. Or is the Telegraph more your cup of tea perhaps? The point is there are lots a great accounts.

And there are lots of great accounts because it was big news. Massive news. Huge news. The kind of news that turns runner’s names into household names, even if only for a few months until the football season starts up again. But I’m not going to be cynical. Mo’s run is worth more than that.

And behind him (and just behind him at that) Galen’s run was worth as much again. mo and galen from img.bleacherreport.netThe image of Galen beating everyone besides Mo was one of my favourite images from the Olympics. Let’s work through that again. He beat both Bekele brothers, Tariku and Kenenisa. He beat all the Kenyans. He won a medal at the sport’s highest table.

What about Alberto Salazar? Surely the last word has to go to him. His charges finished first and second. They took on the best the world had to offer and they beat them.

YouTube has the entire race archived for your viewing pleasure.

 

If you have the time I recommend watching it again. If you live in the UK, it is mandatory. Watch it now or face the downright unpleasantness of me turning up at your front door tonight to find out why you didn’t. The reason better be good.

The race was special and the moment was special. For Mo, for Galen and for their many supporters who had followed their respective paths to witness this night, at the pinnacle of their craft.

I don’t have much more to add. This was my emotional highlight of the Games and of the year.

Here are the results to savour one more time.

Pos Name Nationality Time Notes
1 Mo Farah Great Britain

27:30.42

 
2 Galen Rupp United States

27:30.90

 
3 Tariku Bekele Ethiopia

27:31.43

 
4 Kenenisa Bekele Ethiopia

27:32.44

 
5 Bedan Muchiri Kenya

27:32.94

 
6 Zersenay Tadese Eritrea

27:33.51

 
7 Teklemariam Medhin Eritrea

27:34.76

 
8 Gebre Gebremariam Ethiopia

27:36.34

 
9 Polat Arikan Turkey

27:38.81

PB
10 Moses Kipsiro Uganda

27:39.22

 
11 Cameron Levins Canada

27:40.68

 
12 Moses Masai Kenya

27:41.34

 
13 Dathan Ritzenhein United States

27:45.89

 
14 Robert Kajuga Rwanda

27:56.67

PB
15 Nguse Tesfaldet Eritrea

27:56.78

 
16 Thomas Ayeko Uganda

27:58.96

 
17 Moukheld Al-Outaibi Saudi Arabia

28:07.25

 
18 Mohammed Ahmed Canada

28:13.91

 
19 Matthew Tegenkamp United States

28:18.26

 
20 Ben St.Lawrence Australia

28:32.67

 
21 Diego Estrada Mexico

28:36.19

 
22 Yuki Sato Japan

28:44.06

 
23 Ayad Lamdassem Spain

28:49.85

 
24 Daniele Meucci Italy

28:57.46

 
25 Christopher Thompson Great Britain

29:06.14

 
26 Mykola Labovskyy Ukraine

29:32.12

 
  Ali Hasan Mahboob Bahrain

DNF

 
  Bayron Piedra Ecuador

DNF

 
  Wilson Kiprop Kenya

DNF

 

 

 

Highlights of 2012. Part 1. NIA Indoor 2-mile

Highlights of 2012. Part 2. Big City Marathons

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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.

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A taster for some possible future musings.

It’s a great topic.

People talk about the general lack of depth in UK running when they often mean the lack of numbers at the sharp end of elite.

Mo is obviously way out in front, but he is an anomaly. Even on a global scale, the guy is soundly thrashing world class Kenyans, Ethiopians, Eritreans you name it. But behind him there is a significant gulf. I took my girls to watch the UK Trials for World Champs over the summer (the wife had to work on her thesis and I want the girls to experience live athletics wherever possible. Once they start loving it, they will want to see more it, and oh well, if I have to tag along while they go to the events, then that’s a chore I can bear :-)). Anyway, watching Mo win the men’s 5k was like watching a grown up racing against Under 15’s. It was a telling indication that, whilst we may have one or two guys who can run sub 13:30, there aren’t many, and even those couple are a long way behind Mo.

Onto a more marathon-specific point. I like 2:08 as line in the sand. 2:08 is a tough call. I don’t think any amount of training or performance centres will get results down past that level. Sub 2:08 requires something else. Take Japan. Did you know Japan is one of the most successful marathon running countries? (behind Kenya obviously). The depth in Japan is absolutely incredible. And they can’t break 2:08 (often) either. So let’s park that and look at 2:10 or 2:12. Or heck even 2:14. At those paces we should be rolling out dozens of guys in the UK, but we’re not. Things are improving though, after a low point somewhere in the past 10 years. We all know why the number of 2:20 club runners has dropped away of the past 20 or 30 years, I could cover it here, but it’s a post on its own really.

The thing with running a really top level marathon, is that it requires years and years and years (and years and years) of hard focussed training. It requires a special kind of discipline because, whilst you could argue that a top 10k requires all of those things too – and it does, or even a top miler, it does again, but with one difference. With a mile or a 10k, athletes get a number of chances each season to have a go. Marathons are less forgiving. You can really pour your energy and focus into probably 2 marathons in a year. Often something will have prevented perfect preparation for one of those, so that usually leaves one crack at a marathon per year. If it goes badly, and it often does (at least in terms of what an elite might be targeting pre-race) you have to go away, regroup and refocus for another 12 months. A bad 10k, means, look in the race diary, find another one in 6-10 weeks’ time and go again (I’m oversimplifying). Same with miling during track season. In the pre-season, athletes and their coaches will pick probably about half a dozen track races over the year, possibly more if you include over and under distance races, i.e. milers running 800’s and 3k’s, and 5k guys (like Mo) running 1500’s, etc. With the marathon you look at the calendar, line up two, and hope like hell things click on one of those two days.

 When it doesn’t: drawing board. But when it does, oh the sweet nectar of marathon satisfaction. Nothing compares.

But the very nature of the “train and hope” required by the marathon (elites have attested to this too) means that for a perceived “depth” to become apparent over the marathon distance, we really do need a lot of top level runners filtering through and targetting 2:12 or better. Then, even with the paring that went on earlier, sufficient numbers will still come through as “successful attempts” and the top level depth will finally start to grow. It takes time, and dedication. Check back in 5 years.

 

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 Birmingham’s first Diamond League Event

Yesterday the global athletics phenomenon that is the Diamond League, rolled into the UK, and more specifically, into Birmingham.

 

One of my “sporting bucket list” items has always been to attend a European Golden League or Grand Prix meeting. A couple of years ago, these meetings were all bundled up into one big tightly-knit and wonderfully packaged, combined series called the Diamond League.

Great format, great locations, great athletes.

 

So the big opportunity arrived yesterday. Less than ten miles from my front door. I’d have to be an idiot to miss this… (…zippit).

 Bec and the girls were obviously keen to come along as well. Bec is as much of an athletics fan as me (almost) and for the girls this was the chance to see sporting royalty after all. (In Abby’s case, it was also an opportunity to bid for ice-cream from start to finish). The athletes’ names are household names (in our house at least).  Naturally my training buddies, Niceguy Eddie, or as we soon might have to start calling him, Hundredmile Eddie (and his wonderful wife Stephanie) and Gracie were all super keen as well. So we stacked out a tidy 7 or 8 seats in a row. We were three rows from trackside, almost in line with the 100m start line.

 

The atmosphere was spine tingling. We seemed to have some real track fans in our area, so for once I didn’t embarrass the family by screaming and shouting my support. Don’t get me wrong, I screamed and I shouted, but the thing was, so did everybody else, hence the lack of “standing out like a sore thumb”.

 

It’s hard to pick highlights, because every event was incredible. The 100m, heats AND final, the women’s 1500, men’s 800, women’s 200 and 400. I missed the men’s 400 hurdles as I was out queuing for burgers (don’t judge me), although I heard it and it sounded like a stonker.

 

But I guess if you pushed me for a highlight, and I can sense the virtual pushing going on right now, I’d say without too much hesitation, the men’s 5000m. An obvious choice, based on our distance running tendencies. But having an on-fire Mo Farah in the field was all the crowd needed to get up and cheering. He really is on top of his game at the moment. Unbeaten in 2011 I believe.

The 5k was stacked. No less than Imane Merga (out for revenge after Mo’s 10k triumph in the Pre Classis Diamond League meeting in Oregon, USA). Throw in Yenew Alamirew (this year’s new sensation), a coming-back-to-form Craig Mottram, my old Blairgowrie mate, Alistair Cragg, US hope Galen Rupp, Aussie star Collis Birmingham, Spanish big-kicking guy Jesus Espana, and UK cross country guy Andy Vernon (maybe a little out of his depth but probably looking to bridge some gaps). Look, it was a good field.

The race got underway, paced by David Krummenacker. They were single file sharpish, which usually indicates a good pace. The pace was quick, but not quite top level for these guys. It became clear pretty early on that, although they were motoring, this would be about places and not about time. Being at the meeting we didn’t get the splits we’d be getting on telly, so I can’t be sure of too much, but I did note the 2k time of 5:17 and 3k was a shade over 8 minutes. So not PB territory for the big guns.

Mo worked his way from the back of the pack, towards the front as the race progressed. His usual modus operandi. Alistair took over for a few laps around the 3 to 4k mark. It was getting quicker now as they geared up for the final km. Into the final km and the business got underway. With 600 to go Mottram (who had been up front for a few laps already) was joined by Collis Birmingham and it was an Aussie one-two coming down the back straight towards the bell lap.

The bell, which has become like a red rag to Mo and his long-kick, did exactly that. They took the hell off. Merga was giving him nothing! Stuck right on his heels through 300 to go, 200 to go. Then it was like the Pre 10k all over again, Mo’s continual increasing pace just had the beating of Merga and he started losing ground. Into the home straight and Mo was clear for the win.

Galen Rupp, timed his kick to perfection and came storming through to close the gap right up to Mo, edging Merga in the process. A great scalp for Rupp and a fantastic finish.

Alberto Salazar, who we had spotted when he walked right past us onto the track outfield, must have been pleased with his training group’s 1-2 finish.

The entire grandstand had gotten to its feet for the final lap, the noise was incredible. I jumped up shouting as usual and pretty much ruined any potential footage I was getting with my handycam. It was an awesome experience seeing the boys so close up and in the flesh. They represent the absolute pinnacle of distance running.

The final event of the evening was the men’s 100. After two abortive false starts, a fair bit of complaining from the red-carded athlete, a pulled hamstring from another contender (Michael Rodgers), Asafa duly got the job done in 9.91 seconds. On a wet track, after have to reset himself three times, that is not a bad performance! He must surely be a medal threat in Korea. And with Usain-in-the-membrane still not firing on all cylinders, the colour of that medal should safely be filed as TBC. Stranger things have happened.

So with a cracking 100m bringing the curtain down on the meeting, we made our way towards the exits and out of the stadium.

 

While waiting for the crowds to disperse in the car park, we saw Craig Mottram and Alistair Cragg out jogging on the their cool-down. I managed to say hi to Alistair which was cool. Whether he remembers me or not is up for grabs. Still cool though.

 

My trusty handycam had this to say on the evening’s shenanigans…

 

 

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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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