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Posts Tagged ‘Zersenay Tadese’

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

 

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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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London Marathon is this Sunday and a lot of the pre-race hype has been (rightly) focussed on the quartet of A-list Kenyans on the start line. Selection of the Kenyan Olympic Marathon squad has been an international talking point in running circles. Who will they pick, who won’t they pick, what do they need to run? And so on.

 

But enough about that. I want to talk about a little Eritrean named Zersenay Tadese.

Anyone worth their salt knows a pretty rock solid rule about marathoning. To be a good marathoner, you need to have run a good 10k (and half marathon). Name any great marathoner and look at their 10k. It will be the business. Arguably the world’s best over 26.2, the late Sammy Wanjiru, went well under 27 minutes on the track before he stepped up. However, and this is the point, the converse is not true. Being a quality 10k and half marathon guy does in no way guarantee you success over a marathon. The fact is no-one really knows how they will fare over a marathon until they actually run one. There are probably a few high-profile distance men and women who haven’t reached their marathon potential. (In as much as “potential” is determined by 10k and HM performance) but none are as high profile as Zersenay Tadese.

 

If ever there was textbook case to highlight the lack of conversion rule, it is Zersenay.

 

Remove his marathon attempts from this discussion and his distance running CV becomes pretty much as good as it gets. Kenenisa Bekele may have had his number of the track thanks to an indomitable finishing kick, but Tadese didn’t do too badly behind him.

  • A 10k in less than 27 minutes? Check.
  • A half marathon in less than 60 minutes? Check. In fact a half marathon in less than 59 minutes. In fact the WORLD RECORD HOLDER in the half marathon in 58:23.

Ok, how about championship racing?

  • Any medals on the track at global level? Check. (No titles maybe, as time and again KB put paid to any chance of that). But he has a bronze from the Athens Olympics 10k and a silver from the 2009 Berlin World Champs.
  • Any medals at World Cross Country level? Check. In the toughest race of them all, the World Cross Country Championships, Zersenay beat the world, and KB, in 2007 (KB dropped out of the race with a lap to go). He also has an individual silver and two individual bronze medals in World Cross to go with that gold.
  • Now, the final question, what is he like on the road? I’m glad you asked. Ignoring the marathon, he is probably the greatest road runner of all time. World HM Record Holder, four-time World Half Marathon Champion and a World 20k title for good measure.

 

It’s a pedigree anyone would aspire to. So imagine the buzz around the running world when he decided to run his first marathon. It was a few years back, London 2009.

 

The world waited with baited breath.

 

Zersenay’s debut in the marathon coincided with a big step-up that was currently taking place in the world of international marathoning. He arrived on the scene, with marathoning on a big and aggressive up-curve, and was caught out by experienced marathoners, led by Wanjiru. They aggressively attacked at all points in the race and pushed a ridiculously fast early pace. Zersenay lasted as long as he could before dropping out.

 

The following year, 2010, he returned, to a similarly aggressive racing environment. With slightly more battle experience, this time he finished. But his 2hr12 was widely accepted as nowhere near a true indication of his capabilities, and again the field had beaten him up and left him behind.

 

In 2011 it seemed he decided to take a break from London and move his focus back to the areas in which he had excelled and enjoyed success, the 10k on the track, and the half marathon.

 

Skip to the announcement of the 2012 London Elite Field and his name is back on the list.

 

In early 2012 he ran the Lisbon Half Marathon, the course where he set the current world record, 58:23. It was billed as a World Record Attempt but he ended up running about a minute off that pace, finishing in 59:34 for his third title in a row. The gurus at LetsRun have spoken at length about proper focus on a marathon resulting in a runner that should not be sufficiently sharp to run a half marathon PB in their marathon buildup. If this is true, and I personally subscribe to the same belief, then Tadese may just be perfectly poised for this year’s London.

 

Most of us love to see hard-running, hard-working athletes perform at the highest level, and Zersenay Tadese is the hardest working, hardest running of them all. Over the years he has become one of my all-time favourite and most inspirational athletes.

 

Come Sunday morning, I will be hoping he gets into his familiar groove, seen so many times at the front of races around the world, in the lead pack and survives, or ignores, any suicidal pace changes during the race.

 

In amongst the Kenyan whirlwind of class and ability, and pressure, I would love to see nothing more than the little Eritrean powerhouse slide in under the radar and knock 5+ minutes off his best time, and get his marathon time down to the level befitting a guy of his pedigree.

 

Heck I hope he wins the entire race. It’s a long shot, but optimism never killed anyone, right?

 

 

 

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