Saturday, May 30, 2015

Preview of USATF Masters Half Marathon Championship in San Diego

May 30 2015.  USATF Masters Long Distance Running is staging their 2015 National Masters Half Marathon championships as part of the Rock n Roll Marathon of San Diego. On Sunday May 31st, Masters runners will gather from around the country to compete for national masters championships. Overall Masters winners will be crowned as well as age group champions.

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Meb Keflezighi [Keflezighi Twitter feed]
The headliners are undoubtedly two of the youngest Masters runners. Meb Keflezighi, who turned 40 on May 5th of this year and Jen Rhines who turned 40 last July, will be competing for the overall Masters win and will also, no doubt, be in contention in the Open Division as well. They are definitely the favorites to take the Overall Masters title on the men’s and women’s side respectively.
Rhines after winning the Half Marathon Title at Houston in 2011 in a time of 1:11:14 [Photo from:]
There is probably only one runner on the men’s side who can reasonably compete with Meb and that is the famed Masters runner, Kevin Castille, who is the defending champion. Last year on a tough course in Melbourne Florida on an extremely humid day, Castille took the title in a time of 1: 07:55. With a favorable course and better weather, Castille should lower that mark in the race on Sunday. Another factor that makes some observers feel that there will be a real race is that both Keflezighi and Castille ran in the Beach to Beacon 10K last summer. At that race course on that day, Castille prevailed over San Diego’s favorite son by three seconds. Of course the 10K is arguably Castille’s best distance whereas the Half Marathon is closer to Keflezighi’s best distance, the Marathon. In fact Keflezighi ran a 1:02:18 last January to take 4th place in the USATF Half Marathon in Houston.And he followed it up with a 1:02:17 in the NYC Half marathon a few weeks later. If Keflezighi’s half marathon fitness is anywhere close to what it was earlier this year, he will run away with the Masters crown. But Castille’s presence guarantees it will be a real race.
Kevin Castille [photo from:]

And there is one other serious challenger. Clint Wells, who represented the USA three times at the World Cross Country Championships, and qualified for the Olympic Trials in 1996, 2000, and 2004. Wells won the Denver Marathon in 2006 and the Bolder Boulder 10K in 2008. Last October he finished 15th overall in the San Jose Half Marathon in 1:07:49. Wells could make it interesting if either of the two favorites falters.
Clint Wells leading the way up the slopes at Vail CO in the Teva Spring Runoff 10K in 2009 [photo:]

On the women’s side, there appears to be no one to challenge Rhines for the Master’s crown. Initially there was a spark of excitement with the rumor that Deena Kastor might also be racing. But it turned out that Kastor is pacing, not racing. So Rhines will, most likely, be racing against the Open Elites on Sunday.

In addition to the race for the Overall Masters crowns, there are a number of exciting races to follow within the age groups.  Here is the rundown, age group by age group with the women first.


40-44. Rhines should easily take this group but others who will contend for the podium  include Maureen Wrenn and Sharon Lemberger. Wrenn was the third Masters runner in overall at the USA Cross Country Championships in Boulder CO in February, finishing within a half minute of the renowned runners, Colleen DeReuck and Melody Fairchild. Lemberger ran 1:23:18 in the Kaiser Permanente Half Marathon earlier this year and finished 2nd in the age group at the USATF Masters 8K Championships at Brea CA in 29:32. Wrenn's cross country toughness should stand her in good stead but there is some question about the distance as this may be her first race at the longer distance. Prediction: Rhines, Wrenn, Lemberger in that order.

45-49. There are three close contenders in the Women’s 45-49 group. Jaymee Marty ran a 1:23:03 to take the Women’s overall masters crown in the Kaiser Permanente Half Marathon in San Francisco earlier this year. 
Jaymee Marty [photo from:]
At about the same time, across the country, the defending USATF F45 Half Marathon champion, Terri Rejimbal, was winning her age group at the Gasparilla Half Marathon in 1:24:30. And in March, Celestine Arambulo took the women’s master’s title at the San Diego Half Marathon in 1:23:41. Marty appears to have better credentials at the Marathon which may help her stay strong throughout the race. She ran a sub 2:46 in Chicago at the age of 43 and two years ago won her age group at the Eugene OR Marathon in 2:48:50. 

Terri Rejimbal claims the silver medal in the 2014 USATF 15K Masters Championships in Tulsa, OK [photo:Defining Moments (Oklahoma City, OK): David Prentice and Michael Mayberry]

Rejimbal also has some experience at the Marathon, taking first place in her age group at the Walt Disney World Marathon this past January but in a considerably slower time than Marty. It should be quite a battle. Prediction: Marty, Rejimbal, Arambulo.

Becky Burnett and Amy Rappaport appear to be closely matched in this group with Kathleen Cushing-Murray providing something of a wild card. Burnett ran 1:41:55 last August in the Park City UT Half Marathon. Meanwhile Rappaport ran a 1:42:48 in the San Diego Half Marathon in February of this year and a 1:41:17 in the Illinois Half marathon last April. Cushing-Murray has been a strong runner at distances from 5K to 10K but she apparently decided to celebrate moving up into a new age group by moving up in distance. The Half Marathon will be a real change from her recent efforts. She took third place in the W45 group at the USA Cross Country Championships (6K) but faltered a bit at the USATF 8K Masters Championship in Brea CA where she took 7th in the W45 group in 32:28.  Prediction: Rappaport, Burnett, and Cushing-Murray.

55-59. Nancy Hatfield could be viewed as a slight favorite over Meredith Mills. Given unknown differences between the courses they ran over, the race could go either way. Hatfield ran a 1:34:35 in the Big Cottonwoods Half marathon last while Mills ran a 1:36:50 in the Surf City USA Half Marathon in February and a 1:34:59 in the Oakland Half Marathon in March 2014. However it does appear that the Big Cottonwoods Half Marathon is a downhill overall and fast course. Hatfield has run other half marathons in the 1:40+ range so there are some doubts. But it could just be that Hatfield's fitness improved. We shall see. Tori Parks does not appear to be competitive with those top two but should take the third spot on the podium. Prediction: Mills, Hatfield, Parks

60-64. This age group is loaded with talent. Honor Fetherston is the favorite but there will be tough competition. In the mid-1990's Fetherston was the USATF Masters Runner of the Year, finished second overall in the Masters Indy life Circuit (Grand Prix) and established the American Masters Half Marathon Record in 1:13:54, After taking some time off from running for extended family related issues, she has recently begun competing again.
Honor Fetherston (middle) pictured with her (triplet) sisters, Shelly Sumner (L) and Sharon Vos(R)--All are champion runners [photo:]

She took 1st place in the W55 age group last year at the Humboldt Redwoods Half Marathon in 1:34:46 and finished 2nd behind the legendary Chris Kennedy in the W60 division at the USATF 8K Masters Championships at Brea CA in February in 35:29. But Fetherston will have two serious challengers. Marina Jones has run two marathons this year already and has taken home two age group firsts, in the OC Marathon in May with a time of 3:32:48 and in the Walt Disney World Marathon in January in 3:34:17. But she can also drop down in distance as she showed with a 1:38:02 in the Long Beach Half Marathon last October. Janet Cain has run more than 60 marathons and has won the USATF national championship in two different age groups at the Twin cities Marathon. Cain suffered a concussion, broken shoulder and bruised body form an altercation with dogs on a training run in 2013. She nonetheless showed her grit by bouncing back to take the W60 crown at the USATF Marathon Championships in the Twin Cities in October of that same year. Five months later she won her age group at the Napa Valley Marathon in a time that was 14 minutes faster, 3:43:49. Prediction: Fetherston, Jones, Cain.

65-69. JoAnne Rowland appears to be the class of the field in this age group. She ran a 1:47:06 in the Clarksburg Country Run (Half Marathon) in 2013 and ran just a bit slower in 2014 at 1:48:14. Sharon Chaix and Jane Williams should battle it out for the other two spots on the podium. Prediction: Rowland, Chaix, Williams.

70-74. Norma Thomas should enjoy a comfortable margin over Carol Turner at the finish line. In 2012, Thomas ran 1:56:44 in America's Finest City Half Marathon. Earlier this year, Thomas showed good form in winning her age group at the USATF 8K Masters Championship in a time of 43:29. 

Pat Herr (L), Norma Thomas (C) and Dorothy Strand (R) and their winning medals, all affiliated with A Snail's Pace Running Club at the 2015 USATF 8K Masters Championships in Brea CA on Feb 22 2015. [photo: Thuc Tran]

Turner has run three half marathons this year, all in the 2:20 - 2:25 range. Prediction: Thomas, Turner.


40-44. As for the overall race this should be a race between Keflezighi, Castille and Wells with the prediction for the overall race carrying through to this age group that these three gentlemen share. Prediction: Keflezighi, Castille, Wells.  

45-49. This should be a highly competitive group as well. Chris Knorzer appears to be the favorite with the fastest recent time, a 1:12:36 in the Humboldt Redwoods Half Marathon earlier this year. 
Chris Knorzer
Chris Knorzer's Twitter profile picture []
But he has two sub 1:16 challengers in Rob Arsenault who clocked 1:14:32 a couple of years ago in the Surf City USA Half Marathon and Rob Decot who ran 1:15:45 in the Grandma’s Half Marathon last year. And Robert Verhees is not far off with a 1:17:02 in the La Jolla Half Marathon earlier this year. Arsenault is better known for the middle distances on the roads, from 5K to 10K and he has not run a half marathon since 2012. Prediction: Knorzer, Decot, Arsenault
[footnote--After going to press I learned that Knorzer has had to scratch from tomorrow's race.]

50-54. This group features a rematch between Spyros Barres and Ricardo Maldonado who battled for 1st and second in the age group competition at the USATF Marathon Championship last year in the Twin Cities. 

Spyros Barres sprints to the finish line, slamming the door on the M50 Championship at the USATF Masters 10K Championship in Dedham MA on April 26 2015 [photo by Krissy Kozloski--]

In that contest, Barres edged Maldonado by a mere 13 seconds, 2:38:48 to 2:39:01. But Maldonado may still be in marathon recovery mode this year. He apparently not only ran the Boston Marathon in April but also the Eugene Marathon in Oregon 3 weeks later. One would think he might be a bit tired. But we shall see; he has certainly raced himself into marathon and half marathon fitness. Maldonado ran a 1:13:32 at the PF Chang R n R Half Marathon in March. And let us not forget David Olds who mostly runs shorter races. Nonetheless, in October of 2011 Olds ran 1:14:02 in the Rock N Roll L.A. Half Marathon. Olds also ran the Mammoth Lake Half Marathon in 2013 in 1:19:31 but that race is at high altitude so is probably not indicative of his fitness. 

Francis Burdett (L), David Olds (C), and Ricardo Maldonado (R) with their medals in the 50-54 age division at the 2015 USATF 8K Masters Championships in Brea CA on Feb 22 2015. [photo: Thuc Tran]

He could make things interesting for Barres and Maldonado. Prediction: Maldonado, Barres, Olds

55-59. The Men’s 55-59 group should also be a barn burner. Masters Runner of the Year in 2013, Brian Pilcher should lead the way. Earlier this year he ran a 1:14:50 at the Kaiser Permanente Half Marathon in San Francisco. 

Brian Pilcher, finishing 2nd in the M55 group and taking the overall age graded title for Masters Men at the USATF Masters 10K Championship in Dedham MA on April 26 2015 [photo by Scott Mason]

But Fred Zalokar should give Pilcher all he can handle; Zalokar ran a 1:14:54 at the PF Chang Rock N Roll Half Marathon in January and then a 1:15:13 on May 3rd in Vancouver, BC. And we cannot ignore Joe Sheeran who ran a 1:15:23 at the Cinco de Mayo Half Marathon a couple of years back and has been a real tiger on the cross country track and the roads over the last year. So Pilcher will need to be on his game to fend off these challengers. Prediction: Pilcher, Zalokar, Sheeran.

60-64. Through what appears to be something of a fluke, the age group that often has one of the greatest number of runners, has only one entrant, Stan Ideker
Stan Ideker's Athlinks Profile Picture []

Two of the stronger runners in this age group who typically clock in the mid 1:20's or faster, Peter Mullins, the defending champion, and Gary Romesser, have been engaged in injury rehab over the past year. Ideker regularly runs half marathons and usually clocks in the 1:39 to 1:43 range. That will be enough for the crown unless there is a late entrant who is unknown.

65-69. This group is almost as empty as the one immediately above. Injuries have played a role here as Paul Carlin, the defending champion in 1:29:29, and Lloyd Hansen, the owner of the fastest half marathon among the 65-69 group last year, are both nursing injuries. That leaves it wide open for Hank Sullivan and Douglas Wood. Sullivan took the M65 crown at the San Diego Half Marathon in March 2014 in 1:33:18 and took the age group crown in the Sue Krenn 15K in 1:05:02. Wood appears to be focusing a bit more on triathlons and does not seem to be competitive with Sullivan's times when he hits the roads. Prediction: Sullivan, Wood

70-74. This age group has only one runner but that one is some runner! Jan Frisby has been tearing up the paths and the roads in 2015 after battling injuries for a few years. Despite those injuries, Frisby still managed to train consistently enough to take home 5K road championships in 2011 and 2012 and cross country championships in 2012 and 2013. Age Group Runner of the Year in the mid-1990's, Frisby has returned to the top of the group this year. So far he has run and won each of the three national championship Masters races that have been held this year, the 8K and 10K road championships as well as the 8k USA Cross Country Championship. And this past weekend at the Marin Memorial Day Race in California, Frisby broke the American Masters 10K record for the M70 group in 40:14.
Jan Frisby, chugging to a new M70 American Masters 10K Record at the Marin Memorial Day 10K race on May 21 2015.[photo posted to Facebook by Len Goldman from]

Frisby has not been training for the Half Marathon so a record is not likely on Sunday but Frisby will no doubt run a good race despite the lack of competition and the differently targeted training. Frisby is looking forward to the return of Doug Goodhue, the silver bullet from Michigan, who has been the dominant runner in his age group for the last few years. Goodhue suffered an injury at the end of last year and it has kept him from competing yet this year.

75-79. Richard Williams will run unopposed. He runs many half marathons, typically in the 2:08 to 2:20 range. So even if opposed he might well be the favorite in this group.

80-84. Richard Burch runs unopposed in this category. Although it appears this will be Burch's first half marathon of the year, he ran two in 2014, finishing in 2:37:53 in August and in 2:25:09 in September, both in Minnesota. Clearly Burch is a formidable runner who is typically the favorite when he runs, whether opposed or not.

Age-Grading. Men and women are combined in the competition for the top ten age-grading awards in this race. It is always tough to handicap the age-grading contests One would expect that Jennifer Rhines, Meb Keflezighi and Kevin Castille should be up towards the top. . But it is never safe to bet against Brian Pilcher.  Other men with a shot include Ricardo Maldonado, Adam Weiner, Clint Wells, Tom Dever, and Spyros Barres. And even though he is not pointing toward the Half Marathon in his training, let's mention Jan Frisby as a possible contender. Other women who may contend include Marina Jones and Honor Fetherston.

It should be a great kickoff to what we hope will be an annual USATF event in San Diego for years to come.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

The 119th Boston Marathon-My First

May 17 2015. I survived and finished the 119th running of the Boston Marathon. It has been nearly a month and I have had time to reflect.

It is a big and awesome event--the logistics are challenging, the weather on the day, as it turned out was awful--windy, wet and cold. But the runners are amazing, from all over the world and all levels of fitness, some running for charity others for personal goals, a few for glory. I was running my first Boston Marathon at age 69. I qualified last June in my first marathon ever at a time of 3:18+. That should have meant I had a chance at an age group medal.

But I knew going into the race that was not possible. Last August I suffered an upper hamstring injury and in the ensuing months have re-strained it a number of times either in a race I was committed to, or in training for such a race. Two weeks before the race, when training had been going okay and I was finally able to run some consistent miles at sub 7:30 pace, I re-injured it. After going 'cold turkey' for 4 days, I restarted on the 5th day and found that I could now run 10 minute miles but any faster would risk re-injury.By the third day I was able to run around 9:30 a mile for a few miles...Should I still go to Boston or not?

As a trained economist I knew I should 'ignore sunk costs.' I should not race just because I had already registered, bought an airline ticket, and so on. I should be forward looking and compare the benefits with the costs. The costs, going forward would be substantial--the race could not be pleasant. I would be running slowly and with some pain. But the benefit side dominates. Would I ever have another chance at Boston? Perhaps, but at age 69 nothing can be taken for granted. So of course I decided to go for it!

I decided to stay outside of Boston in a little motel in the quiet town of Bedford where my father grew to manhood in the 1920's and 1930's. My dad was not a runner and was probably a little disappointed that neither my brother nor I had his talent at baseball. He was a pretty fair catcher, at least at the high school level. But he enjoyed my running,especially after I brought home a big trophy. A connection to his hometown can only help. Of course it means I have to drive to an end-of-the-line T stop (on the Red Line) at Alewife Station, take the T into the Common and then bus out to the start. Still it should be easy.
My Wheels for the Weekend-Pretty snazzy!

After flying in, I stopped in the Blue Hills on the way to my motel and enjoyed a relaxing hike around Houghton Pond.
A Quiet Weekday in April in the Blue Hills Reservation at Houghton's Pond - Very Refreshing!

On Saturday I jogged along the Battle Road in the Minuteman National Park--only 15 minutes from my motel--retracing the steps of the rude Colonials.
At the end of my jog, shooting over my shoulder to the parking lot-a beautiful spring day--too bad it didn't repeat on Patriot's Day!
But it was still a little complicated. I made it easier by deciding to just buy a 5-day T pass so I didn't have to worry about fiddling with the ticket machines on race day morning. On Sunday I did a dry run into Alewife Station, bought the 5-day pass and took the T into the Boston Common. Because it was again a beautiful day, I just walked from the Common to the Convention Center for packet pickup. In through security bag check and up the escalators to:
Looks like the right place!

T-shirt time after getting your number!

 Then out from the Convention Center and join the throngs on Boylston Street.
On Boylston Street on the 19th of April, looking toward the finish line where we hoped to be in about 24 hours!

Sunday evening I placed the T-pass in the pocket of the jeans I was putting in the gear check bag. Still, because I can get distracted and might forget something, I made a detailed list like the following:

-When leaving motel, lock door and deposit  wallet in shorts pocket, throw casual shorts in trunk of car. Put a little bit of cash [10's, 5's, and 1's] in jeans pocket and put jeans in gear check bag.

-After park car at T-station, remove T-pass from jeans pocket, put car keys in jeans pocket inside gear check bag. Have T-pass in your hand or in a pocket on clothes you are wearing!

-At Boston Common, place T-pass in jeans pocket and place anything else you don't need in the gear check bag.  Check the bag! Get on the bus!

I was planning to wear old shoes and socks, with my racing shoes (with a clean pair of racing socks stuffed inside) tied in a knot and looped around my neck or in my hands. I had an old hooded sweatshirt and sweatpants  (bought at Good Will shop a couple of days before) to wear over my racing gear. Because it was going to be cold and possibly rainy, I decided on a long-sleeved tech shirt and shorts to run in.

In the morning everything went smoothly. As I approached the T-stop exit in my car, however, I suddenly realized I did not have my wallet in my pocket and momentarily panicked--Understand that in my day-to-day world, I *always* am checking my jeans pocket for the presence of a wallet when I leave the house, get into or out of the car and so on. But then I realized with relief that my plan was to not have the wallet in my person but in the car.

So parked the car, the T-pass worked perfectly, I boarded a subway train within 5 minutes or so and was at the Boston Common shortly after 7. My wave was to board buses between 7 and 8. I checked the gear-check bag and boarded the bus wearing only the racing togs I would run in and items that I can throw away in the Athlete's Village (AV), namely old shoes, socks, hoodie and sweatpants.

It was a longer bus ride than I anticipated-we joked that they must be taking us to Hopkinton via New Hampshire. When we arrived, we piled off the bus to discover the clouds had just opened up and there was a steady rain coming down--Someone called out, "Not a good sign.'. But the rainstorm actually passed over pretty quickly. But when I got to Tent 3 in the AV, I found that the rain had driven loads of people under the tents. In fact it was wall-to-wall people. No entrance I found could be entered without being totally rude. This was a little problem as the drinks and food were underneath the tents. One of the volunteers was actually passing some food out to outsiders who could not get in but that was only a partial solution. Eventually I realized there was another whole field with two more large tents beyond the one I was in. Those were not as packed so I could spend some time underneath and inside the tent where it was warmer and protected. There were plenty of port-a-potties around the edge of the fields for those who planned ahead. Those who had less foresight relied on the kindnesses of others to let them cut in line when their wave needed to leave and they still hadn't made it to the front of the line. All in all the AV worked pretty well, considering the less than ideal conditions.

Eventually my wave was called and I joined the throngs moving out of the Village toward the starting line--all well organized and pretty easy. Eventually we were allowed to go into our corrals; I opted to move to a slower corral (because of my injury). I was next to a middle-aged guy who had run 4 or 5 of these who kept telling me and the other guys around me, in his proper Bostonian accent, to enjoy it--especially when we got to Wellesley College, famous for the rabid cheering they do ffor all of the runners--"Have fun with it! Don't be like me the first time I ran when I stayed out in the road, serious runner, head down, focused on a good time--Go over to the roadside, give 'em a kiss, whatever, just enjoy it! They're screamin' their heads off for you so just enjoy  it!"

I wasn't sure how that would really work if the run was as painful as I feared but stored it away just in case. Eventually the gun went off and we walked forward, then got to a slow jog, and then eventually into a run and I started to see many people leaving me behind and others passing me, but no problems in terms of bumping or jostling. Initially I was able to find something like an 8:30 pace, not what I would normally want, but certainly no slower than I anticipated. Every time I planted my right foot, I had a reminder of the injury in the form of dull, background pain. My job was to keep a pace going that would keep the pain in the background, not come to the forefront.

The crowd along the roadsides was incredible. Over the first few miles there were a few places where it was a little thin but over most of the race, even with the weather being uninviting, there were lots of spectators. Later when we got into Boston, especially at the big intersections, the crowds were deep--and always loud and encouraging! It helps--maybe especially on an off day and this was about as far off a day running as I ever hope to have.

To give you the boring details of the deterioration of my run, I can just quote the splits:
5K 25:48--so I was feeling like I would at least average under 9:00 per mile which should keep me under 4 hours overall-not what I was looking for but at that point would certainly take it. Little did I know how much fitness I had lost over the past two months. The 10K split-52:48 --so 27:00 for the second 5K still under 9 per mile but just. The 15K split-1:21:36 or 28:48 for the 3rd 5K, now over 9 minutes per mile pace. I hit the half way point in 1:58:35 so it was still possible I could break 4 hours for the run if I could start to accelerate a bit. But it went the other way--I did enjoy blowing a kiss or two to the cheering Wellesley fans and occasionally gave people a wave but the last ten miles was very tough. I never 'hit the wall' but just got steadily slower. I suppose a cynic could say I wasn't going fast enough to hit the wall and that's probably right, but I am also glad I didn't bump into it at my slow, but unsteady pace.

But there were many memories of encounters that helped me keep going. If I would start to feel a little dejected there was always a new runner to check out--It might be a middle-aged Japanese man with a flag attached to his headband, waving to the crowd as he ran. A young Japanese man and his friend were running with a video camera hooked up to a framework with a wheel on the bottom, taking video of the crowds as they ran through. At one point I caught up with one of the differently abled runners who was running on two 'springs' from the knees down. He was bouncing ahead but mostly from side to side, advancing maybe a foot or so for every 2 strides. That was inspiring for me; if I had felt like quitting it would be pretty hard to justify to that guy!

The weather, with the headwind occasionally blustering and more raindrops falling, did not help. But I would not have run much faster had the day been perfect. I could feel my stride shortening and knew I was just skimming along the road surface to conserve energy. I started to worry whenever there would be a raised brick crosswalk or if we had to run across trolley car tracks that I might trip and fall. I was not sure I would get up if it happened--But luckily it was just a worry--Nothing bad happened and I did eventually finish with lots of people around me in a time that I could never have imagined, over an hour slower than my 3:18 qualifier, in 4:20:53. But finish I did--and had the medal to prove it!

After the finish the volunteers were terrific. Got my medal, got some food, got some liquid--One lady volunteered to open a power bar for anyone whose fingers were not up to it-that worked for me! Later, after picking up my Gear Check bag and heading to the changing tent, there was a young man who smilingly volunteered to undo any knots that were difficult. Considering the cold and wet, it was very welcome. Once I got inside the changing tent, things were much warmer and I started to feel somewhat human again. A guy next to me said, "Glad to see you're okay-you were shaking like a leaf out there. And okay I was, indeed. Nothing to do after that but head over to the edge of the Common and down the Escalator into the T--catch the Red Line out to Alewife station--into the car and back to the Motel. Into the shower and then rest-Ahhhhhh!

It was all worth it!

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Lagat Runs World’s Best Masters 10K at Great Manchester Run in UK

May 12 2015.
MANCHESTER, U.K. – At the Morrison’s Great Manchester Road Race in Britain on Sunday, Bernard Lagat, who turned 40 late last year, eclipsed the world’s best Masters 10K time established in 2013 by the legendary long distance runner, Haile Gebreselassie of Ethiopia. When Gebreselassie set the standard last spring at this same race, he broke the existing mark, set in 2003 by Paolo Catarino (Portugal), by 51 seconds. Most observers thought the new mark would stand for years, possibly decades. Ironically, the BBC race commentator and legendary women’s long distance runner, Paula Radcliffe, of Great Britain, viewed any records, at the start of Sunday's race, as unlikely because of a significant headwind that would sometimes hinder the runners. She did concede that Lagat would likely get the American Masters record. But the conditions were not able to stop Lagat. This was Lagat’s debut at 10K on the roads after a winter of breaking Masters Indoor Track records. And a smashing debut it was, as he raced across the finish line in 27:48, 12 seconds under Gebreselassie’s existing world best. 

Lagat indicated that the plan he and his coach, James Li, discussed before the race worked perfectly. And Lagat gave copious credit to his training partner and the overall winner, Stephen Sambu, for his encouragement during the race, noting that Sambu urged him forward after the first kilometer to move up and run in the lead group. Lagat finished third overall right behind South Africa’s Stephen Mokoka, and just ahead of Kenya’s Wilson Kipsang, the former world marathon record holder who recently finished second in the London Marathon.

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The Elite Men waiting for the starting gun at the 2015 Great Manchester Run--Bernard Lagat in the center (in purple singlet) with his training partner, Stephen Sambu immediately to his left. [Photo posted to Twitter by Emily Evans],
Despite the winds, the pace never lagged. Hitting the first kilometer in 2:41 and 2 kilometers in 5:24, the lead group of 6 made it clear they would not be hindered by conditions. The tight pack, including Sambu, Kipsang, Mokoka, Lagat, a young Ethiopian runner named Tesfaalem Mehari, and Leonard Komon (who set the current world record of 26:43.7 in 2010), hit the 5K mark in 13:51.

The last few kilometers were a tribute to Lagat’s grit as he had to run them in ‘No Man’s Land.’ Shortly after Sambu and Mokoka opened up a gap over Kipsang and Lagat, Lagat dropped Kipsang. Lagat had to run alone into the wind, chasing the leaders. He was not deterred and the amiable American and World Champion, so many times over, flashed his broad smile as he crossed the line, realizing he had another world's best in his pocket.

Not only did Lagat establish a World’s Best, it appears that, pending USATF certification, he matched the US Open 10K record of 27:48 by Mark Nenow in Phoenix in 1985 and, of course, also smashed the US Masters 10K record of 29:37 by Steve Plasencia at Cape Elizabeth Maine in 1998. Tom Bernhard, USATF Masters Rankings Coordinator noted that the Great Manchester Run is an IAAF Gold Label race so record certification of this overseas triumph should be expedited. 
The Podium Finishers at the 2015 Great Manchester Run and the New Holder of the World's Best Mark in the 10 Kilometer Run Smile and Wave to the Crowd [Photo from:]

Although Lagat is far from done on the track, he has made an excellent transition to the roads so far. In April of this year, Lagat smashed the American Masters Road Record for 5 kilometers at the Carlsbad 5000 in 13:41, breaking John Tuttle’s 1999 record by 38 seconds. That performance also surpassed the World's Best Masters time of 13:55 established by the Kiwi runner, John Campbell (NZ) in 1991. It had stood up against many a challenger in those 24 years, but it could not stand up to Lagat. Now he has the World’s Best 10K Masters time and the World's Best 5K Masters time on the roads. I can hardly wait to see what comes next.

For a complete rundown on the results of the Great Manchester Run, please see their news release: