Saturday, July 25, 2015

Lagat--Breaks Master's World Record and Becomes first Masters Athlete (40 years +) to break the 4-minute mile

July 25 2015. London, England, United Kingdom. At the Diamond League London track meet today, Bernard Lagat, America's most recent contribution to elite Masters Athletics, broke the Masters (M40+) mile record in 3:57.91, lowering the mark established by Vyacheslav Shivunin in 2010 by almost 4 seconds. And being the first Masters athlete 40 years of age and over to break the 4-minute mile outdoors is certainly an accomplishment to be celebrated.* Roger Bannister was the first person to break the 4-minute mile in 1954. Now, just over 60 years later, a 40 year old Masters athlete has finally matched the feat. Adding to the accomplishment was that it followed by less than 24 hours his excellent near record-breaking run in the 3000 meters. In fact, Lagat's request to be included in the field of the Emsley Carr Mile was not finally approved until the morning before the race. I bet DL London is happy with that decision! It seems fitting that the first Masters athlete [M40+] to break the 4-minute mile outdoors should do it on the same island as Bannister accomplished the initial feat for Open athletes.

Less than 24 hours before, Lagat also smashed the Masters 3000 meter record he set in May in Eugene by nearly 20 seconds. Unfortunately, in between, someone named Bernard Lagat had already lowered it to 7:42.75 in Luzern, Switzerland. That is only 13 seconds off his M35 record! This guy is still flying!
IAAF Diamond League - London
Lagat's 2010 Victory Over Mo Farah in 2010 Diamond League London 3000 Meters [photo from:]
Which is the greater accomplishment? Britain and the USA revere the mile and the mile record is probably more memorable to us; the rest of the world may well be more impressed by the 3000 meter record.

Lagat now has his name on the World Masters Record list for both 35 and 40 for the mile, the 3000 meters, and the 5000 meters. What's up next? Lagat says he is back to training and will not race again until September, that he has his eyes on either the Fifth Avenue Mile on September 13th or another event on the same day. Would that be the IAAF World Challenge Meet in Rieti, Italy? That meet must have fond memories for Lagat as that was the site of his M35 record-setting 3000 meter race. Perhaps Lagat would like to place his name on another world record? If everything with the pacesetters and the other competitors rolls in his favor, he may be able to lower his 1500 meter record that he set on June 7th in Birmingham. At that meet, he lowered Anthony Whiteman's M40+ 1500 meter record of 3:42.02 to 3:41.87. I know it is probably a task too far but maybe if he can keep the fitness he has right now, or even improve, perhaps he could crack the 3:40 barrier?

Or could he move up in distance to the 10,000 meter? We need not wonder because, as of now, there is no 10,000 meter event at Rieti; Lagat will have to take up that challenge another day. He already holds the Masters road record for the distance, having smashed the record of Haile Gebresellassie in the Great Manchester Run in May with a time of 27:48.12. That time suggests he could easily take down the track record, currently held by Martti Vainio of Finland at 28:30.88. It should just be a question of time. I can hardly wait.
* In road racing Masters careers are not considered to start until age 40; Athletics has considered Masters careers to start at age 35. Athletics wants to have one age for all, and sprinters certainly cannot compete with the world's best once they reach age 35. That is clearly not true for the longer track events like 5000 and 10,000 meters where 35 year old runners like Gebresellassie in his day, and Lagat more recently, commanded the wary respect of the best Open athletes when stepping to the starting line of any track event from 1500 meters to 10,000 meters.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Who's in for Flint? A Focus on Men's Teams

July 22 2015. We are now less than a month away from the USATF Masters 1 Mile Road championships as part of the HealthPlus CRIM Festival of Races in Flint, Michigan. On Friday evening, August 21st, Masters runners from across the country will try their feet on the roads of Flint to see who is the fastest of them all.

We are sandwiched between the Professional Runners (Women 7 pm; Men 7:07 pm) and the High School Challenge and Young Runners Mile (7:45 pm), with the Michigan Mile, open to all, finishing things off at 8 pm. Many runners will enjoy the challenge of running a fleet mile on Friday, getting a few quick hours of shut-eye and then bouncing off to the starting line of the famous CRIM 10 Mile Run Saturday morning at 8 am. For those who are not quite that ambitious, or would like to sleep a little later, there is an 8K and a 5K race later in the morning.

Masters Women start at 7:20 pm and Masters Men at 7:30 pm. And who will tow the line?  Last year, with the exception of the Atlanta Track Club, all of the teams entered came from the Midwest and Middle Atlantic. This year we will have Men's teams from Coast to Coast and from the Mountain West. Most runners and teams have not entered yet but the Cal Coast Track Club is sending a 40+ team so we know there will be some west coast speed. So far we know John Gardiner is coming from Cal Coast but are not sure who will join him. Christian 'Cush' Cushing-Murray showed us at San Diego that he has Half Marathon chops. I hope he will be coming to show us that he still has a miler's legs under him. Whoever comes, Cal Coast will be a force to reckon with.
John Gardiner, 3rd from the right, is already entered. Quite likely he will be joined by two or three others who are in this photo, from the far left, Rob Arsenault, Jerome Vermeulen, Jonathan May, Gardiner, 'Cush' Cushing-Murray, and David Olds [photo from facebook:]
 From the other end of the country comes the formidable Greater Boston Track Club, which is sending both a 40+ and a 50+ club. Christian Blondin, who ran a 4:13 in a very fast Manchester (NH) Road Mile earlier this year and a 4:06 1500 meter run at the USATF Masters Indoor Championships, is the one runner identified so far for Greater Boston's 40+ team.

Chris Blondin after his 4:06 1500 meter run at 2015 USATF Indoor TF Championships [photo from Facebook:]
Who else will be coming? It could be a classic east/west battle for the crown. But there are no doubt, teams from the Midwest and Middle Atlantic areas who will contend. I expect Patient Endurance Racing from Michigan to defend their crown
Patient Endurance Racing after the 2014 USATF 5K XC Championships in Carmel IN. [photo from Facebook:/]
and the Genesee Valley Harriers, who took 2nd last year will, no doubt, be looking to shake things up as well.
Genesee Valley Harriers picture from December 2012 [photo from Facebook:]

In the 50+ division we already have the Greater Boston Track Club entered, as noted, with Bill Newsham identified for the club.The Ann Arbor Track Club did not compete in the 50+ division last year but will this year. Hugh Kuchta, who took 2nd in the M55 division here in 5:44 last year, is their lone runner identified so far.

I presume that the Playmakers Elite/New Balance team will be back in action. Last year they had the luxury of splitting their top 6 runners into 2 teams that were quite closely matched, finishing within 10 seconds of each other.
The Playmakers Elite 50+ Team at the Club XC Championships where they took 3rd place and sewed up the Club Grand Prix win for 2014 (Eric Stuber is holding the plaque, with J.D. Pepper, Daniel Dixon, and Ruben Henderson to the right of the picture, his left)--[photo from Facebook: Elite%2FNew Balance/keywords_top]

Team B (Eric Stuber, Daniel Dixon, and J.D. Pepper) ranged from 5:01 to 5:09 while Team A (Ron Zywicki, Tim Lambrecht, and Ruben Henderson) ranged from 5:07 to 5:11. This year they may have to strategize a bit more with the added competition. Although with such closely matched runners, fitness on the day will mean more than any general seeding.

In the 60+ division there are teams entered from Michigan, Colorado and Northern California. Ann Arbor TC is sending an A and a B team. The indomitable Wally Hayes, bouncing back from getting a stent for his heart in early April, is competing for the A team but their other road warriors are not yet identified. I presume that John, the 'Iron Man', Tarkowski will be there for Ann Arbor but there are some imponderables. Doug Goodhue was injured at Club Cross last year, causing some nagging knee pain which forced him out of the USATF 8K Championship at brea CA. He has since run some good 10K's. Will he be fully fit? Will he run for the 60+ team or will Ann Arbor also enter a 70+ team?
Ann Arbor TC does it all from racing to race organization--from left to right at the Dexter-Ann Arbor Run-Doug Goodhue (the Silver Bullet), Wally Hayes, and Mitch Garner (also President of the RRCA)--[photo on Facebook: /]

And what about Lloyd Hansen? Hansen suffered a stress fracture in a Half Marathon race in Des Moines in April. He has since been able to resume training but it is not clear that he will be fully recovered, and even if so, will he want to travel all the way from Salt Lake City for a 1 mile run? The Ann Arbor B team has only Dave Minier identified so far.
Dave and Barb Minier after Dave took top Grand Master honors at the T-Rex 10 Miler on July 4 2015 [photo on Facebook:]
 The Boulder Running Company is sending a juggernaut of a team. Of the three runners identified so far, one, Doug Bell, is a Masters Hall of Famer and another, Jan Frisby, is a multiple Runner of the Year and recent record smasher. Bell anchors the team; I don't know when he last ran a race as short as a mile but he did run a 2 mile at Longmont CO last November in 11:37. Frisby, the long strider from Grand Junction, is stepping down in age division to shore up the BRC 60+ team. Even though Jan is shattering M70 records, he is likely to be a depth runner on this team.  

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]
John Victoria rounds out their entrants, at least based on entries so far.Victoria ran an 18:58 5K in the St. Patrick's Day run in his hometown of Colorado Springs. Devin Croft is entered as an individual but I would expect him to be part of the team too.

Devin Croft [photo from Facebook:]

 The Excelsior Running Club from Northern California has also entered a team. One runner has been identifed; if the others are anywhere near his class, the other teams will definitely need to take notice. Tom Bernhard, who ran a 17:40 5K on the 4th of July and a 37:14 10K on Memorial Day, will, no
doubt, be up toward the front in this division.
Tom Bernhard, crossing the finish line at the Morgan Hill 5K in 17:40 on the 4th of July [photo from Facebook:]
 The focus of this article is on teams and there are, as yet, no women's teams entered. I would be remiss, however, if I did not mention that Sabra Harvey of Texas is entered as an individual. Harvey set the W65 10K record of 42:37 at Dedham MA in April 2014