Category Archives: athletics

Jeptoo, Deba and an NYC Ladies Race Recap.

Yesterday I was probably the most anti-social person in my family as I sat fixed for most of the afternoon by the kitchen table trying to find an alternative stream to ABC’s coverage of the 2013 ING New York City Marathon. The reporters were enthusiastic and bouncy but it didn’t stop me cringing at their occasional errors:

’82 countries represented here, including Miami...’ that was from the weather reporter.

‘Runners took part in a 3.1 mile race during the Staten Island Half Marathon’ Yeah sometimes we wish it was only 3.1.

But you know maybe it was the excitement of the big event. ABC had a good go at doing some wrestling type comparison stats, turning it into a running SMACK DOWN between the athletes who were topping the World Marathon Majors leader board. I was half hoping for someone to come out and shout ‘LET’S GET READY TO RUMBLE!’.

It was a big year for the New York Marathon after Hurricane Sandy had caused so much devastation and the tragedy of the Boston Marathon bombing. You could tell that Mary Wittenburg the CEO of the New York Road Runners was emotional and I started to get the chin wobbles myself. I can’t help it, I’ve said it before, running and athletics make me cry.

Anyhow, the build up started so well but it all seemed to go to pot at ABC when the actual races started. If you blinked then it’s highly likely that you would have missed the start of the women’s race on the ABC stream and been greeted by more adverts or coverage of a kids choir. Lovely choir but, you know, I wanna’ see the running.

The women’s race began with a complete surprise. New York based Ethiopian Buzunesh Deba went flying out at an early fast pace with her compatriot Tigist Tufa Dimisse just behind her. The chasing pack made no attempt to close them down and at one point the gap stood at 3 minutes. Now one can only guess at what as behind Deba’s tactics: was it the thrill of running in the city that has been her home since she was 18? Was she trying to out run the best in the world by putting enough distance between her and them? Or had she made a huge error? Typically there were noises from the commentators about how she and Dimisse had gone off too soon and would soon be over taken. I remember hearing the same said about Mizuki Noguchi ┬áduring the Athens Olympics, although she waited until the 16 mile mark to pull away. The commentators said then that Noguchi would blow up but she went on to take Olympic gold. I was seriously hoping that Deba was going to be rewarded for her gutsy tactics.

It wasn’t all quiet at the back though. Priscah Jeptoo started to pull away from the chasing pack and ended up running about 40 minutes of the race on her own, trying to claw Deba and Dimisse back to her. The mental and physical strength it must have taken to leave the comfort of a group of runners to battle on regardless just shows what a great athlete she is. The ABC commentary was heard to make jibes about her running style: ‘like a chariot with blades sticking out of the sides’. The editor of an athletics magazine even called her style ‘ugly knock-kneed’ and ‘ungainly’. If she knows what people say about her running style, she clearly does not give a hoot because as mile 21 approached Jeptoo had Deba in her sights.

Up ahead Deba had thrown up and you could tell she was starting to suffer for her efforts. Dimisse was already a long way back and now it looked like Deba was starting to sense the inevitable as Jeptoo closed behind her. She looked over her shoulder not once but a few times to see how close Jeptoo was. And as she turned her head for the umpteenth time, Jeptoo swept by without even glancing at Deba.

Jeptoo looked relaxed and comfortable and did not give a hint of the effort it must have taken to close such a huge gap during the race. People continued to comment on her running style on social media and I find this rather amusing because there is probably only one athlete with ‘perfect’ style and that’s David Rudisha. But I doubt even he could continue to run like the machine he is over 26.2 miles. Jeptoo obviously hasn’t tried to correct her style to suit coaches or biomechanists and she clearly isn’t injured as her season proves. She is running to her own beat and to the path of least resistance. She doesn’t fight it, she goes with it and as a result she flies. If you look at her upper body, her torso is always strong so her power comes from places other than her legs.

Once Jeptoo had over taken Deba the rest of the race was straight forward. A powerful looking Jeptoo swept on to win with Deba in a more than deserved second place. The next three places were taken by Latvia, France and Italy showing that there is depth among European athletes over this distance.

As Jeptoo and Deba crossed the line I sat in my kitchen and clapped my hands at how awesome both these women were. Individually they both showed guts and determination. Deba could have dropped out when she started to be sick. Jeptoo could have just let Deba run away with it but instead she fought back. The last 6-8 miles of this marathon were a joy to watch and again I found myself with the chin wobbles accompanied by an over whelming wish to go to New York and run the roads the same roads as Jeptoo and Deba.

Priscah Jeptoo crosses the line of the 2013 ING New York City Marathon: pic from NY Daily News website.

 

Run With An Idea Debate: Real Runner’s Don’t Walk

Welcome to another debate from Run With An Idea. This week’s debate is:

‘Real Runner’s Don’t Walk’

When I first saw this topic I was sure I’d be of the opinion that yes, of course, real runner’s don’t walk. And while it is true that many runners would eventually hope that they could complete a course or training run without walking, I don’t agree with the fact that walking makes you less of a runner.

Lately I’ve been injured and even though I’d rather I was able to run an entire run like I did months ago it’s not always possible so I use a walk break to allow me to stretch, gather my thoughts and complete my run. People who are new to running usually start with a walk/run programme, and there is nothing wrong with this. It is another form of interval training to build fitness in a safe way, a bit like a fartlek. Trail runners are occasionally forced to walk because terrain or incline mean it’s not safe or possible to run. So there are plenty of occasions when walking is valid, it does not mean that they are any less a runner. If ‘runner’ runners were really honest they would admit to occasions when they’ve been forced to walk.

The thing I have always loved about running is it’s accessibility to all. I love that anyone regardless of ability can put on a pair of trainers and get out the door to get fit. Running snobbery like this can really irritate me as running is not an elite club. Elite running is an elite club but not running itself. I can see now the type of runner who gets annoyed by walkers and thinks that they don’t belong: male, club runner, checks their watch a lot, tuts at other runners, you know who I’m talking about. There would be no reason for them to tut if race organisers would place people in pens according to their predicted time. Or maybe they could have separate pens for runner’s who know they’re going to need walk breaks.

If you run you are a runner, whether you need a walking break or not. People should not be discouraged from a hobby that keeps them happy and healthy to satisfy running snobs. What would we rather? That runner/walker’s stayed at home and became sedentary again? No, they are runners and they should be supported for doing everything possible to keep them active and moving.

And just so we’re not down on all walkers: Rob Heffernan from Cork, the winner of the 50km Race Walk World Championships, completed the course in 3 hours and 37 minutes. Two minutes faster than I ran my marathon (42km) last year. Walking isn’t necessarily something to be sniffed at.

Run Your Own Race: Lessons in life and running from Mo Farah.

This evening I sat down like many athletics fans to watch Mo Farah go for his second double double in the men’s 5000m at the World Championships. I usually get butterflies before watching Mo race but tonight I felt worse. I felt nauseous and unwell as the field lined up. The feelings of unease continued and didn’t really settke as the race started.

Since his double win in London you just knew that Mo was going to become a marked man. Teams of athletes from around the globe including the dominant East African nations would be watching him, waiting to see what he did. They were ready to pounce on any moves he might make, talking to each other, possibly boxing him in to stop any tactical change in pace by the Olympic champion.

At one point early on in the race tonight one of the Kenyan athletes, I think it was Koech, tried to inject a bit of early pace and I immediately thought that this was how they were going to beat him: throw in some fast laps and run the finish out of him. A lot of the field seemed to panic and go with it. But not Mo. Mo sat back, unphased, doing his own thing. An Ethiopian athlete and South African athlete sat just behind Mo seemed to look at each other perplexed. Why wasn’t Mo Farah going with this injection of pace?

After less than 800m of the faster pace Koech seemed to realise that Mo wasn’t game for it and the pace slowed. And then all of a sudden Mo was at the front. The Kenyan and Ethiopian athletes, running as a team tried to respond, maybe trying to box him in, but every time they tried he drove forward again. He had an answer for everything they tried. They had no come back.

In the final lap I was worried that the athletes around might come back at him. But the hard work that he has done this year, such as fitting in sessions with his training partner Galen Rupp straight after winning the London Anniversary Games, just took him to another level above the pack trying to chase him down in the final straight. It was lesson in hard work and commitment. It was a lesson in running your own race.

The field tonight ended up dancing to Mo Farah’s tune. He didn’t panic, he didn’t get flustered and he stuck with his race plan. He didn’t worry about the form or the training of anyone else. He did what he had to do.

We may not think it but Mo’s race has lessons for even the most amateur of runners. Don’t worry about anyone else’s PB. Don’t worry about how many miles someone has told you they run every week. Care not that someone has run more races than you. On the day it’s all down to you. Run your own race and you will be rewarded for it. Lesson over.

The Baby Faced Destroyer

Earlier this week athletics fans were given a master class in long distance track running. The tactics were perfect, the wind up of pace unrelenting and the blistering final 400m (59.93 secs) wouldn’t have been too out of place in a club level 4 x 400m relay. I sound like I’m describing Mo Farah’s 10000m the other night. Well, I’m not. I’m talking about probably one of the greatest female distance runners, nay, possibly THE greatest ever female distance runner, Tirunesh Dibaba AKA: The Baby Faced Destroyer.

Picture from supersport.com

She has perfect running form. She glides effortlessly and gracefully after 24 laps as she does after 2 laps. Her record is beyond compare with 5 World Championship track titles, 3 Olympic golds and 5 World Cross Country titles. She did the 5000m/10000m double at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, a whole Olympiad before Mo succeeded in his attempts. She is dominant and few can challenge her.

Now I don’t want to seem down on Mo (I’m not, I’m a massive fan) but someone on twitter pointed out that during the women’s 10000m the commentators talked about Mo Farah a fair bit without referring to the race that was unfolding before them. Frustrating and a tad disrespectful to the women who were racing their hearts out. After the race they also mentioned the presenters mentioned that they never tend to interview her ‘because she doesn’t speak English’. Hello! Interpreters?!

And lately I’ve also noticed a trend in women’s distance running where we only seem to laud those whose careers are already over, like Joan Benoit and Ingrid Kristiansen. But the men are always talked about in the present and their achievements are raised aloft but not so of Dibaba.

Maybe it’s because we don’t know her story. Maybe Dibaba prefers it that way. Maybe she doesn’t want the fuss and is happy for bigger personlaities like Usain Bolt to take centre stage, but I really think more should be made of this unbelievable distance running legend of our time. This diminutive athlete is one of my running heroes and it is always a pleasure to see her in full flow. Bow down to the Baby Faced Destroyer!

The Olympics One Year On: Did they ‘inspire a generation?’

This is my first post for ‘Run With An Idea’, set up by bloggers Carrie and Dashinista with the intention of sparking respectful debate among the running and fitness blogosphere. Each blogger will blog about the same topic and hopefully it will trigger some interesting discussions. This is the first topic ‘The Olympics One Year On: Did they inspire a generation?’.

At the age of 5 my son has a huge awareness of what the Olympics are. He knows which sports are involved and he knows which are not. We live in South Wales, a very rugby orientated region. I’ve offered to take him to minis rugby but he doesn’t want to go because ‘it’s not in the ‘Lympics’. He wants to do swimming, cycling and running because that’s what he saw the most of during those exciting few weeks last Summer.

He watched the London games alongside his Dad and I. He even got to go to a morning of hockey in the Olympic stadium. He knows who Usain Bolt and Mo Farah are and he sets up his own steeplechase track, complete with paddling pool water jump, in the back garden. So when I think has a generation been inspired, I look at my son and think yes, they have.

I don’t just have to use my son as an example though. Just after the Olympics I was training at my local track and commented to the coach how busy it was. There were probably around 50 children aged between 10 and 13 situated at one point at the edge of the track being taught how to warm up and the different drills. I heard people complain about how crowded it was and how these kids didn’t understand track etiquette (i.e. don’t walk on the inside lane!) but I got a pang of excitement thinking that the reason these children were here was because of the London Olympics. So again, do I think a generation has been inspired? Yes I do.

However with anything like this the fever dies down and people become less keen. The usual sports like football and rugby (the professional sports where you earn lots of money) take the focus again and children forget about the other sports that they watched a year ago. Children live very much in the present and if it’s not visible to them regularly they might not remember that only recently they had wanted to be the next Chris Hoy or the next Heather Stanning. And with cuts to school sports and venues such as athletics tracks (three that I know of in the past year since the Olympics) the inspiration can only drive children so far. The inspired generation need somewhere to try the new sports and a new generation of coaches to drive them forwards and motivate them.

In the next couple of weeks we will see the London Anniversary games at the Olympic Stadium. I hope it will bring Olympic fever back and with it the inspiration from last year. But inspiration is one thing. Once the spark of inspiration is there it needs support and resources to turn from dream to reality. I hope there’s some government officials out there who will have the inspiration to stop cutting more and more money from sport otherwise I’m not sure we’ll see many more inspirational British Super Saturdays.

Dear Drug Cheats, I feel like a mug

Dear Dopers and Drug Cheats

I feel like a bit of a mug. I am a huge athletics fan and for many years I’ve proabably been a fan of yours. I’ve probably watched many of your races, cheered you on and all the while not knowing that you’ve been deceiving everyone around you.

There have been many athletes testing positive for banned substances all over the world of late and I could name them individually but what I do want to is tell you, the dopers and drug cheats, is how I feel.

I feel totally mugged off. Every time an athlete tests positive a little bit of my love and respect for the sport that I love gets eroded. Athletes who cheat obviously have no respect for their fellow athletes, their federations and governing body and least of all I’m guessing their fans. Which is ridiculous because we’re the ones who pay you via ticket fees. Athletes who have been cheating will have signed autographs, posed for pictures with children and accepted accolades and dedications from admiring peers all the while knowing that they are deceiving everyone around them. It’s really rather sickening.

If it’s a first time offence you serve a two year ban and come back with no real consequences. Some athletes seem quite happy to chest bump and parade around like they’re super heroes. Athletes like them show no remorse, they’re just sorry that they didn’t get caught. It’s arrogant and seedy and it makes me angry. If you don’t think you’re good enough then why not work harder? Why not put in a little bit extra? Why risk your health and well being just in case it gives you a few hundredths of a second?

When an athlete I’ve been a fan of tests positive I always feel embarrassed. I don’t know why I’m embarrassed, it’s not like I would have known this was going to happen, but still I do. It means I got you wrong and I have to defend my love of athletics to people who already think athletics is a complete joke. So thank you for that doper/drug cheat. I hope you enjoy your ban and let’s face it, you’ll be back after 2 years like nothing happened. But us fans will remember and we won’t be cheering you on any more.

Sincerely,

Me.