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Ultra national champion and world & U.S. record holder Zach Bitter and two past race champions headline top expected runners; event record prize purse available; register today to be part of the “Endurance Town USA” experience on April 30-May 1, 2016
 
SAN LUIS OBISPO, Calif. – (April 25, 2016) – The San Luis Obispo Marathon + Half Marathon presented by LeftLaneSports.com has announced its elite fields that include two-time USA ultra champion Zach Bitter, two past champions Van McCarty (inaugural Marathon winner) and Joe Thorne (2013 Marathon and 2014 Half Marathon champion), and local talent Brandon Messerly and Erin Tracht. The 5th anniversary SLO Marathon + Half event edition, an Endurance Town USA running tradition produced by Race SLO, will be held on April 30-May 1.
Monday, 25 April 2016 14:34

Roach Notches 4th Win at Windy Big Sur Marathon

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The Big Sur International Marathon is known for its hills – and its wind.  Today’s conditions were among the most challenging in the event’s 31-year history.  Gusty headwinds of up to 25 mph greeted more than 7,100 runners taking part in today’s six race distances. Despite the challenging conditions, local runner Adam Roach, 32, stayed strong to win his fourth Big Sur title, a record surpassed only by one other runner, Brad Hawthorne, from the early years of the marathon.  In addition to this year’s victory, Roach took the title in 2012, 2013 and 2015. His 2016 time was 2:35:36.

               

Remarking about the conditions Roach said, “It’s always really windy from 5 to 9 (miles), but at Hurricane Point the wind came swirling off the hill. I felt like I was going to fly into the ocean it was so strong.”

               

But Roach and two others runners, Justin Patananan, 35, of Lancaster, CA and Jason Karbelk, 29, of San Francisco stayed close for much of the race, with only one second separating them until mile 22. Roach and Patananan battled until the final miles, but ultimately Roach won by just over a minute. Patananan was second at 2:36:41 and Karbelk third at 2:38:31.

               

Olympic marathoner Magdalena Boulet won the women’s race with a time of 3:01:27.  A ten-year veteran of marathon running, Boulet transitioned to running trail and ultra-distance events in 2013 and won the famed Western States 100 in her debut appearance in 2015. In her training for this year’s Western States she decided to run Big Sur, saying she “took advantage of running 26 miles on a gorgeous course.”

               

Tyler Stewart, 38, of Tiburon, CA, finished second at 3:03:15 and Elizabeth Pittaway, 31, of New South Wales, Australia finished third at 3:07:51.

               

Along their 26.2-mile route north, the leaders joined participants in the 21, 10.6 and 9-mile distance events.  A four-person marathon relay and 5K run were also held on the scenic Highway 1 course.

              

 A tenth of the marathon field competed in Monday’s Boston Marathon and traveled to Big Sur for the Boston 2 Big Sur Challenge.  Runners are ranked by combined times of both events and this year’s B2B winners both hailed from Australia.  Neil Pearson, 43, of Sydney, who came in seventh in the marathon, had a combined time of 5:25:07 to take the male title. Elizabeth Pittaway, third in the women’s marathon, took first in the B2B with a combined Boston-Big Sur time of 6:10:14.

 

The Big Sur International Marathon is a “bucket list” race for many, and is a popular destination event.  Runners from 49 states and 37 countries travelled to this year’s event.  The marathon is held the last Sunday of April, but marathon slots are determined the previous July through a random drawing process.

 

More information and race results can be found at www.bsim.org .

Eliud Kipchoge came within eight seconds of a new World Record today, at the 2016 Virgin London Marathon. His 2:03:05 came from a hard fought race, with his 25th mile run in 4:35!

 

"It was a good course. The support was perfect-the crowd was fantastic and it was good to get a PB!" noted the victor himself, Eliud Kipchoge.

 

Look at this photo, no really close. You are seeing history here. Eliud Kipchoge may be the best marathoner in the world. The difference is this: especially for Kenyan, Eliud is exceptionally well spoken, and quite proud.

 

The pride is not about ego, although Eliud Kipchoge, by Kenyan standards, does speak his mind and also explains his motivation. The pride comes from the confidence that he has both in his coach and his workouts.

 

One thing is for certian, Eliud Kipchoge loves the sport, and loves to race marathons.

 

Last year, during his post race commentary at the 2015 Virgin London Marathon, Eliud Kipchoge gave a master class in how to run a marathon. Kipchoge told the assembled media then, after providing a whipping to Wilson Kipsang that had not been done before. The beauty of last year’s race was that, after 23 miles, Eliud Kipchoge just dusted Kipsang and went on to win in 2:04:42.

 

In the Sept of 2015, Eliud Kipchoge ran Berlin, and with his only real competition being his new insoles on his shoes, Kipchoge ran 2:04:00. When asked about those errant insoles in London, Eliud was circumspect: “The shoes must be good, as even with the insoles, I ran fast.”

 

It is the smile that one sees when Eliud runs a great race that affects me. In October 2014, when Eliud won Chicago, he broke the field between 32 and 40 kilometers. As he ran away from the final two challengers at 37k, Eliud had a broad grin. Afterwards, when I queried Mr. Kipchoge on his patented smile, Eliud noted, “It was a sunny day and I was happy.”

 

Eliud Kipchoge is the zen master of the marathon in my mind. His whole body of running, from his gold medal in the 5,000 meters in Saint Denis in 2003, to his win today in London, it has all been about consistency, focus and confidence.

 

Kipchoge’s race today was in cool, but windy conditions. The pace, however, was insane, and I tweeted out, “insane pace.”

 

The mile was run in 4:30, with 9:17 for two miles and 14:16 for the 5k. Eliud Kipchoge, Wilson Kipsang, Stanley Biwott, Dennis Kimetto were all there, along with Kenenisa Bekele at “90 percent.” The pace was relentless, as the 10k was hit in 28:37! Yep, 28 minutes, and 37 seconds, a two hour, one minute marathon pace. The 15k went by at 43:17, and the ten miles hit at 46:32.

 

When asked about the early pace after the race, Eliud KIpchoge noted that one must run fast to compete. As a song writer, Steve Forbert, wrote three decades ago, “you can not win if you do not play.”

 

Eliud Kipchoge was resplendent in hat and gloves with a bright stripe on each, as were other runners. Kipchoge allowed one of the pacemakers to move closer to him early on. He was in his zone.

 

From our writer, Justin Lagat of Kenyanathlete.com, we know that Eliud's training had been going well. A session of four times the 2000 meters, followed by 1000 meters, with very short recovery, was one of his last workouts before leaving Eldoret.

 

The half marathon was hit in 61:24, and the race was on!

 

Kimetto was the first to go. There was an incident, early in the race, where Wilson Kipsang, who looked quite good, dusted himself off and was back in the fast fight.

 

The pace was relentless, and they were under the World Record pace! Can they keep it up?

For Eliud Kipchoge, it was not only about defending his London title, it was about running his PB. David Bedford, who is to developing racing fields what Monet is to Impressionistic painting, suggested that a World Record was possible.

 

Wilson Kipsang, two time London champion, and former WR, did not believe that a world record was really possible, with tough athletes beating each other up!

 

But, the pace persisted, with 15 miles hit in 1:10:12, and 30k hit in 1:27:14, a WR time except for the fact that all requirements for a WR were not in place, Kipchoge, Biwott, and surprise of surprises, Kenenisa Bekele.

 

Dennis Kimetto continues to show less than top marathon shape, falling back enough to finish in 2:11:44 in ninth. The pace around 1:20 into the race put him out of the picture. Wilson Kipsang was off the back around 16 miles, and would finish fifth in 2:07:52, his best in one year, but not what Mr. Kipsang desired.

 

But as Stanley Biwott and Eliud Kipchoge ran next to each other, Kenenisa Bekele was having his best race since 2014, as he has battled achilles and overuse injuries (more from overcompensation for his injuries, per Manager Jos Hermans).

 

Kenenisa was in no wheres last from 30k to the finish, but his third in 2:06:36 shows a return to fitness that should impress the Ethiopian selectors.

 

Now, as the real racing began, Eliud Kipchoge had a worthy competitor in Stanley Biwott, who won the 2015 NYC Marathon. Kipchoge and Biwott ran next to each other, as they develoepd 12 seconds on Kenenisa between 17 and 18.6 miles (30k). This close running went on for 10 kilometers, per Eliud Kipchoge.

 

Twenty miles was passed in 1:33:40, 21 was passed in 1:38:31, and 22 in 1:43:18. Still, Biwott persisted and Eliud ran with confidence and focus.

 

Could this be Stanley Biwott's day? Bekele would tell the story afterwards that he missed five of his six drink bottles as Mr. Biwott had taken some of them. Kenenisa Bekele had that long burn thing going on in his eyes, so you know the Ethiopian WR holder was, well, how do you say Verklemped in Amharic?

 

The dynamic duo of Biwott and Kipchoge hit 23 miles in 1:48:08 and 23 miles in 1:52:41, a 4:43 mile.

 

At 24 miles, Eliud Kipchoge began to increase his turn over once again, from 4:43 to a bit faster.

 

The mile from 24 to 25 was run in 4:35, and at 40 kilometers, Eliud Kipchoge had nine seconds on Mr. Biwott.

 

It was not that Stanley Biwott gave up, it is that a 4:35 mile at the end of a marathon is a rarified skill set, and Stanley had to let go, for he is, after all, human.

 

With a 6:16 last 2kilometers, Eliud Kipchoge showed his confidence in his coach, his training and his training group. For Mr. Kipchoge, this is the, to take a reference from catholic theology, “the trinity.”

 

Eliud Kipchoge does not so much as run away from his competition, but go into another time and space continium.

 

Eliud Kipchoge missed the World Record by eight seconds. It was not that the record was not imporant, it was that his goals of a win and a personal best had been met, and Mr. Kipchoge was soaring. Eight seconds do not mean much to Mr. Kipchoge today. Perhaps another day, another time.

 

When asked by another member of the media on the financial aspects of the sport and marathoning, Kipchoge was quick to respond that his running is not about financial benefit, but a true love of the sport. For others, one might provide a cynical response, but not for Eliud Kipchoge. Eliud Kipchoge can not help but speak from his heart. It is one of his strengths.

 

Watching Eliud Kipchoge, at the top of his form, one feels bad for his competition. This is a man classicly trained in distance running. Starting in cross country, building into a decade or world class track and field, Eliud, like most great runners, took some time to change to long distance running. Now, his favorite session, thirteen times 3 minutes, with a one minute break, has made him strong.

 

But, dear readers, Eliud Kipchoge shows us that nothing comes easy in our sport. Two a day workouts six days a week, with a 40 kilometer Sunday run is de rigeur for runners who respect the distance. Eliud Kipchoge respects the distance. There has been fifteen or sixteen years of fine running to make Eliud Kipchoge, this type of talent does not come overnight.

 

When I queried Mr. Kipchoge about his coach, his training, his training group, and his success today, Eliud Kipchoge smiled and looked around the room.

 

Mr. Kipchoge reminded me of the American actor, Martin Sheen, who played an american president in West Wing in the 1990s and early 2000s. There was an episode where Sheen was announcing his second bid for the American presidency. Sheen put his hands in his pockets, gazed around the room, and owned the room, the airspace and the moment.

 

Eliud Kipchoge looked at his questioners, smiled his beatific smile, and with those eyes that tell so much, and so little, owned the room in the Marlborough House Gardens, in the tent that was the Media Center. Kipchoge looked at us and said, that his success today was not about money, but all about the confidence in his training.

 

“I do not run for money, I run for my love of the sport.”

 

My questions were done.

 

We may be witnessing the greatest marathon racer of the modern era in Eliud Kipchoge.

Friday, 22 April 2016 03:23

Perfecting Coverage of the Marathon

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The Boston Marathon and London Marathon days are two of our busiest days of the year. We manage nine hour live coverage via our social media channels, plus six to eight stories a day for the week preceeding. Carolyn Mather provides a critique of the coverage of the Boston Marathon via streaming or digital. We think that you’ll enjoy this piece from the longtime scribe for Racing South, one of our partners in the Running Network.

 

Over the past decade, my husband, Steve, and I have watched with amusement and a cynical critique as the major marathons attempted to tame the airwaves and get a marathon aired over the internet without major issues. This evening I am pleased to say that the Boston Athletic Association has reason to celebrate the 120th edition of the Boston Marathon.

Monday, 04 April 2016 02:30

Team USA Women Place 3 in Top 25 at Cardiff

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CARDIFF, Great Britain– Team USA had three athletes finish among the top 25, as three athletes set season-bests and the men's and women's teams placed among the top-10 competing nations at IAAF Cardiff University World Half Marathon Championships on March 26.


Leading the charge for the women was Janet Bawcom, who finished in 11th place with a season best of 1:10:46. She split 16:35 21 at 5 km, 33:13 16 at 10 km, 49:41 13 at 15 km and 1:07:01 11 at 20 km. Sara Hall was the next American woman across the finish in 15th place at 1:10:58, and Kellyn Taylor was 25th in 1:12:42.

On the men’s side, Tim Ritchie crossed first for the U.S. as he posted a season best of 1:03:49 for 23rd place. Also with a season best was Jared Ward in 1:04:05, followed by Scott Bauhs in 1:04:34.

Overall, Team USA’s women were fifth at 3:34:26, and the men were sixth at 3:12:28.
 
Bawcom's performance was good enough that she was named USATF's Athlete of the Week.
Monday, 04 April 2016 02:30

Team USA Women Place 3 in Top 25 at Cardiff

Written by

CARDIFF, Great Britain– Team USA had three athletes finish among the top 25, as three athletes set season-bests and the men's and women's teams placed among the top-10 competing nations at IAAF Cardiff University World Half Marathon Championships on March 26.


Leading the charge for the women was Janet Bawcom, who finished in 11th place with a season best of 1:10:46. She split 16:35 21 at 5 km, 33:13 16 at 10 km, 49:41 13 at 15 km and 1:07:01 11 at 20 km. Sara Hall was the next American woman across the finish in 15th place at 1:10:58, and Kellyn Taylor was 25th in 1:12:42.

On the men’s side, Tim Ritchie crossed first for the U.S. as he posted a season best of 1:03:49 for 23rd place. Also with a season best was Jared Ward in 1:04:05, followed by Scott Bauhs in 1:04:34.

Overall, Team USA’s women were fifth at 3:34:26, and the men were sixth at 3:12:28.
 
Bawcom's performance was good enough that she was named USATF's Athlete of the Week.

The Half Marathon on Monterey Bay, a top U.S. destination race produced by the Big Sur Marathon organization, opens for its November 13, 2016 race on Friday, April 1. The annual race, now in its 14th year, takes place on the coast of Central California’s Monterey Peninsula. Nine thousand runners are accepted on a first come, first served basis.

This popular destination race includes iconic locales from the Monterey Peninsula. The scenic course begins in Monterey, running through the historic downtown, into a tunnel where a music and light show is planned, down famed Cannery Row, past the Monterey Bay Aquarium, and into the neighboring town of Pacific Grove.  The rocky shoreline, quaint downtown, crashing waves, shorebirds and marine life of Pacific Grove combine to make this one of the most beautiful races in the country.  The out-and-back course diverges onto a paved coastal recreation trail and finishes near Monterey’s Fisherman’s Wharf.

“I have run dozens of half marathons and some of the biggest in the country and this is…by…far…MY FAVORITE race ever!” commented a 2015 participant. “It has the ease of a small ‘home town’ race but is flawlessly organized by the team that puts on one of the most prestigious races in the world.”

The Half Marathon on Monterey Bay draws runners from all 50 states and two dozen countries.  It also features an elite competition with a $20,000 prize purse.  The standing course record is 1:02:33 set in 2006 by American Ian Dobson. The female course record is 1:09:43 set in 2010 by Ethiopian Belanish Gebre.

This year, the Half Marathon on Monterey Bay is part of the Waves to Wine Challenge, a three-race series encompassing Big Sur Marathon-produced events.  Runners who take part in two half marathons including Monterey Bay in November and the Salinas Valley Half Marathon in August, plus either a Big Sur Marathon April race distance of 9 miles or more, or the June “Run in the Name of Love” 5K will receive a commemorative medallion and be eligible for special sponsor prizes.

Registration for the Half Marathon on Monterey Bay begins April 1, with an “early bird” special entry fee of $100 available through midnight on April 7.  The event also features a 5K and 3K on a section of the Half Marathon course, taking place the day prior.  For more information or to register, visit www.bigsurhalfmarathon.org.

By Larry Eder
 
The marathon is one of the most complicated events to race at the elite level. Experience is key for many, but if one does not have experience, then being around experienced coaching and support is key. With Galen Rupp, you have a guy who trains like a marathoner and is coached by a former WR holder in the marathon (Alberto Salazar). With Meb, you have a guy who has finished 23 of his 24 starts in marathons, and has spent 20 years with the same, fine coach (Bob Larsen). With Jared, you have a thoughtful marathoner with some strong experience, advised and supported by a great coach (Ed Eyestone), wonderful family and supportive team members.
 
In the first half, runners from Meb to Tyler McCandless, to Fernando Cabada to Sam Chelanga. Nick Arciniaga was up front several times, as he tried to build a bit of a rythym.
 
Pace was conservative, as the 5k was hit in 15:48, 10k in 31:34, 15k in 47:12, and 20k in 63:02. In the building heat, even that pace caused discomfort and the lead pack dropped to 30, then, to 20, then, to twelve.
 
On the four loop course (six miles, then a two mile run to finish), Galen Rupp and Meb Kefelzighi stayed in the pack until the half at 1:06:32.
 
Galen Rupp stayed out of trouble, early on. Galen sat off the right arm of Luke Puskedra. Meb floated around, as is his want. Rupp's coach, Alberto Salazar, had told Galen to stay out of the lead as long as he could. He darts up front, and then, in row two, and really is just getting himself into a groove. This time, not much of a groove, as some things were hurting. At 40, Meb has hurts guys ten years younger do not, but he knows how to minimize them. Keflezighi's attention to detail is key in all he does. His confidence in his Coach, Bob Larsen is also quite important.
 
Luke Puskedra, ranked third in the field looked good, as did many others. Matt Llano was looking good, as did Nick Arciniaga, who lead much of the early race. Patrick Smythe, Sean Quigley, Tim Ritchie were among the marathoners up in the lead pack.
 
But those things began to change. That 2:12 pace, in hot weather, took its toll. That there was little or no shade on the sunny, hot day was damaging to all of the field. Everyone felt the pain, some just delt with it better.
 
Tyler Pennel, he of sub four minute mile speed, decided to break open the race, and break it open he did. His quick mile dropped all of the pretenders. Even some of the non-pretenders, like Jared Ward, knew that they had to keep themselves in control. " It was hot and it was hard. That's it." was how Jared Ward described it. Tyler made his move at 25k.
 
At just before sixteen miles, Tyler Pennel dropped a 4:47 mile and they were off, with Meb, Galen and Tyler breaking the pack. Pennel looked good running very fast. Galen went after him, as did Meb, as did Jared Ward, who had come up through the pack.
 
"When Tyler made that move, and Meb and Rupp went with him, I thought that's a hard move. if they can make it, I am not going to catch them. So, I went as fast as I could, and I ran a 4:50 mile, and I am sure that was my fastest mile." noted Jared Web, as the race started to get away from him.
 
From mile 16 to mile 18, Tyler Pennel, Galen Rupp and Meb Keflezighi ran together. Then, Galen took the lead at the water stop, with Meb in tow and Tyler Pennel went back fast. By nineteen miles, Jared Ward was stalking third place...it was only a matter of time. Tyler Pennel, in only his second marathon, had made a brave move, and would hold onto take fifth.
 
But it was to be Meb who broke Tyler Pennel, with Galen floating right there. Just after mile 18, with Tyler Pennel falling back, Galen Rupp floated to the front, with no additional percieved effort.
 
Galen and Meb ran together miles, 19-21. Galen, a couple of times, looked to be in some discomfort. I could not figure out if he dropped his hat on purpose or by mistake. The pace was getting faster, as Meb and Galen tested each other. Now, was the time of reckoning.
 
Meb was pushing, and Galen was running real close. In Meb's mind, Galen was riding him pretty close. " I told him this was not a track, but a road."
 
In tough, tight races, there are opposing race plans. Bob Larsen and Meb spoke about getting Meb on the team, and when the time came to test, use his experience. Galen Rupp and Alberto Salazar were much more cautious; stay behind the leaders as long as you could. Obviously those plans clashed, and there are words, but athletes get over it.
 
In races, there are times when the competition gets hot and heated, and words can be exchanged, and they are. I recall the 1980 Olympic Trials where Craig Virgin road Herb Lindsay for about six laps. Meb and Galen had a disagreement, but that is the confluence of tactics and competition. It happens.
 
Meb Keflezighi got Galen and Meb away from their competitors, like putting about a minute and three seconds between 18 miles and 21 miles.
 
Around 22 miles, Galen Rupp, floating along, just did the natural thing and took the lead. As he slightly increased the pace, Galen looked more relaxed and he broke Meb quickly. In Meb's head, Meb was trying to make sure he made the team and that Jared and perhaps others were not going to catch him. That increase was to 4:47, and Meb had to make a decision: take Galen on, or make the team. Meb chose to make the team, and Galen Rupp floated away.
 
Between miles 22 and 24, Galen Rupp won his marathon.
 
Checking his position three or four times, anbd obviously hot, Galen Rupp ran 9:43 for two miles between 22-24 miles. Galen looked uncomfortable in the 18-21 miles, but looked fantastic as he ran over the last two miles. I recall Frank Shorter noting in the 1972 Olympic Games marathon, that he felt poorly in the early slogging of the marathon, and better when he broke it open.
 
I noted last night that Galen would not be here if Coach Alberto Salazar did not think he was ready. But it was hot, and the sun was unrelenting.
 
Galen Rupp ran hard, yet stayed within himself. Did he face discomfort? Of course. His last mile was just getting through with a uncomfortable experience, but Rupp was winning and feeling uncomfortable is part of the game at this level.
 
Meb Keflezighi kept his cool, and protected his margin. Jared Ward swept past Tyler Pennel, put some real estate between himself and kept a safe margin of 1:12 over the surging Luke Puskedra.
 
Rupp won the race in 2:11:12, in his debut. In that debut win, he followed the path of his coach, Alberto Salazar, who won his first marathon only three decades ago. His time was sixth fastest time in Olympic Trials history. Galen was quite ebullent, yet tired, speaking on his victory:
 
"I am very excited with the way it went. Tremendous honor to represent the United States. It is the greatest honor on earth. I am so hapy to be able to make my devut here and to be able to win was unbelievable. I am so honored to be going to the Olympics."
 
Meb Keflezighi, making his fourth Olympic team, ran 2:12:20 to take the second position. A tremendous race for the 40 year old super star. Meb noted, " I was cramping a bit early in the race but delft better a little after halfway."
 
In third, Jared Ward, coached by Ed Eyestone, ran 2:13:00 for the all important third place on the Olympic team. Ed Eyestone, Ward's coach, made two Olympic teams and was quite pleased with Ward's buildup. Jared noted, of his first Olympic team: "With 600 meters to go, I started singing that song and changing the words. I said, "do it for your momma, do it for your wife, do it for your kids, and do it for your life. It was just enough of it and that was the end of it."
 
Luke Puskedra ran a smart race, finishing fourth place! Tyler Pennel, the man Meb and Galen credit with breaking open the race, took fifth. And Matt Llano, HOKA ONE ONE Northern Arizona Elite, took sixth, in 2:15:16.
 
The team for Rio is strong. That Meb and Galen battled it out is no surprise. Jared Ward and Luke Puskedra is the new generation of marathoners showing their presence and Matt Llano joins that group. Some tought DNFs, with Dathan Ritzenhein and Tyler McCandless, but, that again, is part of a race or competition of this level.
 
Did the heat play a role in today's race? A huge role, but how does one think the weather will be in RIO?
 
Huge dnf rates today, with 166 men starting and 105 men finishing today.
 
In taking a day to consider the race once again, I am not surprised by the outcome. Galen did his job, with precision, and should be congratulated. Meb Keflezighi is the most experienced championship marathoner we have in the U.S., and his drive is like few others: he was going to make that team if there was any chance. Jared Ward used the support of his coach, family and friends to encourage his training and focus: coming down from the road of Utah, Jared Ward ran the race of his life to make the U.S. team.
 
2016 U.S. Olympic Trials marathon, Men, 1. Galen Rupp, Nike Oregon Track Club, 2:11:12, 2. Meb Keflezighi, Skechers, 3. Jared Ward, Saucony, 2:13:00, 4. Luke Puskedra, Nike, 2:14:12, 5. Tyler Pennel, Reebok ZAP Fitness, 2:14:57, 6. Matthew Llano, HOKA One One NAZ, 2:15:16, 7. Shadrack Biwott, Mammoth TC, 2:15:23, 8. Patrick Smythe, NIKE, 2:15:26, 9. Sean Quigley, Saucony, 2:15:52, 10. Nick Arciniaga, Under Armour, 2:16:25, #‎la2016
By Larry Eder
 
The marathon is one of the most complicated events to race at the elite level. Experience is key for many, but if one does not have experience, then being around experienced coaching and support is key. With Galen Rupp, you have a guy who trains like a marathoner and is coached by a former WR holder in the marathon (Alberto Salazar). With Meb, you have a guy who has finished 23 of his 24 starts in marathons, and has spent 20 years with the same, fine coach (Bob Larsen). With Jared, you have a thoughtful marathoner with some strong experience, advised and supported by a great coach (Ed Eyestone), wonderful family and supportive team members.
 
In the first half, runners from Meb to Tyler McCandless, to Fernando Cabada to Sam Chelanga. Nick Arciniaga was up front several times, as he tried to build a bit of a rythym.
 
Pace was conservative, as the 5k was hit in 15:48, 10k in 31:34, 15k in 47:12, and 20k in 63:02. In the building heat, even that pace caused discomfort and the lead pack dropped to 30, then, to 20, then, to twelve.
 
On the four loop course (six miles, then a two mile run to finish), Galen Rupp and Meb Kefelzighi stayed in the pack until the half at 1:06:32.
 
Galen Rupp stayed out of trouble, early on. Galen sat off the right arm of Luke Puskedra. Meb floated around, as is his want. Rupp's coach, Alberto Salazar, had told Galen to stay out of the lead as long as he could. He darts up front, and then, in row two, and really is just getting himself into a groove. This time, not much of a groove, as some things were hurting. At 40, Meb has hurts guys ten years younger do not, but he knows how to minimize them. Keflezighi's attention to detail is key in all he does. His confidence in his Coach, Bob Larsen is also quite important.
 
Luke Puskedra, ranked third in the field looked good, as did many others. Matt Llano was looking good, as did Nick Arciniaga, who lead much of the early race. Patrick Smythe, Sean Quigley, Tim Ritchie were among the marathoners up in the lead pack.
 
But those things began to change. That 2:12 pace, in hot weather, took its toll. That there was little or no shade on the sunny, hot day was damaging to all of the field. Everyone felt the pain, some just delt with it better.
 
Tyler Pennel, he of sub four minute mile speed, decided to break open the race, and break it open he did. His quick mile dropped all of the pretenders. Even some of the non-pretenders, like Jared Ward, knew that they had to keep themselves in control. " It was hot and it was hard. That's it." was how Jared Ward described it. Tyler made his move at 25k.
 
At just before sixteen miles, Tyler Pennel dropped a 4:47 mile and they were off, with Meb, Galen and Tyler breaking the pack. Pennel looked good running very fast. Galen went after him, as did Meb, as did Jared Ward, who had come up through the pack.
 
"When Tyler made that move, and Meb and Rupp went with him, I thought that's a hard move. if they can make it, I am not going to catch them. So, I went as fast as I could, and I ran a 4:50 mile, and I am sure that was my fastest mile." noted Jared Web, as the race started to get away from him.
 
From mile 16 to mile 18, Tyler Pennel, Galen Rupp and Meb Keflezighi ran together. Then, Galen took the lead at the water stop, with Meb in tow and Tyler Pennel went back fast. By nineteen miles, Jared Ward was stalking third place...it was only a matter of time. Tyler Pennel, in only his second marathon, had made a brave move, and would hold onto take fifth.
 
But it was to be Meb who broke Tyler Pennel, with Galen floating right there. Just after mile 18, with Tyler Pennel falling back, Galen Rupp floated to the front, with no additional percieved effort.
 
Galen and Meb ran together miles, 19-21. Galen, a couple of times, looked to be in some discomfort. I could not figure out if he dropped his hat on purpose or by mistake. The pace was getting faster, as Meb and Galen tested each other. Now, was the time of reckoning.
 
Meb was pushing, and Galen was running real close. In Meb's mind, Galen was riding him pretty close. " I told him this was not a track, but a road."
 
In tough, tight races, there are opposing race plans. Bob Larsen and Meb spoke about getting Meb on the team, and when the time came to test, use his experience. Galen Rupp and Alberto Salazar were much more cautious; stay behind the leaders as long as you could. Obviously those plans clashed, and there are words, but athletes get over it.
 
In races, there are times when the competition gets hot and heated, and words can be exchanged, and they are. I recall the 1980 Olympic Trials where Craig Virgin road Herb Lindsay for about six laps. Meb and Galen had a disagreement, but that is the confluence of tactics and competition. It happens.
 
Meb Keflezighi got Galen and Meb away from their competitors, like putting about a minute and three seconds between 18 miles and 21 miles.
 
Around 22 miles, Galen Rupp, floating along, just did the natural thing and took the lead. As he slightly increased the pace, Galen looked more relaxed and he broke Meb quickly. In Meb's head, Meb was trying to make sure he made the team and that Jared and perhaps others were not going to catch him. That increase was to 4:47, and Meb had to make a decision: take Galen on, or make the team. Meb chose to make the team, and Galen Rupp floated away.
 
Between miles 22 and 24, Galen Rupp won his marathon.
 
Checking his position three or four times, anbd obviously hot, Galen Rupp ran 9:43 for two miles between 22-24 miles. Galen looked uncomfortable in the 18-21 miles, but looked fantastic as he ran over the last two miles. I recall Frank Shorter noting in the 1972 Olympic Games marathon, that he felt poorly in the early slogging of the marathon, and better when he broke it open.
 
I noted last night that Galen would not be here if Coach Alberto Salazar did not think he was ready. But it was hot, and the sun was unrelenting.
 
Galen Rupp ran hard, yet stayed within himself. Did he face discomfort? Of course. His last mile was just getting through with a uncomfortable experience, but Rupp was winning and feeling uncomfortable is part of the game at this level.
 
Meb Keflezighi kept his cool, and protected his margin. Jared Ward swept past Tyler Pennel, put some real estate between himself and kept a safe margin of 1:12 over the surging Luke Puskedra.
 
Rupp won the race in 2:11:12, in his debut. In that debut win, he followed the path of his coach, Alberto Salazar, who won his first marathon only three decades ago. His time was sixth fastest time in Olympic Trials history. Galen was quite ebullent, yet tired, speaking on his victory:
 
"I am very excited with the way it went. Tremendous honor to represent the United States. It is the greatest honor on earth. I am so hapy to be able to make my devut here and to be able to win was unbelievable. I am so honored to be going to the Olympics."
 
Meb Keflezighi, making his fourth Olympic team, ran 2:12:20 to take the second position. A tremendous race for the 40 year old super star. Meb noted, " I was cramping a bit early in the race but delft better a little after halfway."
 
In third, Jared Ward, coached by Ed Eyestone, ran 2:13:00 for the all important third place on the Olympic team. Ed Eyestone, Ward's coach, made two Olympic teams and was quite pleased with Ward's buildup. Jared noted, of his first Olympic team: "With 600 meters to go, I started singing that song and changing the words. I said, "do it for your momma, do it for your wife, do it for your kids, and do it for your life. It was just enough of it and that was the end of it."
 
Luke Puskedra ran a smart race, finishing fourth place! Tyler Pennel, the man Meb and Galen credit with breaking open the race, took fifth. And Matt Llano, HOKA ONE ONE Northern Arizona Elite, took sixth, in 2:15:16.
 
The team for Rio is strong. That Meb and Galen battled it out is no surprise. Jared Ward and Luke Puskedra is the new generation of marathoners showing their presence and Matt Llano joins that group. Some tought DNFs, with Dathan Ritzenhein and Tyler McCandless, but, that again, is part of a race or competition of this level.
 
Did the heat play a role in today's race? A huge role, but how does one think the weather will be in RIO?
 
Huge dnf rates today, with 166 men starting and 105 men finishing today.
 
In taking a day to consider the race once again, I am not surprised by the outcome. Galen did his job, with precision, and should be congratulated. Meb Keflezighi is the most experienced championship marathoner we have in the U.S., and his drive is like few others: he was going to make that team if there was any chance. Jared Ward used the support of his coach, family and friends to encourage his training and focus: coming down from the road of Utah, Jared Ward ran the race of his life to make the U.S. team.
 
2016 U.S. Olympic Trials marathon, Men, 1. Galen Rupp, Nike Oregon Track Club, 2:11:12, 2. Meb Keflezighi, Skechers, 3. Jared Ward, Saucony, 2:13:00, 4. Luke Puskedra, Nike, 2:14:12, 5. Tyler Pennel, Reebok ZAP Fitness, 2:14:57, 6. Matthew Llano, HOKA One One NAZ, 2:15:16, 7. Shadrack Biwott, Mammoth TC, 2:15:23, 8. Patrick Smythe, NIKE, 2:15:26, 9. Sean Quigley, Saucony, 2:15:52, 10. Nick Arciniaga, Under Armour, 2:16:25, #‎la2016
by Larry Eder
 
In the second of two Olympic Trials contested today, the women’s race had the most drama. 2012 4th-placer Amy Cragg not only made the team, but moved up to the win. 
 
“I had spent four years training to improve one place,” she noted after her hard won victory. In fact, she improved by three places!
 
Defending champion Shalane Flanagan, who was about four weeks short on her training, battled not only the field but the heat, and went from looking like the unbeatable winner to barely holding on for third place and requiring an IV, her first after a marathon, to recover. “That was the hardest marathon that I have run over the last six miles,” Shalane confessed.
 
And Desi Linden, who, like Cragg, had spent four years building to this day, took second place in a race that saw her as much as a minute+ down at just past halfway. Desi called the race "grueling.”
 
Here is how I saw the race...
 
Training partners have a relationship that’s hard to explain.
 
This past December, I was at the RNR San Antonio, watching the half marathon for women. Kara Goucher won the race, and training partners Shalane Flanagan and Amy Cragg took third and fourth. After the race, Flanagan and Cragg ran eight more miles with coach Jerry Schumacher, making it a nice long day.
 
What I didn’t know at that time was that Shalane was only in her second week of training after an end-of-season, beginning-of-season injury that would play a major role in the Olympic Trials race.
 
Olympic Trials Marathon day, Feb. 13, 2016, was a good day for viewing sports, but a hard day for racing marathons. The overwhelming comments from our team on the course was how hot it was, how there was no shade, how classy Amy Cragg was in caring for her ailing teammate, and then, with the finish nearly in sight, kicking to the finish.
 
There were 198 women who actually started the race today, and 139 finished.
 
The pace, quite conservative for the conditions, started out, through ten miles in 2:33 pace. But even with that, the contenders and pretenders were separated pretty quickly.
 
Kellyn Taylor, who had debuted at the marathon in Houston in 2015 with 2:28:20, was up near the front in the early miles. Taylor broke open the race at nine miles, with Sara Hall, Amy Cragg and Shalane Flanagan in tow. Then Amy and Shalane took over, building up ten seconds by twelve miles and the race was on.
 
From mile 12 to mile 21, Cragg and Flanagan lead, and the race looked like it was in the bag.
 
What was quite strange was the distance (just over a minute) that Desi Linden had allowed to grow between her and the lead pack. Kara Goucher seemed to be struggling a bit.
 
But Desi started to move with Goucher in tow as first Desi, then Kara went by Taylor, whose early miles and nervous breaking up of the field cost her dearly.
 
As Desi and Kara battled for third, Flanagan was having some trouble with the heat. Cragg, who had been training with Flanagan for the past four months, didn’t want to leave her training partner.
 
As the lead shrunk from more than a minute to just over 32 seconds at mile 24, Cragg took over, rather reluctantly.
 
"I knew Shalane was having trouble. At mile 24 water stop, I had Shalane drop a whole bottle of water over her head."
 
With Linden closing the gap, Cragg had to pick up the pace in order to preserve the win. 
 
Cragg used her top-end 10,000 meter speed to cement the win in 2:28:20—three positions better than her 4th-place in 2012.
 
Amy then waited for Linden, who passed Flanagan just before 25 miles and went on to take second in 2:28:54.
 
Flanagan, who just barely held on, and did so with pure guts, ran 2:29.19 to finish in third.
 
Just over a minute later, Goucher crossed in fourth running an 2:30:24 in these hot and humid conditions. Kara gave it all she had, and that’s the most honorable result an athlete can have.
 
Janet Bawcom took fifth in 2:31:14, and one-time leader Kellyn Taylor was sixth in 2:32:50.
 
Among the top five 2016 finishers, it’s remarkable to note that the only thing that changed since 2012 were their positions. Amy Cragg was most improved.
 
When I asked Amy afterwards how she was feeling, there was a lot of emotion. Her level of fitness is much higher than any time before, but most importantly, her level of confidence has increased tenfold. From mile 21 on, Cragg could have won the race and run away by herself, winning two minutes faster.
 
She did not. Instead, she showed concern for her training partner, only reluctantly leaving her with less than two miles to go!
 
Her finish was strong, and her victory was exciting. The U.S. Olympic Marathon team of Amy Cragg, Desi Linden, and Shalane Flanagan is strong one. Each marathoner  has strengths and the ability to battle into top ten positions in Rio this summer.
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