Track Shorts 2017: Lap 1

Photo: @NBRunning

Thus far 2017 has offered us a little bit of everything – trails, roads, cross country and indoor track. And basically, if you put it on the schedule, ABers will be there.

Four Peat?

Recall that Garrett Heath won the last three editions of the Great Edinburgh XCountry International Challenge, beating out various giants of the sport in the process. Though there would be no four peat, Garrett was 6th in a competitive field and took the measure of at least one knight (Sir Mo Farrah, who finished 7th). Heath was part of Team USA which took the team competition rather handily. In the women’s open race, Amy Van Alstine was 19th.

The veritable cornucopia of events on the Edinburgh agenda included a Mixed Gender 4 x 1km Relay. Why didn’t they have cool stuff like this when I was competing? Team USA featured an all-AB line-up – Kyle Merber, Lianne Farber, Will Leer, and Heather Kampf. Farber ran a great second leg to keep the US in the running but Britain’s Laura Muir, she of 3:55 1500 speed, kind of made hash of what had been a close race with a crushing anchor leg; Heather was steady though and did bring the US home second.

Lastly, in great news for our sport, check out this article that notes that TV viewership in Britain for the meet outdrew even the mighty Manchester United. Not to harsh our mellow but I must point out that this was FA Cup football. In track or cross country terms, the FA Cup is like a dual meet on a Tuesday in front of Saturday’s conference championships – the coaches are going to be resting their top athletes. Still, outdrawing Manchester United in anything is a good thing.

Two Halves Are Pretty Good

In Arizona, Jeffrey Eggleston ran a solo (if such a thing is possible in a field of 23,000) 1:04.50, leading pretty much from start to finish. Time wasn’t the primary objective as this was preparation for a marathon in February. “Today’s goal was to go out there and run a half marathon at marathon pace.” Just as successful was Neely Gracey, who opened her season with a 1:12.39 and an easy win. Like Eggleston, Neely’s goals weren’t really about time or place but just to “listen to my body.”

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On the same weekend, a little to the east in Houston, Sara Hall was taking 11th (3rd American) in the Chevron Houston half marathon. And what’s this? On the first page of the results, there’s steeplechaser Jamie Cheever checking in with a 1:17.41, good for 21st place. Now that’s overdistance!

Under Cover

Turning to the more common January venue – indoor track – we find plenty to review. Best action so far was probably the New Balance Grand Prix meet in Boston Roxbury Crossing. The marquee event was the planned WR assault on the distance medley with a team featuring Emma Coburn, Sydney McLaughlin, AB’s Brenda Martinez and Jenny Simpson. Martinez (who anchored the previous record setting team) got the baton a few seconds down on record pace but rectified things with a sterling 2:01.94 and gave Simpson a cushion to work with. Their 10:40.31 was more than two seconds faster than the old record.

Best of the other ABers in action was Mary Saxer, who vaulted 4.28 (14-01/2) for 3rd. Stephanie Garcia went for the 3k without hurdles and a water jump and took 6th in 8:55.78. Garrett Heath was with the pack for most of the 3k and ended up 7th with a 7:46.34. Jeff Henderson eschewed his regular long jumping to rock with the sprinters. Looked to me like he might have rocked back ever so slightly right before the gun, which is giving away a lot in a race that lasts less than seven seconds; still he managed to get himself into the mix, finishing 6th but only .03 off of third. New AB’er Mookie Salaam was right behind him. Chad Noelle had a rougher time of it in the mile but took it as a learning experience tweeting afterwards “tough race tonight, 4:00.47 Mile. Disappointed, but know what corrections to be made for the next one.”

Farther south there was the Columbia East-West Challenge at The Armory in NYC. Donn Cabral snuck in for speedwork with a 4:01.42 win in the mile. Kyle Merber moved up to the 3k and took second with a PR 7:49.39. Fellow AB’er and NJNYTC teammate Johnny Gregorek followed him to the tape, getting a PR while finishing 3rd in 7:49.93.

Shaved my legs and PR'd in the 3k. Millrose Games up next!! ????:@armorynyc

A photo posted by Johnny Gregorek (@johnny.gregorek) on

On the left coast, the University of Washington runs a nice series of events throughout the winter. Earlier this month Craig Lutz sharpened his speed with a solid 8:01.19 good for 3rd in the 3,000. This past weekend, Barbara Nwaba got her season off to an excellent start with win in the pentathlon. Fellow ABers Dana Mecke (4:38.27 for 5th in the mile) and Kendra Chambers (8th in 800 at 2:08.44) also got their indoor seasons underway.

Also noteworthy so far is Sean Donnelly‘s weight throw win in the Jack Johnson Classic in Minnesota and Lianne Farber’s 4:44.74 mile at the New Balance Games.

You’ve Come A Long Way Baby

A long, long time ago, 1956 to be exact, the longest women’s event in the Olympics was the 200 meters. In 1980, the 3,000 was the longest event. Women were banned from the Boston Marathon up until 1972; that distance wasn’t added to the Olympic schedule until 1984.

I raise these historical items after reviewing the results from the USATF 100km Trail Championships in Bandera Texas. AB’s own Camille Herron ran superbly, covering the course in 9:29:56, the second woman finisher. Okay, that was a bit of surprise because more often than not she wins these things. Then I realized Camille had finished 4th overall. And the final surprise was that Stephanie Violett was the first finisher overall. Four of the top 10 were women. Maybe those past officials of the sport had been keeping women out of distance racing for fear of losing to them?

Rejoice, We Made It Up

Baseball has its Abner Doubleday fairy tale on the origins of baseball, we have the story of Phidippides to explain the origins of the marathon. How he ran 26 miles to deliver the message that the Greeks had won the battle and died before the crowd could tip him or even offer a glass of water. Helluva story even if it didn’t really happen that way.

But suppose it did. And then suppose that Athens was only Phidippides’ first stop of seven and that he had 156 more miles to go before his task was complete. Welcome to the Marathon Challenge. This year’s edition featured 26.2 miles on consecutive days in at Union Glacier (Antarctica), Punta Arenas (Chile), Miami (USA), Madrid (Spain), Marrakech (Morocco), Dubai (United Arab Emirates) and Sydney (Australia). Seven marathons in seven days on seven continents. The expanded competitor list (33 up from 16 in 2016 and 12 in 2015) included ABer Ryan Hall. More on what Hall’s been doing since he retired from competitive runner and his prep for the challenge can be found here.

Of the 33 starters, 31 (22 men and 9 women) finished. Michael Wardian won the event with a generous cushion of about two hours and forty minutes, with all of his efforts under 3 hours. Ryan finished 5th, averaging 3:39:36 for the seven runs. Upon reaching the finish in Sydney he exclaimed “Rejoice, I retire.” Or something like that. Here is a video from Ryan after day in Morocco:

Post marathon 5 video blog. Morocco. @asics @musclemilk @fitbit

A video posted by Ryan Hall (@ryanhall3) on

And here is Hall thanking his shoes:

Most unbelievable statistic from Ryan’s week – 46 hours on planes and no movies watched. Guess he was sleeping.

USATF 50k Race Walking Championships

Santee California, a suburb of San Diego, was the site of this year’s USATF 50km Race Walk Championships. Erin Taylor-Talcott set a PR but was second behind Katie Burnett’s American record time. On the men’s side Michael Mannozzi was also second, behind John Nunn. The event also included 20km, 10km and 5 km races; Miranda Melville won the 20k event.

Shows No Signs of Stoppin’

February looks just as packed as last month. This weekend alone we have USATF Cross Country Championships, the USATF 100 Mile Trail Championships, and another hot track meet at the Armory. The following Saturday includes the Millrose Games and there’s the Sprint 50km Trail Championships on the 18th.

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