Tuesday, 31 January 2012

Week 3 - News and Notes

Bonjour & welcome back to another installment of Going Pro!

Last week we focused on the Canadian Men chasing after a trip to London this summer and to break Jerome Drayon's lasting marathon record of 2:10:09.

Before we get to the Canadian Women, I have to update you on two incredible pieces of running news from this weekend:

1) Remember the name Cameron Levins. The Black Creek, British Columbia native who runs at Southern Utah University hit superhuman running status (at least in my opinion) this weekend at the University of Washington's (Seattle) indoor track meet.

On Friday night, Levins won the 5,000m in a outrageous time of 13:42 (4:24/mile or 2:44/km)!!! Then, less than 24 hours later, he ran and won the 3,000m in a incredible time of 7:48 (4:11/mile or 2:36/km) over two of the top American collegiate runners (Miles Batty and Sam Chelenga). I literally run 200m at that pace, or slower, in workouts...with lots of rest in between reps... this is just mindblowing!

This result comes on top of his 4th place finish at the NCAA XC championships in November 2011 where 300 of the top American collegiate runners face-off in Terre Haute, Indiana. Levins is the real deal and is destined for more than just All-American honors status. He'll be the next Canuck setting the track world on fire in the years to come.

*Levins' training consists of 155 miles (or 250 km) per week! No big deal...

2) Friday past (Jan 27), the Dubai Marathon finished with the fastest marathon field in marathon history! Here are some interesting... ridiculous... stats:

- Purse: 1st: $250,000   2nd: $100,000   3rd: $50,000....10th: $10,000
The following has never happened before:
- 17 men broke 2:10:00 [4:57/mile or 3:05/km]
- 14 of those dipped under 2:08:00 [4:52/mile or 3:02/km]
- 8 of those ran under 2:06 [4:48/mile or 2:59/km]
- 4 of those went under 2:05

Ayele Abshero winning 2012 Dubai Marathon

Now for THE stat of the 2012: The winner, Ayale Abshero from Ethiopia, ran 2:04:23 [4:44/mile or 2:57/km]  at the age of 21 in his first marathon ever! Which is by far the fastest debut ever. With the big money being thrown at the marathon these days, there are more and more young runners moving up to the 26.2 for a pay day!

And if you really want your head to hurt, read what I wrote up about the Kenyan Marathon Squad selected for the Olympics!

Click here for the Canadian women who set the roads on fire.

Part 1 - Megan Brown

This week the focus shifts to Canada's 'better half' (I've learned that's always the correct response). It's not only the Canadian men who are turning heads, their female counterparts are also mixing things up with their American counterparts. However, the focus isn't so much on the marathon distance but in the 5k to half marathon events. So I'll work my way through the distances, starting at the marathon and working down to the 5km. We've much talent to be proud of as you'll see!

Note: There are many more females than the 3 profiled here, but at some point you have to get back to work. These other talents (Lanni Marchant, Natasha Wodak, etc) will be touched on through the weeks).

Current National female record: 2:28:36 (5:40/mile or 3:31/km) set back in 1985 (Houston) by Sylvia Ruegger
*Compare this to the USA record of 2:19:36 (5:19/mile or 3:18/km) by Deena Kastor in 2006 (London )

Lioudmila Kortchaguina
The fastest Canadian female marathoner in the last 5 years has been Lioudmila Kortchaguina (say that 3 times fast!). The Russian emigre became a Canadian citizen in 2005 and dominated the National running scene! Her race times have ranged from 2:29:42 to 2:32:08 (~5:43/mile or 3:33/km) since wearing the red & white on her singlet. I forgot to mention that she was 35+ for all of those times! Who says you don't get better with age!?

In the last two years, only one lady Canuck has broken 2:40:00 (6:06/mile or 3:47/km), that being Krista Duchene at the 2010 Ottawa Marathon, with 2:39:08. Basically, I'm saying that the marathon might not be our next Olympic medal.

In the next few years we have some talent in the half-marathon and 10km distances moving up that could get under that 2:30:00 barrier and really leave their mark!

Half-Marathon - 10k - 5k
Half-Marathon record 1:12:09 (5:30/mile or 3:25/km) by Tara Quinn-Smith
10k record: 31:44 (Courtney Babcock, 2003)
5k record: 14:54 (Courtney Babcock, 2003)

It seems to be there a good few Canadian females testing the elite running waters and are they ever throwing down some impressive times! Let's look at the who's who:

1) Megan Brown - the 25 year old Guelph Native is a University of Toronto Graduate who has a running resume that is astounding. That is also the understatement of 2012.

Allow me to mesmerize you:

- 4 x UofT Athlete of the Year,
- 3 x CIS and OUA XC champion,
- 2 x silver medallist at Canadian XC championships,
- 5th place at World University XC championships
- Won the half marathon in 1:14:08 (5:39/mile or 3:31/km) last year in Montreal.

Megan not only had the aches and pains that come with the long distance running lifestyle but she has struggled with battling Lyme disease in 2008 and 2009. Briefly, Lyme disease is a bacterial infection caused by the bite of a tick. It can lead to multitude of symptoms and issues that would keep someone, especially a professional runner off her game - and maybe her feet altogether!

Besides being one of the fastest half marathoners in Canadian history, she also has a 5km PB of 15:56 (5:08/mile or 3:11/km) to her credit. From a few interviews I've read Megan trains at about 90-95 miles or ~150km per week! Despite initially plans to run her first 26.2 in 2013, she has decided to go backwards first improve her 5k for a year or two before moving up the distances. A smart choice in my opinion to build another year or two of speed and endurance in her legs.

Megan is already one of Canada's most prolific runners and she's barely even begun to make her mark internationally. I literally can't wait to see what she will do in the next 2-10 years!

Up next is Megan's closest competitor: Dayna Pidhoresky

Part 2 - Dayna Pidhoresky

#2 on the list is Canada's unofficial female half-marathon record holder Dayna Pidhoresky. 

The 24 year old Tecumseh, Ontario native ran a blistering 1:11:45 (5:28/mile or 3:24/km) for 21.1km at the 2011 Niagara International Half Marathon.

Lets take a quite segue (or segway) here as this unofficial vs. official record issue comes up twice this week: 
Running records can only be set on courses that:

1. are 'out and back'. The finish line must be within 50% of the total distance from the start line.

2. have less than 1m per km in net elevation drop.  
*- Thus, point to point & and downhill courses, such as the famous Boston Marathon, do not count for records. You'll see this when you read up about the Kenyan Olympic marathon squad!

Now back to the gazelle known as Dayna. Here's a quick little list of what she has been up in the last 12 months (courtesy of www.runnersfeed.com):

(this should read Oct 17, 2010)

That is A LOT of 1st place finishes. In fact she has been the first overall female in 10 out of 14 races. Not to mention that those times keep getting faster and faster.

The University of Windsor alumni started running, like most pros, back in grade 5 with the elementary XC races the schools put off. She continued on through high schoool and university where she found great success.

She's planning running her first marathon this year, potentially this spring with the hope of breaking 2:30:00 (5:43/mile or 3:33/mile). However she made a great comment in an interview, which I feel most people should heed:
"It seems that anything over 2:29:55 is not worth much in Canada so I would rather wait until I actually have a fighting chance. For now we are focusing on the shorter distances until I have fully adapted to that type of training load. Then we will move forward."

It's been my view that far too many jump into the longer distances without having the proper foundation of speed, stamina, and endurance beneath them.

In any case, Dayna Pidhoresky is a running superstar and I fully expect to see her with a few more gold medals around her neck - along side some, official, national records.

Most recently, in November 2011, Dayna represented Canada at the famous Ekiden Relay in Japan [a marathon relay with 3 males and 3 female runners covering 5k to 10k segments]. Canada placed 10th overall with Dayna running her 5k leg in 16:12 (5:15/mile or 3:14/mile)! Impressive running!

Going her on the trip to Japan was our next female we'll look at today Newfoundland's own Kate Vaughan.

Kenyan Marathon Squad Selected

Other Weekly Professional Running News

Back when I was aged 10 to say... 22... I used to play EA Sports' NHL 94 - 97 on Sega Genesis religiously. The best part about it is that I would always go and trade the best players from the league onto my team. I believe this was called 'stacking my team'. When it comes to running Kenya is already the pre-stacked team - involving no trades. Just take a look at this:

Kenya Selects Tentative Olympic Marathon Squad.

Final selections will be made on April 30th.
*WARNING: The personal best times listed may cause headaches.
I would NOT want to have the job of choosing the 3 of these men! You might as well pull names out of a hat!

Men (with personal best times)

Patrick Makau - 2:03:38 (4:43/mile or 2:56/km)

Marathon World Record Holder

Winner of....everything!

Back to back in Berlin and Rotterdam

Geoffrey Mutai - 2:04:55 (4:43/mile or 2:57.5/km)
  • FASTEST 26.2'er EVER...unofficially!

    He won the 2011 Boston Marathon in a wind-aided time of 2:03:02

  • Winner of the 2011 NYC marathon

Emmanuel Mutai (No relation to Geoffrey) - 2:04:39

Winner of 2011 London Marathon

2nd place 2011 NYC marathon

2nd place 2010 London

Abel Kirui - 2:05:04
    Winner of 2009 Berlin Marathon

    2011 Marathon World Champion (South Korea)
Broke the 25,000m world record on track (but came 2nd place in the race to...

Moses Mosop - 2:05:37

25,000m (72:25) & 30,000m (86:47) world record holder

Unofficially the 2nd fastest man alive as he placed 2nd at 2011 Boston in 2:03:06

**That was his first marathon ever...

Wilson Kipsang - 2:03:42

Officially the 2nd fastest marathon ever with a 2:03:42 in the 2011 in Frankfurt

**Note: ALL 6 of these men (& many others) have personal best times faster than the American marathon record (2:05:38)!!!

Part 3 - Kate Vaughan

Although I have followed the professional / elite running scene quite closely for the past two years and watched them in action from the sidelines, I have never had the privilege of actually running with someone at that level. Over the last year, I took a more serious approach to training and managed to chop some seconds off of my times. Not only was I running faster but I was running along side of and inevitably being defeated by Kate Vaughan [Note: two of her victories over me were by 2 seconds! One of these days I'll catch her I swear!]
Kate in orange, Me in red at 2.5k. Kate ran 26:42... me 26:44!

Kate and I both in orange (I tried to be fast by
association... but I got rocked by 20 secs)

Despite giving me grey hairs, it has been an absolute pleasure getting to know Kate personally as well as racing and training with her. Running seemed to come naturally to her when she ran the 1,500m in 5:19 in grade 12 on, from what I gather very limited - if any, training. She competed for the Memorial University XC squad during her post-secondary academic years to many noteworthy finishes as the Atlantic University Champtionships.

In 2009, she ramped up the training and made some huge jumps, taking off well over a minute on her 5km and 8km times, hitting 17:25 and 27:43 (5:34/mile or 3:28/km) respectively, 35:05 for 10km (5:37/mile or 3:30/km), and  59:00 for 10 miles (5:56/mile or 3:41/km). She was selected for her first National team for the North America, Central America and Caribbean (NACAC) Cross Country Championships in Florida where she placed 12th ! In the fall of 2009, she placed 8th for females at National10km Road Championships in Toronto!

2010 truly became her break out year where she really turned heads on the national scene. Once again she had a banner year of PBs in every distance. from 16:55 for 5km to a blistering 56:36 for 10 miles (over two minutes faster than 2009). Once again she headed to Toronto for the National10km Road Championships where she moved up to the 4th overall female (out of 1300) running 35:00 on a hilly course. A month later she was racing at the National XC championships and placed 6th behind the previously mentioned Megan Brown and Dayna Pidhoresky! This placing cemented a spot on her second National Team with another NACAC Cross Country Championships! The race was in Trinidad & Tobago in April 2011.

2011 might be the biggest year of Kate's life so far. Not only did she get married (to the ultra-talented runner Peter Bazeley) but her success in 2010 brought Kate a shoe/gear sponsorship from Saucony and an upcoming trip with the National team! Despite being relegated to the elliptical for the winter months to nurse a knee injury, Kate got back to her record setting ways on the roads: 16:44 for 5km and 26:42 for 8km (5:22/mile or 3:20/km). For the second time in the year, she wore the Red and White on an international scene as she was selected as an alternate for the Canadian Ekiden Relay team in Japan with Dayna Pidhoresky. However, she wasn't done there for 2011. On her way back from Japan she touched down in Vancouver to race at the National XC championships where she booked her trip to her 3rd NACAC XC championships with a 6th place finish!

2012 has already started off strong with a 9th place finish at the Houston Half Marathon (2nd non-professional female). I can't wait to chase Kate again this year on the roads as she is destined for some big results!

Tuesday, 24 January 2012

Canadian Marathon Men

Welcome back for volume 2 of Going Pro!

To make this a little more 'reader-friendly' I've broken this post up into 5 different posts. This way, you can read it at your own leisure. You can click the link on right to get each one or at the bottom of each post will link to the next one in order.
This week I'm going to focus on some CanCon, or Canadian Content in the professional running scene. Although Canadians fly under the radar compared to their counterparts south of the border, we are undoubtedly making our presence known. Allow me to bring you up to speed on some of the Canadian who's who. Also of note is the red, white, and red layout of this blogpage... O Canada!

(Next week will be a look at the Canadian women's scene and how Canucks are doing in the American college ranks - you'll be pleasantly surprised! Not to mention some crazy news coming out of running giants Kenya and Ethopia!)
Marathon Men

Jerome Drayton
I could tell you to play a song right now while reading this following spiel, I would suggest: Tom Petty's "Running Down a Dream" as that is precisely what is happening. In 1975, at the Fukuoka Marathon in Japan (the then-unoffical world championships), Jerome Drayton set Canada's marathon record with a then (and now) staggering time of 2:10:09 (4:58/mile or 3:05/km). There are two things to note about this record:
1) It was less than one minute off of the world record of 2:09:12 set by Ian Thompson of the UK in 1974
2) The record STILL stands today! Which is where I will begin.

Let us not forget about the other small event happening this summer: The 2012 Olympic Games in London. Canada will be sending it's own squad to tackle the 26.2 miles (or 42.2km eh?)

Running down both of these dreams are the following contenders:

1) Reid Coolsaet - 31, from Hamilton, Ontario.
Sponsor: New Balance
Hairstyle: Awesome.

I would like to tell you that I met Reid in September of 2009 but that would be a lie. For in the fall of 2009 I ran XC with Trent Univeristy in the Ontario University Athletics conference. My first race ever was an 8k at Canada's running Mecca: Guelph University. About a mile into the race - well back in the 3rd to 5th pack - I get passed by someone at Mach 3 speed with a piece of straw hanging out of his mouth. While I was sucking air into burning lungs and weasing like an asthmatic geriatric at 6:15/mile, Reid cooly said 'excuse me gentlemen' and went on his way. So you're probably saying, 'WOW, you were ahead of Reid Coolsaet? congrats!', however that would be incorrect as he started the race late and still ended up place in the top 3... I did not.

Reid is Canada's premiere marathon runner. He has a running resume as long as the number of miles he runs per week, which is somewhere well into the 120+ miles/week range (I'll confirm this in a future post). He's won the Canadian 5,000m championship at least 5 times, represented Canada at the Commonwealth games and the 2009 World Championships. He ran his first marathon in 2009 and debuted with a solid 2:16:53 (5:13/mile or 3:15/km). He has quickly cranked up the training over the last two years and in the 2011 Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon Reid went after both a trip to the Olympics and Jerome Drayton's record. 2:10:08 (or faster) was the goal as that would satisfy both conditions and make him $37,000 richer - $1,000 for each year that Drayton's record has stood. When 26.2 miles were covered on that September Sunday, only one of those goals was met. Reid qualified for the Olympics but feel short of Drayton's record with a time of 2:10:55 (43 seconds off of the record, less than 2 seconds per mile). It is of note that this time would have placed him 5th overall in the USA Olympic Trials!

Reid is currently training in Iten, Kenya. Check out his own blog at http://reidcoolsaet.com

Next up in this list of Marathon Men is Eric Gillis


p.s. I'd like to give a 'shout out' to Alex Coffin from New Brunswick for his promotion of the sport see, www.alexcoffin.com. He tracks the progress of Atlantic Canadian runners and posts rankings of how they do in their races. Not to mention, at 30+ years of age, he placed 11th overall at the AUS championship with a 10k of 33:19!

Part 2 - Eric Gillis

2) Eric Gillis

31, from Antigonish, Nova Scotia
Sponsor: New Balance

Blog: http://www.nishrunner.blogspot.com/
*Ran XC at St. FX in the Atlantic University conference
(I believe our very own Colin Fewer et al had a few battles against Mr. Gillis)
Best quality: Ability to grow an epic beard! Running skill is secondary.

Eric is unquestionably the happiest runner in Canada. In same  2011 Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon mentioned earlier, Eric was also hunting for Olympic glory... and he got it... BY ONE SECOND in a time of 2:11:28!!! Yes that is correct, he ran 42.2km and it all came down to one second. If he so much as looked the wrong way for a step and he'd be watching the Olympic Marathon in August!

This is not Eric's first Olympic appearance. He ran in the 2008 Beijing Olympics 10,000m final where he placed 33rd with literally the best runners in the world!

Don't get the wrong idea that just because he made the Olympics under the wire means he doens't have any jets. This guy can fly. Last year at the Virginia Beach Half Marathon, Eric blazed a 63:34 (4:51/mile or 3:01/km)!

He and Reid Coolsaet are close rivals but from what I gather they're also close friends and have been training partners over the years under coach Dave Scott-Thomas in Guelph. But you have to see these two guys battling it out at the finish in this past year's Sporting Life 10km in Toronto. Coolsaet is on your left, Gillis on your right! I won't tell you who wins, but I'll tell you the times are:
1st place: 28:08.0  (4:31/mile or 2:31/km)
2nd place: 28:08.3  (roughly the length of a nose)

2011 Sporting Life 10k Finish

Next up in this list of Marathon Men is Simon Bairu

Part 3 - Simon Bairu

3) Simon Bairu - 28, has quite an interesting family history. His mother is Ethopian and his father is Eriterian which apparently is like a Catholic marrying a Protestant in Northern Ireland 40 years ago... not cool. So they had to move to Saudi Arabia (and Greece for a stint) where Simon was raised. His family moved to Saskatchewan as refugees when he was 4.
Sponsor: Nike! Simon trains in Eugene, Oregon with some of the most elite American runners  who will be mentioned in future posts.
Simon was also the first professional runner I have seen race in person. Although I didn't personally eat his dust during my racing days in Ontario, I did watch roughly 60 other men get utterly annihilated by Mr. Bairu in the 2009 Canadian Senior XC championship at Guelph. I still to this day remember one incredible thing from that race: Bairu had a tremendous lead and had to be in a boat load of pain going at that pace but he had absolutely ZERO expression his face. There wasn't a single non-running related muscle that was flexed. Everything was in pure control. A beautiful thing to watch.
The following stat speaks volumes for this man running ability: at a Stanford University Invitational track race in 2010, Simon set the 10,000m Canadian record in a time of 27:23.6 (no, there are no typos there). That is 4:24/mile or 2:44/km pace. Unbelievable. This is 30 seconds faster than Coolsaet or Gillis! Oh, and I forgot to mention that Simon ran XC for Wisconsin in the NCAA (American College sports league). He won the individual title in back to back years in 2004 and 2005.

So where does Simon stand in the Marathon world? Does he have a shot at London? Well on paper he does, he has a 62:47 and 62:08 half marathon (4:44/mile or 2:57/km) to his credit. With that kind of half marathon performance he certainly is in range of both a ticket to London and a shot at Drayton's record. However, the late 2011 summer/fall wasn't favorable to his training as he backed out of the Scotiabank marathon with some fatigue issues after he dropped out of the NYC marathon and was brought to the hospital via ambulance!
Simon ran in the Houston Marathon (the day after the USA Olympic Trials) with the sole focus of being the 3rd Canadian male to qualify for the Olympic marathon. He went through 13.1 miles in 65:11 which put him on pace for 2:10:22 well under the Olympic standard. However, the marathon reared its ugly head again for Simon and the wheels fell off during the last 7-10k leaving him with a disappointing time (relative for him) of 2:19:52. I can surmise that when he knew he wasn't going to make the Olympic standard time he lost a bit of the motivation to keep hammering the pace.

However, he like Ritz might use this result as a catalyst for a serious look at doing damage in the 10,000m in London! Either way I'll be watching.

Last, but clearly not least, in this list of Marathon Men is Dylan Wykes

Part 4 - Dylan Wykes

4) Dylan Wykes  - Last but certainly not least. In fact, I'm putting my money on this guy to be Canada's next Marathon record holder.
Age 28 from Kingston, Ontario.
Sponsor: Mizuno
Non-running skill: Nerd. To the best of my knowledge, he recently completed his Masters in Epidemiology from Queen's University!

The reason why I say that Dylan is going to be the next big thing is because he's already THE big thing and is still getting faster, which clearly isn't easy at that level! He's just so versatile it's scary - from the mile (4:01.15, indoors no less) to the marathon (2:12:39) he is 'mastered' (ha!) all the distances. His 2:12 marathon came during a big victory at the California International Marathon in 2010. 

The same weekend as the Olympic Trials in Houston, Dylan ran, and WON, the Rock N' Roll Arizona half marathon in a reeeeeeediculous time of 62:38 (4:47/mile or 2:58/km) - 6 mins ahead of 2nd place! Which has him eyeing a berth on the Olympic marathon squad. He'll be racing for such a privilege he so clearly deserves in March in Japan (on which I'll be undoubtedly be updating you on). He has every bit of 2:10 for a marathon in him by the looks of the way his training and performances are going. I'll be shocked if he is not the 3rd man running 26.2 miles in London in August. You heard it here first.

*The last bit of last bit of news for this week is about Taylor Milne setting the 1,000m world's best mark this year!

Part 5 - Canadian Taylor Milne Sets 1,000m World Best

Canadian Taylor Milne Sets 1,000m World Best

How fast could you run 1km? I mean it's only ONE kilometer. You marathoners do 42(.2) of them. So if you had to do one, as hard as you could, what do you think you could pull off? 4:00? 3:00?

Well 30 year old Taylor Milne (pictured right) ran 2:20.94 setting the bar absurdly high for his 2012 competitors! The 1k world record is 2:11.96!!! Can you imagine running 2:20 for one km and still losing by 9 seconds! He's looking like a strong candidate for the 1500m in London

Taylor has also broken the legendary 4 min mile mark and has the 2km record in a time of 5:01.57 (2:30.75/km)!

Tuesday, 17 January 2012

USA Olympic Trials

Hello and welcome to Going Pro!

What is Going Pro you may ask? Well, that's an excellent question. First off: NO, I am not considering becoming a professional runner, as I think I have greater odds of landing a teaching position in St. John's! The main purpose behind this (hopefully) bi-weekly post is to introduce, interest, and engage runners of all backgrounds to the professional running scene - especially in North America. Whether you don't run, want to run, or are a complete beginner, recreational, competitive runner or even a marathon veteran (as we have many of those here hailing from NL!) there is something in this for you to learn.

I wish to attempt to bridge the gap from amateur to professional running. For example, in Canada, hockey is the paramount sport. Every single kid who laces up his/her skates initially has one goal - to play in the NHL. We are inundated with professional (AHL/NHL) games, news, highlights, biographies, NHL greats reaching celebrity status coming to town to sign autographs, etc, etc. For a sport such as hockey the professional game is almost as part of one's life as the current game the kids are playing. Conversely, in Soccer, why is that Canada, a country of 30+ million people, is ranked 72nd in the world whereas countries such as Netherlands with only 16 million people is ranked 2nd in the world!? One of the major reasons for this is that Netherlands has a well established professional league (analogous to our NHL) that all youth strive to be apart of when they pick up the sport!

When it comes to running it's bit of a different story. There is no dissemination of the news, sights, sounds, personalities, or highlights of the professional running 'scene' to the masses. People are aware of the local 'elites', 'age group aces', and what good local standards are (i.e. 'Hey buddy, what's your Tely 10 time?') but I feel there is much to learn and enjoy from getting immersed in the professional environment of the sport you put so much blood, sweat, and tears into 365 days a year (366 this year don't forget)!

Anyways, enough of that ranting. I'm going to do my best to tell you the who's who, the what's what, and put all the jargon into layman's terms. I am by no means some sort of running guru that has the stats of every runner as there are many other websites for that (I would suggest www.letsrun.com, www.flotrack.com, www.trackie.ca). However, I am a huge fan of the professional aspect of our sport and wish to disseminate some of the bigger and more interesting news in an easy to read way!

I figure the best way to get this ball rolling to mention some of the bigger names in the sport currently which were all apart of the most recent, and 2nd largest event this year next to the Olympics. Just this weekend past, on Jan 14 in Houston, Texas USA held their Olympic Marathon Trials - the next day was the Chevron Houston Marathon and Half Marathon where our very own Peter and Kate Bazeley had some remarkable perfomances.

To qualify for the mens race you needed to have one of the following credentials to your name on a certified course:
Marathon: 2:19:00 (5:18/mile or 3:18/km)
Half-Marathon: 1:05:00 (4:57.5/mile or 3:04/km)
10,000m: 28:30.00 (4:35/mile or 2:51/km)

The women were looking at qualifying standards of:
Marathon: 2:46:00 (6:20/mile or 3:56/km)
Half-Marathon: 1:15:00 (5:43/mile or 3:33/km)
10,000m: 33:00.00 (5:18/mile or 3:18/km)

*Note: incase you didn't know all of the above paces are FAST!

So, Saturday at 7:00am & 7:15am CST, the gun went off for the Men's & Women's Olympic trials, respectively. 161 men and 226 women toed their respective lines with a similar, simple goal in mind: be on the podium (top 3) and you'll get a trip to the London 2012 Olympics representing the USA for the Marathon. In reality there was only a handful of legitimate contenders, some pretenders who thought they could run with the true elites and then fizzled and DNF'd, and the realists who were happy to be a part of history.

On the men's side, the real battle was between the following gazelles:

1. Ryan Hall - Age 29, from California is America's poster boy for the Marathon. He is USA's half marathon (59:43) record holder and unofficial marathon record holder (2:04:58*) - *this was run in the 2011 heavily wind-aided Boston Marathon. Although he has never won a major marathon he is always in the mix and loves to set an early quick pace to make sure people earn their position. In 2011, Hall decided to become self-coached deciding to train VERY differently from the normal elite training mentality. Instead of double/triple days he only runs once per day and takes one day off each week!

2. Meb Kelfezighi - Age 36, Born in Eritrea, emigrated to USA in 1988. USA's most successful current marathoner as he was a silver medalist at the 2004 Olympic Marathon in Athens, Greece as well as the winner of the 2009 NYC Marathon (the first American to win the race in 27 years)! Only 69 days prior to the Olympic trials Meb ran the 2011 NYC marathon in a personal best time of 2:09:13 for 6th place. During that race he had such bad chafing/blisters on his foot that he was unable to run for 3 weeks afterward due to infection!  

3. Dathan Ritzenheim - or RITZ, is a 29 year old phenom from Michigan. Ritz burst on the scene a sensational high school runner winning the cross country national championships in consecutive years as well as running 13:44 for 5k! He was the second US athlete to break 13 minutes in 5k with 12:56 (2:35/km) and was 9th place overall in the 2008 Beijing Olympic Marathon in 2:11:59 with a convenient personal best of 2:10:00!

*Also note: if you Youtube the video “Why do you run?” there is a scene where a cross country guy wins a race and almost dies when he crosses the line…. That’s RITZ!

4. Abdi Abdirahman - or Abdi, age 35 from Somalia. He emigrated to USA during his high school years but oddly enough he didn't start running until Colleg (thus breaking the myth that all Africans are fast because they run to/from school/everywhere as children). Abdi has been to 3 consecutive olympics before this race for the 10,000m and has every intention of being in London.

On the women's front it was only really a 3 horse race from the gun:

1. Shalane Flanagan -  31 years old from Boulder, Colorado. Unquestionably USA's current top female distance runner. She would make the olympics from the 5k to the marathon if she wanted. She holds the current US 10k record with a 30:22 (3:02/km) and a pedestrian 5k time of 14:44 (2:57/km)... oh and in her marathon debut in NYC in 2010 she ran 2:28:40 for 2nd place (the best finish for an US female in 20 years)! She is the class of every US field and she is in a league of her own!

2. Desi Davila - age 29 from San Diego, CA literally came out of nowhere 3 years ago. In fact I remember reading a Running Times mini-biography of her talking about how she could be the next big thing and here I am about to tell you that his 5'3", 98lb woman went from a 2:37 in 2008 to 2:22:38 in 2011 at Boston (*wind-aided)! This girl is an absolute machine and WILL BE the next big thing.

3. Kara Goucher - America's running sweetheart. At age 33 she has quite the running resume. She's been 3rd at the NYC marathon (2008), 3rd at Boston (2009), 3rd place in the 10,000m 2009 World Championships and oh ya... ran a 2:24 marathon 7 months after having a child! Or perhaps you could be impressed by her taking 5 minutes off her half marathon time in 9 weeks (74 mins down to 69 mins). If you were a betting person, you'd want to put a few dollars on Kara to place top 3 in most races!

4. The one... the only... Deena Kastor - You've all probably seen the epic documentary 'Spirit of the Marathon' which cronicles the lead up to the 2008 Chicago Marathon of both professionals, Boston Marathon hopefuls, as well as those who want to test the limits of their bodies at whatever pace they can for 42.2km. In the movie, we all fell in love with the petit lady who not only won that Chicago Marathon but also won the 2004 Olympic Marathon Bronze medal in Athens. Although she is currently 38, after having her first child last March, she still ran 72 mins for a half marathon leading up to these trials. She is the current US half-marathon (1:07:34) and marathon (2:19:36) record holder. No matter what race she is competing, women are always looking over their shoulder for Deena. However, if she doesn't place top 3, it could be her last seriously competitive marathon.

Within a few hours the 26.2 miles was covered and the Olympic Trial record books were re-written. Both the men's and women's records were broken and the quality of the times was never better. In the men's race, as expected Ryan Hall separated the contenders from the pretenders almost immediately ensuring that if someone was going to take his Olympic berth they were going to have run be ready to run a 2:09 marathon. The lead pack of 5 (including the 4 names mentioned above) went through 13.1 mile mark in a blistering time of 63:25 (or 2:06:50 marathon pace)... However, as expected that pace began to slow and the winds began to pick up. When all was said and done it was MEB who pulled off an absolute phenomenal upset for the win just 150m over Ryan Hall in ANOTHER personal best time of 2:09:08... just 69 days after his last marathon PB!

1st - MEB - 2:09:08
2nd - Ryan Hall - 2:09:30
3rd - ABDI - 2:09:47
(4th 7 seconds back.... RITZ - 2:09:55)
*This was the first time more than one runner broke the 2:10 mark in the Olympic Trials!

The women's race went out much more conservative and there weren't any real battles! Things shook down as expected but the times were far faster than anyone had expected. A lead pack consisting of Shalane Flanagan, DESI, and Kara lead the entire way with hopeful Amy Hastings holding for as long as she could. However, Shalane Flanagan was the class of the field and pulled away from the other true contenders with about 2k to go, leading to her smashing the Olympic Trials record by 3 minutes!

1st -Shalane Flanagan - 2:25:38
2nd - DESI - 2:25:55
3rd - Kara Goucher - 2:26:06
(6th - Deena! - 2:30:40... A disappointing result for her in her own mind but hopefully not the end of her career!)

Finally, I’d like to touch on Peter and Kate. Peter recently ran the Chicago Marathon in 2011 and it didn’t turn out quite as well as he hoped. He ran a very impressive 2:49:38 but it was well off of his intended goal. So Houston became a ‘revenge/redemption run’ for him. Not only did he run like a metronome and hold a 5:55/mile pace for 22 miles before slowing only slightly, he took 13 minutes off of his old mark in only 3 months with a time of 2:36:33 (which translates to 5:58/mile or 3:42/km)! Peter was 33rd overall out of ~3800 runners and 14th in his age category. His better half, Kate Bazeley (Vaughan) is Newfoundland & Labrador’s running queen (no longer a princess I guess). She toed the line for the Half Marathon and placed 9th overall for females, 3rd for her age category, and was the 2nd non-professional runner (only 5 seconds back) in a time of 1:18:44 (6:00/mile or 3:43/km)! Congratulations to both of them for being superhuman!

So that's it for this installment. Next time I'll recap the Canadian Marathon Olympic contenders and any other news/names/results of note! Hope you enjoyed it!