Week Three, Day Seven

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Greetings from Paris!

Today is your long run day. Join up with some friends and try running in a park or on a trail! 

Enjoy your run. 

Sunday: Easy 7-mile run on grass or dirt with friends. (400 Mile: 6 miles/300 Mile: 5 miles)

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In her storied career, Deena Kastor won World XC bronze, Olympic marathon bronze, and won numerous USA titles. And she is not done yet! photo by PhotoRun.net
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Evan Jager, photo by PhotoRun.net

In a race I will probably never forget, Evan Jager ran his heart out in the steeplechase, clipped the final barrier, hit the ground, ran through the finish and ran 8:00.45. I estimate that he was on 7:56 pace!

I decided after the kilometer to try and do a live report, and here is what I did. You here it as I saw it. My surprise when Evan Jager fell and my absolute frustration that Omega, the timing sponsors, could not get their damn app working nor provide us with basic times during the meet. 
But, that is for another column. 

Evan Jager has been one of my favorites for a long time. Today, he became an immortal. Soon, he will break 8 minutes in the steeple. 

And neither I nor anyone else in the stadium will ever forget this race. 

Why is it that AREVA Paris leaves me breathless?

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Jairus Birech weeps as he has broken 8 minutes for the steeplechase in a race where Evan Jager stumbled and ran 8:00.45, photo by PhotoRun.net

The performances just built on each other. 

We started with a battle over the 400 meters with Kirani James and Wayde Van Niekirk, who battled James down to the wire, running a NR for South Africa of 43.96. 

We had a women's 100 meters, where the Jamaican Pocket Rocket, aka Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce won in 10.74 over Blessing Okagbare in 10.80 and English Gardner in 10.97. 

The women's 800 meters saw Eunice Sun hold on after a first lap of 56.33 and her final 1:56.99. But behind here! Cuba's Rose Marie Almanza, who ran 1:57.70, and Swizterlands' Selina Buchel, who ran 1:57.95 NR, not knowing her time until IAAF's Mark Butler told her in the mixed zone and she had to run to the screen to believe it! And Molly Ludlow, who ran a PB of 1:58.68 in fourth and Chanelle Price, who ran 1:59.10, her PB, in fifth! 

In the women's 400 meter hurdles, Zuzana Henjova won, in 53.76 WL. But then, it came. Sara Slot Peterson, who ran Danish NR of 53.99 and Adekoya Oluakemi, who ran PB of 54.12! 


The men's 1,500 meters had Taoufik Makhloufi, 2012 Olympic champion, fresh off a scary 2:13.08, making him numero 4 on all time list, try and hold off the Kenyan chargers, as Silas Kiplagat won in 3:30.12, Suleiman Ayanleh in 3:30.17, and Ronald Kwemoi, in 3:30.43, all went by the Olympic champion, relegating him to fourth in 3:30.50. It is a sobering thought to know that Henrik Inginbritson was 11th in 3:32.85.

An exciting 110m hurdles as Orlando Ortega battled David Oliver, with the former Cuban winning in 12.94 WL, with Oliver at 12.97, and Sergey Shubenkov at 13.06! 

Some of the big surprises were because of upsets.

Renaud Lavillenie finished sixth, clearing only 5.71m, although he did try and clear 5.86m. Valerie Adams, coming back after two surgeries on her shoulders, could only muster 18.79 meters to Christine Schwanitz' 20.31m throw. This ended a 56 competition, five year winning streak for the shot put, one of the most dominating feats in sport. For Schwantiz, the victory was sweeter as she had never defeated the Kiwi star before. 

Three major events to go!

A brilliantly gutty run by Evan Jager, who battled Jairus Birech through 2:37, 5:11, and then, clipped a barrier, fell, got to his feet, as Jairus went by to run 7:58. Jager held on, running 8:00.45, a new AR!

In the women's 5000 meters, Genzebe Dibaba and Almaz Ayana hit the 3000m in 8:36.5 and it was on. Swapping the lead every other lap, it was close until final lap, hit in 13:13. The final time of 14:15.92, as Genzebe Dibaba went by and opened real estate-12-15 meters over Almaz Ayana. The two athletes did not shake hands after the race. I guess that they will not be jogging together soon. 

In the final event, the men's 100 meters, Asafa Powell won in 9.81. He just moved down the track as the pretenders to the crown tried to crowd him, but to no use. France's Jimmy Vicaut, fast but fragile, equalled the European record of 9.86, as Mike Rodgers finished the top three in 9.99. 

A great meet, and a fantastic night of track in weather that had cooled down after threatening 100 degree temperatures! 


One of the toughest events in athletics is the 110 meter hurdles.

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The high hurdles, as some call it, is a combination of sprinting skills and hurdling skills.

As Renaldo Nehemiah (first man under 13 seconds in hurdles, 8 WRS), a man who owned the WR for the 110 meter hurdles for ten years and nearly five months would tell you, " the 110m hurdles is all about establishing a rhythm."

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Aries Merritt, photo by PhotoRun.net

Two of the wiliest veterans in the 110 meter hurdles are Aries Merritt and David Oliver. We had the opportunity to interview both Aries and David together. 

Aries Merritt is the 2012 Olympic champion and WR holder in the 110m hurdles. David Oliver is the 2008 Olympic bronze medalist, 2013 World Championship gold medalist and the former American record holder. 

Listen to the interview when you can. It is interesting. Listen to their laughing and their candor, but also note their observational skills. Note how they respect each other. 

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David Oliver, photo by PhotoRun.net

I asked Aries Merritt to describe the best traits of David Oliver in the 110 meter hurdles. Merritt spoke about how strong David is on the last half of the race. I then asked David Oliver the same question regarding Aries Merritt and David noted that Aries' trail leg is exceptional over the barriers. 

David Oliver also said that, every time he races, he needs to be a world class performer and be ready to race, or he should not go out there. 

It is the nature of elite athletes. And for 110 meter hurdlers, who compete in the most competitive event on the men's schedule, respect is a big part of the game. 

Raphael Holzdeppe is the 2013 World Champion in the pole vault, having upset Renaud Lavillenie in Moscow. 

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After that meeting, he went into that cold corner of hell in our sport known as injury. 

For nearly two years, Raphael battled injuries, and it stung him deeply. He lost, perhaps, some of his confidence. 

Well, the ebullience is not all of the way back, but Mr. Holzdeppe is back. He had some fine jumping, two strong meetings in a row, with a 5.85m, and a 5.92m! 

In the presser on Friday, July 3, Raphael was relaxed and fun, speaking about what was missing from his jumping and how he is more guarded this year, in terms of competitions. 

A talent, one of the few people who can challenge le roi de la perche, Raphael Holzdeppe will be fun to watch in the Meeting AREVA. 


Today is the 4th of July. You have an off day today, but, if you want to run a 4th of July race for fun, join some friends and have a blast. Keep it easy though! 

Training in week four begins to get more challenging, so hydrate, rest and have fun! 

Saturday, July 4, 2015. Week Three, Day Six. No Workout. Walk, Bike, spend some time with friends and family and consider how lucky you are in your life. Consider the good things. 

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Nick Willis, the 2008 Olympic silver medalist at 1,500m, is a fine cross country runner, photo by PhotoRun.net

Pascal Martinot-Lagarde is the 2015 European Indoor Champion in the 60 meter hurdles. Last summer he set a new French NR of 12.95, breaking the NR of 2005 World Champ Ladje Dacoure. 

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Pascal Martinot-Lagarde, photo by PhotoRun.net

Pascal Martinot-Lagarde is one of the four world class French male hurlders and two French women hurdlers. It is an event in renaissance in France.

In this interview, done on July 3, 2015, Pascal Martinot-Lagarde goes into great detail on his racing style, his strengths and weaknesses. 

The 110m hurdles tomorrow will be a very competitive race. Martinot-Lagarde tells us that in the big races he delivers. That was true at AREVA and in Monaco last year. 

Let's see how he does in Paris.

As Pascal Martinot-Lagarde noted, Beijing is the goal. 

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Valerie Adams, photo by PhotoRun.net

This is Valerie Adams. She is the most dominant athlete  in women's track and field. With 56 straight wins, Valerie is back from a double surgery. Cathal Dennehy caught up with her to discus her comeback, her focus on the Paris DL, and her plans for the future. 
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Almaz Ayana, photo by PhotoRun.net

Almaz Ayana ran 14:14.32 for the  5000 meters in May 2015 in Shanghai. She told media later that she did not know that she was so close to the WR.

On Saturday, July 4, Almaz Ayana will battle Genzebe Dibaba, who has run 14:19.76. This should be a dream race, but is it the kind of race that one can set a WR in?

The pace that has been guaranteed is a requested 68 second a lap through the 3000 meters. Dibaba and Ayana have apparently agreed to lead each other lap and then, battle it out. 

The interview was an example of the level of complexity in the Paris press conferences. A translator for the Ethiopian runner would ask her questions in her native dialect, then respond to the French host in French who would then translate to us in English.

Ayana was quite sweet and spoke of her time as a steeplechaser. She wants to run fast and wants to do it in Paris as she is fond of the meeting AREVA and has won here (in 2013).

At the very end of the interview, Almaz said, in perfect English :"Thank you" and smiled. 

Does she understand English? 

Not sure, but her race will be most fascinating. 

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The USA Outdoors Championships were held in Eugene, Oregon from June 25-June 28. A celebration of all things track and field, the US Champs are at the same time a fantastic track meet but also the prime example of how tough our sport truly is.

To make the US team, one must finish in the top three. That means, every two years for a World Champs and every four years for the Olympics, one must finish in the top three (and make standards in WC and Olympics). In World Champs, there are byes for Diamond League champs and defending champions, so, in some events (like 110m hurdles), US will send four athletes. 

The conditions were terribly hot, around 40 degrees Celsius (95-100F) with high humidity, was part of the story for Thursday through Saturday. The crowds were a bit less than expected, but that was probably due to four major events in a month. 

In this audio, I was sitting in the stands at the 50 meter mark of the 100 meters, watching the 5000 meters, 110 hurdles and 200 meter races while enjoying a meet with some wonderful moments. 


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