From the very start, there were two men's races. A pack of Dathan Ritzenhein, Brian Olinger, Mo Trafeh, Joseph Chirlee, Ryan Hall, Abdi Abdirahman, and Meb Keflezighil meant business from the start. Cruising 4.50-4.51 miles, the lead pack hit the mile in 4:50, two miles in 9:41 and three miles in 14:32. The chasing pack, lead by Brett Gotcher and Andrew Carlsen, were already 30 seconds back at 5k, hit in 15:03.
Mo Trafeh had won the USA Half marathon title here last year. He dropped out of the Virgin London Marathon last April, but his training was strong, and Mo, from Duarte, CA, but lives in Morocco, was dangerous. Joseph Chirlee, also a naturalised American, was also new to the US championship seen, but he looked good. Brian Olinger, the steeplechaser, would race his longest distance-once he hit 8 miles!
Meb Keflezighi, the 36 year old Olympic silver medalist who has had had his shares of injuries, lined up, with five and one half weeks of training. Note that, in 2004, before the Olympic Trials, he had six and one half weeks of training. Bob Larsen, Meb's coach for the past 18 years, was more reflective this week: " Meb is healthy, a bit short on training, but he is healthy."
Ryan Hall, the fastest American marathon ever, has been coaching himself for the past year. Well, he has advisors. On a recent USADA form, Ryan wrote "God" as his named coach. The USADA official was not pleased, but it was allowed. Ryan wanted to defend his title from 2008 Trials (held in November 2007), but, he knew, like Meb knows, like Abdi knows that, making one of the three positions on the Olympic team would be difficult enough.
photo by PhotoRun.net
And then, Dathan Ritzenhein. A talented high schooler, excellent college athlete, and a two time Olympian, Dathan has had his share of injuries. His coach, Alberto Salazar had worked with him during this build-up, carefully watching his workouts and using supplemental training to help keep him healthy. For a young man who has run sub 13 for 5,000 meters and 2:10 for the marathon, Dathan has huge promise. Would today be his day?
Abdi Abdirihman, long injured, but also long-talented, was not on anyone's lips, until Friday. The Black Cactus, who was respected for his running prowess but loved for his enjoyment of a good party, was rumored to be in shape. When it came out that Abdi brought neither family or friends to Houston, they knew he meant business.
With 111 starters, the men's race got off fine. The lead pack of seven hit 5k in 15:03, 10k in 29:53, and 20k in just over 62 minutes. Brian Olinger dropped off the pace at eight miles and Joseph Chirlee just before Olinger.
Ryan Hall, Meb Keflezighi, Abdi Abdirahman, Dathan Ritzenhein, along with Mo Trafeh, hit the half way at 1:03.25.
Hall ran hard from the start. An honest pace, a 2:06 pace, that could be held by less than a dozen athletes. By halfway, on a 2:07 pace, the leaders were down to five. Hall, Ritz, Abdi and Meb Keflezighi, who looked very good. Mo Trafeh, who had stayed out of the lead, started to drop back.
The race, after the half way point, became a war of attrition. After Trafeh was dropped, Dathan Ritzenhein, Meb, Abdi and Ryan Hall ran solid 4:53-4:55 pace through 18 miles. Dathan Ritzenhein had a bad patch and started dropping back just past 18 miles.
And then, there were three....Ryan, Meb and Abdi hit 30k in 1:30.45. The last mile under five minutes was mile 19, hit in 1:32.19, hit in 4:56.
Ryan Hall, Meb Keflezighi and Abdi Abdiirihman were running together, and it was down to three. Hitting twenty in 1:37:30, all three looked great.
Over the next several miles, Meb Keflezighi began to look better, and Ryan Hall just was not the same guy he had been at ten miles. Abdi Abdirihman faltered about 23 miles, and began to fall apart.
By this time, Meb Keflezighi just cruised to 24 miles and as Ryan Hall started to falter, Meb built up a lead of 22 seconds, running through the finish. He also was given a flag, which he carried from mile 25 on!
Full of emotion, Meb Keflezighi won the 2012 Olympic Trials for the marathon in 2:09:08. Ryan Hall, just a little off his game, took second, in 2:09:30. And the Black Cactus, Abdi Abdirihman, who many had written off, held on for third, in 2:09:47. Meb had worn his personal best!
Dathan Ritzenhein, just dug himself out of a huge hold, 40 seconds at one time and just missed the Olympic team, running 2:09:55, his personal best. Brett Gotcher, McMillan Elite, who had lead the chasing pack, finished in fifth in 2:11:06, hear his best. In sixth place, Andrew Carlson, from Team USA Minnesota, ran out of his head, running 2:11.24.
More to come!
With 50 men under 2:19.56, and some strong personal bests, the 2012 U.S. Olympic Trials-Marathon will be discussed for a long time to come. Watch for more coverage from us early in the week.
For more on how the race developed:
2012 U.S. Olympic Trials-Marathon, Men, Top 15: 1. Meb Keflezighi, NYAC, 2:09:08, PB, 2. Ryan Hall, ASICS, 2:09:30, 3. Abdi Abdirahman, Nike, 2:09:47, 4. Dathan Ritzenhein, Nike Oregon Project, 2:09:55, 5. Brett Gotcher, McMillen Elite, 2:11.06, 6. Andrew Carlson, Team USA Minnesota, 2:11.24, 7. Fernando Cabado, 2:11.53, 8. Nick Arciniaga, McMillan Elite, 9. James Carney, New Balance, 2:12.23, 10. Jimmy Grabow, adidas Legacy Run Racing, 2:12.29, 11. Ryan Vail, 2:12.43, 12. Ricky Flynn, 2:13.41, 13.Patrick Rizzo, 2:13.42, 14. Josh Cox, K-SWISS Racing, 2:13:50, 15. Ian Burrell, Boulder running company/adidas, 2:14.04