I was heading to the elevator in the Rennaissance Savoy hotel, and saw Bob Sevene, one of our most creative distance coaches. Sev, as many call him, now coaches Blake Russell, and lives, in the bucolic splendor of the Monterrey Penninsula, in Central California. As this writer is known to do, a conversation is struck up between two people who have never developed the talent for short responses. We end up catching up for the next half hour or so. What does come out of the conversation: Blake Russell is in shape, best she has felt in three to four years, and is in Des Moines to test her conditioning. I put a mental note of 33 minutes….
Blake Russell took what could have been a snorer of a race, and made it an epic battle between some very talented women distance runners. Lisa Koll, the hometown girl, the stadium record holder at 32:44.95 (2008), versus Amy Begley, the Olympic, the World Champ sixth placer, the women with an scary ability to finish very, very hard.
Blake Russell is a metronome.
Blake Russell may be the most under-rated women distance runner in America…her
ability to race, from 1,500 meters to the marathon is extraordinary. Her ability to foster
a life, work with a coach that stature of Bob Sevene, and her long career still do not suggest
what this there-this women can break 2:20. The time will come.
Blake hit the 400 meters in 78.94, and ran 76-78s through six kilometers. Hitting the first kilometer in 3:15.3, Russell hit the 2k marker in 6:29.48, 3k in 9:45.9, 4k in 13:04, and 5k in 16:19.9-all between 3:15-3:17!
Running right behind her were Lisa Koll, who had just won the NCAA 10,000 m and
5,000 m in Eugene last weekend. Lisa Koll is the hometown girl. She is also the focus
of much attention from the footwear companies, with many making bids for her. Koll
is one of the “got to have it” athletes. This race was being watched with much
Lisa Koll knew what she was doing. In order to break Amy Begley, she had to have
a strong pace, and then, with three to four kilometers to go, Koll had to drill Begley
into the ground, so hard, that Ms. Begley was unable to use her prolific finish.
As Blake Russell hit the sixth kilometer in 19:37.5, Lisa Koll and Amy Begley went
by Blake as if she was, to use a trite term, standing still. Russell paid for her leading,
by dropping back to eighth or ninth…
Lisa Koll pushes the pace, photo by PhotoRun.net.
Lisa Koll dropped a 74.8, then a 77.6 and the pack broke up. It was now
two races..Koll vs Begley, and then, the Desiree Davila show…. Desiree,
who has been on a running tear, with Pb’s at 3,000m, indoors, 5,000m
outdoors, was running the 10,000 meters very smart, and picking off one
runner after another, making a run for third place. Blake Russell had pulled
herself back together and was fighting for sixth, then fifth, and finally,
Lisa Koll ran a 3:10 kilometer between six and seven kilometers, the fastest of the
race. As Koll beared down, Begleys’ arms continued to cross and her head rolled,
much like the form of British great Gordon Pirie. As with Pirie, it was a mistake to
take this for exhaustion or falling apart.
Begley is a very tough athlete. She has the ability to withstand a huge amount of
distress before succumbs. But, if Begley can get to within smelling range of a finish,
any finish, look out!
Lisa Koll, the NCAA champion, two times over, did not relent, hitting 8 kilometers in
26:02, a 3:12, and both Koll and Begley were still very close. By this time, Desiree Davila and
Blake Russell were three and four, ten seconds back (for Davila ) and thirty seconds back
Begley makes her move, 400 meters to go, USA 10,000m, photo by
Amy Begley did not give up, and neither did Lisa Koll. Hitting 9k in 29:11.8,
Koll and Begley were still together, neither runner giving up!
At, 9,600 meters, hit in 31:01.46, Amy Begley took off, gaining fifteen meters in
ten seconds, with her brutal kick. Lisa Koll did not give up, as Begley put five
seconds of distance in the last lap, running a new stadium record of 32:06.41,
with Koll at 32:11.72.
In third place, Desiree Davila ran a strong 32:22.32 and Blake Russell ran 32:46.73 for fourth, with Amy Hastings in fifth in 32:49.07 and Megan Hogan of GWU in 32:52.84.
Amy Begley, USA 2010 10,000m champion, photo by PhotoRun.net.
Right after the race, Gary Morgan and I, doing video for the Running Network,
caught up with Lisa Koll. Lisa noted that her NCAA career had ended in a dream
fashion last week, with her two victories.
We asked her about her first professional race, and she noted that ” Amy was very
tough, I tried to break her, but she ran a great race!”
An epic battle over 10,000 meters was had by the women on Thursday night, giving
the local crowd a real crowd pleaser, and Amy Begley and Lisa Koll visions of the
battles the two will have in the future!