Abdirahman, Tegankamp Ready for New Haven 20k Challenge by Elliott Denman

Abdi Abdirahman is one of the most popular of American distance runners. Abdi has been around for a long time, and that is fit again, ready to roll in the 20 kilometer in New Haven this coming Monday is fantastic.

Fresh from his ten days of writing in Moscow, Elliott Denman covered the USATF Press conference with Abdi on Thursday, August 29 for us. Here is the article he wrote on Abdi and the famous New Haven 20k, which, coincidentally, are both 36 years old! 

Thumbnail image for Abdirahman_AbdiWide-USOlyT12.JPG
Abdi en route, 2012 U.S. Olympic Team Trials/Marathon, 
photo by PhotoRun.net

Abdi Abdirahman's official website needs some serious updating.

Check it out/check it out - www.blackcactusrunning.com tells you that he's a three-time Olympian.

That, of course, is one away from the truth, the whole truth.

That, of course, isn't including his fourth Olympic appearance,  in the marathon at the London Games of 2012.

Then again, that's the one Games that doesn't put a smile on his face.

A tender tendon in his right knee gave out, forcing him out of the 26.2-mile London trek.  He'd run the 10,000 meters at the three previous Games, and delivered a 10th-place performance at Sydney in 2000, a 15th at Athens in 2004, and another 15th at Beijing in 2008, solid finishes all, for a nation still not used to lofty expectations in those 25-lappers.

One year past London, the very good news is that that  right knee is fully mended, that the 36-year-old Somalia-born Arizonan is running very-very well once more, and that he expects to be a top contender in the next big event on the USA Running Circuit calendar, the USA 20K Championship race hosted by the Stratton Faxon New Haven Road Race on Labor Day.

Connecticut, 48th largest of the 50 United States, 90 miles east-west, 75 miles north-south, has never let its mini-dimensions stand in the way of biggest-time running achievements. Once upon a time, Frank Shorter and Bill Rodgers were Nutmeg State collegians.  And for most of the last 36 years, the New Haven Road Race has been a beacon for the best.

Khalid Khannouchi has held the New Haven 20K record of 57.37 since 1998. Looking back, winners in the past decade who've broken the 1-hour mark include Meb Keflezighi (58:56, 2003); Ryan Shay (59:53, 2004); Abdirahman himself (58:42, 2005); Ryan Hall (59:29, 2006); Dan Browne (59:19, 2007); James Carney (59:11, 2008); Brett Gotcher (58:57, 2009); Sean Quigley (59:21, 2010), and Matt Tegenkamp (58:30, 2012.)

Abdirahman also took the 2011 edition in 1:00:12, and now guns for his third New Haven win.

"I love the atmosphere in New Haven, big crowds, a lot of great guys to run against," he said in a telephone interview from his Tucson, Arizona home base on Thursday.

"They always make you feel like you're right at home."

His training  "has been going well so far."

He's had "some little hamstring injuries" but has been healing rapidly and declares "I think I can run my best."

Abdirahman showed New England fans some of his old form at the Aug. 11 Falmouth Road Race on Cape Cod.

Micah Kogo of Kenya won it in 32:09 over ex-Dartmouth star Ben True (32:11) with Abdirahman hard on their heels in 32:19.

"I ran it hard, that's the way I always run," he said. "I was going after it."

After his London 2012 DNF, some were suggesting he'd need surgery.  "But that wasn't necessary," he said.  "I just needed some time for recovery."

At 36 - same age as the New Haven race itself - Abdirahman calls himself full of his familiar exuberance.

"I know I'm not 21 anymore.  I just have to allow myself a little more recovery time between workouts."

He's run marathons as fast as 2:08:56 (Chicago 2006) and 2:09:47 (USA 2012 Olympic Trials in Houston) and knows he'd be on target to run a big one sometime this fall.  Then again, he's not committed to any 26.2-miler just yet.

"Sure I'd like to run New York again (where he'd been fifth in 2005, sixth in 2008 and ninth in 2009)," he said. "New York has a special place in my heart." But the deal to tour The Big Apple on Nov. 3 isn't sealed.

"It's a business," he knows.  "We'll see how it works out."

Quick checking shows that just two other distancemen have made four USA Olympic teams - George Young (1960-64-68-72) and Henry Marsh (1976-80-84-88.)  (Middle distancer Johnny Gray ran the 800 meters in the 1984-88-92-96 Games.)

So is an historic fifth Olympic Games possible for the 1999 University of Arizona grad who'll be 39 by Rio DeJaneiro time in the summer of 2016?

Good thought, but as ever, first things first, and that's New Haven.

As results from all recent majors indicate, right through to Moscow's Aug. 10-18 World Championships, the USA's male distance racing talent pool these days is topped only by Kenya's and Ethiopia's.   And there are some indications that that gap is closing, too.

Those who've followed Abdirahman's career know that he's an athlete who can never be counted out.

"Yes, U.S. depth these days is just awesome," knows Matt Tegenkamp, the 31-year-old Missouri-reared, Wisconsin-schooled, now-Oregon-trained two-time Olympian who returns to New Haven cast as the defending champion.

He ran 13th in the 2008 Olympic 5,000 meters; 19th in the 2012 Olympic 10,000.

"It is extremely gratifying to see how far it (the U.S. distance program) has taken off," said Tegenkamp, who is committed to the Oct. 13 Bank of America Chicago Marathon as his formal 26.2-mile debut.

His target pace in the Windy City:  "Five-minute miles through at least 20 or 21, then I'll see what I can do from there."  Optimistically, it would be in the 2:11s.

Training weeks of over 120 miles, featuring "super-long tempos," are on his post-New Haven agenda.

"There's a lot of work still to go."

And - for the first time this fall - there's another big-big one just past the marathon season.

That's the U.S. National Road Racing Championship 12K Race, set for Nov. 17 in Alexandria, Va.

The USARC schedule gathers steam every year and in 2013 incorporates 10 races at distances from one mile to the marathon.

The first 10 U.S. runners earn points at each USARC race (15 for first, 12 for second, 10 for third, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2 and 1), with a final $12,500 grand prix purse ($6000, $4000, and $2500) for the top three men and women point scorers over-all.

With six USARC races already in the books for 2013, Tegenkamp is atop the points standings with 35, with Mo Trafeh a close second at 33 and Ben True at 21.

When New Haven's done, Abdirahman flies back to Arizona to continue the build-up process.  Somewhere along the line, he may find time to get his website up to speed, too.

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