Genzebe Dibaba Focuses on 5000m and Aims to Conquer the Outdoor Track Season
By Sabrina Yohannes
Genzebe Dibaba has had spectacular success in the last two indoor seasons, starting with the trio of world marks she smashed in a two-week span in 2014. The Ethiopian clocked 3:55.17 for 1500m, 8:16.60 for 3000m and 9:00.48 for two miles that February, before taking 3000m gold at the world indoor championships a month later.
On February 19, 2015, she ran 14:18.86 in Stockholm to erase her compatriot Meseret Defar’s indoor world record over 5000m.
Dibaba, whose outdoor track season is due to start this weekend in Oregon, has decided to focus on the longer distance, contesting the event at the world championships in Beijing in August.
“This year, I’ve moved to the 5000,” said Dibaba in an interview soon after she won the March 29 Carlsbad road race. “I’ve been doing good training with my coach, and God having willed it, I broke the indoor 5000m record. That was a great race. During it, I was a little concerned that it might be tough for me at the end, so I was minding my pace and saving myself, but otherwise, I could have run faster than I did. I wasn’t very tired when I finished the race.”
Dibaba tackled Defar’s 14:46 road 5K mark next, at the same Carlsbad 5000 event in California where Defar clocked it in 2006.
“I was aiming for the record, but in the first mile, I had a pacemaker and I lost a little time there,” said Dibaba. “I tried to make up for it, but I missed out by two seconds. I believe [the pacemaker] was asked to run the first kilometer in 2:56 but she ran 3:02 and I think that’s where I missed it.”
Dibaba covered the first mile in about 4:50 and finished the race in 14:48.
“It was my first time running the race, but I had prepared well and was in good shape,” she said. “The course has a lot of turns, so we lose a few seconds when we round the turns; we encounter turns about six times. But I was happy. Even if I didn’t break the record, I ran a good time, so I’m pleased with that, and don’t mind so much. Now that I know the course, next time, when I run it after good preparation, I don’t think I’ll have a hard time. I think next time, I can run well and achieve my goal.”
Dibaba is scheduled to run the 5000m at the Eugene Diamond League meet on Saturday, May 30 and an attack on that record has been talked about. Dibaba’s older sister and the 5000m former world and Olympic champion Tirunesh holds the 14:11.15 record.
Genzebe Dibaba, photo by PhotoRun.net
“My coach says I can do it,” Genzebe Dibaba said at the time of this interview, when she still had weeks left to prepare for the race. “I won’t say that yet with full confidence, that I will break it. But I’m in good shape this year. God willing, I’ll run a fast time in Eugene.”
Dibaba, whose personal best for the distance is her 2014 14:28.88, has been training in recent years with middle-distance coach Jama Aden, who has helped her tap into her potential, making impressive improvements on her personal records in several distances.
“He says ‘You can run 14:10’,” said Dibaba. “He sees me training and believes I can.”
The 2014 Laureus World Sportswoman of the Year Dibaba’s 2015 Pre Classic appearance will be the first stop on the road towards Beijing. “After Eugene, I’ll run [another] 5000m and, because there’s the world championships this year, I don’t want to race too much,” she said. “I’ll race twice or else three times. So far, I’ve just thought about Eugene and Oslo.” The Oslo Diamond League meet is on June 11.
TARGETING OUTDOOR SUCCESS
The former world indoor 1500m champion Dibaba said she feels the need to aim for as successful a season outdoors as she’s had recently indoors.
“It’s what everyone asks about: ‘You run well indoors, but outdoors, you are fatigued or you don’t have fast times’,” she said. “God willing, this year, I know I have to maintain the good form I had indoors through the outdoor season, and prepare well.”
Dibaba actually suffered unfortunate mishaps at the last two outdoor global championships. She pulled a hamstring during the London Olympic 1500m heats and had to be carried off the track in pain. In 2013, she hoped to contest the 5000m but was entered in the 1500m at the Moscow world championships by her national federation.
She did take the 2014 Continental Cup 3000m title, but was not undefeated during the season, as she’d been indoors.
Dibaba has said in past interviews that the rainy season in Addis Ababa, where she lives, hampers her training every outdoor track season. The wettest months in the central Ethiopian highlands are June through September.
“In the rainy season, I can’t train much at home because of the mud,” she reiterated this year. “I’ve tried many times, but I find it difficult.”
The World Meteorological Organization’s figures show average monthly rainfall of 7 to 58 inches from November to March in Addis Ababa, but 138 to 290 inches from June to September. Similarly, the average number of rainy days per month, which hovers in the single digits the rest of the year, jumps to 18 to 27 days a month in the wet season.
So in mid-2014, Dibaba went, with Aden’s multinational group of athletes, to train in European summer weather for the outdoor track season.
“I was in Spain for two months and I was in Sweden one month,” she said. “It was good. I mean, I had better results than other times, after being in Europe last year. Outdoors, I ran faster than I’ve done in the past, although I had a small injury in the middle of the season, and that’s why after that, there was a bit of a decline, but otherwise, it was good.”
She said she had to interrupt her training due to the injury.
“In the 5000, I ran a personal best, and a fast time in the two miles,” said Dibaba, who won the Monaco 5000 in the fastest time of the year ahead of Ethiopia’s world bronze medalist Almaz Ayana and Kenyan Viola Jelagat Kibiwot. Dibaba clocked 9:14.28 in the Birmingham two miles. “I attacked the world record and although I didn’t manage that, I did run a fast time,” she said.
She also ran a world-leading 5:27.50 in the Ostrava 2000m, and was pleased with her change of summer training base in 2014 (when the absence of major global competitions that year likely minimized any conflict with national team training for championships). “I tried something different last year, and I’ll do it again,” she said.
AUNT TO TIRUNESH’S NEW BABY
The Dibaba family is also experiencing something new this year. Tirunesh has given birth to her first child, a boy whom she and her former Olympic silver medalist husband Sileshi Sihine named Nathan.
“It’s a great thing, I’m very happy,” said Genzebe, who is also an aunt to the young daughter of her other older sister and the 2004 Olympic 10,000m silver medalist Ejegayehu.
The 2012 Olympic 10,000m champion Tirunesh made her marathon debut last year, after dominating in cross country and on the track, where she took 5000m and 10,000m gold at the 2005 world championships and 2008 Olympics.
“She made history in the world of running,” said Genzebe. “Now, she’s experiencing a new aspect of life. I imagine she won’t be aiming to train for anything before Brazil.”
While Tirunesh tends to family matters until the lead-up to Rio 2016, Genzebe hopes to represent the Dibaba name well in Beijing 2015.