Carlsbad 5000 Diaries: Victors new and renewed, as Cheptegei and Defar win


For most of the past four decades, I have been watching track meets, cross country races and road races. For most of the first decade, I actually ran in them. Then, for much of the next decade, I coached athletes who ran in them. For the past two decades, I have written about them. I have to admit that I still get excited to going to meets and races, as I enjoy the competitions at all levels. It is all about the competition.

The Carlsbad 5000 is one of the few races on the elite circuit that I have not visited. It is in its 31rst year. It is on my bucket list. Each year, the race provides some exciting racing and celebrates both elite and fitness running, over a fun distance, the 5k.

Defar_MeseretFV-Carlsbad16.JPgMeseret Defar, photo by

It was nice to note (I watched the races via Periscope) a new champ and a renewed champ at this year's Carlsbad. Watch for Meseret Defar to make a big splash again in 2016, and watch Joshua Cheptegei. Elite Athlete coordinator for Carlsbad, Matt Turnbull told RunBlogRun that Joshua Cheptegai is one to watch.

And Mr. Turnbull knows talent.

Cheptegei_JoshuaFL-Carlsbad16.JPgJoshua Cheptegei, photo by

When I called Matt Turnbull, Competitor Groups' elite athlete coordinator, this past evening, on my walk, he was tired, but happy. His focus, the Carlsbad 5000, had gone well once again. Hordes of runners of all ages, and elite runners, were all running a new course through Carlsbad, California.

Matt's job is a thankless one. Put together the best field that one can, on both men and women's sides, and find some new talent while one is at it. This year, Matt Turnbull had been speaking with Jos Hermans' Global Sports Management team, and heard about a young and upcoming talent, a young runner from Uganda named Joshua Cheptegei. The young runner wanted to race in the U.S. Joshua needed a race where he could distinguish himself.

"You know when you see a new athlete, you get that feeling? " was how Matt Turnbull described picking Joshua Cheptegei for this race. And that was a presient choice, as Joshua, racing in tandem with Kenya's Wilson Too, Ethiopia's Debeli Gezmu, and US's Bernard Lagat and Hassan Mead. This race was not for the faint of heart, as they passed 3k in 8:02.

Joshua Cheptegei delivered on the chance that Matt Turnbull took on the young Ugandan runner, and won the race in 13:24, the second fastest time in the world in 2016. Wilson Too finished second in 13:29 and Debeli Gezmu was third in 13:38. Bernard Lagat, one of our finest athletes, broke his own World Masters record with his fourth place 13:38! Hassan Mead, from Minneapolis, now in Eugene, Oregon, took fifth in 13:39.

Meseret Defar has twelve medals in Olympic and World Championships. Her silver in the 3000 meters at the World Indoors showed that Meseret was back, after the birth of her daughter.

While the race went out a bit fast for Ms. Defar, her finish in 15:02 showed that her strength was back and so was her racing savvy. Caroline Kipkirui of Kenya and Susan Kuijken of the Netherlands battled Defar as long as they could.

Meseret's fine race reminded me of a conversation I had with her in the cold of Boston in mid February. Meseret and her husband smiled when I asked about her fitness after her opener in 8:30 for the 3000m. Defar noted that she was coming along fine, but, "give me a few more weeks to prepare for the World Indoors." Meseret Defar delivered in Portland on March 20, and now, April 3, in Carlsbad.

Meseret Defar wants to race, and she is coming along quite well, as she builds for Rio.

The Competitor Group manages over 70 races of various distances across North America and Europe. What has been great to see is their committment to providing elite runners racing opportunities. The Carlsbad 5000 and Philly Half have been two examples of that committment.

When I asked Matt Turnbull, after such a great day of racing, how he would sum up the Carlsbad 5000 meters , he noted this: " Joshua Cheptegei will be someone to watch, especially after his race today! And Meseret Defar is back. A new runner to watch and an champion runner has returned!"

Let us see what they plan for the 32nd version of Carlsbad.

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