My pics for top 5 story lines in track/running for 2016
5 - The utter dominance of Almez Ayana
Going into the 2016 track season we knew Ayana was a big time talent, but she was overshadowed by Genzebe Dibaba and her consistent smashing of world records indoors and a 3:50 outdoor 1500m time. But 2016 would be the year of Ayana from 3k-10k, save for a fumble in the 5k final in Rio likely due to that ridiculous 10000m WR she ran a few days prior. Other then that she was simply perfect in 2016 and gave Tirunesh Dibaba's 5000m WR a scare on several occasions. Based on her 10000m time it's not a matter of "if" she can break the 5k record more a matter of "when" she will break it. Her gutsy front running style is amazing to watch and really makes for some entertaining distance running. I'd really like to see her run a 1500 in 2017, I don't think she has the wheels of G. Dibaba but in a spicy/honest race from the gun I don't see anything stopping her from running 3:54/55.
4 - The return to form of Kenny Bekele.
When Bekele came 3rd in London this year in 2:06 I had mixed feelings. On one hand that was one of the deepest fields in history, he beat the likes of Kipsang, Kimetto and Ghirmay Ghebreslassie. With that said however he was 3 minutes and 30 seconds off Kipchoge. When Berlin rolled around and his agent Jos Hermens said his training had gone well but that he was hoping to break 2:05 and was at 80/90% I didn't have high hopes. I knew that the field wasn't super strong with the top dogs having run Rio and either choosing to not run a fall marathon or opt for NYC. Boy was I wrong, Kipsang showed he's far from done and with the help of some great pacemaking the two had a great 25km split and Kipsang put the foot down and Bekele was yoyo-ing off the back. But when he closed the gap and made a decisive charge for the finish at just past 40k it was like the Bekele of old. It reminded me of the WC's in Berlin back in 2009 when he took off on Tedese. Kenny is certainly not done and with him now running basically 2:03 flat he has the confidence to know he can manage that type of pace. He can certainly run something in the mid to low 2:02 range. That said, to do it he's going to need a really good field, ideally with Kipchoge. Bekele will likely run London, along with Kipsang, Biwott and a few other studs, I don't think anyone will break 2:03 there but in Berlin next fall expect to see a record attempt for sure.
3 - The marathon debut and success of Galen Rupp
I'd be remiss if I didn't have this included in the top story lines for distance running. When it was announced he was running the trials I figured he would easily take the win as the field just wasn't very good. I was shocked to hear people who are fairly knowledgeable on the sport saying he wasn't going to make the team. Now, that said, I had serious doubts about how he would stack up against the best east Africans in Rio who routinely go out in 61:45-62:15 through half. His performance at the trials was very dominant, running 2:11 flat in the heat making it seem like a tempo run. Add to that the rumors confirmed by Alberto that Rupp had run a 20 mile tempo at 4:50 pace with his heart rate never over 160 and I was starting to get interested on just how quick/competitive he could be over 26.2. Fast forward to Rio where he looked great in the 10k just lacking a little foot speed which is to be expected when training for a marathon. As the marathon in Rio started to shake out and I kept seeing big names falling off the pack it was pretty exciting to watch. When it was down to 3 and Rupp was running with the best marathoner to ever live and a 2:04 guy who won Tokyo earlier this year we had our answer, Galen is VERY good at the marathon and took to the event seamlessly. I hear he's running the Huston half on the 15th with eye's on Hall's HM record so be sure to tune in for that and keep an eye on what he does leading into Boston this spring.
2 - How far the USA have come in the Mid-D and Distance events.
We knew that the US have been enjoying a resurgence of sorts in the mid and long distance events thanks to the growth/establishment of top quality training groups. Athletes like Jenny Simpson, Matt Centrowitz, Evan Jager and Galen Rupp have shown that on their best day they can compete with anyone in the world and it seems that this has translated into more confidence and overall higher levels of performance over a multitude of events. The US took home some MAJOR hardware in Rio, from the young Clayton Murphy running 1:42 and taking a bronze in one of the deepest events contested, the 800m, to Evan Jager and Emma Coburn asserting themselves in the Kenyan dominated 3000mSC to Rupp medaling in the marathon. The US has become a power house nation once again and it's encouraging for all non African born athletes to see that it's possible to be competitive on the world stage. (Paul Chelimo and Jenny Simpson's medals were equally as impressive I just didn't include it in that sentence ha)
1 - Hyperandrogenism in the women's 800m
Other then the Russian doping scandal/ban this was the biggest story in track as far as I'm concerned. (I didn't want to touch the doping stuff as there's still more info that needs to be released but this is a great piece if you want to know more about that - http://www.sbnation.com/2016/7/22/12258488/russia-doping-scandal-suspensions-rio-olympics-2016 ) Anyway, the woman's 800m, I'm not going to get into my stance on it as frankly it's just that, my stance/opinion, and I'm certainly not an expert on the situation. I will say however that Semenya, Niyonsaba and Wambui certainly enjoy a HUGE advantage over two laps when compared to woman who don't suffer from Hyperandrogenism. In my mind Melissa Bishop is the world number 1 if everyone was playing with relatively the same hormonal profile. Am I biased because she's a Canadian? Absolutely, but this year she broke 2 minutes a ridiculous amount of times, set national records indoors and out and handled the Olympics with such grace and class. This situation is something that needs to be looked at further and debated by those in the know who can make a fair and just recommendation on how best to proceed for all athletes involved. I'll end by saying Semenya is an amazing athlete and a tremendous champion who deserves to be treated as such with only the utmost respect.
Other story lines of note for 2016;
Mo Farah's continued dominance,
Usain Bolt's legacy as possibly the best track athlete ever,
Why Kiprop struggles at Major Champs,
Wayde van Niekerk's 400m WR,
Ruth Jebet's rediculously fast steeples,
Jama Aden's doping bust (And Rosa's)
5 story's to keep an eye on in 2016.
5 - Will Farah win the double again and go for a WR?
There has been some talk of Farah taking a stab at either the 5k or 10k world record this year. I'd personally love to see it. Based on his 1500m ability you'd think he 5k would be his best bet but 12:37 is just so fast, I mean Komen only ran 12:39 and the guy went 7:20 and 7:58 for 3k and 2 miles. Personally, I feel like the 10k record is softer then the 5k, not that 26:17 is soft by any means but as Ronato Canova has stated before, he thought Bekele could have gone under 26:10 with competition, like Haile in his prime racing him. I don't know if it's within Farah's abilities, but I'd like to see him at least try. He will likely win the double again as he rather easily won both the 5 and 10 in 2016, an Olympic year when everyone was to be at there best. If he does the double again then there is no doubt we need to start having a serious discussion about him being in the GOAT conversation. (That said, Bekele added to his case with that Berlin performance).
4 - Will Rupp take the HM American Record down and/or win Boston?
With a 26:44 10k in his pocket, it's not really a matter of "if" Rupp can run that fast it's a matter of getting into the right race, he ran 60:30 after falling in his HM debut back in 2011 before he ever even broke 27 minutes for 10k and jogged a 61:20 in Portland last year as a training run. He will eventually run slightly under 59:30 I'd imagine. As for Boston, with most of the top dogs either participating in the "Sub2" Nike project or running London which have deep pockets for appearance fees this is the time to do it. I wouldn't consider him the favorite with the champ returning but he's up there with him and if it's a 2:08-2:12 type race he can likely close the last 10k much faster then anyone else who's been announced as running thus far.
3 - Savoring one last year with Usain Bolt in the sport.
Usain is one of the rare athletes in track and field who can transcend the sport and can reach into mainstream media. Part of that is thanks to the prestige of the 100m dash and being the fastest man on earth but more then anything it's his charisma that makes him a star. Let us cherish this last season he's going to give us and be grateful we witness him in his prime and trust that he leaves the sport on top.
2 - Will Genzebe Dibaba return to form & go for the 5k WR against Ayana?
Obviously 2016 wasn't the best year for Dibaba (granted for anyone else it would still be a spectacular season). The complications/scandal with her coach clearly played on her, coupled with a slight injury early in the season. That said, when she's 100% Dibaba is unbeatable over 1500m and my dream match up would be for her to race Ayana over 5000m in a record attempt. It's guaranteed to fall as both have come within a second or two over the last couple years. So, Diamond League, please make this happen!
1 - The pursuit of the sub 2 hour marathon.....
This is the big story to follow for 2017. Now, do I think anyone currently has to ability to break 2 hours on a ratified course? Not a chance! And do I like the idea of 2 of the world's best Marathoners and the HM world record holder missing out on London? Not one bit! But this is a cool idea, it's generating some mainstream media and attracting more attention to the sport and marathoning so in that sense I'm ok with it so long as I get to see Kipchoge run Berlin. Eliud is the best marathoner to ever live, that's not even up for debate at this point, the guy's won 6 out of 7 marathons and in my estimation he can likely run a low 2:02. His 2:03 flat at London was not paced well early and he still finished looking full of running. So I'm very anxious to see go after a really fast time in the fall of 2017.
Well, that's all for now, it felt good to write this. Again, sorry for the delay. With the holidays and what not things just get busy but I'm back at it now. Speaking of I owe my coach an email/FB msg so we can put some plans in place for 2017 and ramp up the training. I'll be back posting every Tuesday so make sure to keep it locked for more ramblings and training updates/talk.
Thanks for reading and I hope you all had an awesome holiday with your loved ones.
Keep those sticks on the ice,