Last Sunday, there was a terrific cover story in the New York Times Magazine on the phenomenal middle-distance prodigy Mary Cain. The 18-year-old, who is from New York, now lives in Portland where she is coached by Alberto Salazar who himself was a stunningly great high school runner.
One of the most fascinating aspects of the article to me, written by Elizabeth Weil, was Salazar said he was confident that Cain could run 3:55 for 1500 meters (her best is 4:04.62) and possibly go as fast as “the 3:52 range.” FYI: The American record for 1500 meters is 3:57.12 by Mary Slaney, set in 1983 but the world record is an ungodly 3:50.46, set in ’93 by Qu Yunxia of China.
Why I found that so fascinating is Salazar almost always has his top guys (such as Galen Rupp and Mo Farah) shoot for the moon –i.e., world records—and yet the women’s 1500 world record is so clearly out of sight that not even someone with the potential that Cain evidently has, can ever reasonably expect to challenge it.
Cain’s not alone.
Every women’s track world record, with the possible exception of the steeple and 5000 meters, has been so tainted by performance enhancing drugs that even attempting to break a record is essentially futile. It isn’t just that almost all the world records were set by drug queens 25-30 years ago, it’s that their cheating was so grievous that the records have been forever distorted, beyond what is considered even remotely attainable.
The futility of women’s world records is illustrated by the 1500 world mark of Yunxia. Track & Field News,the Bible of the sport, in its listing of world records, has a caveat under Yunxia’s record: “We believe the ‘real’ fastest is 3:52.47 by Tatyana Kazankina in 1980.” But Kazankina, who set seven world records, was a druggie too.
All the women’s world record holders from the ’80s were, from FloJuice (Florence Joyner) to Marita Koch (400) to Jarmila Kratochviloa (800) to the Chinese duo of Yunxia and Junxia Wang (3000 and 10,000). It’s incredulous that in a sport like track with all the advancements in equipment, training and tracks that records could have stood for 25-30 years.
While it’s true that most of the women world record holders never tested positive (that we know of), it’s also true that such admitted drug stars as Regina Jacobs and Marion Jones never did either. Of course, Lance Armstrong, Roger Clemens, Barry Bonds, Alex Rodriguez, etc., never tested positive either.
Nobody defends any of the women’s world records as legit in the same way that few defend Barry Bonds’ career and season home run marks. The cycling federation threw out all of Armstrong’s Tour de France victories. The international governing body of track (the IAAF) should do the same and hit the delete key on all women’s world records and start all over again from scratch.
Interest in track and field is dwindling to the point that, other than in an Olympic year, relatively few care about the sport. Baseball has survived its own PED scandal; track barely so.
Track is still a dirty sport, but at the very least it could regain some credibility and create excitement by hitting the reset button on its world records. If it doesn’t, women’s track will remain stuck in the ’80s.
O The Los Angeles Marathon is Sunday and a heat wave is expected with the high in the low 90s. Nearly 26,000 runners are expected as well as a top field of Americans who are competing in the national championships and getting a preview of the ’16 Olympic Trials course. (The Trials date is February 17th.) With a record high forecast for Sunday, the marathon has moved up its start time by 30 minutes to 6:55 and doing everything else possible (cooling buses, misting stations and increasing aid along the course) to cope with the heat. Temps should be in the high 60s at the start, but are expected to climb into the high 70s to low 80s during the race. David Fuentes, who has already qualified for the Olympic Trials, is leaving for LA tomorrow and confirms that he’s still running. Fuentes hasn’t had great success in the marathon. He’s finished three marathons and in two of prior starts—Chicago and San Antonio—faced unseasonable warm weather. Fuentes is still optimistic he can put a serious dent into his PR of 2:28 in LA. Also running LA is Becky Wade of Houston.
O Several Rogue AC athletes are headed to Jacksonville for the USATF national 15-K championship. Scheduled to run are Rogue’s Mia Behm, Kristen Findley, Allison Mendez and Sarah Pease. Juli Accurso, who ran part of the Austin Marathon last year, is also running as is her boyfriend Craig Leon who finished second in last year’s Austin Half. Kiya Dandena of Houston is also entered.
O Another Rogue runner—Anne Jones, a former UT middle distance runner—is on the cover of this month’s Runner’s World which features a story on running in Austin.
O Last add Rogue: Rogue has targeted the Toronto Waterfront Marathon for runners in its training groups and is offering a guaranteed PR to the first 30 runners who sign up for a training group and run Toronto. That is Rogue will refund the Toronto entry fee for any of those 30 who don’t PR but there are all sorts of provisions to this. In order to be eligible, you must attend at least 80 percent of all the workouts, complete at least 80 percent of the training schedule and the offer is only for Toronto. Plus, in order to be eligible for the guarantee, runners must have PR’ed within the last two years.
O Two of our best pro trigals—Natasha Van Der Merwe and Kelly Williamson—are on the road this weekend. Natasha has already arrived in Melbourne, Australia for the Asia-Pacific Championship Ironman next Sunday, while Kelly is en route to San Juan, Puerto Rico for a 70.3 on Sunday. Williamson, who finished second in her first tri of the year in the Philippines in February, has won the San Juan event twice.
O The lotteries open this week for two popular fall marathons—Marine Corps and Chicago—that normally quickly sell out. Chicago’s lottery for one of its 40,000 spots opened on Tuesday and Marine Corps’ lottery opens tomorrow. Registration for the Philadelphia Marathon (November 22nd), which many Austinites are targeting this year, opens April 1st.
O The Lost Pines Trail Half and Marathon in Smithville were last Saturday. Joel Stanford won the half in 1:34:18 with Neilia Bliss winning the women’s division in 1:40:46. The marathon was won by Paul Terranova in 3:22:54 with Claire Cella taking the women’s title in 3:56:05.
O Plenty of folks camped out in Smithville after the Lost Pines races and on Sunday also did the Dirty Du (5-K run, 12-mile bike, 5-K run). Jack Cartwright was the overall winner in 1:54:05, while Alissa Magrum won the women’s division in 2:28:59.
O The Fresh 15-K up in Tyler was dominated by Kenyans. Of the top 15, 11 were Kenyans, led by Cleophas Ngetich who won in 45:20. Former Baylor runner (current Austinite) Jeff Sadler placed 12th in 49:49. The first woman was Susan Jerotich of Kenya in 52:39. Kenyan women went 1-5 with Jen Frankmann of Richardson in 57:07 in sixth and Amber Reber of Austin finishing seventh in 1:00:06. Mia Behm (12th) ran 1:03:47.
O In the Gusher Marathon down in Beaumont, Buddy Lighfoot (love that name) of Vidor was the overall winner in 3:00:49 with Andre Ditsch of Bee Cave second in 3:07:27.
O Megan O’Connor-Evoe and Patrick Evoe, former Austinites who now live in Boulder, have announced that they are expecting their first child—a boy—in September.
O Parker Stinson of Cedar Park is running the final race of his collegiate career tomorrow night in Fayetteville, Arkansas. Stinson, an All American at the University of Oregon, is the third seed (13:38.68) in the 5000 meters in the NCAA Indoor Championships. Craig Lutz of UT is seeded fifth (13:40.30). The race will be streamed live at 8:45 p.m. (Texas time) on espn3.com. Sandie Raines is seeded seventh (15:50.49) in the women’s 5000 which will precede the men’s. UT is ranked fifth for both the men and women’s teams.
O What I’m listening to this morning: “Horses” by the Patti Smith Group. The first album by the Godmother of Punk, it’s still her best.
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