Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Impossible is Nothing

"Some people listen to themselves, rather than listen to what others say. These people don't come along very often. But when they do, they remind us that once you set out in a path, even though critics may doubt you, its okay to believe that there is no can't won't or impossible. They remind us that its okay to believe impossible is nothing."

The above is from an Adidas commercial which has to be one of the best commercials ever made. And Haile Gebrselassie is part of a group of seven legendary athletes featured with Muhammed Ali as they set off for a long run. You can watch the commercial here.

Earlier this evening in Ostrava, Czech Republic, Haile Gebrselassie showed exactly why he deserved to be on the above mentioned Adidas ad. Haile proved nothing is impossible by setting two world records in the 20000M and one hour run.

Many people, including Haile's own countrymen, had started to doubt Haile calling on him to retire from athletics. Many opined that it is impossible for him to win again. Well, Haile has proven once again that he is truly one of a kind with a return to the track for a fast 10000M in Hengelo last month, and two more world records added to his collection tonight.

Haile's new record for the 20000M is 56:25.98 which is nearly a 30 second improvement on the previous record. For the one hour run, Haile covered 21285M which is 184M farther than the previous record.

Haile looked very smooth and comfortable all through the one hour run. He passed the 10000M mark in 28:11 which was 2 seconds faster than the winning time in the 10000M at the US National Championships last week! The last of the pacemakers for today's run dropped out at the 12000M mark which was around 34 minutes in to the race. So Haile had to run the last 26 minutes all by himself, but stayed on an amazingly consistent 67 sec per lap pace for the remaining part of the race. Haile looked amazingly fresh at the end of the run and took the time for a victory lap thanking his fans and giving high fives and displaying his beaming smile.

Tonight showed why Haile is the greatest distance runner of all time, and all indications are that it is just a matter of time before Haile breaks the marathon world record and puts it out of reach for sometime. Carol Lewis, one of the commentators on the telecast, gave perhaps the best description of Haile: "incredible talent and a true gentleman."

Thank you Haile for once again lifting the spirit of Ethiopia!

Dan or Dave

If you had a chance to watch the USA Track and Field National Championships over the weekend, you know that the event was full of drama. Some Gold Medal favorites for Osaka World Championships (Xavier Carter, Sanya Richards) failed to make the team altogether. On the flip side, there were some eye popping performance such as Tyson Gays 100M and 200M runs (Go Razorbacks!).

Xavier Carter's failure to make the team was due to injury, but I was most shocked to see that Sanya Richards, 2006 World Athlete of the Year, failed to make the US team in the 400M for the World Championships.

And that got me thinking back to 1992. I wonder how many people recall the huge ad campaign Reebok undertook leading up to the Barcelona Olympics. They hyped up two of the best decathletes, Dan O'Brien and Dave Johnson, building up anticipation as to who will take the Olympic Gold. Well, as it turned out Dan O'Brien failed to make the Olympic team entirely and Dave Johnson managed only a Bronze Medal.

Coming back to 2007, it is pretty clear at the moment that the strongest head to head competition in women's athletics is between the Dueling D's, Meseret Defar and Tirunesh Dibaba. But, after seeing the fate of Carter and Richards over the weekend, I can't help but wonder what if Meseret fails to make the Ethiopian team for the World Championships 5000M? What about Tirunesh? Well, I believe she has already secured a spot since she is the defending champion from 2005.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Cash the Czech

Tomorrow evening (June 27) will bring us the much anticipated Ostrava track meet (46th Zlata Tetra - Golden Spike - Ostrava) held in the Czech Republic. You will recall that Meseret Defar had pointed to this meet as one of two key preparation she has planned prior to the Osaka World Championships in August. The other one was the ExxonMobil Bislett Games in Oslo where Meseret smashed the 5000M World Record.

Meseret is going for another record in the 5000M tomorrow, but unlike Oslo, she will be facing strong competition from Gelete Burka and Meselech Melkamu who have also been having a great season so far. It should make for a nice race but it may be a bit much to expect two world records on back to back races. Actually, I can not easily recall anyone in recent past who has achieved back-to-back world record in track racing (not counting field events).

The women's 5000 is not the only record attempt tomorrow. Haile Gebrselassie is also going for a world record in the one hour run. Haile should easily get this record as well as the 20000m record. Incidentally, in one of my earlier posts I had speculated that Haile is likely going for two records for the price of one, which has indeed turned out to be the case. However, I had guessed that he would be attempting to gain back the half-marathon record. That turned out to be incorrect because of my wrong assumption that the one-hour record attempt would be on the road rather than on a track. Obviously there could not be a half-marathon record on the track since any race of that distance is classified as a road race.

The men's 5000M race should also be a dandy since there are seven Ethiopians and eight Kenyans entered. The Australian Craig Mottram (winner of the 2 mile race at Pre Classic) is also in the mix which should give Tariku Bekele a chance to avenge his loss to Mottram at Pre two weeks ago. The World XC Champion Zeresenay Tadesse had been announced for the 5000M but his name is not listed among the starters.

The Ostrava meet will be broadcast live on the web (subscription required) at

Streakers... Game Over!

All good things must come to an end. And so the streak I started on April 1, to do consecutive days of running, ended on June 10 after 70 days of running every day. Actually, I came down with a flu type of illness on June 6th, but I fought hard to not end the streak and managed to get a run in for three more days, hoping that I would get better and maintain the streak. But by Sunday June 10, I was in no shape to walk up a flight of stairs let alone go on a run. So I missed my run for the day as well as the following 9 days.

I have returned to the daily run as of June 20 after making sure I was back close to full health. However, I will not be attempting another streak as I found it to be too stressful. Perhaps someday I will notice that I have passed my personal record of 70 consecutive days of running, but as the pros like to say, I will just let the record come to me rather than chase it.

Happy running!

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Dadi is the winner...

... in more ways than one.

In the US, today is observed as Father's Day where tribute is paid to all fathers and the institution of fatherhood. Happy Father's Day to all father's out there, and I am proud to be the father of my own two little ones!

But, I think the following has to be the ultimate serendipity as far as running is concerned: today's Great Adama Run in Nazareth, Ethiopia was won by- are you ready for this- Dadi Urga. I wonder if Dadi is really Daddy...

Saturday, June 16, 2007

They Call Her BOLD

Meseret Defar, The World's Best 5000m Runner
By Sabrina Yohannes
As featured in the June 2007 issue of Running Times Magazine

Meseret Defar was agitated. She had arrived in Boston two years after her first attempt on the world indoor 3,000m mark there, determined to finally break the record, and confident she was in shape to do so. But the day after her arrival on Wednesday, January 24, 2007, she had come down with flu-like symptoms. "My back ached, and I had to force myself to warm up and train," she said later. "At night, I couldn’t sleep. I had a fever, a headache and body aches."

On race day, January 27, she first watched as her Ethiopian compatriot, Tirunesh Dibaba, slashed her own 5,000m world indoor record. "When you see someone in your field running such a fast time, it inspires you too," said Defar. But she had been unable to ... more

Friday, June 15, 2007

Defar Breaks 5000M WR

This evening, running the 5000M at the ExxonMobil Bislett Games in Oslo, Norway, the great Ethiopian athlete Meseret Defar set a new world record with 14:16.63, almost 8 second inside her own record... more

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Our Coaches Are Not Good Enough

... so says Haile Gebrselassie. He also says that "we are in trouble." Runners from the west are catching up and passing Ethiopian and Kenyan runners who have looked invincible for the last two decades. Time is running out, says Haile ... more

Geb Headed Back to Berlin

Haile Gebrselassie has chosen Berlin Marathon as his fall marathon for 2007. I would have guessed he would try the Chicago Marathon to get a fast time, but he has decided to return to Berlin where he won the race and posted the fastest time for the marathon in 2006.

Berlin Marathon is where Paul Tergat set the current marathon world record of 2:04:55 in 2003 and where the Brazilian Ronaldo da Costa broke Belayneh Dinsamo's 10 year old world record in 1998. It must be that Haile thinks his familiarity with the Berlin course, together with the course's history of producing world records, gives him the maximum chance for breaking the current record held by Tergat. Haile missed this record only by 61 seconds in 2006... more

Meseret in Oslo

The European summer track and field season will kick in full gears starting this coming Friday June 15. The first meet of the $1 Million IAAF Golden League Series will take place in Oslo, Norway on Friday at the ExxonMobil Bislett Games.

Meseret Defar will be running 5000M at this meet, which she has pointed to as one of two key preparations for the World Cahmpionships in Osaka, Japan in August. Bislett Games organizers are hoping for a 5000M world record from Meseret.

Other Ethiopians signed up for Friday's 5000M race are Sentayehu Ejigu, Ejegayehu Dibaba, Workitu Ayanu, and Mestewat Tufa. Also running in Oslo will be Mestawat Tadesse and the Ethiopian-turned-Bahraini Maryam Jamal, both entered in the 1500M. Mekdes Bekele will be contesting the 3000M steeplechase.

Haile Still Seeking Records

Haile's 26:52 in Hengelo two weeks ago has proven to him that he still got it- speed, that is. Although he finished fifth in that the race, the sub 27 minute clocking is still very impressive. So, Haile is seeking to convert this speed in to some kind of record. And he is looking where aging track runners look on their way out- rarely contested distances or events.

Haile has announced that he will be attempting to set a world record for the farthest distance run in one hour. The current record is 16 years old and was set by the Mexican Arturo Barrios, who covered 21.101km in one hour.

Does that distance look familiar? It should because it is almost exactly half of a marathon (21.097km). And we all know that Haile set a half-marathon world record of 58:55 in Jan 2006 so the one hour record should be a walk in the park for him. But not so fast, Haile.

I think I see through Haile's thinking on this one. He is trying to get two records for the price of one. The one hour record is as sure as a guarantee based on Haile's 10K time two weeks ago. But I think Haile is also hoping that during his one hour run, he will pass through the half-marathon mark quicker than Sammy Wanjiru's 58:35 and get that record back through the back door. That is two for the price of one. After all, Haile had commented that he would like to get the half-marathon record back soon. Best wishes!

Monday, June 11, 2007

Post Race on Pre

Pre Classic 2007 was a very high quality meet were several meet records and an American Record were set and year's best times established. I watched the whole meet on TV but the men's 2 mile and the women's 1500M race were of particular interest as Ethiopians were among the competitors.

The women's 1500M was won by Gelete Burka in 4:00.48, which is a new meet record for Pre. This was one gutsy race won by a very gutsy young woman (age 21!). Running a four minute 1500M is about as good as it gets in international competition, and the fact that a 5000M runner who stepped down in distance achieved this is simply astounding.

As the race started, Gelete was the only runner willing to go with the pace makers who set out on a fast pace. The rest of the field dropped back immediately by some 20 metres judging the pace to be too quick and assuming Gelete will simply run herself to the ground towards the end of the race by following such a fast pace. When the last pace maker dropped out at the 800M mark, Gelete was at the front of the race by some distance and the rest of the field started their attempt to reel her in. With 300M to go it appeared that the Russian Chizhenko (2006 World Indoor Champion at 1500M) was significantly cutting into Gelete's lead, but Gelete managed to maintain, and even expand, her lead in the last 200M to get the win and post an amazing fast time for the race. It looked as if the 1500M specialists were a bit dejected that an "outsider" walked into their race and walked away with the win.

Gelete enjoyed her victory with a slow jog giving high fives to spectators in the stadium who were reaching out to touch her. You will recall the commanding victory Gelete took two weeks ago at the 5000M race in Hengelo, Netherlands. It is not hard to imagine that Gelete could become the face of Ethiopian athletics in the near future. She is a very talented runner who looks very natural at her trade. She needs to seriously consider competing in 1500M or 3000M at the World Champs and Olympics rather than join the crowded field in the 5000M with Tirunesh, Meseret, and Meselech and miss out on her medal chances.

As for the men's 2 mile race, the late withdrawal of Kenenisa from the race had dampened the spirits a bit but the race was still well contested. The other Bekele brother in the race, the younger Tariku, appeared to be taking the race by the horn while the rest of the field (loaded with talent) were content to stay in the background. It appeared that they went by the first mile in a fast 4:03. By the time the pace makers dropped out of the race, Tariku was at the front pushing hard but the tall Australian Craig Motram was doggedly following Tariku only a step behind. The pace was upped at the bell lap and with 250M to go, Motram got a jump on Tariku and opened a gap quickly. Tariku gave good chase but did not have enough in the tank to overtake Motram who won the race in 8:03.50 establishing a meet record. Tariku was one second behind in 8:04.83 for a very solid second place finish.

Running a 4:03 and 4:01 mile back to back is an amazing stuff. Tariku did his 2 miles race nine seconds faster than Kenenisa did two weeks ago in Hengelo. Also, Tariku's 13:04.05 at the Reebok Grand Prix in New York last weekend was the fastest 5000M run on American soil. Once again, Tariku has shown he is a highly talented runner in his own right and will be a medal contender in Osaka this summer and Beijing next year.

One final note: Zeresenay Tadesse, the 2007 World Cross Country Champ from Eritrea who dethroned Kenenisa in Mombasa, finished the 2 mile race in 7th place in a time of 8:19.34.

Saturday, June 09, 2007

Kenenisa Scratched from Pre

I watched the 2 mile race in Hengelo late in the day two weekends ago, so didn't provide a timely update at the time. The results were all over the news the following day so I didn't bother to add an entry.

Watching the race in Hengelo, two things stood out: first, the rest of the field in the race were all virtual unknowns, even for an avid roocha fan. Secondly, the winning time of 8:13.51 was very slow, some 15 seconds slower than the world record. Kenenisa just followed the pace for the slow first mile (4:11), stayed near the front for the much quicker second mile (4:02), and he still managed to produce a blistering kick that no one could match for the last two hundred meters. He finished with a huge margin of victory.

Kenenisa looked fine but one nagging question remained in my mind. What if the race had real competition? The answer was to come in two weeks time on June 10. Kenenisa's next outing was scheduled to be at the Pre Classic in Oregon, USA. Unlike the race in Hengelo, the 2 mile at Pre is stacked with deep field of strong competitors. Also, it was going to be the first head to head meeting between Kenenisa Bekele and Zeresenay Tadesse following the debacle in Mombasa.

But it was not meant to be. Kenenisa has withdrawn from tomorrow's race citing lack of fitness. Perhaps a good decision, because Hengelo did not assure anyone that Kenenisa of old has returned. We will have to wait until July 10 to see Kenenisa in action at Athletissima in Lausanne, Switzerland. In the mean time, you can read more about Kenenisa's withdrawal from Pre here and more about Kenenisa the man here.