The best track meet ever?⏱

Sponsored by New Balance Nationals

Lap 119: Sponsored by New Balance Nationals

The biggest high school stars are returning to Franklin Field for the New Balance Nationals Outdoor Meet from June 15th to June 18th. It’s more than just backpacks and fast times – though those are certainly important! This is the opportunity for the over 7,000 registered athletes to see how they match up against the rest of the country. And of course, CITIUS MAG will be on-site providing all of the in-depth coverage as the major events unfold and new records are broken. Tune in to watch Issam Asinga, Sadie Engelhardt, Shawnti Jackson, Tinoda Matsatsa, and more all on the New Balance YouTube channel. But first, read Gary Martin’s meet preview.

The Ingebrigtsen Method: Race Fast🇳🇴

Photo: Johnny Pace | @PacePhoto

How good is Jakob Ingebrigtsen? His name is such a regular mention in this newsletter that I no longer have to double-check my spelling. That tells you all you need to know… and he also ran a new world best record for two miles in 7:54.10, a time fast enough that it would have qualified him for the 2011 NCAA Indoor Championship 3000m.

Daniel Komen’s previous two-mile mark of 7:58.61 was set in 1997, a few years before Jakob was born. If breaking four minutes for the mile once qualifies an athlete for elite status, then what does doing it twice in one race do? I built my entire empire on the back of running a 3:52 mile and that’s what Ingebrigtsen ran for his second half. Imagine how successful HIS newsletter would be!

Now we can sit here and brood about the unfair disparity of talent in the world, or dive deeper into the numbers to further quantify just how much better Jakob is than everyone else, but here is what I have been returning to most the past few days: this interview.

What followed is a fantastic conversation about the “Ingebrigtsen Method” and his mental approach to racing and training. In short, Jakob thinks most athletes train too hard and this stems from a lack of confidence in their own abilities. It’s a relatively simple message and likely something most of us had heard at some point in our careers, if ever under proper guidance. But it’s one thing for a coach to say, ‘slow it down and run the pace,’ and it’s another when the athlete truly comprehends the purpose of each workout and the system as a whole.

During the broadcast, Steve Cram mentioned that Jakob estimates that he trains 30% more than most of his competitors, which is likely true. The Norwegian approach to training is well documented by now. It’s a high mileage, threshold intensive program where lactic levels are meticulously monitored.

The benefits associated with super shoes and wave light pacing technology are undoubtedly contributing factors to the current state of distance running. But I wouldn’t discount the impact top athletes like Ingebrigtsen have by encouraging others to train hard, but intelligently and with purpose. Jakob’s transparency and candor is being absorbed and is trickling down to the next generation.

Look at the times accomplished across the world in the 1990s, and you’ll notice an absence of American names anywhere close to the top of the list. With a few exceptions, an entire generation had taken a step back from the accomplishments of the one that preceded it. Why? Athletes were trying too hard in all the wrong ways.

Admittedly, it’s not entirely their fault. This was most definitely a period in history of loose morals and infrequent convictions. Trying to replicate the enhanced training of others without taking part in a crucial component of their secret sauce was a dangerous recipe for over training.

That decade was a limping lesson in what not to do. And the takeaway is simple: focus on yourself. The stoics figured that out two thousand years ago, yet here we are!

Like many athletes, I knew and understood these principles in theory. However, when reflecting on my career, my execution of them was inconsistent. Being able to walk – rather than hobble – away from workouts was quite easy in college, because I was the best miler on the team. That meant everyone else had to try and keep up in workouts with me – quite the advantage!

As a professional, the success or frustration of each season often aligned with how healthy I was during the fall, and how fruitful my base-building went. Without making Jakob’s world record too much about me, it’s much easier to do what’s in your best interest when you aren’t having to play catch-up.

While a lot of athletes understandably try to join the best team possible at every point in their career, we regularly see Jakob training alone on a treadmill or on a track with just a bike. The pace is determined by his effort (and blood levels), not by how quick others are choosing to run. And it is much easier to remain confident in your training when you aren’t routinely having your doors blown off by a fresher or fitter teammate.

“One of the biggest mistakes that a lot of people do is they go too hard in training. That’s basically because of their mentality and what they’re struggling with — they don’t believe in themselves. That’s why they need to do it in training because they need to build up that confidence.”

Tomorrow Jakob will be making an attempt on the 1500m world record at the Oslo Diamond League. I mean he didn’t really say exactly that but when you’ve demonstrated the range and fitness he has, every race basically gets billed as a record attempt. Will he once again be running alone?

Faith Kipyegon Does It Again 🎖🎖

Photo: Johnny Pace | @pacephoto

With two laps to go, I said out loud and via text message, “the announcers should stop talking about the lights and record – it’s not happening! Focus on the race between the WR holders at 1500m and 10,000m!” That take aged poorly.

The thing I forgot to account for is that Faith Kipyegon has the closing speed of someone who just ran 3:49.11, and the ability to close your final 200m in 28.1 seconds can make up a miraculous amount of ground. That’s what it took for Kipyegon to run 14:05.20 and break Letsenbet Gidey’s previous mark of 14:06.62.

I feel for Gidey here, especially because she ran great, herself! Her time of 14:07.94 is now the third fastest ever. Since running that world record, Gidey has lost all five of her 5000m races since. But if the devil offered that sort of deal to every competitive runner, there would be a lot fewer souls in the sport, and a lot more former world record holders finishing in silver position.

Faith is still zeroed in on the 1500m at the moment, but let’s never forget that she was twice a World Cross Country Junior Champion. The schedule in Budapest would allow her to finish all rounds of her primary event before shifting attention to the secondary. And no woman has ever won the 1500m/5000m double at a global championship.

Imagine having that sort of success with something, despite it not even being your main focus. That must be how my parents feel about their middle child! (Mom, Dad… it’s a joke!)

Lamecha Girma Jumps Into The Record Books🐎

Photo: Johnny Pace | @pacephoto

Admittedly, when Saif Saaeed Shaheen switched his allegiance from Kenya to Qatar, that was the first time I’d ever heard of the tiny nation on the Arabian Peninsula. Don’t judge me too hard; I was 12. But for just about as long as I have been a running fan, Shaheen has been the world record holder in the steeplechase and was also the reason I would get yelled at by officials in high school for placing the numbers directly to my IT band.

But now the crown has been passed to Lamecha Girma, and it’s up to him to inspire the next generation of future newsletter writers from Long Island, after his mark of 7:52.11 eclipsed Shaheen’s of 7:53.63, which stood since in 2004. Girma’s performance hasn’t received the same amount of attention, likely because it’s the steeplechase, and the steeplechase doesn’t exactly transcend the interest of anyone beyond the most diehard track geek. It’s easy for an exercise enthusiast to grasp just how impressive a two-mile or 5,000m is. A steeple?… not so much.

Everyone loves the idea of the oddball distance-hurdling race and is fascinated by its existence. But outside joining the crowd in chanting “CANNONBALL!” at a JV meet, even most track athletes themselves would struggle to tell you what’s a fast time. So let me confirm it for you: this is a fast time!

Only 22 years old, Lamecha has racked up a total of four global medals, though they’re all silver. Now that we know Girma can run fast, the next thing to do is run faster than everyone else when it counts most, specifically Soufiane El Bakkali.

Collect your Bowerman 🤘

Photo: Xavier Gallo | @xaviergallo

Now everyone in Texas understands why Oregon keeps trying to bring every meet to Eugene. Home field advantage is real! Not that Julien Alfred needed any additional help. Back in St. Lucia track fans will be cracking open some Pitons to celebrate the 30 points she contributed to the Longhorn victory.

The Bowerman award should be unanimous after this meet put the icing on the cake of what was already a historic year for Alfred. She added NCAA titles #3, #4, and #5 to her resume, making her lifetime count seven. In the 4x100m prelims, Texas broke its own collegiate record for the third time this year. And had the wind been just slightly calmer in both the 100m and 200m, then her winning performances of 10.72 (+2.3) and 21.73 (+2.5) would have also been NCAA records.

You know that when Alfred broke the collegiate 60m record in her first race out the gate back in January that there were some chirps from the peanut gallery about her being too fit too early. That doesn’t appear to have been an issue.

There was a bit more debate before the championships about who would ultimately collect our sport’s Heisman, which – as questioned by Fred Kerely – is not announced until December. Compare that to football, which holds the award ceremony for its Heisman (which is called “the Heisman”) before the bowl games begin. That award would be an incredible card to hold in terms of bargaining power for an athlete negotiating a professional contract. But it would also impact the non-winners! Athlete valuations generally work backwards from the top dawg.

None of the other athletes in the hunt were able to pull off a double victory. Jasmine Moore was defeated by Ackelia Smith in the long jump, though she held onto her baby, the triple jump. Britton Wilson attempted the impossibly difficult 400m/400m hurdle double, and after losing to Rhasidet Adeleke in a great battle, looked spent once the hurdles were added in. And then Katelyn Tuohy committed to making it an honest race in the 1500m, except there was nothing left in the legs by the time the kick came. Tuohy then scratched from the 5,000m.

I don’t blame these athletes for attempting wild doubles! If you have already won some individual NCAA titles and broken records in the process, then why not go for something epic? Coming up short won’t have any significant impact on any of their potential contract offers. It's not like Katelyn Tuohy is not suddenly Katelyn Tuohy because she didn’t have the last 100 in one 1500m race. Shoe companies will still be lining up.

There was only something to gain here and Julien Alfred earned that raise.

1-2 Step to the BowerMAN? 🧐

As someone who was once a top seed of an NCAA Championships only to burst into flames, my heart goes out to all the favorites who faltered under the Texas sun. Of the 10 men on the Bowerman watch list heading into the NCAA DI Championships, only two won an NCAA title. (There is a reason I clarify DI.)

Honestly, the meet was a bit of a shit show for the favorites – only three out of the top seeded men delivered a victory – the other 16 events saw an upset. But that’s what makes this sport so beautiful and why we don’t go off rankings or vote on the winners for national titles. Speaking of, can someone who is in charge of the Bowerman voting tap me in? I have knowledgeable opinions!

The only guy to win more than one individual title was Stanford’s Ky Robinson, first taking the 10,000m in 28:10 with a final 400m of 54.1 and then the 5000m in 14:04, closing in 55.4. Ky ran 13:11 indoors and finished 23rd at World XC for Australia. He’s only a junior and will have his choice of what team to sign with if and when he wants to. But without a conference title and a high place of 7th indoors, it just isn’t a Bowerman year.

There’s Arizona’s Jordan Geist who backed up his indoor shot put title with another one outdoors, tossing the heavy ball 21.06m. That’s farther than I can throw, and I say this respectfully since he still might be a finalist, it’s just not going to be enough.

Then there is Cordell Tinch from Pittsburg State, or as he is colloquially known, “that DII guy.” I didn’t even know that non-Division I athletes were eligible until Tinch dominated this outdoor season, taking three individual titles at the national meet in the high jump (2.21m), long jump (8.16m), and 110H (12.87). Those marks would’ve placed him 4th, 2nd, and 1st respectively at the DI championships. Granted, the 12.87 had a +6.0 wind for the fastest all-conditions time ever, however, his 13.21 from prelims was wind-legal and also faster than any guy with a fancier locker room ran this year.

But I’m not sure that’ll be enough for him to win. Fair or not, there’s a mentality of ‘if you want to beat the big dogs then you have to compete against the big dogs.’ Comparing times across divisions of NCAA championships is sort of like looking at the winning time of the 2016 Olympic men’s 1500m and assuming that anyone reading this could win it.

That’s why my vote would go to Arkansas’s Jaydon Hibbert and his triple jump dominance, getting out to 17.56m on his first jump into a headwind. His resume may lack the diversity of multiple events, but I’m sure he could do quite well in the long jump. Indoors he broke the collegiate record once, and then did it again at the SEC meet, going 17.87m, which is the current world leader. I don’t know if there are style points on the rubric (since no one has invited me yet… :( ), but doing all this at 18 years old and with only a 12-step approach, he probably deserves some.

(And so you don’t have to look it up, 17.56m would have won DII Nationals.)

Favorite Race of NCAAs — Will Sumner 🍑

Photo: Xavier Gallo | @xaviergallo

The difference between a good runner and a great runner is the ability to change gears. Going fast is not enough – how you go fast matters. Will Sumner went 53.1, 51.1 to run 1:44.25 and win the NCAA 800m title as a freshman.

Sumner is about as talented as you’d expect a high schooler capable of posting a 1:46 to be. But at times as a collegian so far, he’d run into trouble because he wasn’t accustomed to having so many others around him. The solution is to lead.

If Will runs that same exact race for the next six championship rounds, then he’ll likely end up with a global medal. That’s easier said than done, but still, he’s shown he can do it at least once!

Mini 10K — Skirting Around NYC

Photo: Johnny Zhang | @jzsnapz

The NYRR Mini 10K started in 1972 as the first-ever women’s only road race. And you’d have to imagine that if we told those early organizers that 51 years later, Ethiopia’s Senbere Teferi would run 30:12 on the course, they’d have stopped doing the hustle for a moment, lowered their tinted yellow glasses, and said something like, “Out of sight! She boogied down and got groovy!”

Now-a-days, we just say: “wow.” Teferi’s performance took down the 30:28 course record, which was set by Asmae Leghzaoui in 2002. Leghzaoui did not have super shoes, but she did have EPO!

Seven seconds behind Teferi was Boston Marathon champion, Hellen Obiri. (Boston Marathon champion: what a cool way to be referenced for the rest of your life.)

Target Practice — Aiming For Gold🎯

Photo: Alex Andrei (@alexandtrack) for World Athletics

At this point we are all well familiar with the exploits of Neeraj Chopra and his historic victory at the Tokyo Olympics. But when you become a hero in sport, that’s when you’ve gotta be ready to take on all challengers, because as we’ve established, the world loves an upset. Enter: Jakub Vadlejch.

The Czech Republic’s star was a silver medalist in Tokyo, just as he was at the World Championships in London. And most recently he had earned bronze at the World Championships. But on Tuesday in Turku, Finland, at the Paavo Nurmi Games, Vadlejch threw 89.51m to take the world lead from his arch-nemesis… Chopra!

I have no idea if these guys are actually mortal enemies but with two months until the World Championships we need to start making up some storylines or none of y’all are going to pay attention to the javelin!

Another PB after a long time coming…

A good CAPTCHA test to see if you are really a human is to measure the happiness you experience when seeing others succeed. There are few feelings better in the sport than the achievement of a personal best, but of course, within minutes of finishing we are often calculating all of the little places that we could have gone even faster. The assumption is always that we’ll just do it the next time out!

But the thing about PBs is, you won’t know when crossing the finish line which personal best will be the one that stays with you for the rest of your life.

At On’s Track Nights stop in Paris for the Fast 5000, it finally happened again for Canada’s Charles Philibert-Thiboutot. In 2015, he showed up to the Monaco Diamond League as a 3:38.32 guy, but left with a 3:34.23. It was one of the best 1500m races in recent history – Asbel Kiprop ran 3:26 and ten men ran 3:30 or faster.

How’d Charles get into that race? I still don’t fully understand, but essentially he showed up in Monaco and was able to use his French to smooth talk his way in. He hung on the back and they took him to the promised land.

This past weekend – eight years later – Charles finally ran faster. His 3:33.54 for second behind Narve Gilje Nordas (3:32.39) was a long time coming. I texted him after the race to say congratulations and his response was:

“The only one from our generation still running PBs! To be honest, that three and a half minutes of running just made all the years of meh worth it.”

Rapid Fire Highlights 🔥

  • There has been enough over-analysis of Sydney McLaughlin-Levrone’s 400m race (49.71) so I didn’t feel the need to go more in-depth. Marileidy Paulino won in 49.12 and I’m looking forward to more battles.

  • The most surprising run in Paris might be Keely Hodgkinson’s British 800m Record of 1:55.77, not because I doubted Keely’s ability, but it’s just SUCH a fast opener for a rhythm event.

  • Nikki Hiltz won the mile at the On Fast 5000 in 4:22.09.

  • After finishing third in the vertical race, Grayson Murphy came back to win the Mountain Classic at the World Mountain and Trail Running Championships. There was some “controversy” from the event as some commenters took issue with this video of Zach Miller dumping bottles of water on his head at an aid station. If you think that’s bad for the environment, wait until you hear about flying to Austria.

  • Tragically, Tori Bowie’s autopsy report revealed that she died due to complications of childbirth – the six-time global medalist was eight months pregnant.

  • Angelina Napoleon won the NY State meet in a new 2000m steeplechase record of 6:18.41 and then came back to win the 800m in 2:03.97. She will be bringing that #range to North Carolina State next year. Oh, and she high jumped 5-3 to finish 14th (her best is 5-6).

  • After finishing fourth at the NCAA Championships, Roisin Willis shared a powerful message about her recent struggles with insomnia and depression.

  • It’s not official, but according to the Road To Budapest it looks like the US World Championships Marathon team will be: Zach Panning, Elkanah Kibet, Nico Montanez, Keira D’Amato, Susanna Sullivan, and Lindsay Flanagan

  • Emmanuel Acho is weighing in on how to improve the structure of track and field and I swear he must be a Lap Count subscriber right? I have been yelling from the mountain tops that there needs to be a minimum number of competitions for over two years so I agree completely with him.

  • I am a big fan of Michael Johnson and RG3 – both of whom were guests on the CITIUS Worlds Show last year. They make some equally important points in their recent Twitter dialogue. Personally, I try to balance the criticism and celebration, but nothing is more powerful than enthusiasm.

Trivia Question Of The Week

While Faith Kipyegon could become the first woman to ever win the 1500m/5000m at a global championship, three men have done it. Can you name them?

A: Paavo Nurmi (1924 Olympics), Hicham El Guerrouj (2004 Olympics), Bernard Lagat (2007 Worlds)

Thanks so much to New Balance for sponsoring this week’s newsletter! I am excited to be picking up a fresh pair FuelCell SuperComp Trainer v2 and the New Balance Nationals backpack this weekend in Philly.