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Lap 163: Sponsored by VELOUS

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Boston Marathon — Winner, Winner Chicken Dinner 🦄

Photo: Johnny Zhang | @jzsnapz

153 women have run official marathons faster than 2:21:38 – Hellen Obiri’s personal best – though almost all would be willing to trade careers with her. That’s because Obiri has proven herself to be a master of the two hilliest majors, having now won back-to-back Boston Marathons, to pair with her 2023 New York crown.

In warmer conditions on Monday, Obiri and a pack of about 20 women came through the first half conservatively in 72:33. And they waited and waited and waited until there were four miles to go before finally injecting a real move that would thin the lead pack out to the true contenders: Obiri, Sharon Lokedi, and Edna Kiplagat. Obiri always sort of looks like she’s sprinting with her signature high arm swing, but in that 24th mile it was more pronounced than normal as she split 4:41 to open things up further.

Ultimately, Obiri would win the race in 2:22:37 which all but solidified her spot on the Kenyan team. But in many people’s eyes, given the lack of pacers and hilly course, she’s now also the Olympic gold medal favorite.

For Sharon Lokedi, this was a strong performance that should help build her case for selection. She only lost by eight seconds to someone that I described as the Olympic favorite two sentences ago. Lokedi has proven her consistency and that should be valued, but she’ll want to wake up early to watch London, where Peres Jepchirchir, Brigid Kosgei, and Ruth Chepngetich will all face off. If you are hardcore Team Sharon then you may be rooting for the Ethiopians…

And finally, a quick moment of appreciation for the ageless wonder that is Edna Kiplagat, who, at 44 years old reached her 14th World Marathon Major podium. Having suited up for the 1996 World Cross Country Championships, Kiplagat has been competing at the international level for 28 years!

The top Americans were Emma Bates (12th, 2:27:14), Sara Hall (15th, 2:27:58), and Des Linden (16th, 2:28:27).

Photo: Johnny Zhang | @jzsnapz

When Geoffrey Mutai set the Boston Marathon course record of 2:03:02 in 2011, he came through halfway in 1:01:59. When the late Kelvin Kiptum set the world record of 2:00:35 in Chicago, he came through halfway in 1:00:48. But no one – maybe ever – has more brazenly opened up a marathon than Sisay Lemma of Ethiopia, who burned through the first 13.1 miles of Boston on Monday in 1:00:19.

The craziest part of Lemma’s race strategy: he got away with it! That is not to say it was a painless affair, as his second half was covered in 65:58 en route to his victory in 2:06:17. But it worked because no one ever challenged Lemma, who was leading by as much as 2:49 at 20 miles.

The only moment it seemed possible we might end up watching an exciting final few miles came over the course of his 5:28 21st mile. And while the mile splits occasionally seem a bit off, like his “4:05” fifth mile, Lemma was noticeably suffering. He then found his strength by remembering that his shoes cost $500 and that there was another $150,000 waiting for him at the finish.

Big picture, Lemma is here to contend – this performance followed up his 2:01:48 in Valencia, which is a very real course! Looking at this result from the Kenyan perspective, it helps Alexander Mutiso Munyao, who lost to Lemma in Spain, but beat him in Prague.

Lemma maybe could have been challenged by second placer Mohamed Esa, who looked fresh as a daisy coming in to finish 41 seconds behind, which isn’t necessarily a good thing. Esa ran the last 7K 1:37 faster than Lemma, but he was not as brave!

Rounding out the podium was two-time defending champion Evans Chebet. There were doubts about his health and fitness due to an achilles injury that kept him out of a fall marathon, but when Chebet lines up, he rarely misses. According to his team (@2runningclub) Chebet has never finished outside the top four in his 29 career marathons, which doesn’t include a DNF in Boston 2018. To be determined if this will be enough to get him to Paris.

The top American was CJ Albertson (7th, 2:09:53), who ran a fantastic race that was a personal best and pretty much exactly as he drew it up. And you know who Elkanah Kibet is, as he finished 14th in 2:12:32 but you probably don’t know the name Ryan Eiler who was 15th overall in 2:14:22. Coming in, the 37-year-old Eiler’s personal best was 2:17:16. Despite qualifying, he did not run the Olympic Trials because his wife gave birth to their first child the week of the race. Instead, the local Boston man hopped into his local little marathon on Monday. Also pretty cool is that he didn’t compete in college and really got serious about running in his early 30s! If you’re the one weirdo who’s never run but for some reason subscribes to this newsletter, you may still have a hot marathon in you yet!

Parker Valby Takes Her First Crack At The 10K 🐊

The price of arc-trainer stock continues to skyrocket! 

If you’re the type of sicko who’s been losing sleep each night wondering how Parker Valby’s training, which is scant on actual running, might impact her ability to move up in distance or compete with the pros, then you have been sleeping like a baby this week.

Competing at the Bryan Clay Invitational, Valby quietly made her 10,000m debut and broke the collegiate record in the process. Her time of 30:50.43 shattered Lisa Uhl’s 2010 mark of 31:18.07. But to highlight just how far women’s running has come in such a short period of time, Uhl first set the collegiate record in 2008 when she ran 32:11.13. We’re looking at more than just shoes, people!

Being paced through the first half in 15:30, Valby was then all alone except for all of the ladies she lapped from lane two as she went on to win by over two minutes. That makes Valby #11 on the all-time US list, and very much in the conversation for a top three finish come the Trials.

The unfortunate news is that Valby came up just a bit short of that Olympic standard of 30:40.00, but she’s certainly capable of hitting that given this performance. Should she do so, she’d join a nice crew with a shot at making the 10,000m squad for Paris. Right now, the only US women with the time are Alicia Monson and Weini Kelati. But… if I’m the one to break this news to you, I am sorry to share that Monson is out for the remainder of the track season with a torn meniscus. That’s a huge blow to the US, as we now look to Paris without the American record holder in the 5,000m and 10,000m available.

According to the Road to Paris tracker, Katie Izzo is also qualified via her cross country ranking. And Fiona O’Keeffe, Elly Henes, and Natosha Rogers are all within the quota, but with many more athletes likely attempting to secure their spot at the Night of the 10,000m PB’s, the rankings are subject to a shakeup. Oh, and let’s not forget about Elise Cranny who started her season at the Bryan Clay with a 2:02 800m and 4:09 1500m. We got that depth chart!

A World Record in the Field of Dreams 🛸

“If you build it, he* will come.” 

It is a field in Oklahoma; *he is is Mykolkas Alekna, who is now the world record holder in the discus throw. The 21-year-old Lithuanian, who has won two World Championship medals, broke the oldest standing men’s world record in the books this past weekend with a toss of 74.35m.

Germany’s Jürgen Schult set the previous mark of 74.08m in 1986, and was probably pretty accustomed to having that fun icebreaker in his back pocket, but he took the news well: "I woke up my wife this morning with the words: You now have a former world record-holder at home!” That good natured handling of a lost record may be because Schult competed against Elkna’s father, Virgilijus, for a good portion of his career, including at two Olympic Games – they both have gold medals.

Expectations have always been high for Mykolkas, who was medaling as a teenager, so it isn’t a huge surprise that he’d eventually get the world record. But the entire series was a work of art as all six of his throws were over 70 meters! To add some perspective for you non-big throws guys, the Olympic standard is 67.20m.

Now what if I told you that some older folk aren’t super happy about seeing this record go down? That’s because this record was broken in Millican Field at Throw Town Ramona, the BU track of discus throwing.

The “facility” was built a couple of years ago by the Seal Throwing Club in Oklahoma, about 30 minutes north of Tulsa. There is farmland as far as the eye can see, and the swirling winds, when blowing just right, can nudge an implement not an insignificant margin forward, resulting in a career-defining throw. And that’s because unlike the jumps or sprints, there are no upper limits of how windy a legal throw could be. After last week’s event, eight of the 14 men with the Olympic standard achieved it in Throws Town.

On the women’s side, the 2019 World Champion Yaime Perez set a lifetime best of almost four meters, tossing the discus 73.09m – the furthest throw in the world since 1989. (Perez competes for Cuba, but defected during a layover in Miami following the 2022 World Championships and did not compete internationally in 2023.)

It’s hard to fault athletes for trying to game a system that rewards chasing marks and not beating people head-to-head. We know that it was windy for Alekna’s world record toss, but it was also for Schult’s – whose was windier? Who cares! The main thing that matters is whether Alekna will throw farther than Kristjan Čeh and Daniel Stahl in Paris.

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Team USA Uniforms Make Major Splash 💦

Photo: Johnny Pace | @pacephoto

Let’s talk about these US uniforms! Jeez, people were NOT happy about the big reveal of the eventual Nike Olympic uniforms that will be worn by the fittest athletes in the world come Paris. 

The evolution of the comment section really tells a story here because at least initially, people were quipping about the designs in general and not exclusively the narrow coverage of the women’s uniform that became the focus of articles by the New York Times, CNN, WSJ, and every other major news outlet it seems like. That embedded tweet now has over 26M views, so this one really left our little sphere of track weirdos. 

At first, the attention was on the comic sans-like font across the uniform’s chest. And for the historians out there, the uncanny resemblance between the women’s uniform and the previously worn kit by Team GB was another point of derision.

But, once the general public laid eyes on the kit and the non-track media caught wind of it, the discussion quickly centered on the imbalance of expectations and norms between genders. That’s an important conversation to have, but most track athletes and fans know that there are many different uniform options for all levels of comfort. Athletes who qualify for Team USA can choose from a range of bottoms, ranging from split shorts, to tights, all the way to the mannequin-sexualizing briefs that kicked off this firestorm.

Not every person who sees that uniform announcement will have the same context as those of us who write or read newsletters about track and field – in fact, most won’t. And it’s an interesting thought experiment to think about what other aspects of our sport might be surprising to those who are less tapped into it. Like maybe the idea of six guys circling around one kneeling teammate before the start of a cross country race – a formation that lacks an official name but is essentially a pisser’s shield – would be perceived as strange!

As the pitchforks came out, some athletes who have worn and will actually have to wear the uniform voiced their support, with Katie Moon certainly deserving of a contract extension for her role as defensive player of the week. They look a lot better on a human body, but I don’t think it’d look as good on you or I as they do on Rai Benjamin. In conclusion, I hate to point fingers, but that mannequin definitely will not be invited back to the next fashion show. 

The Future of the Diamond League in the USA 💎

If you had to assign a dollar amount to how much you love watching track and field, what would it be? If you said $29.99/month, then boy, are you in luck! Just don’t gloat too loudly in front of all the other fans who have enjoyed the Diamond League coverage on Peacock in recent years are not thrilled as the event’s US distribution rights have been awarded to Flotrack starting in 2025.

For our friends at Flotrack, this is a great pick-up! There is a subset of track fans who do not have any interest in watching thirty heats of the mile at the Valentine Invitational, but do want to watch Noah Lyles chase the 200m world record. They’ll probably pony up the cash for another streaming service while wishing for a return to the days of cable television.

Others will download a VPN to watch on YouTube from “New Zealand” or wait for an entire race to be uploaded to X minutes after it finished. If you really care then you will find a way to watch, which has always been the case for our niche little sport. The problem is that the opportunity for mass adoption is now severely limited.

As a case study, let’s look at the Caitlin Clark and women’s basketball revolution that we’re enjoying. As the buzz around Clark’s play grew, and the interest in watching her sink 25-footers multiplied, there was an opportunity to move big Iowa games from ESPNU to ABC to further amplify the audience. The media people – who, let me be clear, deserve significantly less credit in this instance than Clark and the actual athletes – recognized at a certain point that the ceiling was not, “how many people pay to watch women’s basketball?,” but instead “how many TVs are there in the country?”

Track doesn’t currently operate that way. Instead, we have yet another barrier to entry to becoming a track fan because knowing what matters, who is competing when, and how to tune in was already difficult enough. Now add in a bigger challenge of where and how, and it is difficult to feel overly optimistic about the growth of the Diamond League in the United States.

And as much as commenters are pointing fingers at Seb Coe and World Athletics, they probably aren’t thrilled! This is out of their control because the Diamond League is not a World Athletics owned property. Have you ever noticed that World Athletics never posts any videos or races from the series? That’s because they can’t.

As pointed out in this great article, a third-party called "Infront Sports & Media “acquired the rights to source international broadcasters for the Diamond League starting in 2025.” They’re not invested in what’s good for the sport. Their job is to sell a product for the most money possible and clearly there were not enough viewers watching Lausanne on a Tuesday afternoon to make it worth Peacock’s time, money, or effort to continue the relationship.

So what now? I have a theory or at least a hope. In 2019, FloSports raised $47M in a Series C round that was led by its previous investor, Discovery Inc. In 2022, Discovery merged with WarnerMedia and that union begat the streaming platform known simply as Max. There is a huge race among these competing streamers to add live sports to their offerings. NBCUniversal paid $110M for exclusive rights for a single NFL playoff game to be shown on Peacock. Netflix just bought WWE’s RAW for $5 BILLION DOLLARS. It’s the golden age of selling live sports rights!

Max is currently $9.99/month and its live sports add-on will eventually be an additional $9.99/month. As it stands today, there is a smattering of NBA, NHL, MLB, and cycling baked in… but it needs more. That’s why Warner Bros. Media should buy out the rest of FloSports and make its niche sports offerings available to its ~100 million subscribers.

My bold prediction: We’ll be watching the Diamond League in 2025 on HBO HBOMax Max… or whatever the suits at WarnerMedia are calling it by then.

Rapid Fire Highlights 🔥

  • World Athletics has announced that they will pay out $50,000 to the gold medalists at this year’s Olympics, which opened the eyes of many who did not realize they were not already getting paid. This is not something that has to be done, given World Athletics is not the International Olympic Committee. It might not be enough money to retire off of, but Usain Bolt would have appreciated this!

  • It was a rainy and fast track in the men’s 1500 at the Bryan Clay Invitational as NAU sophomore Colin Sahlman won with the second fastest 1500m in NCAA history in 3:33.96. (Video)

  • Also at Bryan Clay, Adams State’s Gracie Hyde broke the Division II national records in both the 1500m (4:08.95) and steeplechase (9:28.17). She competed for Arkansas as an undergraduate, but has really found her footing since starting graduate school in Alamosa. Dani Jones won that same 1500 in 4:07.19 and Lexy Halladay-Lowry ran a 15-second personal best to go 9:26.55.

  • Watch Michaela Rose run the 800m in 1:58.37 to become the second fastest collegiate of all time, behind only Athing Mu.

  • Devastating news: the defending Olympic champion, world record holder, and the best entertainer in the sport, Yulimar Rojas announced an achilles injury will sideline her for the remainder of the season.

  • Cooper Teare out-kicked Drew Hunter to win the men’s race at the BAA 5K in 13:38 as Fotyen Tesfay won the women’s race in a new course record of 14:45. Krissy Gear defended her mile title in 4:42 and Casey Comber’s 4:07 W once again validates that the “Jan-effect” is real in Baltimore.

  • Why is everyone making a big deal of He Jie’s Beijing Half Marathon win in 1:03:44? Well, the three athletes ushering him into the finish raised eyebrows as he was clearly handed the win. Jie ran 2:06:57 to set the Chinese national record in the marathon just last month, so he’s no slouch. And the half record is 1:02:33… if he would have just let his body recover then he could have easily hit that and avoided any of this so-called “controversy.” As I see it, the only issue here is that his rabbits forgot to step off, but we see that in women’s road racing all the time.

  • Tennessee’s Jacious Sears ran the second fastest 100m in NCAA history at the Tom Jones Invitational, going 10.77 (+1.6), which is also the world lead. Coming in, her personal best was 10.96. She was 2nd in the 200m indoors and 4th in the 60m. (Interview)

  • Also in Florida, Courtney Lindsey ran the 200m world lead of 19.88 (+1.6) and Noah Lyles had to run a strong second half to beat out Kenny Bednarek in the 100m as both ran 10.01 (+1.7). (Video)

  • Olympic silver medalist Abdi Nageeye reset his Dutch national record of 2:04:45 as he won the Rotterdam Marathon, again. And Ethiopia’s Ashete Bekere won handily by 87 seconds. Unfortunately Lenny Korir did not run the standard as he finished 19th in 2:12:47.

  • The Australian National Championships were this weekend and if we learned anything it’s that Southern Australia (where Adelaide is) operates in a time zone that is 30 minutes different from neighboring territories and not all of it adjusts for daylight saving time. But aside from that, the NCAA is very good at producing tactical 1500m runners – Adam Spencer won the 1500 in 3:37.68 (video). And Jess Hull of course pulled (hulled?) it out in 4:01.39. It’s confusing. Hull was named to the Olympic team in the first round, but not yet Spencer because he didn’t race in the Australian domestic season. Here is the list of those who have qualified and the full results.

What to Watch 📺

  • Mt. SAC Relays - 4/17 to 4/20 on RunnerSpace (Results)

  • Oregon Relays - Friday, 4/19 at 10:20pm ET and Saturday, 4/20 at 11:45pm ET on RunnerSpace (Schedule)

  • Xiamen Diamond League - Saturday, 4/20 at 7am ET on Peacock (Program)

  • Kip Keino Classic - Saturday, 4/20 at 9am ET on Flotrack (Results)

  • London Marathon - Sunday, 4/21 at 4am ET on Flotrack (Fields)

Thanks so much to Velous for sponsoring this week’s newsletter! We love recovery here at The Lap Count and want to keep our feet happy and healthy this spring so we’ll be rocking with the slips all day everyday now that the weather is warm.

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