The Diamond Anniversary⏱

Sponsored by OLIPOP

Lap 133: Sponsored by OLIPOP

This was a track season to remember and CITIUS MAG was able to be there for all the biggest moments thanks to the incredible support of OLIPOP! What has become known as the runner’s soda isn’t just a great companion for pre-game shows at the Pre Classic with the President of World Athletics, it’s good for you too. It’s a prebiotic soda with 9g of fiber (32% of your daily needs) that only has 2-5g of sugar and helps your digestive health in a way that a threshold workout never could.

We love it because there are 15 incredible flavors that will keep your body refreshed and ready to go for the next workout. But we also love OLIPOP because they also love track and field.

The Bowerman Mile Delivers 📬

Photo: Johnny Zhang | @jzsnapz

It’s the same follow-up question every time a runner is asked what their mile time is and the response is under six minutes – “then what’s the world record?”

Well, it’s still 3:43.13, and it has been for 24 years. But for 3 minutes and 43 point 76 seconds it seemed like there was a chance we were going to have to revise our answers. While 3:26.00 still feels a bit away for the Norwegian aerobic monster, this one feels like it is within reach.

The race between Jakob Ingebrigtsen and Yared Nuguse was foretold in the press conference when the King gave the American upstart (who is actually older than Jakob) a piece of advice: “Just stick with me as long as you can and you’ll get yourself 3:46.” This wasn’t trash talk, it was genuine instruction on how to break Alan Webb’s American Record of 3:46.91.

Just like Noah Ngney chased Hicham El Guerrouj around the track on his way to running 3:43.40, Nuguse stuck to Jakob like glue. It was a remarkably different race than Webb’s time trial in Belgium 16 years ago. It was also quite a bit faster. Yared took off a nearly full three seconds. Also, realizing it’s been that long since 2007 just gave me an existential crisis – shoutout to any readers who weren’t even born yet!

In reflecting on Nuguse’s race, the thing I keep coming back to is not that he ran as fast as he did – I mean, 3:43.97! It’s that it was done during the third week of September when nine months ago he ran 7:28.24 to break the American Record in the 3000m indoors. And at no point in between did he miss.

And because Yared has accomplished so much this year it’s easy to forget that this was his rookie campaign. Remember, last season he was a senior at Notre Dame, winning zero NCAA titles for the year. (He won one in 2019.) That’s not me dunking on him, either. I can’t imagine I’m alone in thinking that if Noureddine Morceli ran for an American college the year prior to him running 3:44 he’d have won four NCAA championships.

Nuguse’s trajectory is angled upward towards outer space. We saw glimpses of Yared’s talent in ACC prelim heats of years past. Now we’re seeing it actualized. The gap between him and the best in the world is narrowing rapidly. And whereas consistency may have been a weakness at points, it is now one of his greatest strengths.

Like many of us, Yared also owes a thank you to Ingebrigtsen who has fallen on enough swords this season to build himself The Iron Throne. There’s a reason that we are all completely infatuated with Jakob like he’s our unanimous first middle school crush. He might not win the MVP award this year strictly on individual performances (that’s reserved for Faith Kipyegon), but there isn’t another athlete who had more air-time spent talking about him on group runs.

And of course, Jakob came back the next day to win the 3000m in 7:23.63.

Athing is back havin’ a blast, and runnin’ fast! 🙏

Photo: Johnny Zhang | @jzsnapz

Listening to Athing Mu discuss her issues with the media and what people on the Internet are saying about her career was interesting from the perspective of someone who does that sometimes. “Is it me? Am I the drama?”

It’s a good reminder that people, including the athletes themselves, may read the word vomit that we may occasionally spew. It’s also a good reminder that for a 19-year-old Olympic champion, the volume on the pressure dial is always turned all the way up.

But on the flipside, all of that noise isn’t just other’s expectations – it’s support too. From atop the podium it’s not always easy to differentiate between the two.

It’s only been a few weeks since we last saw Athing Mu, but the experience of watching her this past weekend couldn’t have been more different. It’s not about winning – well, it is sorta. It’s more about the joy that the Olympic champion brought with her as she broke the tape in a new American record of 1:54.97. That elation is what had been missing this year.

Still only 21 years old, Mu has already been competing for 15 of them. She grew up in the sport and continues to do so, except now with far more lights and cameras. Leading into the World Championships there were doubts as to whether or not the defending champion would even be in Budapest to race. Fortunately, she did show up and made it an honest one from the start, holding on to earn a bronze medal.

Yet in the conversations with the media afterward, it was evident that no part of the experience went as she hoped. It’s a feeling that almost every athlete grapples with at one point or another: when the nervous jitters associated with racing become dread and the whole thing feels like a chore. And part of the transition of going from being a star collegiate athlete to a professional one is that there are no redshirt seasons to iron out the kinks.

Just because an athlete is being paid to compete does not mean they are not allowed to feel a certain way. Despite ambivalence around media obligations and the championships as a whole, Mu still showed up gamely for both.

It is a uniquely relatable human sensation and listening to her articulate those emotions in real time felt almost like stumbling upon then rudely reading an entry from her diary. But the willingness to share that vulnerability is what creates a connection with her fan base.

While I don’t wish those difficult moments on anyone, I can see the inner turmoil of Budapest eventually being reflected on as a pivotal moment in Mu’s career. This isn’t worth doing if you are not having fun, and it’s a lot easier to run fast when you are.

The 5000m WR is what now?! ✍️

Photo: Johnny Zhang | @jzsnapz

It had been 12 years since Tirunesh Dibaba set the 5000m world record (then 14:11.15) when Letesenbet Gidey showcased to locked-up fans in 2020 what sort of an impact the new pacing lights would soon have on distance running.

Taking five seconds off an unprecedented mark is significant and it is also more difficult to do the faster it gets because of math… percentages and stuff, I’m told. Yet that’s exactly what Gudaf Tsegay did at the Pre Classic as the 2023 World Champion at 10,000m ran 14:00.21.

(Tsegay’s 1600 splits? 4:30, 4:30, 4:27, and a 32.4 closing 200 to finish things off.)

Now it’s is not a question of whether or not someone can break 14 minutes, but by how much and when. Did we get any cameras on Faith Kipyegon’s reaction from the stands?

Betsy Saina wins the Sydney Marathon 🐨

Photo: Sydney Marathon

This is your final reminder: do not forget about Betsy Saina when picking your fantasy Olympic Trials team. Everyone has an opinion about the potential of racing in the Orlando heat except you won’t hear the Sydney Marathon champion complain. Her win in 2:26:47 was an ideal tuneup and confidence builder for the type of race that might be expected come February.

As a metric, it does not have quite the precision of a thermometer, but 26 runners in the 17,000-person field were hospitalized due to heat-related conditions. Temperatures were in the mid-70s while Saina was running, though they inched north of 90ºF later that day. Combine her demonstrated prowess in the heat with the ability to run 2:21:40 – showcased earlier this year at the Tokyo Marathon – and Betsy should have good odds.

The Sydney Marathon continues to try and prove itself ready to be promoted to the next level of Operating Thetan to secure the status of World Major. Yet someone is trying to take down the effort as the Daily Mail is writing hit pieces about “massive queues at toilets” as if finding a bush to relieve oneself is a barrier runners are unwilling to cross.

Should 800m runners stay outside? ☀️

Photo: Johnny Zhang | @jzsnapz

It pains me to suggest this as someone who loves indoor short track, but 800m runners might want to consider forgetting that it exists. It’s understandably tempting to break up the monotony of boring mileage work to sharpen up for a few weeks and rip one on the banks. But at what cost?

This opinion section is not for high schoolers and college kids as these rules do not apply to you. There are scholarships to hold onto! And until you start running through the first lap in 49 seconds the odds are that your primary limiting factor is still largely aerobic… or you’re just a miler and no one’s told you yet.

When Emmanual Wanyonyi and Marco Arop set new personal bests of 1:42.80 and 1:42.85 in the third week of September it signaled that their neuromuscular systems were still intact. And that’s because the two dudes who finished in the top spots at the World Championships last month weren’t holding on for dear life at the point in the season when things suddenly matter most.

Aside from a leg on the mixed gender 4 × 1K relay at the World Cross Country championships, Wanyonyi did not race anything except 800s this year, with his first being in May. And the 19-year-old was incredibly consistent as his average time across his 11 races (including prelims) was 1:44.09. The new Canadian national record holder did not race an 800 until May 28th, and his one winter race was an outdoor 1500 in a personal best of 3:38.36.

This isn’t a groundbreaking discovery on my part. My very good friend David Rudisha does not have a single indoor time to his name. Joaquim Cruz only ever ran two mediocre indoor races a few days apart from one another. Sebastian Coe skipped it entirely in 1980 and 1984. There are of course the antitheses to this approach such as Wilson Kipketer who ran the indoor world record of 1:42.57 the same year he ran the outdoor one.

In 2022, only one man made the indoor and outdoor final at the World Championships and that was Marco Arop. In 2016, Boras Berian was the one overlap between the two, having won the indoor championships before finishing 8th in the Rio final. And in 2012, it was just Mohammed Aman (first, then sixth). And 2008… no one.

The 800m sits at the intersection between sprints and distance running – it’s the nexus of the universe and athletes need to pick which world they want to belong to. Be patient because the outdoor one is faster.

(In two months, I will almost certainly encourage athletes to race indoors, but that’s mostly because I am bored and need things to write about.)

World Road Running Championships: Team USA 🇺🇸

Honestly, pretty good team! They have no idea what they signed up for, but these brave souls will go check this thing out for the rest of us.

The rest of the Pre Classic 🌲

Photo: Johnny Zhang | @jzsnapz

As badly as I wanted to return to Eugene for one last track meet this season, I only have so much PTO in a given year. Still, I carved out a quiet weekend at home to sit down on the couch and enjoy five hours of riveting television. Minus the commercials for races that last over eight minutes, I think the at-home experience of watching track continues to improve.

There isn’t a great solution to being able to watch all the field event attempts except for alternate streams or qualifying even fewer athletes to the finals. Therefore the only immediately reconcilable issue continues to be that Peacock has not yet recognized that the only reason I ever log in is to watch the Diamond League. (Stop trying to foist Boss Baby on me! Don’t you guys have some nerd programming suggestion algorithms?)

With 32 finals squeezed into the two days of competition and with great weather on hand, it was everything that I track should be when there is no national pride on the line. While I am once again beating the drum that the World Championships do not need to be nine days long, the even louder drum I’m more vigorously pounding is the need for a restructuring of the season to include majors. To create a sports league with teams is a distant pipe dream that would require armed revolution to implement at this point. But replicating the Diamond League final a few more times throughout the spring/summer season is attainable.

Anyway, that’s all just to say that this was a fantastic track meet. Here are some more highlights:

  • Rai Benjamin ran 46.39 to beat Karsten Warhlolm – that’s the fastest time of the year. And for being two of the best in the world, it is rare for them to actually race. Outside of Worlds and the Olympics, this only the second time ever the two have faced off with the last being in 2019.

  • It has been three and a half years since Mondo Duplantis first broke the pole vault world record when he cleared 6.17m and he keeps raising the bar one centimeter at a time. For the first time this outdoor season he did it again as he made it over 6.23m and although he hit the bar it wasn’t enough to knock it off. Still counts!

  • Winfred Yavi ran 8:50.66 to win the 3000m steeplechase for the second fastest time ever and beat the WR holder in the process.

  • Faith Kipyegon dominated the 1500m, going 3:50.72, her third fastest time ever. Linden Hall set a new Australian record in 5th (3:56.92).

  • Christian Coleman ran 9.83 to win the 100m to take down the world champion Noah Lyles.

  • Chase Ealey won the shot put in 20.76m breaking Michelle Carter’s 2016 American record. That only makes her the 40th-best thrower of all time, although it’s probably closer to third if you remove everyone who has failed a drug test or was closely linked to state-sponsored doping… It’s probably the most upsetting list in all of track and field.

  • Shericka Jackson pulled off the Diamond League double winning the 100m/200m in 10.70 and 21.57.

  • Australia’s Matthew Denny had a HUGE upset in the discus, tossing that thing 68.43m. No one beats Kristjan Ceh or Daniel Stahl except the other one, until now!

  • Grant Fisher’s 7:25.47 third place finish in the 3000m was good for a new American record. I don’t know what the hell he did in terms of cross training while injured this summer, but he should write a book on it.

  • Hansle Parchment finishes off the year with a 12.93 110H to beat Grant Holloway and finish things up with the world lead.

  • Despite finishing second in a new British record of 1:55.19, Keely Hodgkinson was named the Diamond League final champion. Athing Mu was not technically eligible because she qualified on a wildcard since she did not actually race any of the series this year.

  • Andre de Grasse timed his peak just a bit too late this year, but the defending Olympic champion sent a message saying, “I’ll be back” winning the 200m in 19.76.

  • Is this a déjà vu? Joe Kovas beats Ryan Crouser in the final competition of the year once again to be crowned the king of the Diamond League.

Rapid Fire Highlights 🔥

  • The AIU has filed an appeal with the Court of Arbitration for Sport against the Disciplinary Tribunal’s decision that Tobi Amusan did not commit an anti-doping rule violation for whereabouts failures. This was announced the day after she won her third Diamond League trophy in the women’s 100m hurdles.

  • Like it was an NCAA championship between 2013 and 2017, Ed Cheserek out-sprinted Bernard Koech, this time to win the Copenhagen Half Marathon in a new personal best of 59:11.

  • The World Cross Country Championships are looking for a new home this winter, after World Athletics found preparations for the event, slated to be held in Croatia, had not “advanced sufficiently.” I might get a wild hair and submit a bid, myself – a course comprised of hundreds of laps of my backyard would be spectator friendly.

  • At the Philadelphia Distance Run, Erika Kemp continued to justify her move up to the roads with a 1:10:31 victory, over 30 seconds ahead of second place. For the men, Panuel Mkungo broke the tape in 1:00:49 – Shadrack Kipchirchir was top American.

  • 2020 Olympic 100m champ Marcell Jacobs has parted ways with his long time coach, Paolo Camossi, after struggling since to replicate the form he exhibited in Tokyo. No official word yet on who Jacobs will be working with heading into the Olympic year, so it could be anyone! Even YOU

  • It would appear that Jakob Ingebrigtsen may have attempted a beer mile during his bachelor party and for a guy who I can’t imagine drinks that much beer, it ain’t a bad time!

Thank you to OLIPOP for sponsoring this week’s newsletter! For those who follow me on social media, then you’ve seen that my daughter’s recent obsession is saying the word OLIPOP. She’s not the only one who has seen how supportive the runner’s soda has been to CTIUS MAG this year.