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Lap 144: Sponsored by On

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We all know it’s harder to get out for a run in the cold, dark days of winter than at other times of the year. But if you can escape the duvet and resist the comfort of the couch, it’s always worth it.

There’s a bigger sense of satisfaction after a winter run than after a workout in kinder conditions. It just always feels worth it. And if you’re training for a spring marathon or dedicated to a regular routine, then investing in winter running will pay off big time when the days finally get longer. 

Boston University: Still short FAST!!! 🔃

Photo: Jan Figueroa | @janfigueroa07

The Boston University indoor track was resurfaced this off-season and sources are reporting that less rubber and paint was used to complete this job than might normally be used on a standard 200-meter track… is a rumor I would have started if I didn’t want to invalidate my own mile time! 

In reality, that magnificent, regulation-size oval is off to another glorious start this winter. And it may surprise you, but the track is technically 1.4cm long!

All time bonuses in contracts that were written three years ago are on high alert. Okay, so that’s not true for the college kids. And this weekend was about them! Why not train through Thanksgiving to fully indulge during Christmas? It’s that time of year where every coach is reassuring their kids that cross country fitness converts to the track. Yet despite the barrage of new personal bests, there won’t be a single workout run in a grass field for the next seven months. Really makes you think, hm?

Given the fields’ collective residual strength – and only enough time for one hard session of quarters – the 3000m and 5000m were the main events on display. And… damn. For perspective, here’s how fast the final qualifying times into NCAAs in 2023 were and how many athletes have already run faster, just at this one meet:

  • Men — 7:44.69 (4) and 13:29.31 (12)

  • Women — 8:57.39 (8) and 15:42.88 (15)

Don’t tell me that’s not worth the $100 price of admission! 

On December 2nd, there were already 15 women who ran faster than the 16th athlete into last year’s championship meet. The momentum of collegiate distance running continues on an absurd trajectory, so a quick note of reassurance for all of the millennials reading right now: we were too old for supershoes, too young to be able to support a family without having a side hustle, but at least we got away with posting blurry and heavily edited photos of food on a nascent Instagram for a few years, so it all comes out in the wash.

There was pressure on Olivia Markezich to set the tone for the evening, and coming off a third-place finish in Charlottesville, the NCAA 3000m steeplechase champion delivered, running 8:40.42, good for the second-fastest time in history. Then Nico Young led the way in the men’s race, crossing the line in 7:37.73 – one second shy of breaking his teammate, Drew Bosley’s collegiate record.

Although Parker Valby claimed that she was only coming in to knock out her qualifier, she demolished that goal and instead broke the outright collegiate record of 15:01.70, set by Jenny Simpson – then-Barringer – in 2009, cruising to a time of 14:56.11. And Valby’s national championship-winning counterpart Graham Blanks zipped along to a 13:03.78 NCAA record of his own, and in doing so checked off the first box in qualifying for the Olympics – getting the standard.

Photo: Jan Figueroa | @janfigueroa07

To fans of collegiate running and M. Night Shyamalan, Blanks and Valby vaguely resemble the fictional characters played by Samuel L. Jackson and Bruce Willis in the 2000 comic book-inspired thriller Unbreakable. Blanks cranks out 100 miles per week at sub-six-minute pace, and Valby spends four to five days a week on an arc trainer accumulating so much sweat that the janitorial staff has nightmares about her.

Whose training would you rather have to do? Graham may be out in the cold more, but presumably, he is chumming it up with friends while doing so. Although a single pair of trainers probably last Parker an entire year, her otolaryngologist has got to be worried about the long-term health implications of blasting so much David Guetta into her ears.

I’ll take the third option. Watching them seems more fun than training like either. (Results)

The closing of the window — CIM 🔚

Photo: Justin Britton | @justinbritton

Normally the winner of the race will garner the most attention, except when it’s the final weekend of the qualifying window for the Olympic Marathon Trials. Although fans were understandably hyper-focused on those rounding the corner with the clock ticking towards 2:18:00 and 2:37:00, can we first please give a round of applause – or at least take a moment of silence while reading this to acknowledgment race winners CJ Albertson and Grace Kahura?

The self-proclaimed “best downhill runner in the world” was built for a course like the California International Marathon’s, and it showed. He won the day by almost two minutes, running 2:11:09 (Results). On his best day, CJ will be a contender in Orlando in February for the top three. Unfortunately, he will have to run under 2:11:30 there to even be eligible, as the net-downhill finish of the Sacramento course is not an eligible course according to World Athletics. Although USATF accepts times for the Trials, these marks cannot be used for the reallocation of Olympic qualifying marks.

But if there is somebody who will run fearlessly, regardless of what the conditions end up being, it would be CJ. He has spent ample time in a questionably safe apparatus at his home in Fresno to prepare for the moment.

Kahura ran 2:29:00 to win by almost four and a half minutes over second-place finisher Allie Kieffer (welcome back!). As a Kenyan athlete, she will not have to figure out what the reallocation of spots process will look like – lucky her!

Now that December 5th has passed, there are unofficially 226 men and 173 women standing under the confetti yelling, “I am going to Disney World!” The bar was raised significantly on the women’s side and as predicted, dropping the time by eight minutes meant that there would no longer be 513 qualifiers. The men’s field will shrink from 260, on account of the standard just being one minute faster.

Two years ago I set the over/under at 200 on both sides of the equation. Well, it averaged out to be pretty damn close! Although the change to the women’s standard was more dramatic, and perhaps a comparatively more challenging mark to hit, it’s pretty amazing to consider the increase in depth over the past couple of decades.

Look at how many women broke 2:37 in each of the last six qualifying cycles: 2004 (13), 2008 (16), 2012 (27), 2016 (34), 2020 (91), 2024 (158) – remember, not all qualifiers ran the full marathon to achieve their standard.

And imagine how many more athletes likely shot for the moon and faded in the last few miles only to land amongst the stars! Admittedly then there’s the fact that some of the previous qualifying women may have been capable of running faster but ran safely and conservatively because it wasn’t necessary to get into the Trials.

My hope and expectation is that the women’s standard remains at 2:37 in 2028 and that the men’s is lowered another minute or two. It’s a balance between ensuring the carrot being dangled out in front is attainable while continuing to raise the definition of excellence.

To close out this section, apologies to anyone who feels personally upset by that last paragraph – don’t worry about emailing to let me know, just pretend you copied and pasted the following into Gmail: “Dear Kyle, I ran 2:18:01 and did not qualify for the Olympic Trials. Are you suggesting that I am not an excellent marathoner? That’s better than YOU have ever run! Sincerely, I hate-read your stupid newsletter every week.”

NXN: Talent is a dominant trait 🧬

Photo: Austin Desisto | @austindesisto

The best high schoolers in the country clashed at Nike Cross Nationals in Portland under conditions that could best be described as exactly what you would expect for Portland in early December. The course was covered in puddles so deep that you would not have known that pumps were used to rid the ground of rainwater. But the toughest feature of the course was knowing that rival British high schoolers would still point and jeer about how it’s not “proper cross country!”

And of course to win in such harrowing conditions in a sport like cross country, the advantage goes to the toughest athletes from the toughest states. You know, like the kids working in Michigan’s car factories! Or the kids from Long Island who pretend they interned at Merber Financial Planning Service when they were 16 because they occasionally visited their father at his office to eat lunch. But we’re forgetting that there is nothing tougher than being born into a life with limited oxygen available to you, forcing your red blood cells to multiply.

It was a great day for Utah and Colorado as the Herriman Boys and Air Academy Girls took the top team honors, the first time a team from either state has won a national championship. And each state had its respective individual winner, as well.

The boy’s champion Jojo Jourdon was not on most casual 33-year-olds’ – namely my own – radar coming in, but with a name like that, I won’t make such a mistake again. Besides, Jojo ran 8:46 for 3200m as a junior, so maybe that’s a “me problem.” He’ll be heading to Wake Forest next year.

The girl’s champion, Addy Ritzenhein is just a sophomore from Niwot High School in Colorado, but a more familiar name to people who had posters of her dad on their bedroom wall growing up. While it’s easy to draw parallels to Dathan, who won two Foot Locker national titles before making a few Olympic teams, let’s not forget about mom: former CU All-American Kalin Ritzenhein, née Toedebusch. Having your parents both be state record holders from Michigan, while being raised at altitude yourself? That’s just not fair!

Yes, she was wearing On spikes.

This Cross race was Sound 🎵

Photo: Kevin Morris | @kevmofoto

Sound Running’s Cross Champs returned to Austin as one of the few World Cross Country Tour stops that is not in Spain. The race took place on Thursday morning, situated in the middle of the most fun week in run specialty – The Running Event. If you know me, then you know I love piggyback rides and if the entire running industry is already going to be eating BBQ in one place, then you might as well insert yourself into the itinerary. At some point, it’d be great if the USATF Annual Convention, which also took place last week, could collaborate on location. It benefits the sport when various stakeholders are in the same room, or at least the same city.

Last year’s inaugural race received some constructive criticism regarding the uneven footing on the course, and accordingly pivoted to Camp Mabry, which is a flat army base that I once frequented for threshold work. As much fun as it is to watch the professionals navigate rugged terrain, to get more buy-in from American-based runners whose money is made on the track it’s inevitable to play it soft safe. It’s a bit different when a European club is paying a regular stipend or appearance fee.

Despite taking a wrong turn, NAZ Elite’s Katie Wasserman won the women’s 8K race in 26:49. And her teammate Adriaan Wildschutt ran 22:07 to defeat two former NCAA Cross Country champions. (Results)

With the Olympic 10,000m standards set at 27:00 and 30:40 and field size quota of 27, it’s surprising that no one is actively attempting to qualify via the weird backdoor cross country ranking wildcard thing. It was worth the try, but that needs to go because no one understands it, or if they do, they prefer their odds qualifying the good old fashioned way.

Valencia — Ciudad del Running 🇪🇸

Photo: @maratonvalencia

When Kelvin Kiptum set the course record in his debut at the 2022 Valencia Marathon he was two days after his 22nd birthday. The man who broke that mark to win in 2:01:48 on Saturday did so a few days before he turned 33, and it was his 25th marathon. If at first, you don’t succeed, then run at least two marathons a year until you do.

Okay, that’s a lie because Sisay Lemma was certainly successful before this past weekend. His biggest career victory came at the 2021 London Marathon and he has now run under 2:05 on six occasions. But no matter how much we try to emphasize beating other fast people and consistently showing up on the podium, there is still so much sexiness in running a fast time. And with this performance, Lemma is now the fourth sexiest man ever.

To do so, Lemma followed the trending race plan we’re seeing at most flat and fast marathons, which is to go out extremely hard and see who can hold on. Lemma split a 34-second personal best through the half, as a large pack passed through in 60:35, a split 13 seconds faster than Kelvin Kiptum came through en route to his world record.

How do ten guys believe this to be a good idea? Well, to Lemma’s credit, and despite 24 other races suggesting otherwise, it occasionally works. There is little middle ground in terms of pacing at those speeds and most choose to commit. And with the race organizers now offering ONE MILLION DOLLARS to anyone who breaks the world record in 2024, that theme will surely continue.

The depth of this race was extraordinary with 28 men dipping under the 2:08:10 Olympic Standard. Four of those athletes represent a country that did not already fill its three-man Olympic quota and therefore has some major implications on the American front. Those results bump Scott Fauble’s ranking to outside the top 64, meaning that at the Olympic Trials, the United States will not officially have three qualifying spots unlocked.

There are some speculative interpretations of USATF’s laid-out qualifying procedure, but one thing is for certain: unless someone runs under 2:08:10 in the next seven weeks (or a crazy fast half) then the last team member won’t be official until May. Hopefully it will all work out when it’s 45 degrees and some dude who got into the race by the skin of his teeth falls on the patriotic sword and acts as a rabbit for the first 30K.

Photo: @maratonvalencia

There is no such thing as no woman’s land at the Valencia Marathon as all of the elite athletes begin with the masses. As if there wasn’t already going to be depth up front based solely on the quality of the elite field, this adds to it by ensuring that even in the event of a breakaway among the invited athletes, those left behind can duke it out with some very fast civilian men. And this year, the top 10 women all broke 2:23:30. But the downside is that the race is a bit more difficult to follow, especially in contrast to last month’s New York Marathon.

There is no more effective strategy to rationalize not doing a long run of your own than plopping down on the couch for a couple of hours to watch others do theirs. The 2:00 AM start time was not ideal for viewing, but I made it to the TV without turning off ‘Do Not Disturb’ on my phone and thoroughly enjoyed this one. I did not realize until well after the race that 13 women broke national records, so allow me to propose a dumb solution to the “fast times versus fair coverage” issue at this event: the pro women wear the standard brightly colored kits all brands seem to trot out each Olympic cycle, and any men who anticipate running between the current women’s world record and, say, 2:25 have to wear black and white clothing. 

Anyway, while it wasn’t an Ethiopian national record for Worknesh Degefa, since that would have also been a world record… 2:15:51 is moving. The 2019 Boston Marathon champion and mother of two is definitively back, which puts her in the heart of the conversation for the Olympic team.

Whose selection system is better? The US, playing a confusing game of “who is good enough to go?” or Ethiopia’s version: “which of these potential gold medalists do we leave home?” I’d take the second, personally.

Sliding into those Strava DMs 🚴

Every Strava user has a suggestion of what additional capabilities or features should be integrated into the platform – when are we gonna get SAP: stroller-adjusted pace? And if you’re like me, you occasionally runsplain to your friends who work there how the app could be improved. And in what many are calling the biggest update since calculating the carbon savings of a bike commute, exercise enthusiasts can now send each other private messages.

Coming on the heels of the trend (and subsequent backlash) that Strava be used as the new dating app, the ability to DM other users opens up a new frontier of possibility. Millions of athletes already voluntarily share biometric and location-based data at no cost, now we can discreetly critique each other’s workout routines! (Just a reminder, that if you aren’t paying for the product, then you are the product, says the writer of the free newsletter who asked your salary last month.)

It should be noted that there are privacy settings that should be utilized depending on your comfort levels. The default setting only allows messaging between mutual followers, but you can open things up to accept notes from anyone you follow, and of course you can make it so that nobody can message you – however you can still initiate messages to anyone accepting them from you 

It seems Strava preemptively accounted for common ways DM-sliders misbehave, so chances are, unless you’re a real freak, you can’t mess this up too badly. But still, let me help you understand what is and isn’t a socially acceptable message to send via Strava:

Asking a pro for training advice — OKAY

Suppose a pro follows you back, either via clerical error, general kindness, or because you used to race them in HS. You may ask simple training questions, but please do not expect that every pro badge will respond with a three page essay and invitation to come train with them in Boulder under their guidance.  

Asking anyone for feet pics — NOT OKAY

There is an expectation that one would pay for this sort of thing. But I suppose it’s okay to ask for shoe recommendations... as long as you don’t follow up by asking for feet pics.

Saying good luck — OKAY

This is a sweet gesture! People love being wished good luck. I’d much rather a Strava DM than a text 90 minutes before the race that reads, “Hey good luck, where can I watch?” and then a follow up asking for my account password.

“I do not mean for this to be creepy, but...” — NOT OKAY

Sorry nice guys. The fact that you think there is a chance that whatever your next few words are might be creepy means that it is creepy. 

Route recommendations — OKAY

When I am traveling to a new place and don’t know where to explore I will often look at the top times on some local segments and find where the best runners in the area run. Asking for a suggestion of where to brunch after is an expert level move, but will likely require you following them, and them reciprocating, first. 

Unsolicited training advice — NOT OKAY

“Hey nice workout today, though I’d highly recommend cutting that rest down and slowing down your pace a bit because based on your heart rate data it looked like you were probably a bit outside of the zone you said you were aiming for in your description. This is probably why you bombed a couple of weeks ago in that race that was really important to you that you are not yet over.”

Requesting a bike ride be labeled as a bike ride — OKAY

We need a fraud protection button. Suddenly all the glory of your best tempo run ever is immediately erased by the dude with an e-bike who is telling the world that he just ran nine miles at 3:20 pace. In this case, it’s best to apologize often, and grovel a little, and close with this sign-off, which never fails: “please dude, can you please change your “run” to a ride? I really need a win right now. :(“

Meme distribution — CASE BY CASE BASIS ⚠️

We’ve all got friends who aren’t really on social media, but might make an exception for Strava, for some reason. Sure, you already text them, but there’s a dumber, more lizard-brained level of communication out there that really isn’t text worthy – the kind of stuff you’d mindlessly scroll over and share via Instagram DMs. Can Strava fill this void for you when communicating with IG-less buddies? You can try. But be prepared to find out quickly if you’re the reason they aren’t on other platforms to begin with.

Rapid Fire Highlights 🔥

  • Stanford freshmen Lex and Leo Young have signed NIL partnerships with On. At this point, I am not sure if anyone on The Farm is wearing team-issued shoes to practice.

  • Athletics Kenya released the names of their watch list for the Olympic marathon team with one glaring omission: where is Evans Chebet?

  • Hopefully the bouncers at the college bars around Columbia don’t come after me for age cheating over a decade ago. Luguelín Santos of the Dominican Republic was stripped of his 2012 World Junior title for a false passport claiming he was a year younger than he really was.

  • The great Kenenisa Bekele is back, baby! The 41-year-old set a new masters record of 2:04:19 in Valencia.

  • Shout out to former middle distance star Heather Kampf who qualified for her fifth Olympic Trials, but first in the marathon running 2:36 at CIM. I doubt anyone else in the field has this kind of closing speed.

  • I worked pretty hard to find any video of the Fukuoka Marathon on the internet because it was such a close finish, and this is what I got. How about that start line! I’ve been in some 1500s that looked similar. Kenya’s Michael Githae won in 2:07:08 over the new Chinese national record holder ,Yang Shaohui. As no Japanese men ran under 2:05:50, Suguru Osako is one step closer to holding onto that provisional Olympic spot.

  • Your hero and mine, Yuki Kawauchi, is back on the roads as he won the Hofu Yomiuri Marathon in 2:08:32.

  • The final stop of the On Track Nights circuit was held in Melbourne, with the Zatopek:10 also serving as the Australian 10,000m championships. Lauren Ryan (32:54) and Jack Rayner (27:57.87) took home the national titles. Ireland’s Andrew Coscoran actually won the race (27:56.37) and I think a good rule is that if you win another country’s national meet, you should get automatic citizenship. Big thanks to Mitch Dyer from Straight At It for the coverage!

  • Tinman Elite have added two new women to their team as Savannah Shaw and Katie Camarena join the lads in Boulder.

  • WATCH: Foot Locker Nationals is on December 9th at 8 AM ET on RunnerSpace.

  • WATCH: The European Cross Country Championships in Brussels on All Athletics TV (for the Americans) on December 10th starting at 6:25 AM ET.

Thank you to On for sponsoring this week’s newsletter! At this point, you have probably tried the shoes and understand the hype. Trust me when I say their gear is also next level. Get yourself some winter apparel and thank me later.