Forget everything you know about marathons⏱

Sponsored by New Balance

Lap 134: Sponsored by New Balance

Introducing the newest (and youngest) members of Team New Balance! The footwear brand has added to its NIL roster with a slew of young stars including Sadie Engelhardt, Tinoda Matsatsa, Daniel Simmons, Alison Ince, and Quincy Wilson. Last year, these five athletes all won national titles at New Balance Nationals and now they’ll be representing the brand year-round.

It’s great to see such a range and diversity of talent across age, and event groups. Matsatsa is now starting his freshman year at Georgetown, and at 15 years old, Wilson is the youngest NIL signing yet in track and field. Having met and interviewed all of these kids before, they’re not merely being rewarded for being fast, but for being great ambassadors of the brand.

Before diving in, a necessary disclaimer is that New Balance is sponsoring this newsletter and CITIUS MAG has been a partner of New Balance Nationals for the past couple of years. With that out of the way… if the spirit of NIL deals is to fairly acknowledge and financially compensate young athletes for their contributions then this is the logical next step for new signings.

It’s an extremely competitive landscape for shoe brands to capture the attention of their most sought-after and potentially valuable target demographic – high school kids. And there are options out there as seemingly every company is trying to be in front of them at some point during the year.

The postseason meets are a great opportunity for these high schoolers to run fast against the best competition in the country, but these events are also huge marketing activations. And ensuring the top talent in the country committed to your events is a huge draw for other aspiring elite athletes, not to mention fans. For an up-and-coming miler, does it get any better than being able to race against Sadie Engelhardt in Boston this winter? It does, with the incentive that winning a title might help secure an NIL deal (this is not something anyone at New Balance said, that’s just The Lap Count speculating, as always)!

High school kids are very good at speaking to other high school kids and as peers, there is relatability in play. Young athletes may not be watching every Diamond League meet, but they are watching Daniel Simmons crush the Utah state meet. And now he will be doing that in New Balance shoes.

The Fastest Distance World Record On The Books

Photo: Justin Britton | @justinbritton

Okay, I am still processing this.

Forget everything you know about women’s marathon times, then try to understand that Tigist Assefa ran 2:11:53. The Ethiopian’s winning time at the Berlin Marathon annihilates Brigid Kosgei’s previous record of 2:14:04 from Chicago in 2019.

Here are some ways to try and quantify that:

  • It is a 5:02-mile pace

  • Her second half was in 1:05:34 and the American record is 1:06:39

  • The final 10K split of 31:01 would be the 12th fastest American 10,000m time ever

  • It would be the 18th fastest time by an American MAN this year

  • The World Athletics scoring tables rank this performance higher than every other female running world record performance ever. Overall, only the discus, shot put, long jump, and heptathlon marks are considered greater.

For being by far the quickest marathon runner ever, Tigist Assefa is still far from a household name, even in households like mine that would care about that sort of thing. That’s largely because she only ran her first marathon in 2022. Her debut may have underwhelmed, but in Berlin last year she dropped 19 minutes to run 2:15:37, seemingly out of nowhere. Coming into this year, we knew a bit more, yet this still surprised us.

If you are hoping this whole thing isn’t just a bunch of smoke and mirrors then take solace in the fact that Assefa ran 1:59.24 for 800m in 2014. Consider the immediate success that Sifan Hassan and Letesenbet Gidey are having in the marathon. Try to recall that Eliud Kipchoge ran a 3:50 mile in 2004.

With the cadence required to be an elite marathoner at these paces, it seems like we are trending toward world class foot speed being a prerequisite to succeed on these pancake-flat courses. It also probably doesn’t hurt to seemingly be a super-responder to super shoes.

Seriously… It’s hard to imagine a better product endorsement for Adidas’ new $500 shoe than this. I won’t pretend to be an exercise physiologist, but I occasionally impersonate one in this newsletter, so here it goes: the shoes may help maintain ankle stiffness and bounce most often exhibited by middle-distance runners.

If we want to delve into what is happening with American men and why they’re not keeping up with the improvement curve of the rest of the world in the marathon, then take a look at our current crop’s 1500m times. There is still so much financial support and incentive on the track that our roster of potential 2024 marathon Olympians is still largely made up of cross country specialists/grind boys. They’re tough. They’re good on hills. And they can train like animals. But are they capitalizing on the shoes as much as someone like Grant Fisher one day will?

Right now, 2:11:53 may seem crazy because it is so significantly better than the second best time ever run. But if in a few years Faith Kipyegon and Gudaf Tsegay can match it then it’ll be easier to digest that middle-distance runners of yesterday are the new record breakers of today. They are the only ones who can make five-minute pace look like a jog.

Eliud Kipchoge Wins Berlin, Again 🇩🇪

Photo: Justin Britton | @justinbritton

When you go to a Blink 182 concert, you don’t want them to play the new stuff. You want Mark Hoppus to go on a 20-minute tirade about the government covering up the existence of extraterrestrials, you have my attention. That just me? Okay, then how about this: collectively, we want them to PLAY THE HITS.

And that’s what Eliud Kipchoge did in winning his fifth Berlin Marathon this past weekend in 2:02:42. We Blink Eliud fans walked out of the stadium with our heads held high, reassuring our friend, a father of three, that the boys can still rock. The performance won’t change our lives like the 2001 Warped Tour show did, though dammit it makes you feel good to bask in that nostalgia and reminisce about a time when you could wear skate shoes without triggering your plantar fasciitis.

It’s sort of remarkable how regular a sub-2:03 marathon feels these days. This was Kipchoge’s fifth-fastest time of his life, and not that he needed any further proof that he is the greatest to ever do it, but stacking 2:02 efforts in what’s presumably the twilight of his career provides just that.

Well, the day is coming when the Lebron to our Jordan emerges. It might be Kelvin Kiptum – it may be Joshua Cheptegei – or it might be Jakob Ingebrigtsen. But one day, especially with where technology is going, this might be a debate. And all the… small things… matter to Kipchoge right now, and our philosopher king needs to keep padding those stats to help the case.

We won’t really remember that in his fifth Berlin victory, the field was not assembled to challenge Kipchoge for the win. He ended up being out on his own with no company except pacers for the better part of the two hours. (And we certainly won’t remember that over the final few miles there was a vague threat from a closing second and third place.) The remainder of the podium was made up of debutants Vincent Kipkemoi (2:03:13) and Tadese Takele (2:03:24).

Do you know how good you have to be to make another 2:02 marathon a little boring?

Surely Kipchoge’s initial plan would have been to race in New York this fall, but he understandably needed to find his groove again after the disappointment of Boston. He also had to put something on the board to ensure his selection for Paris this summer. When discussing legacy, it helps to run fast, and it certainly does not hurt to win an 11th World Marathon Major – that’s for sure. But a third straight Olympic gold in the marathon would further immortalize a man who is already a mobile monument to greatness.

The Sprints Coaching Carousel 🎠

Photo: Johnny Zhang | @jzsnapz

You know an Olympic year is on the horizon when athletes start mixing up their coaches and training groups. (Well, not the ones who are happy with how their preceding season turned out.)

The shakeup in the 100m is fully underway this week as 2022 World Championship silver medalist Marvin Bracy parted ways with Rana Reider to join Dennis Mitchell’s squad. Meanwhile the 2021 Olympic champion Marcell Jacobs, who has struggled with injury the past couple of seasons, has left his longtime coach Paolo Camossi to join Reider’s Tumbleweed TC.

Cap space isn’t exactly a thing in this sport, though having too many franchise players might be. This isn’t distance running; everyone isn’t pretending to get along swimmingly. Hopefully the Netflix cameras were still rolling this off-season as some of these conversations took place.

After a disappointing finish in Budapest, the 2022 World Champion Fred Kerley has also made the decision to change his training situation. On Monday evening, Kerley shared that he is no longer working with Alleyne Francique, who has guided his career since his Texas A&M days. Instead, he will be joining Rai Benjamin in Los Angeles under the tutelage of Quincy Watts.

It was Watts’ NCAA 400m record of 25 years that Fred broke in 2017. Given that history and Watts being the 1992 Olympic champion in the quarter, naturally the speculation then becomes is Fred moving back up? As if someone of Watts’ pedigree is so one-dimensional that he can only coach a single event…

Time to get back on the Oregon Trail🌲

Photo: Justin Britton

Have you ever heard so many people upset that they won’t be visiting Iowa next summer? In what is a surprise to absolutely no one with a pulse, the 2024 U.S. Olympic Track and Field Trials are heading back to Eugene from June 21 to June 30. Although it was only just announced last Thursday, it has been assumed long enough by anyone who needs to be there that they (re: we) already booked all of the good/refundable AirBnBs. Sorry, track fans – should have started a newsletter!

Now I am not necessarily jumping on the covered wagon of all you folks complaining about the return to Oregon. It doesn’t bother me if the Trials are there. It’s more that every meet of consequence is also there. If the US Championships were in different locations for non-Olympic years, then making the pilgrimage would actually be an endearing quadrennial event. The Hayward fatigue that many of us feel is due to a lack of opportunities to visit other American college towns!

In the interest of trying to be solution-oriented, however, there are realistically not many other facilities that are fit to host a competition of this scale. Thousands of facilities all across this massive country of ours are prepared to host a dual meet, but the logistics at the level of a national championship simply demand way more.

Right now World Athletics lists seven “Class 1” and seven “Class 2” facilities in the United States that would be eligible. There are almost certainly other spots that would be eligible for certification, but WA is pretty intensive, expensive, and specific in its requirements. Assuming there was a local organizing committee that desperately wanted to host (if this is you, please email me!) when excluding places with unspeakably miserable summer weather, it’s not like there is an obvious, non-Eugene location that hasn’t already been considered.

It would be great to have it in Los Angeles or New York. Just be careful what you wish for. If you think Eugene is expensive then good luck Ubering back and forth over the RFK bridge twice a day and spending $24 on a couple of eggs at a Midtown diner.

Let’s instead focus on what we can do in the immediate future! Lower the ticket prices to offset the price-gouging of hotels and airlines so the stadium will be full and the experience will be worth the risk of dysentery.

And to close out this section, I’m going to repeat myself for the ten thousandth time. THIS MEET DOES NOT NEED TO BE NINE DAYS LONG. Arguing about the length of Worlds/the Olympics is one thing – there are admittedly a lot of countries! But the US Championships is routinely squeezed into four days in non-cycle years, so it can – and should – be done here, too. And I’m willing to compromise for six days.

Movie Review: LIMITS 🍿

There are not many opportunities for those of us in the running newsletter “space” to moonlight as film credits, and it would be an absolute shame to squander the few opportunities that do have. If you thought McFarland, USA or Tracktown had a niche intended audience (reluctant high school cross country runners conned into family movie night by their more sports-enthusiastic dads, and self-described braveys, respectively), then the pool of potential viewers for the mockumentary Limits might look more like your handful of running buddies who are still watching Curb Your Enthusiasm.

Fortunately, that population is probably subscribed to this newsletter, so I thought I’d let you know about it in case it did not come across your desk. For points of transparency, I am in the movie and the filmmaker/lead actor Daniel Winn is a friend. While conducting the interview for my “role” in the movie, I was not told what the film would be about so all of my answers and presumably that of others’ were sincere.

The story is about an aspiring professional runner who is confused why his agent is struggling to land him a contract while so many others were able to get one – it’s just not fair! As the fictional athlete, who is based on every unsponsored elite, navigates the confusing world of post-collegiate running, agents, coaches, and his value to brands, he descends into madness, basically, which is sort of the most logical response to it all.

The review I sent to Daniel was, “I hate how much I like this.” It caught me off-guard how painfully accurate it was in capturing the absurdity of semi- and full-on-professional track. While Limits was super enjoyable for me, and likely for you, I’d be very interested in hearing a review from a viewer who has not spent time in the presence of a 3:59-miler who can not understand why Nike is unwilling to fund their summer trip to Belgium.

Rapid Fire Highlights 🔥

  • Sydney McLaughlin-Levrone has a new book called “Far Beyond Gold” that is now available for pre-order. It would seem the main theme will be her personal journey of finding her faith and the role it’s played in overcoming challenges in her career. No word yet if it includes her intentions to run the 400/400mH double in Paris.

  • The 2022 NCAA Indoor 800m champion Brandon Miller has left Bobby Kersee’s group as an unsponsored athlete and teamed up with the Brooks Beasts in Seattle. Remember, he is only 20.

  • In classic USATF Road Race Championship form, I did not know that it was happening until the results came in, and it was ON Long Island! Not that anyone bothered to tell me, but the Cow Harbor 10K once again played host as Clayton Young (28:49) and Weini Kelati (31:57) took home national titles.

  • Matthew Boling will forgo the remainder of his eligibility at Georgia and turn pro to be trained by Alleyne Francique. A shoe sponsor is yet to be announced, although he has quite a list of NIL deals including Merrell and Dunkin.

  • The 2024 Diamond League schedule has been released, and will include 15 meets with Brussels hosting the final. As someone who rarely waits until Friday afternoon to plan his weekend, I am happy this information is out there already. I just don’t know what to do with it right now!

  • The Virginia Invitational previewed the NCAA XC course to some of the top teams in the nation and uhhh… have you heard of NAU? Both Flagstaff-based squads took home wins, led by individual victories from Drew Bosley and Elise Stearns. He may have only been in college a few weeks but Wake Forest’s Rocky Hansen impressed with a 5th-place finish. And Stanford’s Amy Bunnage of Australia was the top freshman for the ladies in 6th. The 18-year-old has a personal best of 15:21 (under the US high school record) and you will all know her name very soon.

  • Dafne Schippers has formally announced her retirement at 31 years old. The Dutch sprinter won five World Championship medals (two were gold) and an Olympic silver and concludes her career with personal bests of 10.81 for 100m, 21.63 for 200m, and 6545 points in the Heptathlon.

  • The World Road Running Championships are this weekend in Riga, Latvia, and if you are intrigued to see how the first-time event goes, then tune into Peacock on October 1st at 4:20 AM ET! There is a mile, 5K, and half marathon and will include the likes of Faith Kipyegon, Yomif Kejelcha, Peres Jepchirir, Sara Hall, Jess Hull, and other surprisingly good people who are lending credence to this strange, new, yet exciting c an unknown entity. Be on the lookout for a full preview in the next 24 hours from CITIUS MAG!

Community Spotlight 🔦

In an effort to grow the newsletter and give a voice to The Lap Count’s most loyal readers, I am adding a section at the bottom of the newsletter for YOU to say (more or less) whatever you want. All you have to do is refer 5 friends using the link below to be featured!

SHOUT OUT: Best of luck to Reed Fischer at the Half Marathon world champs for Team USA this week. Few people are as genuinely kind and as hardworking as Reed, cheering for you!! — Doug Adams, Boulder CO

Thank you to New Balance for sponsoring this week’s newsletter! To follow up on her request for a pair of FuelCell SuperComp Trainer v2’s, I got my wife a pair and she has legitimately been crushing some of her best runs in years.