We're going back to college⏱

Lap 85: Sponsored by On

Hi readers — Olivier Bernhard here, Co-Founder of On. When I teamed up with my two friends to make the first On shoe, we had one goal: to revolutionize the sensation of running. A decade and dozens of dreams later, we’re on a mission to ignite the human spirit through movement; because we know we wouldn’t be where we are today without it.

We believe that running invented every big idea ever.

Ok maybe you disagree, but I am sure we could find a common ground in that running can help you find your flow state, that magical place where clarity of thought can maybe, just maybe spark some incredible ideas.

We’re just a bunch of runners over here at On, and we attribute our greatest innovations to ideas that sparked from the running flow state, aka runner’s high. As a reader of The Lap Count, I’m sure you know the feeling well. 

Read more about the research that backs us up on this. And if you live in NYC, join us to explore this feeling all while celebrating one of my all-time favorite marathons.

HAMsterdam Marathon 🐹

Ethiopia’s Almaz Ayana ran 2:17:20. That’s a blazing fast time, but one that’s become sort of commonplace and within the range that we’ve become desensitized to. But don’t be fooled by the clock (and try to be less jaded!). There’s way more to the story, here.

It’s probably been a few years since you’ve heard Almaz Ayana’s name, that is unless you still used TiVo six years ago, TiVo’d it, and regularly revisit one of the most impressive Olympic performances of all time. When Ayana set the 10,000m World Record in the historically deep field at the 2016 Olympics, we weren’t talking about whether or not that was the top of the mountain for her. It was a question of what she would do next. Were we witnessing the making of the next Bekele?

Then after winning the 2017 World Championships in the 10,000m and finishing second in the 5000m, Ayana sort of disappeared. She suffered from a series of injuries and took some time off to start a family. But earlier this year, she reemerged and put up some strong performances. But nothing quite indicated that she would run the fastest marathon debut ever…well except that former world record on the track.

But Ayana wasn’t the only world record holder in the field making her debut in Amsterdam. The fastest ever over 1500m and former Jama Aden athlete, Genzebe Dibaba, also made a considerable jump up in distance. With a 5000m best of 14:15, a half marathon PB of 1:05:18, and now having run a marathon in 2:18:05, Dibaba knows no bounds and her range is undisputedly the best ever, male or female. She’s an inspiration to all the former milers out there reading (or writing) this, who feel their friends’ predictions for their own marathon debuts may be shortchanging them. 

Continuing the long string of Ethiopian success on Dutch soil was Tsegaye Getachew who won the men’s race in a personal best of 2:04:49.

Cheater, Cheater, Pumpkin Eater 🎃

“Boston is like a box of chocolates: you never know who is going to show up and eat all of them. This year it was Kenya’s Diana Kipyogei, who, despite running 2:22:06 to win the 2020 Istanbul Marathon, would not have been considered a household name, even if your household is a strange one like mine where this is the sort of thing that’s constantly being discussed. Monday was her first WMM major, but after today there will be one hundred percent reason to remember the name next time she returns to Boston.” —The Lap Count, 10/31/21

Uh oh. Your boy’s quoting himself. That can mean one of two things: I’m gloating; or I’m issuing a major mea culpa. Unfortunately for my pride and the integrity of the sport, it’s the latter…

We should have known something had gone awry when the 2021 defending champion did not return to Boston in 2022. Under normal circumstances, that’s the easiest payday of an athlete’s life. Line up, cash out, fitness be damned! But Diana Kipyogei was a no-show and now we know why. This past week it was announced that her post-race drug test had found a corticosteroid called triamcinolone acetonide in her system.

This case is the tenth recent case reported by the Athletics Integrity Unit of the substance being abused by a Kenyan athlete. I say abused because if used in certain ways, it’s not technically illegal, as it turns out is not banned out-of-competition. But if Lance Armstrong and what seems like every other cyclist ten years ago were using it, then that means it probably has some good side effects. That’s because its anti-inflammatory properties can help you lose weight and build endurance — sorta like drinking less alcohol during your marathon taper, if you’re a civilian opposed to implementing your own doping protocol.

The rightful winner of this race should have been Edna Kiplagat, and fortunately, the running community took to the Internet to show their support. But the less plugged-in fan will never appreciate her performance. Standing atop the podium in 2021 would have paired nicely with her victory from 2017, especially as a then 41-year-old with five children.

Hold onto your hats, because here’s my take: doping is bad. 

And while it’s easy to turn around and immediately vilify the individuals who do, it seems slightly more complicated than that. Clearly there is something systemic going on in Kenya right now with this specific drug. While it was a nice gesture from her agent to openly admit in an interview with LetsRun that she is completely guilty, it’s not like Diana woke up one day and had an epiphany that she should take triamcinolone acetonide. So who are the dirty players?

Infiltrate the dealers, find the supplier. That’s probably the best way to sort that part out.

It’s quite easy for a financially comfortable college-educated white male to talk about how evil you must be to cheat others out of their hard-earned win. As a former athlete, that wasn’t something I ever had to consider. I had complete autonomy of my body and was well aware of the risks surrounding visits to new doctors and massage therapists. More so, prize money wasn’t going to change the life of my family in all that significant a way.

If anything, the choice to pursue my running dreams was a terrible decision for my earning potential. But if you dangle $150,000 in front of some athletes, they may be willing to take the chance. From my keyboard (and likely yours), we have a right to be pissed that this keeps happening.

Just look at what happened at the Detroit Marathon this weekend! 

The female winner, who goes by Mary Beasley now, won the $6,000 prize. But she has a doping past from when she competed as Mary Akor, and twice before represented the United States at the World Championships. Changing your name to obfuscate your past cheating scandals? That’s bold. But even more bold is that Beasley, now 46, told reporters afterward that she had never been to Detroit before… SHE WON THE SAME RACE IN 2008!!!

Personally, if I was banned from the sport, then returning to the scene of the crime would be on the lowest section of my priority list. I’d certainly move on and not look back…  take my wife’s last name… move to a quaint beachside community in the rural southeast… apply for a job where they don’t do background checks… stop writing this damn newsletter… take up deep sea fishing and fall asleep each night to the sound of waves breaking on the soft, white sand…Back on topic.

But that’s indicative of the lack of options that many of these individuals feel. The likelihood and reality of being caught are apparently not a deterrent.

This is not to dismiss the anger of those negatively impacted by cheating in the sport — it’s a tragedy. While the history books may be updated to include Edna Kiplagat’s name, that deserved moment of glory was unjustly stripped from her. I am sad for all parties. And that includes the next marathoner who comes out of nowhere to win a major marathon in a huge breakthrough. Rather than being inspired, fans will also have to view that development with a healthy dose of skepticism.

(And now news just broke that two more Kenyan athletes, Ibrahim Mukunga Wachira, and Keneth Kiprop Renju — this year’s Lisbon and Prague Half Marathon Champion with a 58:35 PB — were suspended.)

In partnership with Bandit Running

Bandit Running is a Brooklyn-based running brand designing performance and lifestyle apparel for runners, by runners. With MarathonSZN upon us, they've just released their two inaugural performance apparel lines. Optimized for marathon racing (read: half-tights, compression shorts, and splits with pockets everywhere), this debut collection was created with 11 months of community-centered listening, designing, and testing at its core.

Personally, I'll be toeing the NYC Marathon line in their Airware Race Singlet and Superbeam Side Pocket Half Tight, because I need pockets over 26.2.

Shop here, and look out for what they've got coming NYC Marathon weekend. 

Let’s get Nutty 🥜

The Nuttycombe Invitational in Wisconsin is as good of a preview that NCAA cross country fans are going to get ahead of the big dance a month from now. The meet acts sort of as a “pre-nationals,” with basically every big team lining up head-to-head, which can be confusing considering there is another Pre-Nationals meet on the actual course in Stillwater.

Given the qualifying procedure and the associated points a team can earn by beating other Nationals-bound teams, it makes sense for the perennial locks to line up and more or less secure their spots. This takes the pressure off running a full-squad all-out at regionals or at least serves as some protection against a disastrous day. Additionally, it’s one of the few opportunities to learn how to go about navigating a dense field with top competition — just like at the real deal, slipping a second or two back in the final stretch can mean finishing 20 or more places back and disappointing everyone you know. Even the best conference meets don’t come close to this depth or pressure!

On the men’s side, Stanford came in ranked second in the country but came out with a strong 1-3-7 finish to win led by the Australian, Ky Robinson who held off a push from North Arizona’s Nico Young. The Cardinals won the meet over the number one ranked BYU squad, 54-89. The current iteration of the NAU dynasty that has won five-out-of-the-last-six NCAA titles finished a ways back in third with 145 points. But there is more to the story than the scores. BYU held out their top two in Casey Clinger and Christian Allen, and NAU’s sixth and seventh scorers were both All-American last year.

As for the ladies, the race began with something that we’ll be seeing a lot of this year — everyone just staring at North Carolina State’s Katelyn Tuohy and waiting to see when she moves. She eventually moved, and won, as expected. Although at Nationals she’ll be going up against the 2021 NCAA Champion Mercy Chelangat, their matchup at Notre Dame a few weeks ago will set the odds in Tuohy’s favor. (The third contender to consider is the best advertisement for the benefits of cross training around, Parker Valby of Florida, who dominated her season opener at Texas A&M.)

Entering this race the question was not who would win the team title, but just how dominant would the Wolfpack look? There have been whispers about this being the greatest women’s cross country team ever, after all. And although NC State’s potential number four, Marlee Starliper, did not run, this was much closer than anticipated. New Mexico closed down 51 points over the final 2000 meters to finish in a tie, 80 to 80. Alright — that’s a surprise, but no matter, let’s look to the sixth runners, right?

Not so fast! 

In the NCAA, the tie-breaker doesn’t go to the sixth runner, which would have given the nod to the Lobos. Instead, we look to see which team won more head-to-head battles down the line, and that count went to NC State, 3-2. One of the cutest things about cross country is how we all pretend that whoever winds up as a team’s sixth and seventh runners on a given day count for anything. But in the single situation where there might be a use-case for their existence, we ignore them!

Anyway, I am going to be on the ESPN broadcast commentating the NCAA Cross Country meet from Stillwater on November 19th — MY BIRTHDAY!

NYC Marathon - Vol. 8

I forgot how good it feels to be in shape. 

My five-year-old wedding suit is suddenly fitting like the tailor intended it to. But beyond the physical manifestation, the mind is getting back to its old self. It scares me to go back eight weeks and read my original announcement that I was running the New York City Marathon — oh how things have changed!

The intention then was just to have fun out there, savor the experience, and experiment with something new. It was supposed to be a ceremonious dipping of toes into a different world, just to see how it feels. And if the water was warm then I’d consider diving in at some point in the future. But instead, I inched my way down from the shallow end of the pool until all of a sudden I was floating in the deep end. How did I end up here?

During a conversation this week, a friend asked what had happened: “It seems like you are taking it way more seriously than you planned.” And that’s the truth.

First, I agreed to represent Bandit — the only brand that believed in me! But in reality, I think it’s a pretty cool short-term partnership that intertwines social media, the newsletter, and some community events. It’s a win-win and has been a ton of fun, especially the part where my wardrobe was totally revamped.

But then I also keep encouraging people to predict my time because it’s a fun thing to do and there’s nothing on the line for me. But every now and then that giant ego of mine rears its ugly head and vows to take revenge should someone unknowingly predict a time that I think is too slow. As if someone who has never trained for a marathon, doesn’t know my workouts, and has no idea what pace adds up to at the finish has put any thought into their response. But it is bulletin board material!

And finally, I am addicted to the tangible improvement. When I used to give speeches at schools and camps I’d go on this riff talking about being addicted to smaller numbers. An hour after each workout, I’ll look at the splits and hypothesize about how I could have gone faster or at least how I will soon.

It wasn’t the plan to try this hard, though once you’re laced up and running it’s tough to not. I’m not quite willing to stretch, warm up, stop drinking, do strides, change my diet, or go to the gym, but I’ll do everything else, like run.

It took me a couple of days to recover from last week’s hard long run, so I waited until Thursday to work out again. Initially, the plan was to run 2.5 sets of two miles in around 10:30 and 4 x 400 in 1:12, but the guys from RabbitWolf were shooting a video for Bandit and the extra company had me fired up. During the first tempo portion on the roads, I knew the goal pace was out the window. The final tally had me doing three full sets averaging 5:04s and 69s, which is incredible considering the size of my head by the end.

Throughout the build-up, I have been talking a lot with my high school-rival-turned-college-teammate-turned-physical-therapist, Brendan Martin. As one of the smartest and most consistent marathoners I know, he’s been a great sounding board. Although he was impressed by some of the stuff I have been doing, he encouraged me to join him in Central Park to get on some real hills, and I think, size me up in person.

Although he just ran 2:16:02 in Berlin a few weeks ago (despite falling), he joined me for a session of two six mile pushes in the middle of my 22-mile long run. My thought was to run 5:20s then 5:15s, but we ultimately ended up averaging 5:16 and 5:09 for the two sets. Halfway through, he shared that his confidence in me was growing with each mile we passed — as was mine. Hitting my second-highest mileage week (82) of the training block also didn’t hurt my confidence, either.

Although I am not issuing my official goal yet, it doesn't take much effort to look at a marathon pace chart and make an educated guess as to what sort of shape I think I’m, were I to race on a less undulating course. And while I occasionally do let my mind dream big when feeling spry during the 4:58 mile at the end of a tempo, it is important to remind myself of my original goal and to stay true to them — it’s supposed to be fun and low stress… unless I feel really good!

Rapid Fire Highlights 🔥

  • Keira D’Amato was announced as a late addition to the New York City Marathon field. It will be her third marathon in less than four months, but she has made her goal clear! (Do you hear footsteps, or is it just me?)

  • The Olympic champion, Peres Jepchirchir, is an unfortunate scratch ahead of New York.

  • The winner of the men’s race at the Detroit Marathon was Ryan Corby in 2:24:28, and as far as The Lap Count is aware, he has no known doping violations against him.

  • At the Delhi Half Marathon, Irine Cheptai (1:0642) dominated the women’s race by over a minute, but the men’s race was a tight finish with Ethiopia’s Chala Regasa (1:00:30) out-sprinting the Kenyan, Felix Kipkoech to the line. The victory was made extra special by the legend Haile Gebrselassie holding the tape.

  • Olympian and World Championship medalist Brenda Martinez has shared that she is expecting a baby in March.

  • Another Olympian and World Championship medalist, Emily Infeld has shared that she is joining Team Boss in Boulder.

  • Villanova’s McKenna Keegan, who was 2nd at the 2022 NCAA Championships in the 800m, has joined the Union Athletics Club.

  • Two big royal weddings in the world of running took place this weekend: Congratulations to Joe Klecker and Sage Hurta and to Tara Davis and Hunter Woodhall! 

  • Professional cross country is back! Kenya’s Edward Zakayo and Pamela Kosgei took the tape in the Cardiff Cross Country challenge. This is the best performance of the 18-year-old Kosgei’s career. Her sister has the marathon world record. Is there somewhere I can buy some stock? Are any college coaches reading this?

  • Nothing soothes the emotional sting of losing your 50k World Record to CJ Albertson like turning around and winning the Cape Town Marathon for the third time. That’s what South Africa’s Stephen Mokoka did as he broke the tape at the event vying for World Marathon Major status in 2:09:59 The women’s winner, Meseret Dinke from Ethiopia, ran 2:24:04 and noted in her post-race interview that the course is way tougher than most international races. Maybe we need that?

  • At the Toronto Waterfront Marathon it was Kenya’s Antonina Kwambai (2:23:20) and Yihunilign Adane (2:07:18) who took the win. However, the race technically doubles as the Canadian Championships, which were won by 42-year-old Malindi Elmore and Trevor Hofbauer, who is a much less impressive 30 years old.

  • At the Great South Run the running super couple comprised of Lily Partridge (54:29) and Ben Connor (47:19) won the 10-mile event. I’m actively workshopping “Bennifer”-style portmanteaus for them and the best I’ve got right now is “Cartridge.” 

  • Corey Bellemore, the world record holder in the conventional beer mile (4:28) just broke the event’s separate record for canned beer at theBeer Mile World Classic on the famous “egg” track in Leuven Belgium. His time of 4:49 validates what we already knew — it’s harder to chug out of a can, but they’re also much safer to smash over your head in celebration afterwards.

Thanks so much to On for sponsoring this week’s newsletter! As you may have seen from a sneak preview, Chris and Mac were out in Boulder this week and there will be some cool content coming out of their trip soon - stay tuned!