Merry Global Running Day⏱

Sponsored by New Balance Nationals

Lap 118: Sponsored by New Balance Nationals

The biggest high school stars are returning to Franklin Field for the New Balance Nationals Outdoor Meet from June 15th to June 18th. It’s more than just backpacks and fast times – though those are certainly important! This is the opportunity for the over 7,000 registered athletes to see how they match up against the rest of the country. And of course, CITIUS MAG will be on-site providing all of the in-depth coverage as the major events unfold and new records are broken. Tune in to watch Issam Asinga, Sadie Engelhardt, Shawnti Jackson, Tinoda Matsatsa, and more all on the New Balance YouTube channel.

Global Running Day! 🌎

Do we prefer holidays that are date-based or go off a specific day of the week? Last year Global Running Day was on June 1st, but this year the first Wednesday of the month is June 7th — it makes you think! The made-up holiday started in 2009, and as far as ones about something I actually believe in it is pretty high up on the list. While it may include some try-hard tweets from people like me or your least favorite running brands, it’s a good thing to encourage people to get moving and go for a jog. That might be the first step for a future subscriber of The Lap Count.

Is Faith the greatest 1500m runner ever? 🐐

Photo: Johnny Pace | Pace Photo

At this point, we’ve all spent our past couple of lunch breaks huddled over a sandwich, rewatching Faith Kipyegon’s record run at least a few times, right? It almost feels ridiculous to describe it here. However as a formality, I will mention that Kipyegon’s incredible 1500m at the Florence Diamond League meet was a new world record, 3:49.11, surpassing the previous mark set by Genezebe Dibaba in 2015.

The race was set up beautifully with the opening 400 and 800 completed in 62.8 and 2:04.1. It was important that when pacemaker Sage Hurta-Klecker stepped off the track with 600m to go that Faith had life left in her legs, since it was still a long way to push alone. But thanks to a final lap of 58.9 and the motivational metronome of lights lining the inside, history was made, which was all the more impressive given this was a race against the clock.

Sure, there were other women running on the track – and even rather quickly! – they were just eight seconds behind Kipyegon. It took most fans a beat to appreciate just how fast the rest of the field also ran. That field included, among others, Laura Muir finishing second in 3:57.09 in her outdoor opener and first race since parting ways from her longtime coach, and Jessica Hull in third, who set a new Australian record of 3:57.29.

After the race, the entire field came together to embrace and celebrate Faith, who has set the tone for the event for the past seven years. Her competitors genuinely like her. And I don’t think it’s a major leap to suggest that her rivals were so stoked for her because in addition to her always gracious presence on the track, the women’s 1500m mark has had numerous question marks surrounding it since 1980 when Tatyana Kazankina of the Soviet Union ran 3:52.47. Kazankina never officially failed a drug test, but her career did end over her refusal to take one.

From that photo op, we know how a plurality of globally elite middle distance runners feel about Kipyegon. So surely the question on your mind is “but what does the fourth place finisher from last Thursday’s JP Morgan Corporate Challenge in Central Park think about her legacy?”

There wasn’t a ton of ammo in the debate against Faith as the GOAT, even before she took down this record. Her performance in Florence only further cements her as the queen of 1500 meters. But when tennis fans refer to Serena Williams as the greatest to ever play, they’re not arguing for her role as the best woman – Serena is the most accomplished tennis player, period. Can the same be said for Faith?

Graphic: Harlie Bassitt

If any male athlete can challenge her for that title, it’s Hicham El Gerrouj. The Moroccan is the world record holder at 3:26.00, won Olympic gold and silver in the 1500m, and took home seven World Championships between indoors and outdoors. Comparatively, Faith has two Olympic golds, plus two outdoor world championship golds and silvers. There’s probably room for debate as to which career you’d rather have, based solely on this accolade breakdown.

But an advantage for El Gerrouj is his incredible consistency. Nine of 15 fastest times ever run are his and he retired boasting a career win record of 64 - 14. The men’s all-time list is not significantly cleaner than the woman’s, but there is a lot of gray area on both sides.

Even then, there are other factors to consider, like how Faith Kipyegon missed the entirety of 2018 to give birth to her daughter, Alyn. And then one year later she finished second at the World Championships!

Not to conflate the wonder that is bringing human life into this world with leading a basketball team to the NBA Finals with Drew Gooden as your second option, but in terms of sports-debate, saying Faith “only” won silver feels like when basketball fans hold LeBron’s 2007 final loss against him. Winning silver there is not a negative, it’s a goddamn miracle!

El Gerrouj stopped competing after winning double gold in Athens when he was 30 years old – that is if you don’t include a 36-minute 10K on his World Athletics page from a road race in 2008. His “pros” column isn’t changing.

Faith is currently 29 years old and if her dominance continues through Paris then that will render this topic no longer up for discussion, and likely spell the end of this blog entry's relevance.

The Deepest 5000m Ever And How To Create The Illusion of The Regular Season Mattering💎

Photo: Johnny Pace | @pacephoto

For those of us working in corporate America, we have a little saying: TGIF! No, it’s not a proclamation of which fast casual restaurant has the best wing special. It’s a celebratory statement because it’s the end of the work week.

But this past Friday, at 2 pm ET, TGIF took on an entirely new meaning: Thank God It’s Florence.

Ever since those heat sheets were released a few days before, my mouth was salivating like a plate of loaded potato skins was just deposited at the table. This was the World Championship challenger preview. If there was ever a battle to see who could get the title fight vs. Jakob Ingebrigtsen, this was it.

As expected, the race did not disappoint. Unless you’re a sicko who is disappointed by things like the deepest 5000m field ever assembled. A record 13 men dipped below the 13-minute barrier!

With a field this deep, Mo Katir’s winning time of 12:52.09 doesn’t likely scream at you from the results page, but that does not make the performance any less stellar. To cross the line first he had to beat six different medalists from the two most recent global championships, which includes the 5000m world record holder himself, Joshua Cheptegei.

And besides, with fifteen men spread across three lanes with a lap to go and a final kilometer split of 2:23, this was a tactical affair, true championship-style racing. One takeaway from that last kilometer slugfest is that if anyone is capable of matching Jakob’s speed in a similar situation in Budapest, it might just be Katir – who has also run 3:28 for 1500m – or Yomif Kejelcha – and his 3:47.0 mile best.

This race could have been half as interesting and still be a boatload of fun, because of the sheer amount of discussion that took place in the days leading in. I name drop my track fan group chats or the CITIUS Slack channel a lot in this newsletter. That’s because the best part of sports is often the speculative banter around it! During the heyday of my baseball fandom, I was a regular listener and somewhat regular caller to Tri-State drivetime sports talk radio shows, my favorite, of course, being Mike Francesa. (I promise I’m going somewhere with this.)

In the ongoing brainstorming of how to make the regular season count, or at the very least more interesting, there are plenty of reoccurring good suggestions centered around adjusting the championship qualifying process to ensure more regular season participation.

Do I think we should stop giving byes to World Champions? Yes.

Do I think we should have a smaller qualifying window? Yes.

Do I think we should get rid of the standard? Yes.

Do I think there should be a minimum number of meets? Yes.

But all of that combined (plus quadrupling prize money) will be of little to no consequence for the megastars of the sport. The Olympic 10,000m winner Selemon Barega may have only finished 9th in 12:56.18 at the Florence Diamond League, but he’s still qualifying for the World Championships. So who cares?

Well, to pivot back to ol’ Mike Francesca World, the 2019 New York Yankees were winning the AL East regardless of an extra-inning loss to the Tampa Bay Rays in late September. But fans still watched the game! The purpose of tuning in was to be a part of the conversation and to contribute to the community, whether that’s with your buddy you’re watching with, or the internet acquaintance you’re roasting on Twitter or Reddit.

In sociology, there is the concept of a “third place” for individuals to congregate. For some that may be a library or church, and for more conventionally fun people it might be a bar. But really, it’s any location outside of home or work where people can meet for chance encounters and to discuss the goings on in town.

Having a place to talk track is important to make it fun – whether that’s on social media, during a run with a training partner, in one of the few remaining track-specific LetsRun message board threads, through the FastWomen Facebook group, or via the Coffee Club discord. People who participate in these types of spaces find more enjoyment from these early-season races that would be considered inconsequential in the long term, than those whose fandom exists on a social island.

Mo Katir did not win the World Championships, which are still two months away. But his win gave us something to talk about in the meantime, and isn’t professional sports supposed to be entertainment?

Sifan Hassan can do anything she damn pleases 😤

Photo: James Rhodes | @JRhodesAthletics

It seems like Sifan Hassan is just having fun doing side quests now. Seven weeks ago, the Dutch athlete made her marathon debut in London in what many would consider the most stacked field ever assembled, and then won it in 2:18:33, in the most dramatic fashion imaginable. She stopped twice to stretch out her quad, and had fallen considerably off the pace, before roaring back to break the tape.

This weekend at the FBK Games in Hengelo, she made a return to the track, winning the 10,000m in 29:37. That’s the fastest time this year and the seventh best ever (she has two of the others ahead of this result on the list). Then the next day she woke up and ran 3:58.12 in the 1500m to somehow win again.

Now, there is precedent here, as Hassan did win the 2019 World Championships in both the 1500m and 10,000m, which most would consider the first remarkable feat of her career. And compared to her personal bests of 29:06 and 3:51, this double is really not THAT crazy.

But I’d still love to see what her training log looks like between crossing the finish line at London and this past weekend. Assume one week off? A couple of weeks of easy running? And then a month of relatively normal workouts?

The way I am wrapping my mind around this is that it wouldn’t have taken much speed work for me to be able to muscle out a 3:41 a few weeks into training, back when I was half-decent. And I suppose this weekend’s races corroborated what Hassan said in tons of interviews: that the London experiment was never intended to disrupt plans for track season. It was much more of a “jump in and see what happens” kind of thing, rather than the result of an extensive marathon-specific build-up.

Still, the ability to run 5:18/mi pace for 2+ hours is quite far off from the speed required to be closing a 1500 in 60.0. I guess my main question though is… why?

In partnership with OLIPOP

Some partnerships just make sense. And the love felt between runners and OLIPOP is mutual. This isn’t some Global Running Day campaign. Thousands of runners across the country have started recognizing the benefits of a low-sugar, prebiotic soda on their gut health. It’s the runner’s soda and we are the soda’s runners.

No more high school boys under four minutes ✋

Photo: Jan Figueroa | @janfigueroa07

Enough already! If two’s company, and three’s a crowd, then what the heck is twenty? At the HOKA Festival of Miles, Simeon Birnbaum (who was already in the club) ran 3:57.53 to win a stacked field that welcomed Tinoda Matsata and Jackson Heidesch in as the 19th and 20th sub-four-minute high school milers.

With apologies to any aspiring teen sub-four milers out there primarily motivated by graphics, CITIUS long ago decided that after the 20th that there will be no more individual custom images posted for those doing it. But that doesn’t mean there still isn’t a market for it. The Instagram posts for each of those three athletes received 1,500 to 3,000 more likes than Faith Kipyegon’s record run’s post. I mean 3:50 isn’t quite as round as 4-flat, but it’s a pretty damn round number!

I don’t really have a major takeaway here except that high school boys are obsessed with the barrier and we need to continue to find ways to channel that exuberance to other aspects of the sport. How do we capture this and pump that enthusiasm into the professional side of the sport (as well as high school girls’ mile races)?

At the time of writing this, the Faith Kipyegon post has 8,924 likes and 78% of those who engaged with the post follow CITIUS on Instagram. Is it fair to say that the majority of followers probably consider themselves track fans? Compare that to the Simeon Birnbaum post which has 11,377 likes, of which, 51% of those engaging do not follow CITIUS. This theme is consistent across all high school running content, though we know who is more likely to accept that “collab” tag.

That’s the challenge in marketing the professional side of the most participated high school sport in the country. Kids only seem to care about other kids!

On the ladies’ side, the high school mile was won by Charlotte Bell in 4:41.33, except it wasn’t the fastest time of the day. That honor went to Tatum David, who ran 4:37.79 to finish 7th in the professional race, which was won by Abby Nichols in 4:26.08.

I have argued before (to very mixed reviews) that professionals should not be competing at college meets, and that collegians should not be in professional meets. I believe the US Championships should be a professional-only meet (GASP!) and if amateurs want to compete on the next level then there is an option for that.

The spark notes version for my reasoning is that without clear lines in the sand, it’s impossible for governing bodies to ever make changes to the sport that are necessary for its long-term benefit. And I am willing to sacrifice the possibility that the three best athletes may occasionally not be the ones representing their country at global championships for the cause.

There are basketball players in the NCAA who are better than some of the old men riding the bench on a lottery-bound NBA team. Is that unfair? No, it’s a choice.

All that is to say that this train of thought also extends to high schoolers racing professionals. In this case, not only did Tatum David’s excellent result get buried, with many fans failing to take notice of the achievement, but it undermines the prestige of the high school-only winner’s win.

Any way you put it, Shawnti Jackson’s breaking the 100m high school national record of 10.89 (+0.9) at the Music City Track Carnival and beating all the professionals in the process is mind-blowing. So I don’t want to be that angry old man yelling at the clouds. It’s just that back in my day, winning the Millrose Boys High School Mile used to mean something!

KC Lightfoot Soars In American Skies 🦅

Photo: Jan Figueroa | @janfigueroa07

If Hollywood ever gets its act together, someday there will soon be a movie about a pole vaulter with the role of “coach” played by 83-year-old Al Pacino – hey, as a young dad-to-be, he’s gotta pay for those diapers somehow. And right before KC Lightfoot takes to the runway in Nashville to make the biggest attempt of his life, the coach, who vaguely resembles your favorite Cuban drug lord, will give an empowered speech about how “life is this game of centimeters.”

Entering Saturday’’s competition, KC’s personal best was 6.00m, a mark he achieved indoors in 2021 to set the NCAA record (take that Mondo!). An NCAA champion at Baylor, KC also left some eligibility on the table to sign with Puma and moved back to his hometown in Missouri to work with his high school coach. This worked out, as he made the Olympics where he would go on to finish fourth.

Similar to Mondo, Lightfoot has a name that was destined for track and field greatness. But he also showed signs from an early age that he had the necessary screws loose that all pole vaulters seem to have. Distance runners have a tendency to make those same screws too tight. KC was backflipping on trampolines by age three and has been cliff diving from as high as 90 feet.

With a father who also dabbled in the pole vault, it wasn’t long until there was a pit in the backyard. Sorta like Mondo.

At the Music City Distance Carnival Lightfoot cleared 6.00m for his first time ever outdoors. A good day in and of itself, but then KC raised the bar to 6.07m to tackle Sam Kendricks’ American record from 2019 and on his second attempt, he cleared it.

Between Lightfoot, Kendricks, and Chris Nilsen, the United States currently has three active vaulters in the elusive 6-meter club. But they are all chasing Mondo, whose world record is a remarkable 6.22m and regularly rising.

Lightfoot is catching up. In 2018, there were 47 centimeters between them. In 2020, Mondo was 35 centimeters higher. And now they are only 15 centimeters apart. But Lightfoot has time on his side. He’s younger – by one day.

The Electric Forest ⚡️

Photo: Justin Britton | @JustinBritton

If you think being a track & field fan is tough, imagine how our families must feel? There are Diamond League races on Thursday afternoons. World Marathon Majors start at the crack of dawn on Saturday mornings. And the Portland Track Festival didn’t air until late Sunday night for us bridge and tunnel fans. Anytime, anywhere, I guess.

Athletes travel the whole world looking for the right race and you never know when lightning is going to strike. So as a connoisseur of the sport, so too, must I follow. Even when it meant staying up late ON A SCHOOL NIGHT. There was no question that I would be putting the $8 pay-per-view fee on the CITIUS Amex knowing that a generous portion of that would support the athlete’s prize money, and I’d get to check out a bunch of fun races. But mainly, I was in it for the “hot window,” featuring a who’s who of 1500 meter runners.

As my wife wished goodnight well and scurried off to bed so at least one of us could be well rested come Monday morning, I received a text message. It was from her to the group text of the two of us and the Gregoreks. Patricia was wishing Johnny luck 80 minutes before his race, presumably as he was doing his final bathroom prep to go warmup.

So I side-messaged her, jokingly saying, “amateur move.” She might as well have asked him when the race is, and how to watch, right? Or maybe I was overthinking it.

This got me thinking, when should you stop texting someone before their race? My colleague and fellow underwhelming pro Mac Fleet was on the same page as me, noting that the minutes right before leaving for your warm up jog might be the most anxiety-filled moment of the day. Whereas my much better and clearly less mentally deranged marathoner friend Scott Fauble said anytime before warming up is fine.

Long story short, Patricia did not ruin Johnny’s race. Her tiny bit of Irish luck might have actually been what he needed to grab a new personal best of 3:34.35. It turns out this was the right race for a number of guys.

It’s been a challenging year for us Erik Sowinski fans – the dude has dropped out of more than 25 races so far! But he at least helped get this one going. The biggest beneficiary was Amon Kemboi, the recent Arkansas graduate from Kenya now representing Puma, as he held off a hard charging Cole Hocker to win in 3:34.12. The storyline, in addition to Hocker reminding everyone that he is exceptionally good at running, is that six US-based guys ran PBs in one race.

There is something about seeing everyone else run well that creates momentum, and I’m certain this isn’t the last race we’ll see prior to USAs where those little “SB” and “PB” icons litter the results page. Those early races in a meet set the tone for what sort of night it’s going to be. We see this trend with teams, where everyone starts running well – or occasionally not – at the same time.

In the women’s 1500m, Helen Schlachtenhaufen won her Empire Elite debut in 4:05.67, looking strong and validating my suggestion that she talk with Tommy Nohilly about working together. This same weekend teammate Ben Allen won the 1500 in Nashville, and multiple members of the squad ran personal bests.

Some coaches like to get fancy, trying to run as few races as possible. That might work for some athletes, but for most it’s a numbers game. Keep showing up when in shape. It will occasionally be 45 degrees, windy and rainy on the track, and you’ll wonder why they even bother hosting outdoor meets in Boston anymore. But occasionally you’ll be the 12th guy in a single file line coming through 1200m in 2:51 and it’s just a matter of playing follow-the-leader.

And as a fan, those are the Sunday nights (that sometimes bleed into Monday mornings) worth staying up for.

Rapid Fire Highlights 🔥

  • Addy Wiley won the Music City Track Carnival in 4:03.39 to run the second-fastest 1500m in collegiate history at just 19 years old.

  • FloSports has acquired the event registration company Direct Athletics. This is the system required by NCAA coaches to enter athletes into meets, as well as the data management behind TFRRS. Patiently waiting to see what impact this will have on the Direct Athletics homepage, which features some incredibly 2007-looking stock imagery.

  • The Atlanta Track Club has announced that coaches Amy and Andrew Begley will no longer be leading the team after this season. This well-run organization has always been one of my favorites to root for and I believe has one of the most sound business models of any professional running team in the country. If you’d like to apply for the job, then you can do so here – just use my referral code LAPCOUNT25.

  • Two-time Olympic gold medalist and the first man under 10 seconds in the 100m, Jim Hines, passed away at the age of 76.

  • Noah Lyles ran 200m in 19.69 (+0.3) to win the Racers Grand Prix in Jamaica looking GOOD. Shericka Jackson ran 10.78 (+1.6) and Wayde Van Niekerk won the 400m in 44.21.

  • Athing Mu was on the start list for the 1500m at the Music City Distance Carnival but did not run and did not know that she was even listed.

  • On Track Nights continues in Paris on Saturday and will feature Nikki Hiltz, Sinta Vissa, Jimmy Gressier, Emmanuel Bor, Mizan Alem, and more. (Read the preview)

  • The Paris Diamond League is Friday and the big storylines are: Sydney McLaughlin-Levrone in the 400m, Jakob Ingebrigtsen chasing the 2 mile WR, Lamecha Girma chasing the 3000m SC WR, Faith Kipyegon vs. Letesenbet Gidey in the 5000m, and Marcell Jacobs is entered in the 100m!

  • The NCAA Championships are in Austin, TX and begin on Wednesday, which is today! Watch on ESPNU/2. (Start lists/Results/Schedule)

Thank you to New Balance for sponsoring this week’s newsletter! I actually spiked up for the first time in many months and hit the track wearing a pair of FuelCell SuperComp SD-X. I don’t want to brag, but I ripped some 27s and a 56. They didn’t make spikes like this when I was racing…