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Lap 78: Sponsored by HOKA Postal Nationals

How does your high school stack up against the country’s best?

  1. Sign your team up for HOKA Postal Nationals

  2. You + 4 teammates race a TWO-MILE on the track

  3. Coach submits your results to RunnerSpace

  4. See where your team ranks in the nation

  5. Celebrate by winning HOKA gear and other prizes!

Lausanne Diamond League 🇨🇭

It’s good to have everyone back together again now that all those regional championships — and whatever you’d classify the Commonwealth Games as — are over! The stars aligned for the Lausanne Diamond League meet, but no one shined brighter than Noah Lyles, who has put together perhaps the greatest 200m season of all time. The 400m World Champion, Michael Norman stormed out of the blocks incredibly hard, but Lyles didn’t bite and stayed composed, finishing in 19.56.

Including his world-leading and American Record run of 19.31, the 200m world champion now has six of the top eight times in the world this year. In his 11 races at the distance, he has broken 20 seconds on each occasion, which includes first-round prelims at USAs and Worlds. The 25-year-old has broken the 20-second barrier a wind-legal 31 times! For perspective, Usain Bolt accomplished the feat 34 times throughout the span of his entire career.

In the women’s 3000m, no official award was named for who ran the gutsiest race, but Alicia Monson certainly earned the respect of a field that will be more hesitant to let her open up gaps in the future. Coming through at the bell with the likes of Hassan, Muir, Kipkemboi, and Chebet, Monson continued to wind the pace up. With just a half step until the line, a hard-closing Francine Niyonsaba found the strength to get her chest across first ahead of Monson’s spread arms in 8:26.80. The Burundian star, who missed the World Championships with a stress fracture, proved that she is approaching her fitness from last year. And it was surely a bittersweet cool down for Alicia Monson, who arguably ran the best race of her career, but missed the American record by one second and the win by even less.

Although Jakob Ingebrigtsen won’t have the opportunity to get a second shot at beating Jake Wightman in a 1500m this year, he can take back the world lead. Aided by an early aggressive run from Ollie Hoare, Jakob had quite a bit of help running 3:29.05 and then demonstrated above-average levels of excitement for winning. This was badly needed from an emotional perspective as it was a tough week for the Norwegian King, who lost his national 15-year-old age group 5000m record when Kristian Brathen Borve dethroned him, going 14:34.34. And then Niels Laros from The Netherlands, broke his U18 1500m record with a 3:39.46.

Next up is the Brussels DL on Friday, September 2nd at 2pm EST on Peacock.

UTMB: The future and past of the sport 🏔

If you weren’t alive 118 years ago for the 1904 Olympic Marathon, allow me to summarize (but you really should read the Wikipedia entry for it), it was total chaos: The initial champ was found to have hitchhiked to the finish. About half the field wound up poisoned, one way or another. And the first man off the podium might have secured bronze had he just not taken that nap mid-race. The course, which was comprised primarily of dirt roads in and around St. Louis, wasn't actually 26.2 miles, and featured just one water station.

Hearing about it, isn't there at least a small part of you wishing you could watch a race like that, where people get lost, pace themselves horrendously, or drop out because they see a really tasty-looking breakfast someone is eating on the roadside? 

Enter UTMB, the crown jewel of the global ultra running calendar, which took place this past weekend in the French, Italian, and Swiss Alps. It's a 170km (~105 miles) foot race where something like 40% of all starters drop out. The course is optimized to ruin athletes' chances at completing it.

Readers of this newsletter likely don't follow the ultra scene too closely. You might be familiar with the bigger American races, but ultimately ultra and trail stuff doesn't seem to resonate with track fans — though there are some aspects that should be of interest.

UTMB is our sister sport's Super Bowl (a domestic race like Western States is more like a Power 5 school's season opener in comparison.) It has one of the best-packaged broadcast of any running event on earth. And if the Tour de France is the de facto case study for how to make any endurance sport popular and spectator-friendly, UTMB is the closest thing runners have. Screaming fans line the sections of the course where there's room for them with as much vigor as they do for the Tour.

The race itself has only been around since 2003, and the course may vary annually based on trail conditions. Because of the difficulty of the undulation, there are major blow-ups from contenders every year. And because of this, every year there are dozens of fantastic storylines for fans to sink their teeth into, this year being no exception.

On the men's side, the one ultra guy most of you will definitely know, Jim Walmsley, entered looking for redemption. Though he's basically the GOAT as far as American ultra exploits go, he's never gotten the W at UTMB when presented with European topography. To hopefully close the gap, Walmsley left his long-term home in Flagstaff for the French Alps, to better prepare specifically for UTMB.

And with reigning champ François D'Haene not in this year's field, the prevailing narrative centered around a showdown between Walmsley, his dominant American circuit pedigree and 2:15 marathon credentials, and Kilian Jornet of Catalan, who does things like this, and who apparently tested positive for COVID just days before the race.

Walmsley got out hot and assumed the lead from 50 to 130km. But no lead is safe in a race like this. He hit a serious wall and relinquished three spots shortly thereafter. Jornet ultimately prevailed — his fourth win at UTMB — in a new course record. For a battle that took place over the course of 19 hours, there was no shortage of drama. 

In the women's race, without Courtney Dauwalter, last year's champ and one of maybe two people with a viable claim to "world's best ultrarunner" status, things were wide open. And into that void emerged a new champion: American Katie Schide, a Maine-native who lives and trains in France (Sensing a trend? Knowing the terrain really matters here). While no American man has ever won UTMB, Schine became the fifth American woman to do so.

We are in the midst of a sort of ultra Renaissance. There's been a complete changing of the guard, both in terms of the elites in the sport, as well as its general participants and fans. What was once solely the purview of serenity-seeking mountain weirdos is rapidly becoming mainstream, is attracting athletes with elite road racing backgrounds, and is actively being infused with vast amounts of money from Big Shoe. Hell, based on a cursory glance of my Instagram this past weekend, every person I know who works for a shoe company was in Chamonix for a "brand activation" of some sort!

The romance and ruggedness of the sport is destined to change. If you want to experience a wild, chaotic, and unpredictable race akin to the 1904 marathon, your chances are dwindling. But on the plus side, that means that incredible broadcasts like what we got at UTMB will become the norm for big events like this. If there’s one reason to pay attention to ultras it’s to feel slightly more justified in complaining about the coverage of less treacherous events.

Catching up with Aaliyah Miller

It was a promising career from the start for Aaliyah Miller as she ran 2:02 in high school growing up in Dallas. The logical next step was to then become a Baylor Bear, which she did — earning more All-American honors and school records than we can count. But her greatest accomplishment during her time in Waco was winning the 2021 NCAA Indoor 800m title in a meet record of 2:00.69. On Sunday Aaliyah enjoyed her birthday and on Monday announced that she inked a professional deal with On Running and would be moving to Boulder to train with Team Boss. I caught up with her to ask more about the decision:

It’s been a while! What have you been up to since we last saw you competing at USAs?

It's been different to have a bunch of chill time. Ever since I got back home to Dallas, I’ve been trying to figure out what comes next, because I knew I wasn't going to continue racing. I didn't want to force it and wanted to let my mind rest and figure out what the next steps were. 

Was that decision to not continue racing just a matter of being tired after a long year?

I always had it in the back of my head that I would potentially do summer racing, but it just didn't feel like it was the right setup for me. I didn't want to try to keep forcing races or running for a time — that’s never been the kind of person that I am. So I just cut it off to reset. 

Since you kind of had the ability to fully commit yourself to the recruiting and exploratory part of turning pro, what did that process look like? 

After my fifth year at Baylor, I was set on leaving and did not think I was coming back. So last summer I got to learn a little bit more about the process because I knew nothing about it until I won my national title. I spoke with a couple of agents, some potential groups, and coaches. Then once NCAAs were over the conversations turned more serious to see where I saw myself best.

What is it about Team Boss group that stood out to you that made it seem like the best fit? 

I was honestly super shocked. I remember talking to someone at On the day after the 800 at USAs and he was interested in talking to me. I was like, ‘oh my gosh!’ He thought it would be a good fit for me. And I had never actually seen myself joining such a bad group! Like, they're so awesome and they cover so much range.

And as I thought about my professional career I definitely wanted to join a really big and powerful group. When I trained at Baylor it was always by myself so this is a big opportunity for me to learn from them, to grow, and really push my limits. And then with On Running as a brand, it just felt like a win-win scenario for me. It was kind of crazy how it happened because I never had that option on the table until I guess USAs came along.

This is a different situation than Baylor where the team is known for such a powerful sprint squad. Now you're going into a group that has some of the best distance runners, let alone marathoners in the country. Was that shift something you valued?

It feels like it's something that I've been missing. In my training, there has been a lot of self-reflection and pushing myself individually. But I've never had a group before and that’s why I wanted to join a strong one. I feel like it's going to be a good push for me, and I think the biggest thing will be getting used to the altitude because I've been at sea level my whole life. So that will definitely be an adjustment. But you have to take these risks to get the results that you want. I'm excited to see how my body and my new life will transition over there in Boulder. 

You had an exceptionally good high school career. Was running professionally always the lifelong dream?

I was talking to my dad about it the other day. You would think that it wasn't, because I kept delaying it for so long. Nobody ever said I could go to college for six years. I feel like I'm kind of late to the game. I wanted to take full advantage of what Baylor was giving me and you can never get those college years back. I love Waco, but it is definitely time to leave to surround myself with these powerful women. It’s funny how excited my college teammates are that these will be my friends.

Is there any specific aspect of your game that will be key to focus on to succeed at the next level?

It’ll be different not having to juggle a bunch of things and solely focus on training. This last year I probably put too much on my plate and I didn't get the results that I really wanted. 

This summer you made what sounds like the right decision for you to stay home and rest and recover. But looking at the results of the 800 women across the country, how does it feel knowing how fast you have to run to make teams?

It's inspiring because everybody started from the same place where I'm at: trying to break two. But once people do it, they don't know how to not do it. So I'm just looking forward to that for me! I just have to keep putting myself in the mix and I don't want to say be more aggressive — I've been pretty aggressive — but racing smarter and being stronger. That last 200 is getting really quick, so I've just got to figure it out for myself and be up there. 

In partnership with The Pride 5K

The Pride 5k is a run/walk organized by non-binary professional runner Nikki Hiltz. It raises money for the Trevor Project, an organization providing suicide prevention services to LGBTQ+ youth. Along with a virtual race option, the Pride 5k is hosting the first ever IN-PERSON Pride 5k in Flagstaff Arizona on Sunday, October 2, 2022! The race is $35 to register and all proceeds go to the Trevor Project!According to The Trevor Project, having just one accepting adult in an LGBTQ person’s life can reduce their risk of suicide by 40%. Whether you join us in person or run a 5k wherever you live, showing up to support queer people has the power to save lives.

In personal news…

It’s been two years since I officially became a retired professional runner — and don’t worry, that’s not changing! However, I am ready to race again. My time on the track is certainly done, since there’s no way I can go any faster. But I can go farther.

That’s why I am going to run the New York City Marathon.

I think that enough time has passed since my competitive days that any expectations — both my own, and others’ — have reset a bit. At least that seemed to be the case when I reached out to New York Road Runners and was told I’d have to start in the sub-elite field unless I proved fitness first. (To which I said something along the lines of, ‘don’t worry, I won’t be proving anything.’)

When I announced that I’d be hanging up my spikes, it was left intentionally open-ended. I never said I was hanging up my sneakers, and I hope I never have to. I’ve run nearly every day since stepping away from the track, because it’s something I love to do. Racing was merely a byproduct of something that I would do anyway. Beating others was never the main objective, and while there is definitely some ounce of truth to the idea that I wanted to see how good I could be, it was always the process that I found most rewarding.

For two years I’ve started each week like I started most weeks before retirement: with a run. But unlike during my competitive career, those runs never really fit into a broader plan. And so the motivation is to find some sense of direction again, not because I want to set the world on fire, but because it makes it a bit more interesting to put on my shoes each morning when I know there is somewhere I am trying to go.

In some regards, I am already burning the candle at both ends. On top of working a full-time job, I find myself quite busy writing this newsletter and covering the sport for CITIUS MAG — then of course there are the responsibilities that come with parenthood. (The only reason I can consistently churn out so many words each week is that my wife is a much better mother than I am a father, while simultaneously being incredibly supportive of my creative endeavors!)

As my schedule has become increasingly busy, I’ve discovered the importance of squeezing every minute out of each day. But even then, I am calibrating my expectations a bit. This is the first time in my life that I’ll be training for a race, where that training isn’t taking center stage day in and day out. 

My preparation can’t involve 120+ mile weeks from an altitude camp. In college or as a pro, I could justify shuffling priorities around to benefit a run — if I did that now, I’d be deserving of an intervention. On Sunday night I drove to the pharmacy at 3 AM to pick up medicine for our ten-month-old daughter who has been battling a fever, Monday morning run be damned! My workout last week was completed in pitch blackness with only a cell phone light illuminating the bike path beneath me because when else could I sneak it in?

My training will be determined by how much free time I can finesse out of each busy week, not by how much I want to do. The hope is that one big workout and a long run each week can help me recapture some semblance of the fitness I once had. I have three months, and I’m truly excited to try to make it happen.

New York is the perfect place for this attempt for many reasons. The most obvious is that it’s home. I grew up on Long Island, went to school in the city, lived in New Jersey, and now commute to Manhattan from Westchester. I am the definition of a bridge and tunnel guy — there is no need for a course preview; my alarm blares “Empire State of Mind” every morning and my blood type is Guiseppe’s pizza sauce.

That is one of the reasons I have partnered with Bandit Running for this journey. It’s only right to have the support of a New York-based running apparel brand and I can’t wait to join their community in both the lead-up and celebration of the event.

Yet beyond the local pride element, my goal is to walk away from the experience both literally being able to walk and wanting to do another one. This is an experiment to see if I enjoy running marathons. The notoriously difficult course takes away the burden of time — this is not an Olympic Trials Qualifying journey. And although I am not particularly driven by chasing the standard today, I could see that changing tomorrow if this goes well.

So here is what I have done after four weeks!

  • Mileage - 60/66/64/64

  • Workouts - [6 x mile @ 5:09 w/ 60”] [2 x 3.5 miles @ 5:22 w/ 3’] [7 mile tempo @ 5:14] [4 x 2 mile @ 5:15 w/ 2’]

  • Long Runs - [16@6:49] [17@6:22] [18@6:54]

It’s taken 78 weeks of writing The Lap Count for the social media self-plug, but follow me onStrava, Instagram, or Twitter for updates beyond the weekly recap here. But most importantly, how fast do you think I can go?

Rapid Fire Highlights 🔥

  • Northern Arizone’s Nico Young, one of the fastest and most popular athletes in the NCAA, shared on Instagram that he is gay. His thoughtful post received an unbelievable amount of love and support from the running community.

  • The 2023 World Championship schedule has been released for the August 19th to 27th meeting. The exciting news is that the ten-day championship has been cut to nine, and yet the powers that be still somehow found a way to accommodate most potential doubling scenarios in Budapest. However, sacrifices — like a same-day shot put qualifying and final — were made.

  • The Berlin Marathon released the pro women’s field for the event that takes place on September 25th. Keira D’Amato is the top seed and Sara Hall is the only other American.

  • Natasha Hastings, who was a staple in America’s 4x400 dominance since the 2007 World Championships, wrote about her decision to retire and what comes next — she’s studying to become a psychologist because of the impact working with black females in the industry had on her life.

  • You never know what’s happening in small European meets during the summer, but that’s why I am here! Hobbs Kessler ran a new 800m PB of 1:46.87 at a British Milers Club meet and then doubled back to win the mile in 3:58. Taryn Rawlings ran a big best of 1:59.36.

  • Cole Hocker is back racing after injury earlier this season and won a 5000m in Finland in 13:49 (then 3:38 a few days later). At the same meet, Drew Hunter won the 1500 in 3:41.07.

  • At the Crim 10 Miler in Michigan, Daniel Soto (48:40) and Sydney Devore (55:19) won top honors. The Flint-based race has been around since 1976.

  • Greg Metcalf has been hired as the new University of Texas men’s distance coach. Since last coaching at the University of Washington in 2018, Metcalf has worked for Beynon Sports — the company responsible for laying most track surfaces.

  • US 1500m champion, Cooper Teare is joining the Bowerman Track Club, or as an alternative headline, Bowerman is joining Cooper Teare in Eugene.

  • The Philadelphia Eagles have released Devon Allen, which means I once again will not be watching football this year, and certainly not because I just don’t like it that much!

  • Sha’Carri Richardson beat Olympic champion Elaine Thompson-Herah in Luzern, running 11.29 to 11.30 in a rainy and -2.0 headwind. Like anything Sha’Carri does, this had people reacting.

  • At the Antrim Half Marathon, Yalemzerf Yehualaw ran 1:04:22 to win again, as did Jemal Yimer in 59:04. The course ran slow compared to last year, sinceit was measured properly.

  • Hood to Coast took place this weekend, which is the largest relay race in the world with a course spanning from Mt. Hood just east of Portland, all the way to the Pacific. The winning men’s team, The Goodland, averaged 5:20 pace for 17 hours and 32 minutes, but despite having 198 miles to sort things out, it stayed close, with the second-place team less than three minutes behind. The top mixed team averaged 5:55 pace.

  • The Comrades Marathon, which began in 1921 and is 90km long, experienced some crazy hot conditions this year, resulting in 74 runners being taken to the hospital and two unfortunate deaths. The local South African and security guard at North West University, Tete Dijana (5:30:38), won the men’s race and Russia’s Alexandra Morozova (6:17:48) won the women’s.

  • After tearing her plantar in June, Grayson Murphy has cross-trained for nine weeks with only a few days of actual running. But that didn’t stop her from representing Team USA well at Italy’s Challenge Stellina, a 14.3km climb on mostly trails. Joseph Gray won the men’s race and the pair became the first Americans to ever win the race.

  • I always enjoy reading anything Cathal Dennehy writes, and this piece on coach Feidlhem Kelly was no exception. Going to have to try to sneak my way into a Dublin TC practice in late-September!

A special thank you to HOKA for supporting this week’s newsletter! And my friend and editor, Paul Snyder has always been incredible, but this week he stepped up more than usual in a time of crisis (re: sick baby) — so thanks bud! Now can you guys share The Lap Count with your friends? I am trying to get 1 million subscribers.