What's "professional" track?⏱

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Noah Lyles is now DANGEROUS ⚠️

Over the roar of the non-haters in the crowd, you could hardly hear the peanut gallery chant of “indoor doesn’t matter!” this weekend at the New Balance Indoor Grand Prix. That’s because the most important race of the sold-out meet at the TRACK was the men’s 60m and it came with a hell of an implication!

Okay, well it also came with a time. And if you’re putting this time up against Christian Coleman’s world record from 2018 of 6.34 then maybe Noah Lyles’s mark from this weekend doesn’t jump out at you too much.

But there’s a reason Lyles was celebrating so much and it’s not just because he’s a showman who understands it’s his job to fill those seats. (Surely anyone wearing a New Balance corporate office lanyard did not appreciate that an Adidas athlete was yelling that they were now in “his house!”) But if Lyles is running 6.51 and beating Trayvon Bromell today, then there is something special on the horizon.

Noah is not known for his start – historically he’s a closer. His last fifty of the 200m looks like he’s pressed down on the NOS button. On the other hand, Bromell is known for his start – he is twice a World Championship bronze medalist in the 100m and the 2016 World Champion in the 60m. Watch the race and it’s quite clear who is out ahead the first 30 meters, which would have always been the case, except now Noah is close enough that it matters.

Ultimately, they both ran 6.51. Lyles is now tied for the 61st-fastest runner of all time in the event. That doesn’t feel super notable for an athlete of Lyles’s prowess. However, to understand the gravity of that 6.51, we need to look at it in the context of his previous performances, personal bests, and what they led to:

  • In 2017, Noah ran 6.63 and later that year ran 19.90 for 200m.

  • In 2018, Noah ran 6.57 and later that year ran 19.65 for 200m.

  • In 2022, Noah ran 6.55 and later that year ran 19.31 to win the World Championship 200m in an American Record.

I didn’t write the book on statistical progressions, but Lyles celebrating his race is starting to make a little more sense to me! And it justifies the speculation over whether this is the year somebody gives Usain Bolt’s 200m record of 19.19 a scare.

This is not an accident and is all part of Lyles’s coach, Lance Brauman’s, plan. After the race, Brauman told us that if Lyles is going to break 19.19 then he is going to have to become a 9.7 guy to do it. Accordingly, last year his start became the focus of his indoor season. He ran the 60m at three different meets, and this season he is set to do at least that many.

Couple all of this with the fact that Noah has said on record many times that he is targeting the 100m/200m World Championship double, which previously may have seemed like a reach. And sure, that may be big talk for a guy who finished 7th at the 2021 Olympic Trials, even if he has a 9.86 100m best. But if he is within striking distance of the Fred Kerleys and Marcell Jacobses of the world with 40 meters left to run, then suddenly impossible is nothing.

In his season opener earlier this year, Lyles ran 6.61 and got beat by two athletes so he’s already showing a nice improvement curve. Next week at Millrose he goes up against Christian Coleman and Ronnie Baker.

Yet again, this isn’t about the 60m – it’s about the big picture, namely scratching off Usain Bolt’s name from the record board and becoming the undisputed fastest man in the world. And this is why indoor track matters – it sets the stage for the main act, and unlike in most other sports, with track, we get to witness the world’s best taking chances and actively improving their craft during the “offseason.”

Why professional track should be for professionals 💁‍♂️

How can track and field expect to be treated as a professional sport when we struggle to define who the professionals are? This is not a popular opinion and the immediate gut reaction by most fans is dismissal: the elite side of the sport needs exclusivity.

It is not a question of whether or not a high school or college can compete with professional athletes. We know they can and many of the biggest stars today were once the precocious up-and-comers who were the subject of our obsession with young talent. But what does it matter if a kid runs 4:02 for the mile in a high school-only race or 3:57 following professionals? The goal is not to run pretty fast when young, it’s to run extremely fast when older.

This is not a question of ability; the clock confirms that every year there are a handful of teenagers who still wear their high school uniforms – and slews of collegians – that can run competitive times.

As 12x gold medalist, Michael Johnson shared, this is an issue of marketing.

And I hear and acknowledge the cries about how including high school athletes in professional meets is building intrigue, creating storylines, and selling tickets – and that’s partially true. The issue is not that they are in high school. It’s that they are amateurs.

Think of it in terms of other sports. Some of the best current basketball players in the world are still playing their one year in the NCAA, or are 7’4” teenage prodigies playing pro ball in France until they’re NBA draft eligible. They’re good enough to do it, but they don’t also play in the NBA. This makes it easy for the NBA to create a schedule that we can follow and also lets fans keep tabs on who’s on their team’s roster.

The opposing point of view in this debate is rooted in a fundamental disagreement over the purpose of the sport. Do you think:

a. it’s about discovering the upper limits of physical performance? You love fast times and nothing gets you more excited than seeing records broken?

b. it’s all about entertainment? You love a good race and nothing gets you more excited than seeing the best in the world compete against one another?

If you’re in the first camp, then I respect you for it and that’s the end of the conversation. (Of course, I hope you enjoy attending empty track meets that are glorified time trials and continue to beat your head against the wall trying to figure out why the sport hasn’t caught any mainstream attention and so many athletes are struggling financially!)

The fact is that this sport is difficult to follow and having so many athletes, disciplines, and events only contribute to that problem. Track & field lacks a cohesive product and a loosely defined definition of who is a professional makes it impossible to create the infrastructure to generate interest outside of the Olympics.

And this current setup ultimately results in fewer head-to-head match-ups between the sports’ stars and individuals acting in their own best interest, not that of the greater good. Rousseau figured out the social contract in 1762, but be patient – track and field will understand it soon.

This isn’t non-pro athletes’ faults for participating – it’s a wonderful opportunity for them. And it is not the meet director’s fault for giving a lane to a high schooler – it sells tickets. You know how the government has decided it is illegal to run a red light even if doing so will get us to our destination sooner? It becomes the job of World Athletics to be the responsible adult in the room and make the hard decision that some fans will hate, since it’s for our own collective good.

Stop trying to promote the sport from the ground up and place professionalism on a pedestal instead. We know kids run track, but we need them to watch it.

Femke breaks 500m WR🇳🇱

Ask someone random on the street what a good 500m time is and they probably wouldn’t be able to tell you. You can even ask a track fan at random and you’d likely get the same non-answer. It’s a rarely run race, but a world best record is a world best record, and now Femke Bol is the record best to ever do it, after she ran 1:05.63 to set the world record in Boston. Maybe with some better branding like the “half-K,” then the 500 could pick up some traction.

Femke’s incredible last couple of years have at times been overshadowed by the generational talent that is Sydney McLaughlin-Levrone. Bol, who is younger, has a 400m hurdles best of 52.03 which would have been a world record had it been run prior to June 2021. Suffice to say, she’s fast. And as her European triple gold medal performance last year showcased, she’s strong. The extra 100 meters of running on Saturday confirms that.

Coming through 400 meters in 51.32 seconds looking comfortable, Bol closed it down in 14.31 seconds, unchallenged. After the race, Femke confirmed that she is tired of distance runners suggesting that she try the 800 – which I will not be doing! HOWEVER, I have to believe she had one more 17.xx in her…

NBIGP Highlights🏆

  • Heather MacLean battled back from a late pass by Lucia Stafford to win the women’s mile in 4:23.42, establishing a new world lead and a new personal best. But at what cost? Her phone was stolen immediately after the race!

  • In what has become customary indoors, Grant Holloway won the 60mH in 7.38, to extend his nine-year win streak. He hasn’t lost the event in his last 59 races.

  • A week after setting the American 5000m record, Woody Kincaid closed his last 200m in 25.79 to win the 3000m in 7:40.71.

  • Neil Gourley showed that he can still close as he came off the final turn hot and was able to out-lean Sam Tanner by .01 seconds, winning in 3:52.84.

  • Ajeé Wilson remained patient the first 600m of the race before reeling in Kaela Edwards in the 800m to run 2:00.45. With Athing Mu a scratch for Millrose, all eyes will be on Wilson – and her outdoor best of 1:22.39 – to go after that 600m WR of 1:23.41.

“I am not done yet!” 👑

Well, this is my nightmare! From the gap that Diribe Welteji had opened up it was obvious she was having a great race by the time she hit what she thought was the finish line. It just wasn’t quite breaking-the-WR-by-20-seconds good. Fortunately, with the help of some friends, she was able to correct the course soon enough and managed to find the energy reserves to hold on to win. Had she ended up losing then that’s a situation no one would feel good about and instead it’s now just something we can laugh about.

But here is the part that isn’t getting enough attention: Welteji’s winning time of 8:33.44 is still the world lead! The Ethiopian is 20 years old and last year finished fourth in the 800m at the World Championships in 1:57.02. I promise you that no one else in last year’s 800 final is running anywhere close to 8:33, let alone the sub-8:28 she would have run had it not been for the miscalculation.

Diribe is a proven middle-distance runner as she ran 3:56.91 to win the Chozrów Diamond League meet over World Indoor 1500m and World Outdoor 5000m Champion Gudaf Tsegay. So yes, while it’s sort of funny to watch someone miscount laps, Diribe Welteji is going to kick some ass in 2023.

Fit Checks ✅

When some of the sport’s biggest stars are on the track only for a matter of seconds, then staying at the forefront of fans’ brains requires some ingenuity. Fortunately, we don’t have to make up a strategy ourselves – it’s just a matter of borrowing good ideas. Ahead of every NFL and NBA game, players walking into the stadium are photographed and their personal styles are analyzed, admired, and judged. It’s an opportunity to get to know the athletes more intimately beyond their performance – which matters quite a bit in a sport like track where there’s only one person who wins and lots more who lose.

This weekend at the TRACK as athletes had the opportunity to do their tunnel walk getting off the bus, fits on display – and they loved it. This one-off occasion won’t singlehandedly put our athletes on the cover of more non-Runner’s World magazines, but it’s a start. Most importantly it demonstrates a willingness to try something new and shows that brands and the TV-people are starting to listen.

It’s also added eyeballs on potential sponsors beyond the athletic footwear brands, which we need more of as I don’t see many other paths to owning a Richard Mille watch.

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Rapid Fire Highlights 🔥

  • The University of Washington women set a new NCAA Distance Medley Relay record running 10:46.62 to break the previous mark of 10:48.77 set by Oregon in 2017. The consistent thread between the two? Coach Maurica Powell.

  • You’ll never believe who won the Karsten Warholm Invitational. The WR holder in the 400mH opened up his year with a hurdle-less 45.31 to win in his hometown of Ulsteinvik. I had a line in here about the odds of having an indoor track facility in your hometown until I realized that mine also does…

  • Sydney McLaughlin-Levrone (dubbed SML by Jonathan Gault) ran 7.33 for 60m this weekend and failed to make the finals. That performance doesn’t tell us much about what to expect in the 400 so the real news is she got a SportsCenter commercial!

  • Check out results for the Camel City Invite in North Carolina. If the times don’t blow you away that’s because it’s one of the few professional meets that’s held on a flat track. But what should blow you away was the prize money. Race winners received $6000!

  • The Olympic 100m champion Marcell Jacobs has signed with Puma. He opened his season in Poland with a 60m win in 6.57.

  • It’s not a family record but 2006 Foot Locker National XC Champion Chad Hall ran his marathon debut to win the Mesa Marathon in 2:12:47. During his collegiate career at UC Riverside, Hall’s personal bests were 4:04 for the mile, 14:31 for 5000m, and 29:54 for the 10000m – great to see him having a renaissance!

  • Kazuto Iizawa set a new Japanese mile record of 3:56.01 to win the fast section at Boston University this weekend. It’s too bad this isn’t Yahoo! Fantasy Running where the US could make a trade of a miler or two for some marathoners.

  • Harvard had three men break four minutes for the mile at BU led by Graham Blanks in 3:56.63, which is a new Ivy League record. Pretty incredible performance for a guy who finished 6th at NCAA XC this year and whose previous best was likely a split from a 5000m race.

  • At the Sirikwa Cross Country Classic in Kenya, 1500m G.O.A.T. Faith Kipyegon dominated a strong field over 10,000m. Her range makes me think of how many of the best marathoners in the world once thrived in the 1500m — she is only 29 years old and in ten years we may have to remind our children that Faith, G.O.A.T. marathoner, is also a two time Olympic 1500m champion.

  • David Kilgore won all seven races as part of the World Marathon Challenge, which makes Phileas Fogg look like a circumnavigating amateur. Kilgore ran seven marathons in seven days with times ranging from 3:23:17 in Antarctica to 2:41:50 in the USA to close out the week.

  • Running Twitter is irate that high schooler Brody Buffington was disqualified from the Maryland 1A West Region Meet for “celebrating” his 300m victory. The most egregious part of this – I mean, the only thing I can think of as a plausible reason for the DQ was that it was perceived as extremely low-level taunting? – is that the only other athletes in the race were his teammates!

  • The United States has named its World XC 4 x 2k Mixed Gender Relay Team: Emma Coburn, Heather MacLean, Alec Basten, and Jordan Mann. Also, Emily Durgin has withdrawn from the senior women squad due to injury and will be replaced by Allie Buchalski.

  • Paralympic gold medalist Tigist Gezahan, who is visually impaired, ran 66:41 to win the Granollers Half Marathon despite tripping over a speed bump on the course.

  • Olympic 400m champion Shaunae Miller-Uibo shared that she is expecting her first child.

  • If you want to see the best example of an event showcase that our sport has to offer, then check out Red Bull’s stream of the Mondo Classic. It’s a combination of performance (Mondo vaulted 6.10m), great production, but most of all, incredibly insightful commentary by Holly Bradshaw. Because there were nearly three hours of undivided attention on one event, the Olympic bronze medalist was able to dive head-first into the nuances and every viewer was left with a high school diploma’s worth of education on how to get over an elevated bar.


ORLEN Copernicus Cup - Wednesday - Flotrack 12pm ET - Info

World Indoor Tour: Berlin - Friday - Flotrack - 12:30pm ET Info

CITIUS MAG Pre-Game Show - Friday - YouTube - Early Afternoon

The 115th Millrose Games - Saturday - NBC 4 to 6pm ET - Info

BU Valentine Invitational - Friday and Saturday - Flotrack - Info

Survey Results

I would like to thank the 1,200 readers who took the time to answer last week’s survey results – for those who haven’t, you still can! This was super insightful and gives me a lot of thought and direction for the next 100 laps. Some interesting results:

  • 46% of readers learned about this newsletter from my social media

  • 60% of readers are between the ages of 18 and 35

  • 56% of readers are male

  • 55% of readers consume this email either in bed or during morning coffee

  • Only 0.3% of readers believe the newsletter has become less interesting since it started

  • And 99% of readers had such wonderful and heartwarming comments about The Lap Count that I am feeling incredibly motivated to keep going indefinitely.

Admittedly, there is probably some correlation between making it to the bottom of the email, being willing to participate in a survey, and having good things to say about TLC. I wish I knew the answers of those who don’t read it or who stopped, but I’ll try to win them back somehow!

I think the most interesting split of opinion is in regard to the previous blogs about my marathon training. A lot of you loved it. Some of you hated it. (Don’t worry – I have no more marathons planned!) But at the center of that is an interesting “problem” as this newsletter grows.

For those readers who have followed me since the early days of my pro running career (or maybe even the early days of my Dyestat posting career) the occasional personal anecdote is well-received. But for readers that use this as a resource to follow the sport, the author is less relevant.

There is also a range of readers who rely on The Lap Count for results, while others have heard it all already. I don’t have an immediate solution except to be cognizant of both and to balance information and opinions – though it seems that my attempts at humor and lightheartedness are widely appreciated!

Thanks to everyone for continuing to read my musings! Tell your friends.

Thank you so much to goodr for sponsoring this week’s newsletter! The only aspect of my life that has been consistent or predictable during the last few years is that I could be seen wearing their sunglasses.