10K World Record: SMASHED 💥
Imagine having the cojones to create a race and name it “The World’s Fastest 10K.” Back in MY race directing days, I wouldn’t have dreamed of doing something so hubristic. But maybe I should have, because The World’s Fastest 10K does seem to see an awful lot of the world’s fastest times. This past weekend’s iteration was no exception – the record books have been burned to ashes by Agnes Ngetich, who – I’m struggling to land on a verb powerful enough here but I’ll go with decimated – decimated Yalemzerf Yehualaw’s previous world record by 28 seconds, breaking the tape in 28:46. That’s 4:38 pace!
While it’s well known that the streets of Valencia are paved with the speed boost pads from Mario Kart, it’s still almost unfathomable that anyone could run this fast. Until 2017, the fastest time ever run by a woman was Paula Radcliffe’s 30:21. Not to be all analytics nerd here, but this is SIGNIFICANTLY faster. If it were a track 10,000m, Radcliffe’s Mario Kart-style ghost (sorry, I have only ever played one video game in my life) would have been lapped.
From the first step, Ngetich made this a record chase. She came through the first 3K in 8:29, which is a time that only five American women have ever run under. I point that out so that our more casual readers could grasp how absurd this race was. Like, the US is good at running… we win medals! She didn’t slow there after hitting the gas hard. Ngetich came through the 5K in 14:13, which ties the world record (on the road).
But to fully appreciate how impressive of an effort this is then you have to watch the race. It looks like she is sprinting and eating up ground while leaving no crumbs. Although it is giving me mild flashbacks to my grandparents yelling at me in a language I don’t fully understand, the commentator’s enthusiasm is electric.
Admittedly, I don’t think many of us saw this coming from Ngetich. She had a strong 2023 campaign highlighted by a bronze medal at World XC and then a sixth-place finish in Budapest in the 10,000m. This past fall she ran 29:24 and 29:26 in Brasov and Lille for 10K, both also known as fast courses (although sometimes short). But on Sunday morning, everyone leveled up. Emmaculate Anyango also dipped under 29 minutes and the previous WR.
Given the chaos on the women’s side, it was mildly disappointing to not see the men’s world record go down. What unfair expectations for fans to have! But that’s mainly because the current mark is 26:24 by Rhonex Kipruto from this same race four years ago and he is currently serving a provisional suspension by the AIU (he denies any wrongdoing). So while that time is currently in flex, it’d have been nice to see Jacob Kiplimo make a run at it. I suppose this is where I have to acknowledge that his win in 26:48 wasn’t too shabby either.
As a parting thought, it would have been cool/fun/interesting to see some of America’s best chase the 10K standard on the road rather than waiting for a single opportunity in March, at a track somewhere in California. The women’s time to hit is 30:40 and 13th place here was 30:42. It just feels like a missed opportunity! Is the track even faster than the roads anymore? No one has ever broken 29 on mondo!
Unfortunately, the three athletes who ran within a couple of seconds will not get the standard because for some confusing reason, World Athletics uses gun time, rather than chip time. In the case of Jess Warner-Judd, there is a three-second discrepancy between the two. This isn’t punishing athletes for having a geriatric reaction time – it’s giving start-line preference to men over women. There’s been a big gender equality push from the governing body these past few years, and this seems like a low-effort, yet very impactful correction.
Houston, we have a problem with so many people making this reference 🚀
Photo: Kevin Morris | @kevmofoto
Hosting a marathon must be a boon to Houston’s economy. After refined petroleum and swords, sunglasses, and other items sold at the thousands of kiosks in that giant mall, shiny new personal bests are the leading export out of the largest Texas city.
This race has gained a reputation as the best place to be during the winter months for runners who are willing to maintain discipline during the holidays. But this year specifically it was a popular destination for athletes looking for their final half marathon tune-up ahead of the Trials. With three weeks until the qualifying event, it might be tempting to look into the results of Olympic hopefuls and adjust their betting odds, but I would caution anyone – including the competitors themselves – from treating this as anything other than a big effort in a training cycle.
You can improve public opinion by running well (like Biya Simbassa did, finishing 4th), though trying to race hard in the middle of a training block lined with 130+ mile weeks may yield varying results. I am looking at you, Galen Rupp (14th, 1:02:37) and Sam Chelanga (20th, 1:03:43). If you ran 2:08 in October in Chicago and are healthy enough to line up here, you’re not suddenly half as good at running… you are just tired.
Following that logic, no one was as fresh as Jemal Yimer in the final sprint, as the Ethiopian replayed his 2020 victory winning in 1:00:42 by a second over Wesley Kiptoo.
It was a double victory for Ethiopia as Sutume Kebede ran a big three-minute personal best of 1:04:37 to defeat the Boston and New York champion, Hellen Obiri. While initially there was the potential of a huge winter storm rolling through, the elements held off, except for the final few miles, which were run into a nasty headwind.
But a li’l headwind didn’t prevent AMERICAN RECORD HOLDER Weini Kelati from announcing herself to the half marathon distance in dramatic fashion. She finished fourth in 1:06:25 to break Keira D’Amato’s previous mark of 1:06:39 set last year. This instant success is no surprise to the people of Manchester, Connecticut, who have been warning us of this eventuality for many Thanksgivings.
The relationship between the US and half marathon is ever evolving, and has plenty of room to grow into. This performance puts Kelati at 70th on the global all-time list. If she eases into the longer distances rather than immediately jumping into the marathon then her half PB will be two minutes faster by the 2028 Trials.
Those going the full distance were led by Zouhair Talbi, whose course record performance of 2:06:39 should hopefully solidify his spot on the Moroccan Olympic team. The Oklahoma City University graduate deserves the opportunity, after being blocked out of competing in Tokyo despite qualifying, due to the federation did not testing him enough to meet the minimum quota. (Check out this great profile on Talbi’s journey, which from my perspective started at the Trials of Miles meet in 2021, when I had to fill 28 minutes and 12 seconds of broadcast talking about just him.)
Rahma Tusa of Ethiopia took home the $30,000 in prize money, thanks to a well-timed four-minute personal best of 2:19:33. And not to make everyone else’s race about America’s Olympic Trials, but… Tusa finished second at the Sydney Marathon in September to Betsy Saina. If Rahma is now running THIS fast, when it’s not a thousand degrees out then you may want to use the transitive property to help in your pick-making. (Full Results | Half Results)
Catching up with Zach Panning 🗣
Photo: Kevin Morris | @kevmofoto
When Zach Panning graduated from Grand Valley State in 2019 he had three Division II NCAA titles and personal bests of 13:37 for 5000m and 28:30 for 10,000m. With a resume like that and a proven ability to withstand Michigan’s winters, the Indiana native was a prime target to join the Hansons-Brooks ODP. Panning qualified to represent the United States at the 2023 World Championships, following his 2:09:28 PB in Chicago. In Budapest, he ran 2:11:21 for 13th place, moving through the field like a veteran:
Where in the world are you training right now?
We are in Davenport, Florida. We came down for the test event in December.
What's the initial impression, do we like what we see?
I think it's a quick course. There's like, one U-turn, but outside of that it’s really flat and there are long straightaways. From a fan's perspective, it's super viewer friendly as well.
Is it weird being there for so long leading into the race? Does that help with nerves?
It's definitely familiarizing us with the oddity of the weather – it's changing every day. Today was hot and humid and tomorrow is supposed to be 40 degrees. It opened my eyes to realizing that it could end up being a death march, but it could also end up being a nice day where we can run really, really fast. We just won’t know until maybe a day out. It’s a little nerve-wracking, but I think it's more exciting. We come down here every year just to beat the winter in Detroit and get some warm weather training.
Do you have a preference? You did well in Budapest off warm weather and you're going to be more comfortable down there than those training in the snow in Flagstaff.
I think so, but I also want to run fast – I think I'm ready to run fast. I am excited to run in whatever conditions there are because it's just chasing this dream that all the guys that are stepping on the line have. Obviously I think I've proven my ability to run in the heat. And so that's definitely something that I'm holding in the back of my mind in case it is hot, but I'm going to make sure that I'm ready for a 40 degree day as well.
About that dream… you have an amazing trajectory in your career. Throughout college at Grand Valley State, you kept getting better and you made the jump to pros successfully. When did the possibility of the Olympics being an achievable dream seem real?
I would say Chicago 2022 – just running under 2:10 in my second marathon. My first one I ran 2:15 on a hotter day, but after Chicago, I was like, “not too many guys in America can do that.”
It's something I'm chasing – it won't feel real until it happens. But it's something that I've tried to grasp, because I have kind of a weird story. I weighed more in my freshman year of high school than I do now. It's been a long ride, but it's always been something in the back of my mind.
Wait, what did you weigh?
I weighed about 165 pounds and I was a bit shorter.
Were you not an athlete or were you on the football team?
I was opening up holes for the running back as a fullback and I played hockey. Running was just a way for me to get a head start on making friends.
It worked for most of us! In terms of this block, how has the training been going and is it supporting the notion that you have a real shot at this?
Yeah, it definitely has. Early on in the block things weren't coming super easy, but I think that's a good thing as mileage and the fatigue is building on your legs. The last couple of weeks things have started to come a little easier and a lot smoother. All of our builds are fairly similar, so we kind of have an idea of how fit we are. And I think we're in for a big one. So I’m hoping that it’s all systems go and we get some good weather so we can run real fast.
Talk more about that because I know there's a bit of a Hansons formula and it works well. But when comparing workouts from one block to another, let alone historically, to what others have done, is that to your benefit or is it easy to get caught up in that? How did the marathon simulator or the 2 x 6 mile go this time around?
We actually had our marathon simulator yesterday and it went really well. The goal for that is 16 miles at marathon pace and I averaged 4:47 per mile. We had some tight turns in there and practiced getting bottles down.
So far it's been good to compare, though it can be tricky at times. As you get older things change with your body, but when looking back and seeing what I've done and how it compares it echoes that story of chipping away every day and making sure that tomorrow is a little better than you today.
Because everyone always likes to know, how much mileage have you been running for this block?
We've peaked at just over 130, but we've been over 120 for six weeks. It's never big days, other than the simulator. It's a lot of very similar days lined up and stacked up against each other with the cumulative fatigue that gets us ready.
Looking at your splits from Worlds – and I remember when watching – you moved up through that field really well. You were 49th at 10K, 39th at the half, 25th at 30K, 16th at 40K and then finished 13th. Is that a standard Zach Panning way of racing?
I think I've always been pretty good at running to the beat of my own drum.
That day it was obviously hot and I made the decision early on at the first bottles up with the tornado of people to run my own race and keep it consistent. I don't think that's the Zach Panning method as much as it’s the Hanson method – to know your pace and what your body's capable of.
Photo: Justin Britton | @justinbritton
You ran 2:11 that day, but I feel like it's lost on people of just how good of a run that was. The guy one place ahead of you has run 2:05 and the guy who was one place behind you has run 2:03. Do you feel like that performance was a little bit overlooked?
The heat played a big factor. The takeaway that Kevin, Keith, and I had was that I competed with some of the very best in the world. I wasn't in the lead pack the whole time, but I ran my race and got things done my own way.
You could say it was overlooked, but I prefer that mentality for myself. Coming from a Division II school and being a bigger kid growing up, I just kind of like that. If people want to overlook me that's fine. I will take confidence out of it.
That was going to be my next question. Everyone is making their top three picks right now and it's good fun for the fans to make predictions. It feels like you're being undervalued and the oddsmakers are sleeping on Zach Panning. I was going to ask, how do you feel about that? But it sounds like you're completely okay with that.
It's also the fact that I've only run three marathons, so I'm pretty new to this and have a lot to learn. I'm still a young marathoner and this being my first Trials, some other guys have more experience. That’s why we ran the race at Worlds – to gain that sort of championship experience.
You have teammates that have run in numerous Olympic Trials – who has the most on the team, Dot? What is the best advice that you've received from them?
Yea, this will be Dot’s fifth at 47 years old. [Editor’s Note: Dorothy McMahan]
It’s really just been running your own race. Our guys team is pretty young, so I think the seasoned veteran on the guys team is Wilkerson Given, and he said to make sure that you're aware of the tornado of bodies that the Trials is and to run your own race. Stay safe and in control to be ready when the time comes.
I think all of our guys and girls are super fit right now so it'll be an exciting day for the Hansons squad.
My final question that I always enjoy asking professional runners: Why should fans root for you? There's a lot of athletes lining up. Why should they back you out there?
Well, I'm a huge basketball fan. I think I'm kind of that small market team that doesn’t get LeBon James or the star free agents. It's exciting to cheer for those underdogs and those people who might be overlooked – I think that's exciting. And it's fun to come from nothing, have a dream, and then slowly chip away at it. And having those dreams become reality is just a cool story. That’s the biggest reason.
You are the Indiana Pacers of running. Thanks for your time Zach!