Mo silences his critics, spectacularly.

There have been quite a few people – press and spectators alike – who have ‘worried’ about Mo Farah in his recent outings. Steve Cram’s comments in mid-March, were typical of the concern that was being expressed about Mo’s form when he failed to win four races on the bounce. You can read Cram’s piece here.

Back on form? Two wins in an hour suggests he is.

But at the USATF High Performance meeting in Eagle Rock, California, on Friday night, Mo ran two races that must have given those thinking Mo is struggling, something to think about.

He started with a very satisfying 1500m victory in 3:34.66, just half-a-second outside his PB of 3:33.98.

Then just 56 minutes later he won the 5,000m which he won in a 2012 European-leading time of 13:12.87.

Let me repeat that: he won the 1500m in 3:34.66 and then less than an hour later won the 5000m in 13:12.87 – the fastest time by a European this year.

What is more extraordinary still is that he won the 5000m wearing racing flats, not spikes, having only entered to help pace his Oregon Track Club team mates round.

After the race Mo was reported to say

“It felt good so I thought I would just finish it. I was just trying to help out my team mates. I feel good, it felt alright, I just hope Alberto (Salazar, his coach) gives me an easy day tomorrow”

All this comes just before Mo comes to London tomorrow to defend his title at the Bupa London 10,000 in the British capital, racing against our marathon hero Scott Overall.

So I for one think that Mo has proven that his losing a few races last year is not a sign of something more significant. As with many of us less super-human athletes, a dip in form is just that: a dip. There is always a way back and Mo has shown us how to do it in style!

Will he, won’t he? The Galen Rupp saga continues

Thomas Boyd/The Oregonian

Since reporting a few weeks ago that Galen Rupp, the US 5,000m record holder and Mo Farah’s training partner under Alberto Salazar, had decided to enter the US Olympic marathon team selection race (here) at the Houston marathon, it has now been announced, by Ken Goe in the Oregonian, that Rupp has decided not to contest for a place in the marathon team for the London Games.

At the time that Rupp announced he would race there were rumours that it was all a bit of a ruse to get under the skin of certain other runners, especially those who might make it hard for Dathan Ritzenhein, a team mate of Rupp under Salazar, to qualify. After all, stress is very disruptive for anyone training for a marathon, not least someone training to beat the best runners the US has to offer and thereby qualify for the greatest athletics competition of them all. The inclusion of an unknown quantity over the marathon distance and an undoubtedly first-rate runner at lesser distances, could be just the thing to create a few sleepless nights.

Nevertheless, conspiracy or not, Galen Rupp is not going to debut at the marathon this weekend because as Goe reports, he is worried that running a marathon would damage his chances of honing his finishing speed in advance of the Games in July. So peace is restored. America’s marathon runners will only have to worry about other marathon runners. And by this time on Saturday we will know who will be coming to English shores in the summer to try their luck over 26.2 miles of our fair city’s streets. Good luck chaps. See (some of) you in August.

Is the US becoming a marathon super-power?

There has been much written about the recent emergence of the US as a force to be reckoned with in distance racing. The likes of Chris Solinsky (10,000m PB 26:59.60), Bernard Lagat (5,000m PB 12:53.60), Ryan Hall (marathon PB 2:04:53), Meb Keflezighi (marathon PB 2:09:15), Dathan Ritzenhein (marathon PB 2:10:10), Brett Gotcher (marathon PB 2:10:36) and Jason Hartmann (marathon PB 2:11:06), to name but a few, all point to a bright future for US distance running. But as American coaches and commentators are at pains to point out, becoming a great distance running nation is a slow process (and as an aside I would argue we have not even really started on this process in the UK in any meaningful way yet).

History repeating itself?

Since heroes such as Alberto Salazar, Dick Beardsely, Bill Rodgers and Frank Shorter lit up the world running scene, there has been something of a lost generation. But now the athletes I have mentioned above are looking like the green shoots of recovery. And from what I understand, these luminaries at the pointy top of the pyramid are being followed by a larger and larger group of hard-working and determined young runners.

But the really exciting news that has been announced this week is that Mo Farah’s training partner, and another star in Alberto Salazar’s group at the Oregon Project, Galen Rupp, is due to run in the up-coming US marathon trails for the 2012 Olympics. This is big news!

US Olympic trials

The way the US picks its athletes for the Olympics, certainly in the marathon, is by holding a race. My understanding is that this ‘do or die’ way of choosing the team for the Olympic marathon is something that US Olympic committee is very proud of, albeit the process has had it’s share of controversies over the years. Indeed the tone of the text on www.marathonguide.com gives some insight into how dear the idea of a one-off smack-down, is held:

Most countries around the world use a selection committee to choose their Olympic Team Members, but not the USA. Prior to 1968, a series of races were used to select the USA Olympic Marathon team, but beginning in 1968 the format was changed to a single race on a single day with the top three finishers selected to be part of the Olympic Team and the fourth and fifth finishers designated as alternates. As a once-every-four-years opportunity to be selected to the Olympic Marathon team, the USA Olympic Team Trials is arguably the most important marathon that many will run.

This year the ‘race for a place’ will be at the Houston marathon. The race’s website excitedly announced the news, thus:

On January 14, 2012, for the first time ever, USA Track & Field and the Houston Marathon Committee will host the men’s and women’s Olympic Trials Marathon on the same day, at the same site. This historic event will determine the three men and three women who will represent the United States in the marathon at the 2012 Olympic Games in London

So back to Galen Rupp. His personal bests are pretty impressive:
Mile – 3:57.72
3,000m – 7:42.40
5,000m – 13:07:35
10,000m – 26:48.00
Half Marathon – 1:00:30

What does Rupp’s entry really mean?

And now he is going to try for the US Olympic marathon team. Or is he? There is talk that he is going to start the race to help pace team mate Dathan Ritzenhein, at the behest of their coach Alberto Salazar. Taking the conspiracy theories one set further there is also talk that there is no intention for him to run at all – that in fact this is a red herring to put other competitors off their training and give Ritzenhein a psychological advantage. Or maybe he has just decided that he wants a crack at the marathon. Whatever the reason for his involvement, if Rupp races and does as well as I and many others think he will, then one of Ritzenhein, Hall or Keflezighi might not be coming to London next year. Which is interesting in itself…

… but not half as interesting to me as the thought that Salazar might be grooming his top runners for marathon super-stardom sooner than many predicted. And his top athlete? Mo Farah. Now his marathon debut would be exciting news!