He's gone corporate⏱
Lap 66: Sponsored by Tracksmith
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Do you remember Sydney McLaughlin?
Sydney McLaughlin doesn’t race her main event very often, but when she does it’s worth tuning in for. She typically busts some rust on relays or in the 100 hurdles before lining up for a full lap over ten hurdles, but to the good fortune of fans in Tennessee, McLaughlin opted to open her season at the Music City Distance Carnival for the second year in a row.
In 2021, before going on to set the World Record at the Olympic Trials and then lowering it to 51.46 at the Olympics, Sydney ran 52.83 here. Compare that to this year’s 51.61 — a time that would have won the open 400m at the meet — and you don’t have to be a superforecaster to think that just maybe she’ll run even faster. BUT HERE IS THE THING: hurdle number five was apparently placed in the wrong spot.
If you watch the race video, then it’s clear that she takes a very uncharacteristic stutter step in the middle of the race — something we may see occasionally on the 9th or 10th hurdle, but not halfway through. The question now becomes does the third-fastest mark of all-time become invalidated?
It wouldn’t matter significantly if it does. Maybe we just add an asterisk to this one on the all-time depth chart for 400mH times. However, this blunder may have cost her (and meet organizers) a new world record — step measurement comes down to such a science that a minor disruption in rhythm could very well account for a .15 second margin of error. Hopefully Sydney runs so much faster later in the season that this is nothing but a distant memory we can all chuckle about.
Unfortunately human error is occasionally part of the sport, especially as events rely heavily on volunteers who are trading their energy for some free pizza and merchandise. The optimist in me is just thankful that Sydney and other athletes did not injure themselves, like when Nicole Bush broke her foot at the USATF Championships in 2009 because a steeplechase barrier was set to the wrong height. Remember when Emma Coburn had to tell her husband/coach to fix the height of the barrier at the Oslo Diamond League?
If we really want to get into human error, I am more confused by the egregious lack of clock on screen and the decision to continually pan to a camera angle with a giant metal pole that made it feel like watching a ballgame at Fenway Park.
USATF 6K Championships 🇺🇸
If you’re a regular reader of The Lap Count, then you’re likely familiar by now that I vehemently disagree with the sheer number of national championships our sport seems to have. Nevertheless…
In Canton, OH, this weekend, Keira D’Amato had the opportunity to bounce back after the USATF 25K championships, a race that was won by Aliphine Tuliamuk. In this round, D’Amato came out on top in a time of 17:52 — sub-15 minute 5k pace and then another ~3 minutes of hard running. Currently. Her best time at the 5k distance is 15:04, so this was a great performance.
Breaking up the two was BAA’s Annie Rodenfels, who is currently the third fastest steeplechaser in the country. It’s common to see marathoners enjoy the road racing circuit with some shorter races during the hot summer months, but it’s less common to see athletes in the heart of track season hop on the pavement. I may not be a fan of every single race distance having its own national championship, but I am here for head-to-head racing!
Pittsburgh Track Club pays out, well…
The Pittsburgh Track Club may have just discovered the most surefire way to host an exciting track meet — money! It’s difficult for a smaller organization to make a name for itself in an already crowded pre-USA’s circuit, but with $20,000 on the line, PTC truly proved, ‘if you pay them, they will come.’
If the race winner broke a Pennsylvania soil record in the mile or 5000m, they’d win $20,000 — which, converted to American track dollars, is basically a million. The times to beat — 3:52.26/4:23.49/13:16.47/15:17.11 — were far from easy, but they were doable, except there was a small catch — athletes couldn’t come in with a faster personal best or use a pacer.
Enter Lauren (Goss) Hurley. The former professional triathlete is still new to the track and therefore had no previous 5000m time to her name. But her 31:49 at the Sound Running 10000m in March indicated that she was more than capable of achieving the time so she teamed up with her teammate, Molly Grabil, to trade off laps and sneak under the mark to beat with a 15:16.33.
According to the meet director and Pittsburgh Track Club’s founder, Juris Silenieks, the funding for the meet was motivated by, ‘hearing about other sports’ insurance policies, like hole in one insurance — we figured out a way to bring that to track and field.’ The team took out four insurance policies, which cost $1500 each, to pay for the prize purse on the off chance that someone good enough to break one of the records actually showed up and did it. This proved to be a much better investment than buying Peloton stock at the height of the pandemic.
This may be difficult to replicate next year as surely the insurance company’s actuary has been fired. For now, Juris looks like a genius and every 3:53, 4:24, and 13:17 runner is looking at a hypothetical $20k hole in their bank account.
Interested in supporting elite athletes? Subscribe to The Victory Lap where this week we speak with Travis Mahoney, who is coming off a five second PB in the steeplechase to run 8:19. This initiative has raised $20,700 with all proceeds going back to the athletes whose stories we share.
Ethiopian 10000m Trials 🇪🇹
The Ethiopian 10000m trials returned to Hengelo (in the Netherlands). Fast times were had, and would-be medal threats were left off the team! On the men’s side, Olympic champion Selemon Barega made it through unscathed, running a new personal best of 26:44. Behind him was the 19-year-old up-and-comer, Tadese Worku, and the current world leader and defending Diamond League champion, Berihu Aregawai. It was a tough break for Yomif Kejelcha, who ran 26:49 for fourth and therefore will not be selected.
On the women’s side, it was an interesting race as the Ethiopian ladies decided to focus on one another rather than key off eventual winner, Eilish McColgan of Scotland, who ran a 39-second personal best of 30:19. The WR holder, Letesenbet Gidey (30:44) returned to beat Ejgayehu Taye (30:44) after losing in the supposed 5000m record chase at the Pre Classic, and Bosena Mulate rounded out the top three. Notable names who were left out include Yalemzerf Yehualaw, who ran the 10km WR of 29:14 in February, and 2016 Olympic Champion Almaz Ayana.
It’s a pretty weird concept to host a national championship within a different race and it certainly creates a unique dynamic, especially for the cameramen who are trying to balance what’s most important. The United States has done this in the past and thankfully doesn’t anymore, but I vividly recall when I was 2-years-old and Algeria’s Noureddine Morceli won the 1993 US indoor mile title race in 3:54.
In partnership with WCH OREGON 22
In 37 days the best athletes in the world will be heading to Oregon, but are you? The likes of Joe Kovacs, Molly Seidel, and Noah Lyles will be competing in our backyard at the World Athletics Championships – but Team USA needs our support! Cheer on the greatest American track and field athletes as they fight for global titles on home soil July 15-24 at Hayward Field at the University of Oregon.
Catching up with Will Sumner
What the hell is going on in high school running? Sixteen young men now have their names on the high school sub-four minute list. On Thursday, Missouri junior Connor Burns ran 3:58.83 at the Festival of Miles, finishing just behind veteran sub-four
man boy, Gary Martin. Then Reinhardt Harrison, who ran 4:01 two years ago, finally got it done, going 3:59.33 in Florida. The mark is now a stepping stone and not the finish line — which is a good thing when looking at the landscape of American distance running. It’s a side quest that has to be completed before you can face off against the final boss (father time!).
But it’s not just the boy’s mile. Juliette Whittaker just ran a 4:36 mile Ellie Shea just went 4:14 for 1500m, and Roisin Willis completely soloed a 2:00.03 at the Wisconsin state meet.
And then there is Georgia senior Will Sumner, who set the high school national records indoors at 500m and 600m and ran a US leading 45.78 for 400m this outdoor season. This past week he ran 1:46.53 to win his heat at the Music City Distance Carnival. I caught up with him to hear more about his stellar year:
Congrats on the big run! How did things play out for you? Did you know that running that fast would be possible?
I knew I was capable of it based on what I've been doing in practice. And I hadn't come close to running that fast so I knew that I needed to be the one right up behind the rabbit so that's what I did. He pulled me through in 51.5 before stepping off and then it was just me against the clock running away from everybody. I just made sure that at every 100 I kept putting in surges to keep pace. When I came through 600 and my dad yelled my split of 1:18 I was like — I got something going here.
Is your dad currently coaching you?
It's really my mom and dad. My mom is the one who comes and works for the school. My dad helps make workouts, but he doesn't officially coach me.
What's that like having parents who speak track and field and at such a high level? (For context, Will’s parents both ran for Villanova. His mother, Tosha Woodward, was a 2-flat 800m runner and his father, Brad, ran 1:46/3:59)
I think it's a lot of help because they really know what it's like. First of all, they know everything I'm going through and can give me advice. I know what they're saying is really beneficial to me and not just some random person who doesn't know what they're talking about. I think it also helps to keep perspective because they were really great and can keep me level headed. They’ll be like, “okay, you know, you still got a lot of work to do, even though you're good now. And the next level, they're going to be better than you and so you've got to keep working!” So that sort of stuff is really good to help me mature as an athlete.
Are you more similar to your mom or your dad as an athlete?
I’m more like my mom since my dad was an 800/1500 guy. He didn't specialize in the four like I do. But my mom was more of a pure 800 runner and did the 400 hurdles earlier in her career. But honestly, I feel like I'm not really like either of them because no one in my family ran the 400. And I feel like I'm able to run it at a high level or at least going in that direction so I thinkI I’m a bit of my own sort of person as a runner.
What does the rest of the season look like for you? Are you going to run the US Championships?
I've got Brooks PR meet next week and I'll be running the 400 there. Then a few days after that, I'll be running the 800 at Nike. And a week after that I'm going to go to the U20 Championships and I haven't decided what I'm going to run yet. One of my goals at the beginning of the season was just to make the team. I’ll do whatever event gives me the best chance and is best for my overall development as an athlete.
It sounds like we may not see a matchup between yourself and Cade Flatt. How much have his performances pushed you? Are you chasing the high school 800m record as well? I know you’ll see a lot of each other the next few years in the SEC.
I definitely watch the things he does and it is motivation to see someone else running that fast. But I also try to stay on the path that I set out for myself at the beginning of the season, which was really focusing on the 400 and then making a U.S. juniors team. I mean, chasing a record — it would be nice to get it. And if it comes along the way then that’d be amazing. But it's not something I'm trying to go out of my way to achieve. I think that's the best plan for my development as an athlete, not just in high school, but for my whole career. And so I think it's good to take a step back and realize not everything is about what I do in high school — I’m still trying to have fun as well.
Pundits like myself are watching what's going on in the high school ranks and trying to figure out how everyone is running so fast. From your perspective in the weeds, what’s happening?
I think it's a multitude of reasons. One of them is a lot more people seem to be motivated by others. They see all these people doing crazy things and then they want to do crazy things. I think part of it is the sport just seems to be growing too — it just it feels like the whole community is more passionate and more ambitious than ever.
Another thing I hear a lot is “it’s the spikes” and that could be a factor, but I don't think that's a huge thing. But maybe it plays a little bit into it. I also just think that's just how sports are. Every sport gets progressively faster, like football players are always getting better. Baseball players are always getting stronger and so I think the same applies to track.
Are you a big track fan yourself? Do you follow the history or are you just showing up to practice and racing fast?
I like to watch track meets and study past pros, current pros and everything like that. I'm a big fan of the sport.
Do you have a favorite all-time athlete?
Probably either David Rudisha or Alberto Juantorena.
Rapid Fire Highlights🔥
World record holder Karsten Warholm pulled up with a cramped hamstring after clearing the first hurdle in the Rabat DL. He seemed unworried in post-race interviews.
Olympic steeplechase champion Soufiane El Bakkali of Morocco won his local meet in 7:58.28 over Ethiopia’s Lamecha Girma.
Chase Ealey set a new outdoor personal best and established a world lead with her throw of 19.98m to win the shot put in Hengelo.
The Columbus 10k, a race that has been around since 1977, ended up being over a quarter mile short according to race winner Jason Salyer and much to the dismay of everyone that ran without a GPS watch. It is not a certified course.
Continuing the theme of course mishaps was the Stockholm Marathon, where the leaders ran over one kilometer extra after being pointed the wrong way. (video)
Susan Ejore is having a breakout season as she won the Festival of Miles in 4:32 and then the Music City Track Carnival in 4:03 just a few days later.
Chrisann Gordon-Powell of Jamaica, who holds a personal best of 50.13 for 400m but is now focusing on the 800m, won Music City in 1:59.52! This helps the argument of distance runners who tell every sprinter they should move up.
17-year-old Emmanuel Wanyonyi of Kenya won the Rabat DL in 1:45.47 — he is unbeaten this season.
What to Watch 📺:
NCAAs start Wednesday on ESPN (CITIUS Preview).
The Rome Diamond League meet is Thursday at 2pm on Peacock.
The Mastercard New York Mini 10k is Saturday at 8AM on USATF.tv.
The Portland Track Festival is loaded Friday and Saturday night and you can watch via PPV.
The New York Grand Prix is Sunday from 4-6pm at Icahn Stadium on NBC (Tickets start at $20).
A personal essay 💁♂️
When I announced my retirement from professional running, I had expected a lineup of companies begging me to come work for them. (There was not.) Instead there was ample time to consider what I wanted to do next. Initially it seemed like staying in the sport made the most sense, especially because I assumed that those in it would respect my experience as an athlete the most. (They did not.)
After some early networking conversations I had the epiphany that my passion for running would probably be best protected if after seven years of it being my work, I did not also make it my job. And so I reflected deeply on what my long term goals were, and now almost two years later, that remains the same: to be in a position of power to help make the sport a better place. I continue to check LinkedIn for the role of Benevolent Dictator of Track and Field, but it has not yet been posted.
With that vision in mind, I wanted to be in a place that helped me learn things that the sport hadn’t yet taught me. Something I think most brands and governing bodies should do is stop only looking within the industry for solutions. It can be massively beneficial to have a wide range of professional experiences working together toward a common goal. When a running company falls behind, what do they do? They poach talent from a competitor. Well when the sport as a whole needs help, then we need to start looking outside of our own oval-shaped bubble.
That’s why I highlighted American Express as a place I wanted to work. Track and field’s problem is not a lack of talent or entertainment — it’s a lack of effective marketing. Surely a company that has been around for 172 years and that continues to stand out from the pack is doing something right that could maybe be applied to a niche sport!
Thankfully, with the help of some advocates who believed in the value an athlete with an empty resume could bring, I was hired. Immediately upon being thrust into the corporate world it was like drinking water from a fire hose. And I believe that many of the skills that I have since developed sitting at my desk 40+ hours each week have benefited this newsletter and CITIUS MAG.
In that process of gaining an education also came the realization that I did not have to immediately be working in the sport to still have a positive impact. Specifically, my team works on the Amex Offers platform, which helps merchants grow their direct-to-consumer business. By tapping into previous relationships that I developed in the sport, I have been able to help multiple brands in the running space sell more of their product. While one challenge of sponsoring athletes is that it’s hard to measure incrementality — I know I moved some HOKAs off shelves back in the day, but it’s hard to quantify how many. That’s not an issue for me in my current role.
And so my challenge to you as a fan of the sport is to try and discover ways you can make even the smallest positive influence on it from where you are currently seated.
When I stopped training full-time I wrote, ‘I don’t like to say I am retiring — Real runners don’t retire. I’m merely rearranging priorities.’ And that has certainly been true. But it always surprises me how many high-level runners step away from the act entirely once their competitive days are done. I may not be able to run a 3:52 mile anymore, but after spending 20 years of my life harnessing a superpower, I wasn’t about to stop using it completely.
Last week was the JP Morgan Corporate Challenge, which for those who are unfamiliar, is a series of road races held globally for a bunch of suits to compete for bragging rights. As you may imagine, there were some expectations placed upon the shoulders of a former professional runner — so I prepared for it by running the occasional workout.
The race went well and I ended up winning the 2.6 mile race in Central Park in a time that is certainly not worth bragging about. But then a really cool thing happened — a ton of colleagues reached out to say congratulations, tell stories, or to ask for some advice. Sometimes it feels like I am living a double life and under this Clark Kent disguise is a washed-up Superman, however, this was a chance to introduce that other side of myself.
After the race I had the opportunity to shake hands and show off the medal to a couple of the top executives in the company. If it weren’t for me being a fast runner, then I would have never had the pleasure of meeting them. So how did I decide to use my time to talk with my boss’s boss’s boss? I shared with them why I thought American Express should start sponsoring athletes and events in the sport.
Thank you to Tracksmith for sponsoring this week’s newsletter! And make sure to checkout the Twilight 5000 series in a city near you.