Santa’s pre-meet taper⏱
Lap 94: Sponsored by PUMA
Sometimes all it takes is a spark. A flicker within to motivate us to make a change—for ourselves and for the greater good. PUMA is fanning this flame, igniting the next generation of runners to hit their stride. Creating new habits is hard, so we develop innovative products and technologies to ensure an effortless run every step of the way. With the right gear, anything is possible.
Run PUMA. Spark Change.
Use code PUMALAPCOUNT for 20% off until 1/14/23
The rabbit hopped away 🐰
Before diving into the events of the Abu Dhabi Marathon it’s relevant to share that I am currently writing this newsletter from a coffee shop in Ireland. As I’ve definitely mentioned before, every time we come to visit my wife’s family it’s a bit of an ordeal to find internet access, since their farm is a bit off the grid. But what they do have is Sky Sports and I watch a lot of it while here. I’m not necessarily one for snooker, but the World Dart Championships somehow creates one of the most electric atmospheres in “sports.” Fans are all dressed in funny costumes, drinking heavily, chanting, and generally losing their shit whenever someone tosses a 180 – there might be something for us to learn from it! And even if not, I’m ready to run head first through a 400-year-old stone wall.
My first jet-lagged night here I woke up at 3am and found myself eating a bowl of Weetabix and watching the UCI World Tour – that’s indoor cycling. As the race started there was a guy on a motorbike known as the “derny pacer” who whipped a few laps around the velodrome at a predetermined and ever-increasing pace to wind the field up. Per the limited research I have done, none of these rabbits have ever won the race.
Well, UCI better never hire Timothy Kiplagat Ronoh if they want that streak to continue! Ronoh isn’t exactly unproven. He has run 2:07 twice before in addition to winning the Melbourne Marathon in October. But despite taking the field through in a reasonable 1:02:48 first half, they then let him open up a minute-plus lead by 30k, and he held on to win the event by over four minutes in 2:05:20.
For his effort, Ronoh won the USD equivalent of $50,000 – surely that’s quite a bit more than he’d have been paid just to rabbit. The other athletes have no one else to blame but themselves for letting him get away, given the current setup. However, in trying to win the race it seems like the only fair threats should come from those other people whose stated intention is to also try to win the race. You should be as worried about the pacer as you are about the police escort.
In most majors like New York or Boston, there is a preference to allow the race to unfold organically. In a race of such prestige, time goes out the window and the goal is place – that’s not necessarily the case in Abu Dhabi.
For women, keeping rabbits from winning is a bit simpler as men can step in as reliable pacemakers who won’t jeopardize the race itself outside of making it less interesting. For example, Burundi's Eunice Chumba won the race in 2:20:41, but was never under threat from bib number “Pace W3” because he wasn’t eligible to win. On the men’s side, this sort of occurrence happens more regularly because to pace 75% of a 2:05 race, you basically have to be able to run 2:05 yourself. So while the names on their uniform might be anonymous their qualifications are not.
Is there a reason to continue signing pacers up as racers? Again, if the goal is just to run fast and not care about the tactical nature of racing, it’d be more effective to utilize a relay team setup of athletes jumping in and out to keep things honest. Having Ronoh riding an electric bike might be too much, but as a thought experiment, would it be morally offensive if he was wearing an illegally stacked pair of super shoes to make his job as rabbit even easier? Would that have taken away from second-place finisher (but first place non-rabbit) Felix Kimutai’s performance?
Maybe we should stop thinking about the advantages that Eliud Kipchoge had to run sub-two and start wondering why that isn’t the standard. We never had to worry about those rabbits stealing the show in Vienna!
The Bowerman Award 🏆
With each year the Bowerman Award is given to the top track & field athlete in the nation, it feels like we’re one minor step closer to resembling the sport-specific prestige of the Heisman. One major difference is that while the MVP of the football season is awarded while the achievements are still fresh on fan’s minds, the track season ended six months ago and I only vaguely remember Trey Cunningham absolutely dominating the headlines. With an NCAA title both indoors (60mH) and outdoors (110mH), there were no boxes unchecked in his resume. Cunnigham ran fast with an outdoor personal best of 13.00 and with a World Championship silver medal there is no doubt he’ll make a successful pro – especially given his consistency.
Runner-up Ayden Owens-Delerme will return as the heavy favorite in 2023.
The women’s Bowerman was a bit more of a toss-up then on the men’s side, especially with three contenders to consider.
Anna Hall’s name was always part of the conversation throughout 2022 as a double NCAA champion in the combined events, and also as runner up in the 400mH. But that wasn’t enough, apparently.
Hopefully Camryn Rogers’s season will be properly recognized in the history books – or at least amongst you readers of a newsletter for track dorks. The hammer thrower broke her own collegiate record on three occasions and did it by five feet to win her third NCAA championship. On the list of top-10 farthest throws in NCAA history, every single one belongs to Rogers. It’s not fair, but we all know the truth — the hammer could land on the moon and it still wouldn’t receive the votes to win the Bowerman.
Ultimately it was Abby Steiner who got the nod. She stole the spotlight throughout the season and proved herself as one of the great bend runners in the world. The tone was set for the season in December when she opened up running the collegiate 300m record, and the list of accomplishments grew with an NCAA 200m title indoors (22.09) and outdoors (21.80).
This is a very difficult award to win if you’re an athlete who specializes in one event. Abby’s massive point totals would have been on the forefront of voters’ minds, given her accolades in the 60, 100, 200, 300, 4x100, and 4x400 – she is a coach like Bill’s dream.
The NCAA vs. The World 🌎
During The Bowerman awards ceremonies, there was quick mention of something that could greatly disrupt the qualifications of American-based athletes to global championships. I highly recommend this thread by Becca Peters which gives a brief oversight into the dissonance between the NCAA and World Athletics.
To summarize, World Athletics is now requiring that athletes’ qualifying marks for both purposes of world standards and rankings be achieved in meets that are listed on the Global Calendar. Although there is a relatively short 60-day runway to do so, it is achievable for most meets across the globe as a country’s federation must submit meets for national permits at a small cost.
We need more information to fully understand the implications, though it seems the high possibility that some marks, which will be accepted for USATF Championships may not be accepted for World Athletics Championships.
This rule basically sets the precedent that “to qualify for our meets, you have to play by our rules” which is reasonable. As we have seen an influx of countries join the competition manipulation watch list, the greater the need for additional oversight. But the main issue for US-based athletes is that the NCAA does not play by the same rules as WA.
Most significantly, there are major differences in policy on shoes and drugs.
The allowance of super shoes on the track should be changed for a number of reasons. The first being that it’s unfair that the previous generation of athletes’ calves would hurt for a week after racing a track 10,000m and the modern competitors’ don’t. But more seriously, as the sport evolves there should be some level of consistency that will mitigate the need for any extra asterisks. And in theory, this one’s not too drastic of an overhaul – if someone is wearing a pair of Vaporfly high heels at the NCAA Championships then they’re DQ’d. (If you think that sounds unnecessarily punitive, just remember that that’s an avoidable outcome: just wear spikes or legal flats.)
Drug testing is slightly more complicated, though not as big of an immediate issue for reconciliation. As noted by Peters, there was a serious issue with Semoy Hackett a decade ago when a failed NCAA drug test was not reported and she was able to still qualify and compete in the Olympics. There are different standards, different budgets, and different expectations. Is this disagreement over such points just part of a century-long feud between two organizations that does athletes a huge injustice?
The ambiguous line drawn which divides amateurism and professionalism is the foundation of many problems in the sport. Now, with the opening of NIL deals, which allow athletes to get paid without compromising their eligibility, one of the major pushes to leave the NCAA is no longer as tempting. But it also further muddies the waters when it comes to marketing a professional sport that is only partly composed of professionals.
In theory, with the correct structure, plenty of notice, and all the major parties fully committing to the changes, I like the idea of meets not counting unless they’re part of the global calendar. The unoriginal analogy is that NCAA basketball players are not eligible to play in the NBA Finals. Go pro if that’s your interest!
My perfect and unrealistic world consists of 20-25 professional meets across the globe each season. It’d be much easier to market the sport if there were only ten event groups and a much smaller contingent of the athletes on “the circuit.” You’d know exactly when everyone is competing. It’d be possible to mandate eligibility criteria. And there’d be a huge increase in head-to-head competitions. But that’s not going to happen unless they put me in charge.
Besides, sharing this update two weeks before 2023 begins, while the qualifying windows are already open, is not the best way to enact any sort of meaningful reform. Hopefully the NCAA and USATF can work together to make accommodations so that American-based athletes that rely on college meets still have ample opportunities this season.
With this week’s release of the 2024 Olympic standards, which are not easy (an understatement for the likes of a sub-27:00 10,000m), this becomes even more important. Despite having some of the most competitive meets in the world, college meets get ranked terribly by WA because of these minor differences. NCAA athletes will have to cross mountains to qualify via rankings, and they’ll have to wear the right spikes to do it.
One chillll marathon debut ❄️
Antarctica is having a bit of a moment right now. Either it’s become an increasingly more popular tourist destination or my TikTok algorithm is convinced I’d enjoy the trip. Either way, Ireland’s Sean Tobin made the trek into the frozen tundra where he won the Ice Marathon in a new continental record of 2:53:33. This mark broke Michael Wardian’s record from 2017 when he did 7 marathons in 7 days on 7 continents.
It was Tobin’s marathon debut, and what a debut it was! He averaged 6:37 per mile in -6.8F degree weather. On a warmer day this would have been a casual long run for the former Ole Miss athlete, but with the bad footing and tough conditions, he spent some quality time supine in the snow. In lieu of a post-race ice bath to help speed up the recovery process, he just had to stand outside a bit longer.
Gary Martin to CITIUS MAG ✍️
CITIUS MAG has officially brought on a new youngest member of the editorial team! The man who is the subject of the highest-liked post in our Instagram’s history: 3:57 high school miler turned University of Virginia freshman, Gary Martin, will now be a regular contributor. The conversations started last year when we had the opportunity to spend some time with him at New Balance Nationals. He’ll be producing written and video content to share the ins and outs of his NCAA journey.
On June 19th of 2022, I wrapped up my high school track career in front of the home crowd at Franklin Field during New Balance Outdoor Nationals. After fighting some serious track hack and without a cooldown, I walked my way over to Kyle, Chris, and Mac, and sat down to be interviewed one last time as a high schooler. After discussing my race, NCAA running, and Wawa, I remarked that I hoped to be back on the pod soon, to which Chris responded, “We’ll give you your own pod soon.” Well, six months later, and a lot has changed. One of the coolest changes is that I have officially joined Citius Mag as a contributor (this is a toss-up for “coolest change” along with the Phillies making the World Series!) I’m super excited to have this opportunity and I look forward to giving everyone a look into my life on and off the track. Prepare for lots of talk about food, music, sports (go Sixers!), and most importantly, miles.
If you’re looking at my first college cross country season on paper, it probably seems a bit underwhelming. Nothing terrible, nothing great, just a bit meh. Hell, if you’d told me over the summer that I would finish my season 163rd out of 252 at Nationals, I would admittedly have been disappointed. But yet, I can’t help but have a pretty positive view of my season.
When I finished my high school career and began looking forward to college, I didn’t know what to expect in terms of specifics, but there was one thing I knew: it wasn’t going to be easy. Both on and off the course, there would be ups and downs. But that was what I was most excited about for college.
If I’m being honest, I felt like it had been a while since I had been truly challenged in high school track. I don’t mean in races, but I mean on a day-to-day basis. The last time I felt like I made a massive jump in my level of training and commitment was my sophomore year, when I finally gave up on my CYO basketball career, stopped drinking soda, and started listening to Coach Paul when he told me to “run on my own.”
It’s funny looking back at it, but those were all big decisions at the time! There were obviously a lot of steps in between, but I’d like to think that shift in mindset is what laid the foundation for the sub-fours and national titles that would come later on.
But I’m not sure I would have become so committed to the sport that year if not for the people around me. I fell in love with the team aspect of cross country and the friendships it brought, as well as the idea of “shared suffering” through workouts – one of Coach Paul’s favorite sayings. That shared suffering brought us success, with our team securing a District title!
My freshman year of cross country at Virginia reminds me a lot of my sophomore year of high school. Facing a new challenge meant I needed an even higher level of commitment.
I ran upwards of 70 miles a week for most of the season, when I had never consistently run more than 40-50 miles a week in high school. The workouts were longer and faster, the strength training was more rigorous, and the toughest addition of all – to combat my lack of flexibility – I did yoga every week!
And that’s not even getting into the usual challenges that come with being a college student, and having to live and sleep in a dorm. There were days that sucked. There were days that I got my ass kicked. And there were days when I just wanted to go home. But I reminded myself that it’s the adversity that makes you better.
Read the rest of Gary’s blog HERE.
Rapid Fire Highlights 🔥
After five years of representing the Bowerman Track Club, 12:57 5000m man Marc Scott has announced that he is no longer with the team.
There are some drugs that you don’t have to Google after hearing the latest bust. Two-time European XC Champion Aras Kaya of Turkey has been banned for three years following a positive test for EPO.
2016 Olympic gold medalist in the Triathlon Gwen Jorgensen’s stint as someone who only runs has come to an end. She’s announced her return to all different sorts of exercising!
Sergio Reyes won the San Diego Holiday Half in 1:02:29 and the less jacked of the Hall brothers, Chad, ran 1:02:45, but Olympic bronze medalist Josh Kerr’s fourth-place finish of 1:03:44 may have stolen the show. It should be noted there is a healthy elevation loss in the point-to-point course, but Kerr’s best NCAA XC finish was 224th so he’s presumably gotten stronger since.
Following his whereabouts failure, Randolph Ross took to his notes app to voice frustration about having his nomination for The Bowerman revoked. It wasn’t really an apology but an acknowledgment of the situation. This will undoubtedly happen again to someone else and it should be noted that these rules are in place to protect athletes. If it was acceptable to miss more than three tests in a year then it’d be easier to cheat. The call for a better app to help athletes update their location does seem like quite an easy fix, though. It would probably have near-universal buy in – most of us are quick to give away any right to privacy in exchange for more relevant Instagram ads.
Jamaican national 200m champion and 19.87 man Andrew Hudson signed with Puma.
The controversy surrounding the 2024 Olympic Marathon Trials continues. It was revealed that the conflict of interest between USATF and board member Jim Estes was at the heart of the disqualification of Chattanooga’s bid. Despite disclosing himself as a consultant to the bidding group and recusing himself from all votes, the national office cited this relationship as the reason for overruling the board’s suggestion to award the Tennessee city the Trials. While I am sure that Orlando will do a fine job as host, I can’t imagine there are many cities watching recent events and thinking, “we should bid in 2028!”
Athletes in the combined events are rightfully pissed that the small field sizes remain the standard in the future of qualification in a system that was not designed for them.
At the Venta de Banos cross country race in Spain, Burundi swept the top spots as Rodrigue Kwizera won his third gold label of the season and Francine Niyonsaba is now undefeated in professional mud races.
I asked Twitter what the track and field equivalent of Lionel Messi winning the World Cup is and it solicited a ton of good responses. But the most similar has to be the best middle distance runner ever, Hicham El Guerrouj, finally winning the Olympics in 2004.
Thank you so much to Puma for sponsoring this week’s newsletter! Use that discount code to get yourself a new pair of running shoes this holiday season — you deserve it!