Womens’ 5000m Final on Friday (There were no prelims)
Last weekend was the Athletics Kenya meet at Kamariny track.It’s really something to have a world class meet at my local track.Many of the top Kenyans were racing in the Diamond League meets in Europe, but this is Kenya, so there was plenty of talent on hand (world half marathon champion Wilson Kiprop, for example).Most of the top people came through the ranks and raced this race in the past, so some of the people in this meet will likely be heard from internationally in the future.
The interesting thing about this meet for me was to see the range of speeds of the Kenyans.When I am running behind them, the Kenyans all seem more or less equally incredible.After all, they can all leave me behind on a run they call “moderate.”But seeing them race and even lap each other showed how different they are.I suppose it’s like seeing a bunch of superheroes battle it out.Superman might win, but even Robin is amazing.
On the first day I arrived on Kenya time and didn’t see the whole meet.We arrived during the men’s 1500 heats which were won in around 3:50.Remember this is Kamariny, a slightly long dirt track at 8000ft altitude, so that would be in the mid-3:30s on a modern track at sea level.But there was always a runner or two struggling in far behind the pack in 4:30-4:50.The next event, the womens’ 5000m, really showed a spread.Margaret Masai, little sister of world 5000m champion Linet Masai, won in 16:51.She lapped about half the runners, most of whom had dropped out at this point.The men’s 5000m preliminaries were similar, with winning times around 14:20 but there was always someone finishing way behind in about 16:40.I hope I would have been duking it out with these guys if I’d raced.Godfrey pointed out a runner who had run 13:01 in Europe; today he ran about 14:30.(I told you this track is difficult!)Even in the finals, which were won in about 14:07, one runner was almost lapped.
So then I started thinking that I should have raced!I would have been lapped in the 5k for sure, but I might not have been dead last… But I ran hard yesterday.Registration was free and open to anyone.
Well, the other problem with racing is the quick pace.All the mens’ 1500s went out in about 55 seconds.Although the last place people (I kept track of them) in the 5000 finished averaging about 80 seconds per lap, they all started with about a 70 second lap.I would have really stood out if I’d run an 80 second first lap!!
Men’s 5000m Final on Saturday
There was a huge difference between the numbers of men and women participating.There were 4 heats in the men’s 5000m, with about 140 total runners, but there was only one final of the women’s 5000m.There were about 9 heats of the 1500m, but only about 3 for the women.There just aren’t as many women running here.A woman has a better chance of winning prize money because the field isn’t as strong.But there are a lot of challenges facing women runners, including a lot of chores at home and a culture that hasn’t traditionally encouraged women athletes.I hope there is more gender equity in athletics in the future; there is no TITLE IX in Kenya.
Many times world champion Vivian Cheruiyot being introduced to the crowd. She wasn’t racing.
There were many stars on hand who were not racing or retired.Many times world champion Vivian Cheruiyot, 3000m world record holder Daniel Komen, and multiple time Boston Winner Ibraham Hussein were just three of the dignitaries introduced. There are several people at this meet who, if they were American, would might be considered the “greatest American distance runner ever.” The young runners can see the great runners all around them. They can see that they are human, and not even all that rare around here. I think that makes it easy for the young runners to believe that they can become great runners as well.
The headline in Monday’s newspaper was “Juniors Prove Their Mettle at Kamariny Meet,” as several of the winners were about 20.We’ll probably be hearing several of these names in the future.