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  • East African Middle Distance Running and then the rest of th

    I want to pose a question to all middle distance running enthusiasts. What will it take for U.S. Middle Distance Runners to become more competitive with the East African Nations in the middle distance races from 3000 meters up. I know East African Middle Distance Runners hold world records at 3,000, 5,000 & 10,000 meters. American men have not won a distance race in the Olympics since 1972, when Frank Shorter was first in the marathon. The drought is even longer in the 1,500 ( an American last won in 1908), the 5,000(1964) and the 10,000(1964). No American man has won the NYC Marathon since Alberto Salazar captured it in 82' & the dry spell in the Boston Marathon extends from 1983. In the 5,000 meters, the only American to ever come close to competing w/the the Kenyans & Ethiopians was Bob Kennedy wo was the only American to have broken 13 minutes for 5,000 meters. I saw at the 2003 World Youth Championships the young American 3,000 meter runner from Oregon, Galen Rupp who is a wonderful young middle distance runner to wtach for in the future was 150 meters behind the Kenyan, Augustine Choge. What will it take for American Middle distance runners to close the gap on the East African Runners? Will the US. Middle distance runners ever catch up????

  • #2
    Re: East African Middle Distance Running and then the rest o

    Distance running will have to be percieved as a patriotic test of manhood, as it is in the Rift Valley and Ethiopia. Only then will the sport get wide respect and thus attract those athletes with the qualities required for success. Due to a number of factors all acting simultaniously, this was somewhat true in the USA from about 1963 to 1980 or so, and the results speak for themselves. In an gross oversimplification, the Nandi idea of "machismo" involves tolerating huge levels of pain while the American version involves creating pain for others -- thus the popularity of running in one culture and football in the other.

    The 4th edition of Dr. Tim Noakes' classic "Lore of Running" quotes a statistical analysis of US male runners vs their Kalenjin counterparts. It says that a male Kalenjin runner is 2200 times as likely to win an OG/WC medal as an American one. My take on the issue is that it's 2200 times as likely for a highly talented and motivated individual living in the Rift Valley to choose distance running as it is for an American. Americans have a broad variety of choices for applying their efforts; some great undiscovered running talents in the US might be "wasting" their time in medical school right now!

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    • #3
      Re: East African Middle Distance Running and then the rest o

      Many American distance runners have to work other jobs just to make ends meat. In many respects distance running for these individuals is another part-time job. In short distance running in this country is treated like a second-class sport.

      Many think that the slow tactical races in this country have also contributed to slower times in events like the 1500-meter and the 5000-meter run. When someone wins the US championship 1500 meters in 3:43 how are they suppose to then run a 3:33 or under at the world championships. It seems today US distance runners are trained to win slow tactical US races. The only international event these runners can medal in is the Pan American games. I have not seen the results of this past Pan American games 1500 meter run but I assume an American finished in the top three with a time of around 3:43. That time will not be good enough against the world's elite.
      At least past US milers like Steve Scott, Jim Spivey, and Joe Falcon knew how to qualify with relatively fast times. That is something today's US milers have forgotten how to do.

      It has now been twelve years since an American (Joe Falcon) has broken a 3:50 mile. As the Africans get faster the Americans are actually getting slower.

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      • #4
        Re: East African Middle Distance Running and then the rest o

        > In an gross oversimplification, the
        >Nandi idea of "machismo" involves tolerating
        >huge levels of pain while the American version
        >involves creating pain for others -- thus the
        >popularity of running in one culture and football
        >in the other.>>

        Washington State's Josh Kimeto (2x NCAA 5K champ in the '70s) used to make grown men cringe with this story (I paraphrase): "Pain? Americans think they know pain? Pain is when you're 13 years old and the village elders take you out into the woods and pound off your foreskin with a rock!"

        (enjoy your breakfasts :-) )

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        • #5
          Re: East African Middle Distance Running and then the rest o

          If Webb becomes at least as good as Spivey I will be thrilled. What a horrible year for Webb.
          Unlike Ryan Hall at least Webb is still on the radar screen.

          There seems to be a new phenomenon in US distance running. We see great high school talent that evaporates on the pro circuit.

          There is something very wrong with US distance running. Unfortunately, nobody cares so nothing will change.
          Ditto, for the current crop of UK distance runners. They are not much better.

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          • #6
            Re: East African Middle Distance Running and then the rest o

            > Pain is when you're 13 years old
            >and the village elders take you out into the
            >woods and pound off your foreskin with a
            >rock!"

            Ow. Now I'm going to have to sit with my legs crossed for the rest of the day. Of course, some of the mothers who read this board might have a word or two to add about child birth.
            "Run fast and keep turning left."

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            • #7
              Re: East African Middle Distance Running and then the rest o

              Wait'll the next time you try to pee and the little fella slips back in your pants and hides!

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              • #8
                Re: East African Middle Distance Running and then the rest o

                THE ONLY WAY TO CATCH UP WITH EAST AFRICAN MIDDLE DISTANCE RUNNING IS TO "SELL OUT".I USED TO BE A MIDDLE DISTANCE RUNNER AND I LOOK BACK AND FINALLY REALIZE THAT I DIDN'T COMPLETLY "SELL OUT". WHAT I MEAN IS I HAD "HEART" AS I WOULD HEAR COACHES AND FANS OF THE SPORT WOULD SAY, BUT I DIDN'T HAVE ENOUGH "HEART". I'VE REALIZED NOW THAT WHAT YOU PUT YOUR "HEART" INTO, THAT'S WHAT YOU GET OUT OF IT. YES, THEIR ELEVATION IS HIGHER, BUT IN THE STATES THEIR IS ELEVATED PLACES ALSO. THEREFOR GO WHERE YOU CAN GET BETTER(NO EXCUSE). THE MAIN THING IS THAT THE EAST AFRICAN MIDDLE DISTANCE RUNNERS ARE MORE DEDICATED IN THEIR HEARTS THAN THE REST OF THE WORLD. FOR THE REST OF THE WORLD, SELL OUT AND DEDICATE YOURSELF IN YOUR HEART 100%. WHAT IF THE EAST AFRICAN MIDDLE DISTANCE RUNNERS WERE ONLY PUTTING 90% OF THEIR HEART INTO IT. WE COULD ONLY IMAGINE IF THEY PUT IN THE OTHER 10% OF HEART

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                • #9
                  Re: East African Middle Distance Running and then the rest o

                  there's no need to yell

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                  • #10
                    Re: East African Middle Distance Running and then the rest o

                    Yeah, what happened to British distance runners.


                    Webb is still alive. The situation is not serious. He is just a talented disappointment so far.

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                    • #11
                      Re: East African Middle Distance Running and then the rest o

                      >Distance running will have to be percieved as a
                      >patriotic test of manhood, as it is in the Rift
                      >Valley and Ethiopia. Only then will the sport
                      >get wide respect and thus attract those athletes
                      >with the qualities required for success. Due to
                      >a number of factors all acting simultaniously,
                      >this was somewhat true in the USA from about 1963
                      >to 1980 or so, and the results speak for
                      >themselves. In an gross oversimplification, the
                      >Nandi idea of "machismo" involves tolerating
                      >huge levels of pain while the American version
                      >involves creating pain for others -- thus the
                      >popularity of running in one culture and football
                      >in the other.

                      The 4th edition of Dr. Tim
                      >Noakes' classic "Lore of Running" quotes a
                      >statistical analysis of US male runners vs their
                      >Kalenjin counterparts. It says that a male
                      >Kalenjin runner is 2200 times as likely to win an
                      >OG/WC medal as an American one. My take on the
                      >issue is that it's 2200 times as likely for a
                      >highly talented and motivated individual living
                      >in the Rift Valley to choose distance running as
                      >it is for an American. Americans have a broad
                      >variety of choices for applying their efforts;
                      >some great undiscovered running talents in the US
                      >might be "wasting" their time in medical school
                      >right now!

                      I don't buy either of your theories. Americans try plenty hard. In some cases too hard. Injury resulting from overtraining ends many talented American distance running careers. I don't think you can tell Goucher, Lunn, Stember that the reason they aren't as good is because they don't train as hard. Not true. Its more simple and maybe harder to swallow - they simply aren't as gifted. I've seen many high school runners pass out at the end of a cross country meet (you can't tolerate any more pain than that the body doesn't allow it).

                      East Africans have numbers. Numbers of individuals built for the sport. We are not losing our talented distace runners to football. Football players can't be distance runners. We may be losing a few athletes to baseball and soccer but often those who find they run well and have the psychological components for distance running gravitate towards the track anyway.

                      The U.S. does have talent (not in the great numbers as the Kenyans and Ethiopians), but it does have some very good kids coming out of high school. What happens during the next four years needs to be addressed. Too much racing for points and too many competitive seasons ultimately burns through the talent - those making it through the college gauntlet often have to discover what it means to race only 2-3 races a month to save the legs for the important meets instead of running 2-3 races in one meet (not to mention heats).

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Re: East African Middle Distance Running and then the rest o

                        I think a big factor is that distance running is a way to improve one's life considerably. It's a way to break out of the normal life of most east africans. So there's additional motivation involved. It would be nice to see a comparison of how African nations dominate distance running as compared to how the Flying Finns used to dominat way back in the day.

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                        • #13
                          Re: East African Middle Distance Running and then the rest o

                          I think Cyril nailed it.

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                          • #14
                            Re: East African Middle Distance Running and then the rest o

                            I think that, now more than ever, anyone hoping to do well in distance events has to dedicate himself to many years of hard training, and has to endure some years (Alan Webb/Gabe) when everything goes wrong after all those hours of hard training in all sorts of weather. The runner's life comes to revolve around the early morning workout and the afternoon workout.
                            Currently, in this country, if a runner puts in all those hours of pain and eventually improves and reaches the top, his race won't even be shown on TV even if he runs a very fast time, and there probably won't even be a mention in the newspapers, except in the fine print.
                            So... if the very best US distance runners are absolutely unknown to the general public, why should some young kid feel inspired to become a distance runner? And, if he does achieve some success, and then has a bad year, the few hundred people in the entire country who do recognize his name post a lot of negative comments on this board.

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Re: East African Middle Distance Running and then the rest o

                              WAY I SEE IT, the biggest difference between American and African runners is basic speed- their 1500m runners have world-class 800m speed, their 5K runners have world-class 1500m speed, etc. Most of our 1500m runners don't even have world-class 5K speed. Bob Kennedy should have been a marathoner.

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