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Why so few distance front runner's?

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  • Why so few distance front runner's?

    After reading the thread re: Filbert Bayi's remarkable front running WR 1500m in 1974, I wondered...why are there so few front runners...now and in history. It truly is rare to see front runners like Bayi, Ron Clarke, David Bedford, Joan Benoit-Samuelson, Mary Decker et al.

  • #2
    Re: Why so few distance front runner's?

    Two from Scandinavia come to mind, both multiple world record holders. Ingrid Kristiansen and the incomparable Gunder Hagg.

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    • #3
      Re: Why so few distance front runner's?

      And Paavo Nurmi was no slouch.

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      • #4
        Re: Why so few distance front runner's?

        Front runners are those who KNOW that they have more strength than speed. Most of today's distance runners are from Lake Wobegon: ALL think they have better than average finishing speed. Plus, they think more about the percentage of effort required to break the wind...perhaps thinking entirely too much.

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        • #5
          Re: Why so few distance front runner's?

          Paula Radcliffe. John Ngugi.

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          • #6
            Re: Why so few distance front runner's?

            Lawi Lalang at last year's NCAA indoor reminded me of Bayi's race.

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            • #7
              Re: Why so few distance front runner's?

              One answer to the thread's question is this: Front running is really hard to do, and succeeding at it is a high-risk strategy, or seems high-risk -- I don't know how actually such "risks" could be calculated, but that's also part of the problem -- what is the best strategy to win, in circumstances that are uncertain and/or have so many variables that they can't be calculated. We remember the spectacular front-running successes, but we probably remember spectacular moments as well when front-running did not succeed. (Geoff Smith at NYC marathon 1983 is one that immediately comes to mind.) I know that is simplistic, but I think that's the truth of it, as others have noted. More difficult both physically and psychologically. It takes a rare athlete in rare circumstances even to make the attempt -- to feel that it's either the best possible way to win or achieve her/his goal, or the only way to achieve the goal, whether that's in a championship (as Bayi exemplified, and as a few others have -- Rudisha recently), or in a non-championship record attempt (as Dave Moorcroft exemplified -- I know there are others, but that one always comes to mind).

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              • #8
                Re: Why so few distance front runner's?

                In the good ol' days of Bayi, there were no rabbits doing the front-running. Hence the true competitive front-runners had much more opportunity to show off and cultivate their style.

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                • #9
                  Re: Why so few distance front runner's?

                  Originally posted by Master Po
                  A. More difficult both physically and psychologically.
                  B. It takes a rare athlete in rare circumstances even to make the attempt
                  Bazinga.
                  For B. I would substitute 'courageous' for 'rare'.

                  When 10 world-class runners are willing to walk the first 2.5 laps of the 1500 or the first 11 laps of a 5000 (which we've seen far too often), it is NOT because they all think they have the best kick. At least 7 of them lack the intestinal fortitude to force the pace. That is exactly why PRE is still revered today!

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                  • #10
                    Re: Why so few distance front runner's?

                    Originally posted by catson52
                    And Paavo Nurmi was no slouch.
                    Calling him a front-runner may be an exaggeration, though. Yes, he often ran at the front... because he outclassed the field. When he didn't he often employed other strategies; both of his 10000 OG golds were won by sitting back and kicking at the end.

                    Of course he did sometimes take out the pace in races where he didn't outclass his rivals (like his '20 5K loss to Guillemot, Peltzer's 1500 WR and Wide's 2 mile WR in '26 or his '28 5K loss to Ritola) but he was far from being the archetypal front-runner.

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                    • #11
                      Re: Why so few distance front runner's?

                      I was thinking primarily of his Paris Oly races. He led almost every step of the way in the 1500m, and, if I recall correctly, led Ritola almost all the way in the 5K. In the shorter race he was head and shoulders above his opposition, but in the 5K, it was a different story. Did he take a short nap on the massage table, in between the two races?

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                      • #12
                        Re: Why so few distance front runner's?

                        Originally posted by catson52
                        I was thinking primarily of his Paris Oly [1924] races. . . . if I recall correctly
                        That would be quite the feat of memory!!

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                        • #13
                          Re: Why so few distance front runner's?

                          Originally posted by Marlow
                          Originally posted by Master Po
                          A. More difficult both physically and psychologically.
                          B. It takes a rare athlete in rare circumstances even to make the attempt
                          Bazinga.
                          For B. I would substitute 'courageous' for 'rare'.

                          When 10 world-class runners are willing to walk the first 2.5 laps of the 1500 or the first 11 laps of a 5000 (which we've seen far too often), it is NOT because they all think they have the best kick. At least 7 of them lack the intestinal fortitude to force the pace. That is exactly why PRE is still revered today!
                          This is exactly my thought...most runner's lack the guts to go out and make them hurt like Pre did!

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Re: Why so few distance front runner's?

                            Originally posted by lovetorun
                            Originally posted by Marlow
                            Originally posted by Master Po
                            A. More difficult both physically and psychologically.
                            B. It takes a rare athlete in rare circumstances even to make the attempt
                            Bazinga.
                            For B. I would substitute 'courageous' for 'rare'.

                            When 10 world-class runners are willing to walk the first 2.5 laps of the 1500 or the first 11 laps of a 5000 (which we've seen far too often), it is NOT because they all think they have the best kick. At least 7 of them lack the intestinal fortitude to force the pace. That is exactly why PRE is still revered today!
                            This is exactly my thought...most runner's lack the guts to go out and make them hurt like Pre did!
                            ZZZZzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Re: Why so few distance front runner's?

                              Originally posted by AS
                              Paula Radcliffe. John Ngugi.
                              Vladimir Kuts. Ran them into the ground. I saw one race where it did not work though. Against Pirie in Norway in 1956. Pirie just hung on and blasted past him in the last 200 and set his 5000 WR.

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