The middle distance events at the London Games were a real mixture of inspiring and poor races.
The men’s 800m was a fantastic race with David Rudisha setting a world record and dragging the rest of the field to fast times. This is just what someone with such an advantage in times over the rest of the field should be doing. If you can run the distance more than a second faster than anyone else in the race and are feeling good then go for it, they won’t be able to keep up. Everything was perfect for Rudisha. The conditions were warm and still, the advantage of the fast track made a fast time possible. He had a plan and stuck to it. The only surprise to me was how close the other runners were to Rudisha at the end. It just shows how fast, but not too fast, pacing can elevate runners to new personal bests.
The men’s 1500m was not such a good race. Most 1500m finals in recent years have been slow and this was no exception. Nobody seemed prepared to have a go. They all seem to think they have such a fast finish that they will wait to the final lap. Of course, there is only one runner who does have the requisite finish and the rest will be disappointed that they didn’t make enough of an effort earlier. Makhloufi, the winner, attracted criticism for running in the 800m and dropping out due to injury after 100m. He wasn’t injured but had to start the race to be allowed to continue in the 1500m. I have no problem with him doing that as it was his federation who entered him in both when the schedule didn’t permit it.
In fact the scheduling for the middle-distance races for men and women was terrible. Both races overlapped so that heats of one clashed with finals of the other making it impossible to double up at both events. These days there isn’t an obvious candidate to do the 800/1500 double but it would at least be nice for them to have the opportunity. Another problem with the heats of the 1500m was the number of runners. In the women’s heats there were fifteen which is three too many. The timetable for that morning wasn’t so busy that they couldn’t have had four instead of three heats. Fortunately there were no falls but there easily could have been with so many in the field.
The women’s 800m saw Mariya Savinova demonstrate again just what a great judge of a race she is. She knows exactly what pace she needs to be running and lets the others do their own thing while she picks them off and runs away with gold. She can run fast times as well which gives her the confidence to stick with her game plan.
However the women’s 1500m was one of the worst finals I have seen for a long time. Every recent women’s final has been like this. It’s as though without pacemakers nobody seems to know what to do. Surely someone must have a plan. Not many of that field are fast 800m runners so why are you turning a1500m race into a 500m race. Morgan Uceny banged her fist on the ground in frustration when she was tripped over in the final just as she had been in Daegu last year but if the race is so slow that will happen. It’s just unlucky that it was the same athlete both times. These sort of races used to suit Lisa Dobriskey but this time she never looked like getting a medal. She complained about not feeling it was a level playing field, probably a reference to the winner’s return from a doping suspension, but there were plenty of others ahead of her as well. The race got the winner it deserved. I don’t object to the winner being there. She’s served her ban, although that should be longer, I just didn’t take much pleasure from her victory, or the race.
Ezekiel Kemboi produced an eccentric display in the Steeplechase finishing the race in the outside lane. I was impressed by Zaripova in the women’s steeplechase. She did the same as in the world champs last year by going to the front and grinding out a tough pace for the others who couldn’t live with it. She has a method which works and uses it well.
I guess that’s my theme for this post. In middle-distance races you have to have a plan, or two. I was a middle-distance runner and although I wasn’t always the fastest in the field I knew how I was going to run the race bearing in mind the oppositions strengths. That way I managed to win quite a few races I shouldn’t have. If you carry out your plan and it doesn’t work then fair enough,you tried. If you don’t have a plan the race can become a mess and you can’t have any complaints if you don’t win.