Tuesday, August 24, 2010

New world record in my favorite track and field event!

I ran track in high school and college. Even though I occasionally ran the 400m (51.7) and the mile (4:27), my favorite and best distance was the 800m, with a time of 1:59.1. This race is two laps of pure torture where it is too short to be a distance race and too long to be a sprint. Hence, you are never comfortable during the approximately two minutes that you are running.

When I first started following track and field in the late 1980s, I quickly discovered my hero, Sebastian Coe of Great Britain, who won the 1500m at both the Moscow Olympics of 1980 and the Los Angeles Olympics in 1984, and got silver in the 800 at both games as well. Even more importantly, Coe had set the world record in the 800m (1:41.73) in 1981. A full page magazine cut out of Coe was tacked to my wall.

Coe's record lasted until 1997, when Wilson Kipketer, a Kenyan who had become a citizen of Denmark, shaved a few tenths of a second off Coe's record with a time of 1:41.11.

That record was just broken (barely) the other day by another Kenyan named David Rudisha who broke it in Berlin with a time of 1:41.09. After watching the race, I think Rudisha can run faster, starting with the fact that he had started from an outside lane and had to break for the curb after the first turn. Having someone on his butt at the end of the race could have pushed him harder as well. If everything lines up correctly, I could easily see Rudisha running 1:40.

See for yourself:

The guy is an animal! He came through the first quarter at around 49 flat, and came home in 52. Shave off another tenth of a second, and he breaks 1:41. I love track and field.

"If a nation expects to be ignorant and free... it expects what never was, and never will be." -Thomas Jefferson


Hube said...

My God, those splits are insane!!

I love your description of the 800: "two laps of pure torture." Indeed it is, which is why I probably opted to concentrate on the 400 (which is still tough, but not nearly like the 800)! I recall, after my 800 PR in HS (2:05), I puked my guts out something fierce. My PR in the 400 (49.8) a few weeks later, was a walk in the park in comparison. Then, my legs "merely" felt as if they had fallen off! ;-)

BTW, I once met the 1984 Olympic 800m champ, Brazil's Joaquim Cruz. Total fluke too -- a good buddy (from Oregon) and I flew out to his hometown for college senior year spring break. Our 2nd day there we drove up to the U. of Oregon. We went inside my buddy's old frat house, whereupon he looks out the window and runs out the front door. He jets up to this very tall, lanky guy, and shortly thereafter yells for me to come out. When I get up to the pair, my bud says, "Hube, say hello to Joaquim Cruz!" He was an incredibly nice guy!

W.R. Chandler said...

Ah, I remember puking my guts out right after running my 1:59. The joys of running.

Poor Joaquim Cruz. He came within .04 of a second of matching Coe's world record, but never quite reached it. I guess he will have to console himself with beating Coe for the 800 gold in L.A.

I too spent some time at the U. of Oregon. I attended a track camp there in the summer of 1989. Bill Dellinger was the head coach. I also got to meet Lance Deal, the hammer thrower, and Alberto Salazar, the famous marathoner. Mary Slaney had done a run with some of the better high school runners earlier in the week, but I was OK with missing that because I couldn't stand Mary Slaney.

Hube said...

A "certain relative" didn't like Slaney much either! ;-)