Stanford Diamond League 2019 Overview

Instead of Oregon’s city Eugene playing host to the seventh Diamond League meeting of the season, Stanford University in California was the location for the (Steve) Prefontaine Classic. Notable athletes shone in the sun at the halfway stage of the annual elite series.

Top Honours for American Men

Unsurprisingly there was much anticipation for how those on home soil would perform. Christian Coleman stormed to 100m victory in 9.81 seconds. Michael Norman extended his unbeaten form in the 400m race, by maintaining his speed during the last 100m, with compatriots completing the top three. Paul Chelimo’s effort in the two-mile event was also impressive, storming to second place in the last 150m to almost take victory. 

But it was Raj Benjamin who made the most impact on the Cobb Track. His consistency over the hurdles and strength over the final bend and straight meant he won the single-lap event by almost two seconds. Interestingly, he spoke post-race about focusing on technique rather than speed. For him, he proved that both are intrinsically linked.

New Sprint Name Emerges

Nigeria’s Blessing Okagbare surprised an astonishingly fast field to win the 200m women’s race, in a season’s best of 22.05 seconds. Dina Asher-Smith, Elaine Thompson and Dafne Schippers could only watch on. The former Commonwealth Games 100m and 200m champion maintained a strong upright posture, and, with a high knee lift, broke the tape in lane eight. 

However, it was not as shocking as first thought. Okagbare’s 100m victory two weeks previous in Rabat against another sprint legend Marie-Josée Ta Lou showed her capacity to beat the best. These performances only add more intrigue to the upcoming World Championships in Doha.

Semenya Proves Her Dominance Again

The famous South African Caster Semenya extended her four-year winning streak at 800m races. It was her 31st consecutive victory over the two-lap event. She accomplished it with apparent ease. She lead from the front and even overtook the pacemaker early in the second lap.

Despite the ongoing controversial legal case with the governing body of the sport her athletic performances have been outstanding. Her 1:55.70 was almost three seconds quicker than anyone else and was a new meeting record. Afterwards it appeared as if she hadn’t even exerted herself that much. She remains the gold standard at the distance and it will be a massive shame if she doesn’t compete at the 2019 World Championships.

Reasons to Run a Mile Fast

In his book Lore of Running Tim Noakes explains that runners who are fast at short distances will very likely be fast at longer distances (assuming specific training is undertaken). It is therefore unrealistic to believe a runner can beat another at any endurance event if they cannot overcome them over distances from the mile up to the 10k. This is based on diminishing returns and fatigue resistance as the maximum pace a runner can maintain for longer will inevitably decrease (though not necessarily by a significant margin).

Although intuitive, it is not necessarily widely practiced by recreational road runners.

Noakes advises runners to focus on realising one’s potential at shorter distances before running further. This theory has been successfully applied by many elite athletes, including the Daniel Komen, Emil Zátopek, and ultramarathon legends Ann Trason and Yiannis Kouros. Also, well-established race time predictions are based on actual results for relatively short races.

Former top ultrarunner and now-experienced coach Norrie Williamson in his book Everyone’s Guide to Distance Running echoes Noakes’ advice. Every runner must accept that all distances are important because any errors in running form or mindset will increase in magnitude as the distance progresses.

Despite the logic, it is important to experiment to find a balance between speed and volume in training, and short- and long-term ambitions.

I feel it is time in my running career to embrace distances up to the mile, after many years of focusing on improving my half marathon and marathon performances. I expect that throughout my challenge I will reminisce on my high school track career

The training and time trials will test me in new ways and my desire to be a sub 5-minute miler is strong, especially as I am tantalisingly close already…

Usain Bolt in his Own Words

The story behind the legendary sprinter is as fascinating as the man’s charisma. In his laid back and humorous tone readers will gain inspiration from Bolt’s life.


Fitting into Jamaican Culture

According to Bolt he grew up in a liberal society, where there is a slower pace of life that includes casual cursing and sex. Bolt is a self-professed Mummy’s boy and was hit with a belt by his father for any lazy behaviour. Despite his nation’s impressive track and field tradition and coaching Bolt spent much of his childhood playing cricket and video games.

His running journey only begins when he realises sprinters have greater control when competing, compared to team sportsmen who rely upon selection decisions. As a teenager he was soon winning 200m and 400m races with ease. Even though he remains a joker before, during and after racing he knew his limitations; he did not pursue long-distance running and prioritised 100m.

Major Obstacles to Ultimate Focus

Bolt becomes dedicated to his sport after losing at a regional championship. Inspired by past sprinters such as Michael Johnson he develops a champion’s mindset by staying relaxed and confident in competition.

Despite his rising status he struggles to balance his social life due to his love of dancing in nightclubs. He changes coaches, overcomes serious injuries, including  scoliosis, which requires him to prioritise core exercises, and even experiences boos from his home crowd.

He offers insights into the major races where he wins gold medals, breaks world records and cements his fame. He also shares his opinions on other elite sprinters such as Tyson Gay, Justin Gatlin, Yohan Blake and Asafa Powell.

Returning Stronger from Tragedy

Then, in 2009, Bolt is involved in a car crash. He is fortunate to escape without serious harm. The next few seasons are difficult, culminating in disqualification in the World Championships 100m final. His initial anger and disappointment reminds him to focus on his roots. Shortly afterwards he wins the 200m gold medal in a relaxed style, a sign of a great performer.

Bolt continues to astonish audiences across the world, viewing prize money as a secondary motive.


Throughout his life Bolt favours freedom through individual sport, discipline from his father and coaches, and improvement through patience and consistent training. Bolt is unique, not only because of his relentless hunger to win but because of his universal appeal.

My Short Track Running Career

I reminisce about past running experiences with mixed emotions. One evening a few months ago I led some group runs outside a sports centre. The complex has an outside track and I was reminded of when I ran on this surface more than ten years ago.


Back at high school I did not take much notice of times or positions. Although I was competitive, expectations, from myself and my teachers, were never ambitious.

I always ran my best but my training was never adequate to make me an outstanding track athlete come the summer meets.

I raced a couple of times a season and, although my results were promising, I was not coached to pursue that potential. I do not blame my Physical Education teachers; it was the high school culture of participation above performance.

The highlight of my track career came when I was chosen to run at the Essex County Championships, an all-day event held in the town of Colchester. I was the only person who attended from my school. I competed in the Pentathlon, which included 100m hurdles and 800m. I competed well but I never believed I could win. It was my best experience running on a track, yet fell short of inspiring me to further the pursuit.

I always had nervous energy at the start of a race. Although natural, I never felt comfortable in the environment. Perhaps it was the artificial surface, the impersonal officials or the repetitive course. Even when I ran on my school’s grass track I found the lanes too restrictive.

However, I learnt an important lesson that has stayed with me today, that I can manage the pain of running hard

My specialism was 800m, which forced me to run the two laps at a sprint. My legs, chest and stomach would hurt and my breathing would become wheezy. Even back then I was not afraid to push my limits.

On reflection my experience running on the track may have been more positive if I had entered longer races. 800m now seems an arbitrary and inappropriate choice for an athlete who enjoys long-distance running.

The one exception is that I had practiced running 100m and fancied myself as a high performer. But at the time I accepted my fate of two laps and did the best I could, which often meant I was in the top half of competitors. My personal record was 2:36.


For a moment I considered going outside, under the spotlights and reacquainting with the oval track. But I dismissed the thought, not because I did not want to do it, but because it would only remind me that it was not what I was born to do. My three seasons as a track athlete were enough to be certain.