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.

Interview with Kay Drew

Kay Drew has been running since the late 1980s, and ran her first marathon in 1994. She has completed a marathon in every US state, and qualified for the Boston Marathon more than once. To encourage new runners, she started a running group. It still meets weekly 19 years later, although they run less than they used to. She documents her journey through her Twitter account.

What is your proudest running achievement?

I’ve got two achievements that I am truly proud of: setting an even speed as a pacer to help runners overcome their mental blocks, and bringing new runners into the sport. 

What has running taught you about yourself?

Running has taught me that following a plan, step after step, will get you to where you want to be. It may not lead to consistent, steady progress, but the overall trajectory will be improvement in either speed or endurance, or both. For example, you have to knock off today’s three-miler in order to cross the marathon finish line four months from now.

What is the most ambitious running goal you’ve ever set?

There was a time I considered building up to a 100-miler, but I no longer think that’s for me.

How far in advance do you plan your running races?

When I was running all the states in the USA, I sometimes had to plan up to a year or more in advance. 

What is the most miles you’ve ever run in a week?

I came close to 70 miles one week, but only because my schedule caused me to run two long runs in a shorter time. Training for a 100km race would make me complete a long run followed the next day by a medium-distance run.

What is the longest period you’ve ever trained for a race?

I talked five runners into running their first marathon with me at my last US state marathon. We trained for a full 20 weeks with a slow build-up. I did that for my first marathon, and probably for the Pikes Peak Marathon. Otherwise, I run marathons often enough that I don’t change much other than building up my long-run distance.

What has been your most serious running injury?

I have been incredibly lucky. I’ve only had a couple of falling injuries. I was out for four weeks with a broken wrist in 2018 when I slipped on ice on a trail run. I also tripped on an uneven sidewalk in January 2019 and required some stitches and new teeth. But it was a terrible Wisconsin cold snap that kept me from running rather than my broken face.

What cross-training exercises do you commit to?

I commit to swimming, yoga and cycling – one of those activities once each week.

What would persuade you to work with a running coach?

I’m still happily running at 56 years old, but after 25 years of marathons I think most of my “things to train for” are behind me. Maybe I would look to a coach if I wanted to try to qualify for the Boston Marathon in my next age group, or take on a Half-Ironman.

What does running mean to you?

Running has become so much a part of my identity that I don’t know what it will be like when I have to start saying “I used to”.

Discover the World through Running

Run the World (2016) by Becky Wade


Year-long Adventure

In 2012, Becky Wade, a top university track runner from Texas, wins a fellowship to travel across the world. She uses the experience to learn different running practices to incorporate in her own training. She uses public transport to get around, and does not race seriously.

She aims to discover the most effective running plan, balancing the need for freedom and flexible with a demanding volume.


England

Inspired as a spectator at the women’s 2012 Olympic marathon, Wade learns that elite runners do not train and race hard all of the time, but are strategic in their surges.

She also meets Jamaican sprinters, including Usain Bolt, and discovers the fierce and long-standing cross-country rivalry between the Cambridge and Oxford Universities. A positive team spirit is essential to build the necessary relationships to run for others as well as oneself.

Switzerland

Wade explores the beautiful natural landscape of luscious forests and mountain trails in a running-friendly nation. She adjusts to become light and nimble on her feet as she copes with not always knowing her pace and distance.

She discovers that the country has no professional running groups, and yet host unique track events, where athletes run back-to-back events in which they only discover the distances during the last lap.

Ethiopia

Wade learns that this East African country, like Kenya, harbours a culture of qualities perfect for long-distance running, including discipline, resilience and ambition.

During her training she is surprised that runners sometimes cut their runs short, opting to walk for miles back home if they do not feel fully fit. They exercise a heightened awareness of their bodies, encompassed by Haile Gebrselassie, who Wade finds is a rather entertaining dancer.


Other countries Wade discovers include Japan, where she finds the pavements and language difficult to overcome, Australia and New Zealand, where she wins a minor 5k race, whilst training with an athletic club that celebrates varied training and hard efforts, and Sweden and Finland, where she runs with her brother and discovers orienteering.

Recipe for Success

Wade’s journey is also defined by each of her hosts’ choice of diets and cooking rituals. She shares a diverse range of recipes including ugali, kolo, anzac biscuits and ozoni soup.

Through food as much as running, Wade develops close relationships with knowledgeable and humble runners. Her unstructured training of over 550 miles during the year ultimately leads Wade back to the United States, where in December 2013 she runs her first marathon, the California International Marathon. She beats the women’s field in an impressive time of 2 hours and 30 minutes.

Quote from Becky Wade audiobook