Pre Classic report: where did the record attempts go awry?

3 Jun 2015

The meeting records at the Pre Classic are impressive, but somehow they keep getting broken. Barshim took down an already healthy 2.40m meet record when he jumped 2.41m and Lavillenie set another Diamond League record before attempting the outdoor world record. There was another world record attempt in the women’s 5000m as well as a one European record attempt (men’s 10,000m, not widely advertised) made. None were successful, but all were close.

It’s not just the Pre Classic’s feature. Hayward Field itself has seen many records outside of this meeting: Eaton’s decathlon record set in 2012 (in pretty unconducive weather), and last year’s IAAF World Junior Championships produced two world and 84 national junior records.

What it is about the “Hayward Field magic”? Most athletes cite the amazing atmosphere and crowd support. There were no empty seats at the Pre Classic with the expanded capacity of the stands reaching about 15,000. But there are other factors too: a fast track, favorable conditions (at least, when it’s not raining): moderate tailwinds, warm, but not hot, with a low humidity.

This is exactly the type of a weather that would favor the longer races. So, let’s go back to the last weekend’s action and see where Mo Farah and Genzebe Dibaba lost the valuable seconds.

Farah set his 10,000m European record (26:46.57) at the Pre Classic in 2011. The splits are not his individual ones, but leaders’, however as Mo tends to be in the leading pack, it’s a good approximation. It is easy to notice, that the course of the race was similar: a strong first half, slowing down in the second half and a strong finishing kick (last kilometer about 14-15 second faster than the ninth). The rabbits took the pace well below the possible European record, but after the fifth kilometer the leaders slowed down way more than four years ago. Mo’s finishing kick was strong, but it was shorter this time. He did run sub-60 for his last lap, but overall, his last kilometer was 1.5 seconds slower. Overall, he was 4.5 seconds off (26:50.97).

In the 5000m, Genzebe Dibaba also lacked that extra push in the late stages of the race. Let’s look at her pace graph, compared to Tirunesh’s. The rabbits didn’t put her on a comparable pace at the first kilometer, and she had to push the pace on her own, running most of the race solo. She set the 3000m stadium record (8:32.9) and started slowing down. By the 4000m mark, the record was still within reach—just one second away. But Dibaba’s speed kept dropping and she finished about eight seconds off the desired time (14:11.15 against 14:19.76).

Are Farah and Dibaba ready for those records? They most likely are. Will we see those record at the World Championships in Beijing? Most likely not. Championship races tend to be very slow and tactical from the start. If only Pre was there to push the pace…

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