Friday, October 1, 2010

Lagat and Webb talk

Reported by Peter Gambaccini for RunnersWorld
What kind of advance Christmas present did you give Tariku Bekele so he would give you the gift of the inside lane at the Continental Cup? Can you rely on that kind of thing happening?

Bernard Lagat: You have to be comfortable. I was in a position where I knew something had happened. Normally, there's this tendency whereby people run toward the outer lane as they go for the home straight. I do the same thing. I do it all the time, everybody does, Bekele's older brother (Kenenisa) does. Everybody tends to go outside from lane one. So I thought "let me just hang in here, I'm not going to worry," because (if) I was to panic and wait and let everybody go and then go from behind, I was going to lose a stride and that was going to be the end of the race. So I wanted to just be patient and wait. I knew it was going to open. And when it opened like that, I just went. It was really nice. So …with the Christmas present, I don't know what I would have promised him, but it was a good race.

You've won doubles before, like at the 2007 World Championships, but the Continental Cup was another chance to represent your country – or actually "the Americas."
BL: It was interesting, because normally, I'm used to seeing Matt Tegenkamp or Chris Solinsky, all these other guys from my country. But this was different, and the fact that only one athlete in each event could come from one country was different. But it was really fun. I really had a good time with (Diego) Borrego from Mexico and then, in the 3000 meters, the guy from Ecuador (Bayron Piedra) was doing a very good job, so it was really fun. It was a fun mix. And as much as it's for the team, it's also individual effort. You just want to win that eight points and win that first prize for yourself.

Did you think they would end up being slow tactical races?
BL: Yes. I thought the 5000 was going to be slow, gauging from the entrants. There was no one there I could see who could really make a move and go from the beginning. The 3000 I thought, well, Tariku Bekele was very strong in Berlin and Rieti and I thought he could go at any pace. He could go from the front and win in 7:32 without any help. And I thought that was going to be fast, and I was prepared for a fast 3000 meters. People saw the way I ran in the 5000; they can't wait until the end. I thought it was going to be quite fast – or, if it was going to slow for the first kilometer, it could even be faster toward the end.

This Fifth Avenue Mile was a very tight one. Did you think with 50 or 60 meters to go, you might be the one to win?
BL: Yes, I thought so. At that point, I was feeling great and really strong. But when Amine started pushing past me, he looked stronger than I was. I kept thinking "okay, let me give all out (and) try and deny him the win." But he was just right there, pushing a little bit, and opened up a little gasp on me. So that was really a good run for Amine.

This is the 30th anniversary of this race, and Sydney Maree's Fifth Avenue Mile record (3:47.52) has endured since that first year, 1981. With all the great milers who've come to this race, why do you think that is?
BL: He ran great; 3:47, that's incredible. For that to be broken, everything has to go perfectly. Somebody has to be a pacemaker and go crazy…. If someone says "we want to go hard from the beginning," then it's possible we can get close to that time. But to break it is going to demand a lot of preparation and everything working right.

Is this deja vu of sorts, racing against another very fast Moroccan (Hicham El Guerroj was Lagat's long-time rival and edged him for a gold medal at the 2004 Athens Olympics)?
BL: Yes, it's great. I ran against Hicham El Guerrouj for a long time and now Amine. First of all, he (Laalou) was an 800-meter runner, and he decided to move up to the 1500. Knowing he was an 800-meter runner, I knew those guys (800 runners) would be really dangerous. When I knew he was going to be in the race, I knew it would be a tough race.

Alan Webb holds the American mile record of 3:46.91, which he ran in 2007, the year that his 3:30.54 was the fastest 1500-meter time in the world. He was a 2008 U.S. Olympian but his career was plagued by troubles and injuries since then. Webb returned to action late in the 2010 track season and did manage to run 3:36.21 for 1500 meters in Milan. Last Sunday, he returned to the Continental Airlines Fifth Avenue Mile, which he 'd won in 2007, and placed fourth in 3:53.72.

How did you feel about your Fifth Avenue Mile race?
Alan Webb: When it really came down to the last 600, I didn't really commit like I wanted to. I got kind of lulled into falling asleep a little bit and didn't make a move and was just kind of waiting around for somebody else to make a move. In a slow race like that, I would have made my own move earlier or something. Anyway, I don't know what my last 800 was, but I'm plenty sure we were 2:02 at the first 800 (first half mile) so I ran my last 800 as fast or faster than I ran my first race of this year six or seven weeks ago (an 800 on the track). I've come a long way since my little mini-season started, and these last couple of years have been a long road and it's good to just be in the mix.

Did you feel as good as you thought you would, considering all you've been though and minimal training?
AW: Yeah, I felt relatively good. Considering it was a slower pace, you're supposed to feel a little bit better. Considering all that's happened, I'm happy with my year It's a good place to start for the next year.

This is the traditional end of the season (for milers and 1500-meter runners), but from your perspective, would you rather race some more?
AW: Oh, I'd love to have been able to race more. I would have needed some kind of small break in terms of racing. I'd want four or six weeks and then have another one (another season). So it won't be too long before indoors. Before you know it, we'll be back out here doing indoor stuff. This is good. It'll put me into my fall training in a nice little spot where I can hopefully improve.

I couldn't help but read a quote where Alberto (Salazar, his coach) said that you'd be running 400s and 500s this winter. Does he actually mean you'll be racing 400s and 500s?
AW: (Laughs). I think he meant that I'll be doing fours and fives in practice, probably. We'll see, I might talk him into letting me jump in something indoors, but let's not get carried away here.

That's how the quote came out (that Webb would be racing 400s and 500s).
AW: Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. he may have said that. Alberto's really excited for me and we're both excited at the way I'm improving. I was still fourth today and I've still got a long way to go. This was a "big boy" race and, to be honest with you, I didn't know Lagat was going to be here, I didn't know (Amine) Laalou was going to be here. I thought it was just going to be me and Nick (Willis) running down the straightaway. So this is a "big boy" race and I'm glad to be competing with these guys. Trust me, I wanted to run the race, and I think I could have finished at least a couple of spots ahead if I'd made a couple less mistakes.