Photos by Chris Stone
Updated at 11 p.m. March 30, 2015
Ethiopia’s Genzebe Dibaba, continuing to emerge from the shadow of her Olympic champion sister, missed a world record at Sunday’s Carlsbad 5000 by only 2 seconds, winning her race in 14 minutes, 48 seconds.Despite crosswinds that hampered the elite men’s race — won by Kenya’s Lawi Lalang in 13:32 — Dibaba in her second road competition led after the pacer stepped aside, defeating runner-up Gelete Burka of Ethiopia by 25 seconds.
“She didn’t have a problem with the wind,” said Dibaba’s translator (the owner of the Red Sea Restaurant in City Heights). But she suggested she let the pace lag the first mile. The world record thus stays with Meseret Defar — who ran 14:46 at Carlsbad in 2006.
“It was fast running for me today,” Dibaba said. “But I did not go out fast enough. I wasn’t looking at the times or my splits until the last minute.”
Longtime running analyst Toni Reavis, watching the race unfold from the press truck, blamed pacer Emily Lipari of the Boston Athletic Association.
If Lipari “hadn’t been off by 15 seconds through the opening mile [clocking a 4:51 instead of 4:36], odds are the 25-year-old Dibaba would have picked up her fifth world record since February 2014,” Reavis said in his blog. “[But] she got the family record, bettering older sis Tirunesh’s 2005 world record 14:51 by three ticks.”
Olympian Bernard Lagat, the 40-year-old phenom, took third in a world masters record 13:40 — only 16 seconds off the American record of 13:24 he thought he broke at last year’s race. (The usual 3.1-mile course was found to be 13 feet short.) He took home a purse of $7,000 for being the first American finisher.
Lagat, showing off his children and posing for pictures, didn’t fault the new “fan-friendly” two-lap elite course for his showing. The new course has four U-turns instead of two used in the traditional route along coastal Carlsbad Boulevard.“I was running faster in those turns,” Lagat said. “I guess psychologically as you approached the turns, you slowed down so you don’t trip.”
Winner Lalang, a 23-year-old who has trained with Lagat for more than four years, broke away from runner-up Wilson Too of Kenya after playing what race announcer and event director Tracy Sundlun called “mind games” at the start and even “trash talking” the day before the race.
Lalang smiled at those stories but admitted only to putting psychology to his advantage.
Whether the new course helped the elite runners is open to debate. Sundlun had justified the change as a way of packing crowds closer to runners at the Grand Avenue start, which for 30 years has served as the downhill finish, as well as the oceanside part of the race.
Almost as disappointing was the absence of four-time defending champion Dejen Gebremeske, the London Olympic silver medalist who withdrew so late that Lagat and others didn’t know he was out until just before the start.
Elite athlete coordinator Matt Turnbull told Times of San Diego that Gebremeske, known as “DJ,” felt sick after his last training session Wednesday in Addis Ababa, the Ethiopian capital, and opted not to fly to California that night.
“He gave himself another day in Addis to see if he would recover,” said Turnbull, a British citizen who
recruits runners for Carlsbad and other Competitor Group races. “He felt a little bit better and jumped on a flight Thursday night instead.”
But Sunday morning, Gebremeske woke up and said “Look, it’s just not right,” Turnbull reported. “So he had to withdraw this morning. He just had a stomach bug.”
Turnbull attributed the slower men’s times to the wind on the course, “and I think that took the chance of any record, certainly for the men, out the window.”
“We had a bit of wind today and it was a little hot,” he said. “The course was really nice. It was excellent. The fans are everywhere, and they really helped me a lot in the last quarter-mile.”
The recruiter called the missing Gebremeske, with an all-time 5000 track best of 12:46.81, “one of the world’s greatest (runners). It would have been fantastic to have him here. I’m sure we’ll have him back here next year. … Carlsbad loves him. He’s part of the family.”
In other races, 41-year-old Greg Mitchell of McMinnville, Oregon, dominated the first race of the day — the men’s masters race that started at 7 a.m. in cool and windless conditions. An assistant track coach at Linfield College, he finished in 14:58, less than 10 seconds off his all-time best.
Marilyn Arsenault, 47, of Victoria, British Columbia, won the masters women’s race in 17:30 — 22 seconds ahead of 2008 Olympic triathlete Julie Ertel (who as Julie Swail won a silver medal in water polo at the 2000 Summer Games).
Arsenault, who also won the 2010 masters women’s race (in 17:16), said she took up racing at age 35. She now trains other runners.
Also notable among Sunday’s 10,000 entrants was Phoenix’s Xander Black, 12, and Oceanside’s Anne Garrett, 80 — who both broke listed age or age-group world records.Xander clocked 16:47 to beat the listed age-12 record of 17:22 by Nathan Davis in 2013, and Garrett finished in 28:37 to set an age group (80-84) world record, crushing the listed mark of 29:41 by Canada’s Lenore Montgomery at Carlsbad in 2011.
On Monday, Xander’s coach at Go the Distance running club, Dave Van Sickle, said: “Xander had a good day and would have run 5-10 seconds faster if he didn’t get knocked by some spectators in that last turn to the finish line.”
Van Sickle said Xander has run 16:45 on a certified 5K course.
Jorge Jabaz of Anaheim won the 29-and-under race in 14:45, and Kristin Johansen of Longmont, Colorado, took the women’s race in 17:08.
The men’s 30-39 race went to Roosevelt Cook of Oak Hills in 14:56, and the women were paced by Jessica Textoris of Solana Beach in 17:04.
Paralympic legend Josh George, 31, edged fellow Champaign, Illinois, racer James Senbeta, 23, in the men’s wheelchair division, 10:34 to 10:36, while Boston Marathon winner Shirley Reilly, 23, of Tucson nipped Amanda McGrory, 28, of Savoy, Illinois, by a second — 12:17 to 12:18.
Race announcer Sundlun made the most of Lagat’s 13:40 finish, saying of New Zealander John Campbell’s 24-year-old 5K road record of 13:55: “The masters record has … gone … down. John, you’re history!”
Not as satisfied was 42-year-old Deena Kastor of Mammoth Lakes, the 2004 Olympic bronze medalist in the marathon. Now a mom (showing off her toddler daughter Piper at a Friday reception), Kastor took 12th in the elite women’s race in 16:05.
That was short of Colleen deReuck’s world masters record of 15:47.1 in 2004. But Kastor’s time would have won the masters women’s race by almost 1 1/2 minutes.
Going into Sunday’s event, Carlsbad had 16 world records and eight U.S. bests. Of the top 50 5K road marks in history, 45 have been at Carlsbad.
Dibaba is the younger sister of three-time Olympic gold medalist Tirunesh Dibaba, who gave birth to a boy Thursday.
Elite athlete coordinator Turnbull had predicted: “If (Dibaba) comes here healthy and in good shape, she’ll break the record.”
Genzebe began her assault on the record books Feb. 1, 2014, at Karlsruhe, Germany, winning an indoor 1500 meters in 3:55.17, chopping more than 3 seconds off the previous mark. Five days later, at Stockholm, Sweden, Genzebe improved the world indoor record in the 3000 to 8:16.60, 30 seconds better than her personal best and more than 7 seconds quicker than the world mark.
Then, on Feb. 15, at Birmingham, England, she set the world indoor two-mile record of 9:00:48 — 6 seconds faster than the old mark.
That made her only one of three athletes to set three world records in three different events in 15 days, joining Olympic greats Jesse Owens and Usain Bolt in that feat. And she is the only one to perform that feat in three different cities and meets and all in individual events.
Five weeks ago, Genzebe gained her fourth world record, winning an indoor 5000 in 14:18.86 at Stockholm.
As with many of the Carlsbad 5000 winners, Sundlun coaxed Dibaba to commit to returning next year. She smiled and said, “Thank you.”
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