Saturday, January 7, 2012

Dear Alan, Move Up or Quit

Alan Webb once ran 1-mile in 3:46.91.  If you do the math that means he ran sub 1:53 back to back.  Yesterday, at The Armory in NYC, Alan Webb ran 1:55.02 and was beaten by a D3 runner from Gwynedd-Mercy.  Have you heard of Matt VanDenHengel or Gwynedd-Mercy?  I certainly have not.

Webb has had a fairly troubled career ever since he ran his 800 PR (1:43.84) and Mile American Record in July of 2007.  He has been hampered by a string of injuries and countless mental issues that have seriously affected his racing.  Regardless of injury, physical or psychological, Alan Webb should never run 1:55 or get beat by a D3 runner.  If he actually had any idea that he was not in shape yet he should not have entered the race.  The only reason Alan Webb should run 1:55 is if he plans to do at least 4 of them during a workout.  The man is a 3:46 miler!  Alan Webb in his current condition would have a very hard time making SDSU's 4x8 relay!

Athletes can be expected to slowly fade away as they get older and their bodies slowly fall apart.  Studies show that distance runners are at their peak at 28 years of age.  It appears that Webb hit his peak performances when he was 24 in 2007 and has sharply declined since.  Alan Webb will only turn 29 in six days!  On the other hand, Bernard Lagat, is 37 and while not being quite as sharp at the mid-distances is as good as ever at the long distances.

In my opinion Alan really only has two options.  First, to quit before his reputation is forever tarnished even more than it already is.  Second, move up in distance.  Alan has what is probably the best range of PRs of an American distance runner.  1:43 in the 800, Current American Record in the Mile, former American record in the 2-Mile, 13:10 in the 5k and 27:34 in the 10k.  13:10 is only 17 seconds slower than the American record in the 5k and Alan ran that when he was 22!  The man is an absolute talent.  He should be able to slowly build up his mileage then incorporate workouts and once again become a champion.  Unless...

Alan followed the trend of many East Africans recently.  Many East Africans use running as a means to become wealthy in their countries and help their family out of poverty.  Once they gain wealth and fame in their countries they lose motivation to compete at the top level.  They often half-heartily attempt one more year then fade into relative obscurity.  Many of these Africans rise to prominence in their early 20s, similar to Alan.  A great example of this is Daniel Komen, perhaps the most talented distance runner ever.

Alan should try one last comeback at the 5k or 10k distances and if that fails he should retire and find something else to do with his life.  After all, he is only 29.



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