Friday, March 29, 2013

Bob Kempainen

Bob Kempainen graduated from Hopkins Lindbergh in 1984.  While running for them he recorded a 3200m best of 9:16.95 while winning just one state championship.  After high school, Bob attended Dartmouth where he found his talent at the longer distances.  He had three top-15 finishes at NCAA XC including a 4th place finish in 1986 while leading Dartmouth to a 2nd place finish.  His coach at Dartmouth is the legendary Vin Lananna who later coached at Stanford and Oregon before becoming Oregon's Athletic Director.  Lannana would continue coaching Kempainen throughout his professional career.  Kempainen's professional career spanned all surfaces from roads to XC to the track as well as distances from 3000 meters to the marathon.  In his first year as a professional, Kempainen was 2nd in the USATF 10k championships as well as 3rd at USA XC.  Kempainen had a very sucessful marathon debut in 2:12 for 2nd place at the 1991 Twin Cities Marathon.  It was this race that gave him hope for an Olympic birth in 1992 where he finished 3rd in another 2:12.  Bob didn't have the greatest performance at either Olympics due to injury.  What makes Kempainen's professional running career much more remarkable is that he was in the University of Minnesota Medical School the whole time.  Kempainen said they gave him time off if he needed it and allowed him a little longer to finish but it is incredible regardless.  Kempainen's performances continued to improve in 1993 where he ran a 10k PR of 28:23 as well as a marathon best of 2:11:03 while finishing 2nd at New York.  In 1994 Kempainen ran 2:08:47 at Boston which remained the fastest American at that race until Ryan Hall's run in 2011.  In 1995, Kempainen ran the fastest half marathon for a Minnesotan with a 60:48.  1996 brought about another Olympics and that trials race is one of the few highlights from 1990s American Distance Running.  Kempainen started feeling sick around mile 21 and vomited 6 times in the last 5 miles as he pulled away for victory in 2:12:45 (Video Below).  After the Olympics, Kempainen decided that he had better hang up the racing flats and get to work on becoming a doctor.

1996 Trials Champ, Credit: AP, Burton

The links below serve as a bibliography as well as a recommended reading list on Bob Kempainen.
Year-by-Year Results

SI Vault Article- 1992 NYC

HepsTrack Article

1996 Trials Video With Puking

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