Storm-force weather produces timely reminder of quality indoor performances
Sharp camber of indoor track is compensated by guaranteed controlled climate
Genzebe Dibaba of Ethiopia wins the women’s 3000m during the XL Galan indoor track and field meet at the Stockholm Globe Arena, on February 6th, 2014. Dibaba set a new world indoor record of 8:16.60 . Photograph: Janerik/Reuters
There is no such thing as bad weather, only weak runners. Noel Carroll always said that, and for years I believed him. Now after three straight weeks of hurricane winds and icy rain hurling derision at my efforts, I give up.
My morning run yesterday lasted only about half a mile and still ended about half a mile behind the point of original departure. It’s what happens when you’re caught in front of a 145km/h (90mph) jet stream with no meaningful weight on board; or another sign, perhaps, that my running career is indeed going backwards.
There was a time Coach Rothenberg would have reluctantly told us there is no such thing as weak runners, only bad weather – so we ended up doing a lot of our winter training indoors. It helped that we had a full-sized indoor running track to ourselves. This is why the Ivy League will always boast the cream of America: rich and thick.
Truth is some of my best running was done indoors – or at least faster than anything run outdoors. This might be the exception to the rule, but consider some of the other deviations: Eamonn Coghlan’s fastest mile was run indoors, his 3:49.78, run in 1983, only very marginally off the Irish outdoor mile record of 3:49.77, set by Ray Flynn, back in 1982.
Marcus O’Sullivan also ran his fastest mile indoors (3:50.94), and only last week, Genzebe Dibaba from Ethiopia
– the best female distance runner on the planet right now – set a new world indoor 3,000m record, clocking 8:16.60 in Stockholm. How fast is that? Seven seconds faster than the previous indoor record and faster than the African outdoor record.
In fact only three women have ever run faster, the Chinese trio of Wang Junxia, Qu Yunxia and Zhang Linli, all in 1993. And God only knows what they were on.
In other words, Dibaba’s 8:16.60 may well be the fastest 3,000m ever run, indoors or outdoors. What is certain is that she’s not done yet. She has just turned 23 and is the younger sister of Ethiopian distance running queen Tirunesh Dibaba. Dibaba also broke the world indoor 1,500m just five days before Stockholm, clocking an equally brilliant 3:55.17 in Karlrushe. And this afternoon in Birmingham she will target the two-mile record of 9:06.26. Unless Dibaba runs backwards she will break it and may well end up smashing the world outdoor record of 8:58.58 (check it out live on BBC).
In some ways this makes sense. The guaranteed perfect conditions of no wind and warm air should balance out the tighter and more frequent turns of the indoor running track, especially if a runner can master the art of leaning into and accelerating off of those turns, just as Coghlan did.