As seems to have become the annual norm, we found ourselves in Eugene, Oregon this weekend for the 2011 Prefontaine Classic. This year was a bit different - they had a special set of events on Friday, a day before the actual event on Saturday. Three events, each with an amazing lineup of runners - mens 25k/30k, womens 5,000m, and mens 10,000m. The cool thing was Friday's events were free.
We got there a couple of hours before the event started only to find out we needn't have. As can be seen in the photo below, we found a grand total of one other person there. The weather was great however and killing two hours was easier than guessing which event Galen Rupp would be running.
We could have picked any but one seat in the stadium. I picked the one right next to the finish line, literally about 15 feet away - much less than what Irving Saladino will likely long jump tomorrow. While waiting around for the start to arrive, I took a bunch of pictures of the various equipment. Here are some finish line cameras, probably meant for photo-finish decisions. Too bad there were any today.
First up, at 6:40 p.m., was the mens 25K/30K combo. The lineup included, among others, the recent 2:03 Boston marathoner, Moses Mosup. He was going to go for a world record in both. The 25K and 30K world records were both set by Toshihiko Seko of Japan back in 1981. Here's a photo of the start.
Mosop was definitely on a mission. Eugene also decided to cooperate - both in terms of the weather and the spectators. Each of the 76 laps that the runners finished was accompanied by a good round of clapping and cheers without fail. Each and every single round. Soon, the lead pack dropped to four as seen below.
Mosop keep hammering away and about the half way mark, the lead pack was down to two - Mosop and Joel Kimurer - seen in the photo below.
World record attempts require a different kind of personality. Mosop embodied it today. Lap after lap, you could see the power emanating from his legs and the intensity in his face. At some point, Kimurer decided to get water only to see Mosop break away a bit further.
A bit further became a bit more and then a bit more and soon enough, the crowd was on its feet cheering Mosop, first onto a 25K world record (1:12:25) and then a 30K world record (1:25:47). There was no stopping Mosop today and somebody probably knew that this would be the case and went ahead and got a T-shirt made well in advance. (Also notice in the photo below that there's still someone running in the race much after Mosop finished his victory lap.)
He was beaming brighter than a 100W bulb. Seems like a really nice guy - something you wouldn't be able to tell looking at the intensity on his face throughout the race. Here's a close-up of him.
Summer days are long at this latitude, but at some point, the stadium lights had to come on. As far as I can remember, this was a first for the Prefontaine Classic, which is usually held in the mornings.
The men's race was followed by the women's 5K with a huge lineup of about 20 runners including Cheruiyot, Dibaba, Cherono, Flanagan, Goucher, Masai, Kipyego, and several others. Vivian Cheruiyot won in a handy time of 14:33.98. Here's Cheruiyot and Masai lapping Amy Yoder-Begley on their way to a 1-2 finish, followed closely by Mercy Cherono.
Cheruiyot again, breaking the finish tape.
She seems like a really nice person. While on her post-victory lap, someone handed her their baby to take a photograph with. Then, after she finished, someone did the baby thing again. Here's a photo below. Trying to inspire the baby or trying to get some of the DNA from the sweat to rub off onto the baby? Anyway, she was a real sport and posed with the baby for the longest time.
Another thing I found interesting was this camera at ground level right at the finish line. Here's a shot below. Does anyone know what it is for? Photo-finish decisions? Motion activated or remote-controlled photography?
The final race of the day was the men's 10K. Pretty big lineup again. Funny thing is that the handout showed Galen Rupp, the big stadium scoreboard showed Galen Rupp, but reality decided not to show Galen Rupp. I don't recall any announcement either. Here's a shot at the start of the race.
At one point, the pacesetters were apparently going too slow and Tedesse of Eritrea decided to kick it up a notch by himself. After 25 laps of some exciting action, during the course of which, some people dropped out or dropped back, Mo Farah of England hit the final straightway and put in a pretty good kick at the end to win the race.
He reminded me (a bit) of Bernard Lagat with his big smile on his way to breaking the tape. I took a very similar picture of Lagat about 2-3 years ago when Lagat won the 2 mile race at the PreClassic. Farah was joined by his daughter afterwards. The announcer seen below talked to him for quite a bit. Sorry I don't remember her name but apparently she was an Olympic medalist for England in 2004 (I think). If you know her name, please let me know.
In the absence of Galen Rupp, Chris Solinsky was definitely a crowd favorite. However, he dropped out due to some reason. Here he is, in the photo below, presumably explaining the reasons for his doing so.
At almost close to 3 hours, this was about the same as the main PreClassic event usually is. A great day and some great weather. Some great performances. Hopefully this was just an appetizer to tomorrow's weekend brunch.
I wrote this in a hurry. So, please excuse any typos and do let me know so that I can rectify them.