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 "Bernard Lagat Becomes "Chairman of the Boards" by..." 
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Post "Bernard Lagat Becomes "Chairman of the Boards" by..."
Bernard Lagat Becomes "Chairman of the Boards" by Winning His 8th Wanamaker Mile in 3:56.34
by: Ed Bagley

There are certain moments in track and field history that merit our attention, and this is one of them.

An obscure runner from Kenya—Bernard Lagat—comes to America, and graduates from Washington State University in 2000. He wins the Bronze Medal in the 1500 meter run for Kenya at the 2000 Olympics, wins the Silver Medal in the 1500 meter run for Kenya at the 2004 Olympics, and becomes a naturalized citizen of the United States in 2004.

Now he owns the Wanamaker Mile, and has become "The Chairman of the Boards" at Madison Square Garden, home of the greatest indoor track meet in the world—the Millrose Games.

Last year Lagat tied Irishman Eamonn Coghlan's 7 Wanamaker Mile wins at the Millrose Games. This year he smashed it at the 103rd Millrose Games in a race that looked close until Lagat unleashed an awesome kick on the first turn of the final lap and blew by 2008 1500-meter Olympic Silver Medalist Asbel Kiprop of Kenya.

Lagat's move was so stunning, so quick and so dominant that Kiprop had no answer, and Englishman Andy Baddeley, who could have been a threat, was not. Lagat coasted home unrivaled in 3:56.34. Two years ago he rocketed past Aussie Craig Mottram to win his 6th race, and last year he blew by New Zealander Nick Willis to tie Coghlan's 7-win career record.

Speed has never been an issue for Bernard Lagat. In another race, Lagat said, "I was very confident when it came down to my kick. I knew I could kick even a 25 (second split) for the last 200." In a middle distance race, that, folks, is speed.

You must also realize that the famous Madison Square Garden track is only 145 meters, and is made of wood with steep banks. Without phenomenal speed, it is almost impossible to pass from the outside lanes, especially on the turns. But Lagat is a savvy veteran of the boards, and with his win, rightfully claims the well-deserved title of "The Chairman of the Boards" at the world's most famous track during the world's most famous indoor track competition.

A week after his triumphant 8th Wanamaker Mile victory, Lagat set the American indoor record for the 5000 meters—13:11.50—while winning at the Boston Reebok Indoor Games. If you are wondering, that's averaging 4:15 a mile (5000 meters is 3.1 miles).

The ever-improving American Galen Rupp, a graduate of the famous University of Oregon program, would finish 4th in 13:14.21, a personal best in the 5000. Rupp is 11 years younger than Bernard Lagat, and light years behind Lagat in international, world-class running experience.

Lagat also holds the American indoor record for the mile in 3:49.89. In that same race, he smashed the American indoor 1500-meter record by posting a 3:33.34; he would later set the American outdoor 1500-meter record by running 3:29.30. Lagat's best outdoor 5000-meter run is 12:59.22 (that's averaging 4:11 a mile).

Lagat's best outdoor mile is 3:47.28 (that's running an average of 4 consecutive quarters in less than 57 seconds).

So meet American citizen Bernard Lagat—he's fast, famous and fatal to competition on the last turn. Kenya's loss in this case is America's gain. We do not currently have a finer middle-distance runner than Bernard Lagat, and he is not finished competing.

Copyright © 2010 Ed Bagley

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Sat Feb 19, 2011 12:16 pm
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