Wind foils world record attempts, however.

Written by: Matt Fitzgerald

Eliud Kipchoge gave a world record-worthy performance at the Carlsbad 5000 Sunday, but Mother Nature did not cooperate to support his bid to lower the 5K world record of 13:00, set by Sammy Kipketer at the same event in 2000 and matched by the same runner the following year. Stiff coastal winds kicked up less than an hour before the start of the elite men’s race at 12:20 pm local time in Carlsbad and it had a definite effect on the race, which was thrilling nevertheless.

Kipchoge took the win at the 25th Carlsbad 5000. Photo: Ollie Neglerio
Kipchoge took the win at the 25th Carlsbad 5000. Photo: Ollie Neglerio

Serving as a rabbit, American Jordan Horn was instructed to lead the pack through the first mile in 4:05. The second two-thirds of that first mile were run straight into the wind, however, and Horn bonked before he ever got there. Instead, Kipchoge led the group through in 4:10. He had separated himself from the rest with a trio of Ethiopians: Dejen Gebremeskel, Bekana Daba and Markos Geneti.

After negotiating a hairpin turn shortly beyond the one-mile marker, the lead group climbed the first of the race’s two short hills. The group of four continued together through the two-mile mark in 8:25. Seeing his record hopes slipping away but not ready to give up just yet, Kipchoge decided to take the lead and push towards a possible world record. As he passed through Carlsbad Village the raucous crowds helped him continue to extend his lead as he headed downhill towards the final hairpin turn.

The 25-year-old two-time Olympic medalist put everything he had into the closing 400m homestretch and crossed the finish line at 13:11. Everyone agreed–the winner included–that only the breeze kept him from establishing a new all-time standard. “I felt ready to run a 12:58,” he said, “but the wind was too much. I could not push through it.” He concluded, “I will have to try again next year.”

Defar took her third Carlsbad 5000 title. Photo: Ollie Neglerio
Defar took her third Carlsbad 5000 title. Photo: Ollie Neglerio

No word on whether Kipchoge recognized one of the two lead cyclists who guided him through the course: retired basketball legend Bill Walton.

Second place went to Gebremeskel in 13:18, with Daba another six seconds back. The top American was Joe Gray of Lakewood, WA, who took 10th in 14:37.

The prohibitive favorite to win the women’s race, Ethiopian Meseret Defar, started in hopes of lowering her own world record of 14:46, set at Carlsbad in 5000. With no rabbit to pace her or shield her from the wind, she took the lead immediately, dragging her countrywomen Aheza Kiros and Mekerem Assefa behind her. She steadily separated herself from the other two over the closing two miles and charged through the finish at 15:04. Like Kipchoge, she did not blame lack of sufficient fitness for her failure to take down history’s best mark. “I think my fitness is good, and maybe in the summer I will break the world record for 5000 meters,” she said.

Kiros held on for second in 15:26 and Assefa finished third, another 30 seconds in arrears. Canadian Malindi Elmore ran well for fourth place in 16:01.