Since 1982 I've written a newsletter, Running Commentary. A new issue appears here each week, and material is archived.

Tue, 12 Sep 2000 12:20:47 -0400

Do Two?

Tegla Loroupe's plans for the Sydney Olympics: She'll run the marathon first, then a heat and (she hopes) a final in the 10,000 -- all within the same week.

Before tackling this task, she might talk to Haile Gebreselassie. The world's greatest male distance runner bailed out of a planned double at the Atlanta Olympics. The track, made hard to be sprinter-friendly, chewed up his feet in the 10,000, and he couldn't come back in the five.

Doubling can kill the legs of even the best sprinters. Consider the 200-meter debacle at the U.S. Trials.

Regina Jacobs doubled spectacularly at Sacramento, and Deena Drossin only slightly less so. But both said they intended to run one race at the Games. Drossin chose the 10,000.

Jacobs proved she could run two events in the same meet and could do even better in the second than the first. The 5000 at the Trials broke her own American record by seven seconds.

But she won't run either race at Sydney. A mid-summer illness -- possibly related to all the work she did at the Trials -- affected her breathing, and she withdrew from the Games.

Doubling does runners and the sport no good at any level, Olympic Games to high school dual meets. I doubt that any rule can be passed against running more than one distance race per meet. But runners themselves should self-limit -- for their own good and for their competitors'.

While some runners are strong enough to pull off a double without hurting themselves, taking two spots can be seen as greedy. Giving the second one to another runner, as Deena Drossin did for Amy Rudolph in the Olympic 5000, can be generous.

Bill Bowerman, the finest of coaches, rarely asked his runners to do double duty when he coached at the University of Oregon. Even Steve Prefontaine, the most resilient of athletes, almost never raced twice in the same meet while on a Bowerman-coached team.

"I think the fellow who tries to carry the whole load is doing a disservice to another runner who might want the opportunity to be a winner," said Bowerman. He had other runners capable of winning and liked to spread around the goodies.

The doubler, Bowerman added, "is not only denying the other fellow an opportunity to win the pot, but he himself is going to reach the point where he says, 'Oh my gosh, here I go again -- two races.' It takes a lot of the joy out of it."

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