America’s current plethora of great distance running is coming to a definitive showdown during this weekend’s USATF Indoor Championships held in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Only two weeks removed from their record setting performances in the two mile and 5000 meters, Galen Rupp and Bernard Lagat will meet on common ground in the championship 3000 meters. After swapping each other’s records hours apart in Fayetteville and the Armory, Rupp and Lagat will get an opportunity to see who is sharper at this point in the season.
So far in their past meetings, Lagat has been the victor and not been overly strained by the 25-year-old Oregon alum.
Things have changed slightly since the last time they met when Lagat was able to pull second at Worlds in the 5k and Rupp fell back to 9th despite being with leaders until the culminating stages of the race. Following this, Rupp broke the American 10k record at Brussels and has been working on his closing speed which has been the element lacking in major competition.
If I was to make a call on the race, it seems the advantage goes to Lagat who has one of the great tactical racing minds in the world and – despite his age – still has the speed under his 37-year-old legs to blaze down in the 3k. The indoor track setting also goes to Lagat’s advantage as his shorter frame should be able to handle the tighter banked turns than Rupp who remains a noticeable height outlier in his events.
The only way that I can see that wonder boy Rupp has against the indomitable Lagat is that the race goes out in a blistering pace and Rupp is able to make enough space between him and Lagat that he is unable to gain the ground to win. This was how Rupp’s training partner Mo Farah defeated Lagat at the 5k and could be the formula that is necessary to take the 3k title.
Whoever wins the race, we as viewers get to watch a premier event that hosts two exemplary competitors facing each other. Let’s be optimistic that track races continue to offer such head to head matches rather than boxing where the two best athletes sulk away from their rival or the NBA where this weekend the best athletes may hardly give an effort at the game’s showcase at the All-Star weekend celebration.