Much has been made about the Men’s 5K at this weekend’s Payton Jordan Invitational and rightly so. Alan Webb making his track debut under new coach Jerry Shumacher, Chris Solinsky in his first 5k since major hamstring surgery and Evan Jager, Ben True and new collegiate star Eric Jenkins all in one race makes for good theatre. Traditionally though, the race of the night at Payton Jordan has been the Kim McDonald 10k. Olympic Marathon silver medalist Meb Keflezighi ran 27:13 there in 2001 to set a then American Record. The 2006 edition saw a classic Webb v. Ritz matchup with a then bald-headed Webb kicking to victory in 27:34 over his longtime rival. Then there was this one. Chris Solinsky shocking the crowd, and Flotrack announcer Ryan Fenton, by breaking 27:00 (and Meb’s record) with his historic 26:59 in 2010.
This year’s 25-lapper may not have the pre-race hype (I haven’t seen one preview for it yet) but I suspect it may end up once again being the highlight of the evening. First off, if you’re a fan of Bobby Mack, Chris “Tommo” Thompson or former OK State Cowboy Ryan Vail don’t get mad at me for the title of this blog-post. Aaron Braun and Andrew Bumbalough just happen to have two nicknames that sounded really good. I think Mack, Thompson and Vail also have a great shot at the win. For my money though, it will indeed be a battle between the adidas-McMillanElite standout, Braun, and the Schumacher-coached and somewhat overlooked, Bumbalough.
Let’s break it down:
1) Aaron Braun – This guy is on fire already in 2013. Three weeks ago he ran 1:03:13 to win the GO! St. Louis Half Marathon (and $10,000) on a tough course where he scorched a 4:30 final mile to pull away from a very game Jordan Chipangama. Just a week later he gave 12:47 man Dejen Gebremeskel all he could handle in a sprint-to-the-finish down Bolyston St. at the BAA 5k. And all of that was just in preparation for this Sunday night. His 27:41 at the 2012 Olympic Trials left him just five ticks off a trip to London. Guys that make the team often have an “Olympic let-down” the following year. Guys who just miss are often left hungrier than ever. Braun appears to be just that.
1A) Andrew Bumbalough - Bumbalough seems to have mastered running with what I call “Shumacher Smoothness.” We first saw it with Chris Solinsky and Matt Tegenkamp and we saw it again with Evan Jager last summer. It’s where an athlete runs with incredible efficiency, wasting no apparent energy, in races from 1,500 to 10,000 where little energy can afford to be given away. Bumbalough has had a solid 2013 of his own, besting Jager in an indoor mile at the Husky Classic and then again at the Millrose 2-mile where he ran 8:13. He finished up indoors with a 13:23 5k at the Armory, hanging on gamely before teammate Lopez Lomong went on to break the American Record (13:07) and Chris Derrick PR’ed at 13:12. Like Braun, he also just missed an Olympic spot, finishing 4th in the 5k in Eugene last summer.
2) Chris Thompson - American fans may not follow this guy as closely as he’s watched in the U.K but there aren’t a whole lot of runners with more talent than Tommo. Famous for whipping himself into shape unbelievably quickly, this Mark Rowland protege’ has a PR of 27:27 from the 2011 Payton Jordan Meet and will no doubt be a factor on Sunday night. His 1:01 Half Marathon credentials suggest he may be the strongest runner in the field and he is certainly the most experienced of the contenders, with a laundry list of International accomplishments including a runner-up finish over 10,000 meters to Mo Farah at the 2010 European Championships.
3 and 3A) Ryan Vail and Bobby Mack - I’m going to preview these two guys together. You know why? Because that’s how they ran at the World Cross Country Championships in March to ensure a silver team medal for the U.S.A. The two cross country aces moved up throughout the race and ended up 17th (Vail) and 19th (Mack). Vail’s PR for 10k is 27:51. Mack’s is 27:53. Vail was sixth at the Trials. Mack was ninth. So we’re splitting hairs to decide who has the advantage. Mack has won a number of races with a killer kick, including the BUPA Great Edinburgh XC Race earlier this year. He has also gone sub-4 for the mile so you could argue he has a touch more speed. Of course, Vail has run 2:12 and 2:11 in his only two marathons so you could argue he has more strength. If either of these guys are going to win they are going to have a breakthrough day as the race is likely to go under 27:30 which would mean 20+ second PRs but after their heroic performances at World Cross I wouldn’t put it past them.
4 and 4A) Chihiro Miyawaki and Tsuyoshi Ugachi – Miyawaki, a 22-yr-old Japanese star, has 27:41, 1:00:53 credentials. On paper he should probably be in my top three but in all my years of watching track I’ve never seen a Japanese athlete sprint away for a win on the track and while there’s a first time for everything I just don’t see it happening here. Same goes for his compatriot Ugachi who’s run 27:40 and 1:00:58.
@flotrack Do you know the pace for Payton Jordan Mens 10k yet? Japanese Men are targeting JPN NR, which is 27'35"09.— Ayako Oikawa (@AyakoOikawa) April 19, 2013
5) Ben St. Lawrence – First of all this guy is one of my favorite pro distance runners. If you haven’t heard his story, he was a good Junior runner but then got into the party life for a while and saw his weight get up to nearly 200 pounds. Here’s a quote from St. Lawrence himself, “I was pretty tubby, working in bars and drinking six nights a week and all the other stuff that comes with it. It was great fun, but it honestly got to the point where I had just gone too hard and I think I almost had chronic fatigue, because I couldn’t drag myself out of bed for a while.” His rise to the top of the Australian ranks, once he got back into running, was swift in every sense of the word. His 27:24 PR is tops in the field but that was from 2011. If he’s in good form he’ll have a shot on Sunday but I think it might take very close to his PR to do it.
So there you have it. Pick your winner from this group of eight. I think it will go just under 27:30. Just to try and nail it I’ll say 27:27 with Braun and Bumbalough being the last two standing. Too tough to pick a winner.
Watch it live on Flotrack PRO at 9:45 Pacific Time on Sunday April 28th.
Editor's Note: We like the Braun pick, too. When we asked him about the 10k standard after his second place finish at the B.A.A. 5k, he wasn't worried about it in the least. It'll be interesting to see how Bumbalough fares as this will be his 10k debut. Then again, the last time a Schumacher athlete made his 10k debut at Payton Jordan, things went pretty well.
Editor's Note 2: We received a few emails asking about a certain Olympic gold medalist in this race. For those that don't know, Alistair Brownlee (GBR) was the 2012 London Olympic champion in the triathlon. Brownlee's 10k personal best is 29:15, but there's something special about this medal man. From just watching him race, you can tell that he's simply an aerobic monster.
The question is how much 10k specific work has he done in prep for Payton Jordan?
We're guessing not too much. Given what we know/learned about training for tris, his training probably isn't catered to top-end pace pace work. He's not training to run a fast 10k; he's training to run a good 10k off the bike.
In addition, we spent our time reading what the running and triathlon communities thought he was going to run. By "communities," we mean the places with generally the most sport-related chatter, the message boards over at LetsRun.com and Slowtwitch.com.
Despite having the reputation of being two ends of the spectrum on this sort of thing, both forums were fairly close in their predictions and we have to agree (I also called my former teammate, Dan Feeney, who's now a professional triathlete and had the same time as well).
We'll throw out 28:50 for Ali.