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PHOTO: Lasse Viren

I have come to love the 25-lapper, the 10,000-meter race, of the many races I watch at the World Championships and Olympics. Look I love field events, sprints and middle distances, but the 10,000m holds a special place in my heart.

I recall the 10,000m in 1972, as Lasse Viren fell, got up, with Mohammed Gammoudi, the 1968 Olympic gold medalist at 5,000m, staying on the track. Viren went on to win, and set an Olympic record.

I recall Haile Gebrselassie, in 2001, having had achilles issues, and just a few races prior to Edmonton, holding off the field until, with 200m to go, Charles Kamathi, looking at Haile and knowing he had nothing left, taking off.

I recall, in 2003, the brutality of the battle between Kenenisa Bekele, and Haile Gebreslassie, running a near 4 minute mile, an 800m down at 1:53 level and still a 400 meters under 53 seconds. The battle was raw, and rivetting.

In a treasured interview that I did with Haile Gebreslassie, at the RNR Arizona event, put together by the late, great Mike Long. Haile told me, after 3 hours of back and forth chatting, that racing the 10,000mm was very hard. “People do not think that Gebreslassie is human,” Haile smiled, thinking about some of the absolutely energy zapping 25 lappers that he had run in his career.

I recall the final lap of the women’s 10,000m in Eugene. Helen Obiri was held to silver by Letensebet Gidey on the final push and Sifan Hassan, who looked to be the winner, just missed, finishing in 4th.

The 10,000m is a moving chess game. I compare it to the pole vault. Each race has its own life, and is an organic event all by itself. The 25 lapper and the pole vault are about energy management. Keeping your cool early on, means that you might have the energy for the last steps, which is how Haile Gebreselassie won the 1996 Olympics and 2000 Olympics from Paul Tergat. Watch how Mondo Duplantis manages his early jumps in a championships, so he has the energy later in the competition. In the 2023 World Champs, World record holder at 10,000m,  Joshua Cheptegai, kept his cool, and after dealing with hot and humid Budapest, used a 52 second last lap, taking the crown.

On Saturday night, March 16, 2024, many of the finest 10,000m runners in the world will be lining up at San Juan Capistrano High School in THE TEN, a bespoke event founded and managed by Jesse Williams and Craig Vanderhoeff, and the Sound Running team.

This event is unique. It is all about one thing, getting as many men and women to have Olympic standards, which are terribly difficult. 27:00.00 for the Men’s qualifying and 30:40:00 for the Women’s qualifying time.

In the women’s race, American Alicia Monson, with a PB of 30:03.82 (the American record) wants to go under 30:00, by all accounts. Tsigi Gebreselama, with a PB of 30:04.45, will be her leading challenger. I recently interview Tsigi in Ras Al Khaimah, where she won a tough half marathon. This race could be a classic, with 28 women, most who have run 10,000m in 31 minutes range, and some debuttantes at the distance. You can find the full field here: https://www.soundrunning.run/ten

The Men’s race is just as incredible. Thirty four men are in the field. Among the field, Grant Foster, American record holder, 26:33.84, and Mo Ahmed, Canadian record holder, 26:34.14. Grant and Mo ran their records at THE TEN in March 2022, in a race that came down to the final steps, an incredibly exciting race that was as riveting as some of the championship races. I am also looking at Luis Grijalva, from NAU via Guatamala. The young HOKA athlete has placed 4th in the last two World Championships 5,000m. He is, in my mind, a natural 10,000m. I am also looking at Joe Klecker, who has run 27:07.57 and Woody Kincaid, with a PB of 27:06.37. Also be on the lookout for young champion, Nico Young, who recently won the 3,000m and 5,000m indoors. You can find the field here: https://www.soundrunning.run/ten

The 10,000m is seldom raced. In the 1990s, one would go to Mt.SAC, Payton Jordan or Oregon Twilight for big fields. I travelled around the country to see some of the finest, seeing Meb Keflezighi breaking Mark Nenow’s AR back in 2001, and some classic 10,000m at the Highgate Night of 10,000m PBs, put on in London in May each year by the Highgate Harriers and now sponsored by On running. This year, Night of 10,000m PBs is May 18, 2024 (find info here:https://www.nightofthe10kpbs.com/)

I visited the Night of 10,000m PBs in 2016, 2017. It is wonderous. A night of 10,000m heats, from championship qualifiers to road runners who want to break 32 minutes, 34 minutes as 5,000 fans, with a Beer Garden and entertainment, cheer on the the racers. In 2017, I met, via David Bedford, the one and only Nick Rose, one of the coolest distance runners of all times.

Jesse Williams and Craig Vanderhoeff have carefuly curated this event, with several fine races leading up to the PARIS TEN. The event begins at 5:45 PM, you can find the schedule and info on tickets here: https://www.soundrunning.run/ten/.

If you want to watch THE TEN, go to https://www.soundrunning.run/ten and FLOTRACK is providing the coverage.

This meet is a prime example of how the challenges of the Pandemic brought some amazing innovations. THE TEN is one of those incredible events that came out of challenges.

One other point. The 10,000m is one of the toughest mental events. Craig Virgin, former AR holder at 10,000m, and two time World XC Champ, told media one time that he could run 10ks on the road week after week, but could only handle 3-4 10,000m races on the track a year.

The PARIS TEN races will be two races in one. First, staying on pace, and getting the Olympic standard, and secondly, when it gets down to the last 1000 meters, an all out race. Last year, Eilish McColgan and Alicia Monson battled until the last steps, where Eilish out sprinted Alicia. In the men’s race, Woody Kincaid out kicked Joe Klecker in some very fast times.

How will the PARIS TEN play out on Saturday, March 16, 2024? You will have to watch at https://www.soundrunning.run/ten/.

Good luck to all involved!

Thanks to Jesse Williams, Craig Vanderhoeff and their team at Sound Running on this fine event! 

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