THE TEN: A chance to run the Olympic standard

I love the 25-lapper, the 10,000-meter race, of the many races I watch at the World Championships and Olympics. I love field events, sprints, and middle distances, but the 10,000m holds a special place in my heart. I ran my first 10,000m as a senior in high school in 1976, with the high school division won by Danny Grimes, the second was Bob Lucas, and I was third. I ran my last 10,000m on the track in 1985. I enjoyed the race and loved the camaraderie. I appreciate the speed of the great athletes, men and women. My club running allowed me to respect the focused work of the elite athletes.

I memorized the commentaries in Track & Field News on the Olympic 10,000m in 1972 and 1976. Some have comfort food, and I have comfort reads. The Bible of Sport wrote many beautiful descriptions of all World Champs and Olympic races. I read them over and over.

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

Lasse Viren, down and up, Mohammed Gammoudi down, Munich 10,000m, photo by IOC/Munich 1972

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, took off.

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

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

The rush to the finish!
Gidey vs. Obiri,
World Athletics Championships
Eugene, Oregon, USA
July 15-26, 2022, photo by Kevin Morris

I recall the final lap of the women’s 10,000m in Eugene. On the final push, Letensebet Gidey held Helen Obiri to silver, and Sifan Hassan, who looked to be the winner, just missed, finishing in fourth. The finish in the 10,000m in Eugene was very physical as athletes battled with their last bit of energy. In Budapest in 2023, Sifan Hassan collapsed near the finish, going from at least silver to 11th place. Such is the 10,000m.

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. The 25 Lapper and the Pole Vault are about energy management. Keeping your cool early on means you might have the energy for the last steps, which is how Haile Gebreselassie won the 1996 and 2000 Olympics from Paul Tergat. Watch how Mondo Duplantis manages his early jumps in a championship 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.

Joshua Cheptegai ran 1:54 and 53.42 to win the 10,000m gold! World Athletics Championships
Eugene, Oregon, USA
July15-26, 2022, photo by Kevin Morris

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 as possible to have Olympic standards, which are terribly difficult. The men’s qualifying time is 27:00.00, and the women’s qualifying time is 30:40:00.

Alicia Monson battles Elish McColgan, Sound Running The TEN
JSerra High School, San Juan Capistrano, CA
March 4, 2023

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 interviewed Tsigi in Ras Al Khaimah, where she won a tough half marathon. This race could be a classic, with 28 women, most of whom have run 10,000m in 31 minutes range, and some debutantes at a distance. You can find the entire field here: https://www.soundrunning.run/ten

Woody Kincaid,
Sound Running The TEN
JSerra High School, San Juan Capistrano, CA
March 4, 2023, by Kevin Morris

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

Jesse Williams and Craig Vanderhoeff have carefully 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 provides the coverage.

This meeting is a prime example of how the pandemic’s challenges 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, once told the media 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 TEN, Sound Running The TEN
JSerra High School, San Juan Capistrano, CA
March 4, 2023, photo by Kevin Morris

The PARIS TEN races will be two races in one: first, staying on pace and reaching the Olympic standard, and second, 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 can watch it at https://www.soundrunning.run/ten/.

Good luck to all involved!

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

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