Over the years, eight American 5000-meter records have been set at the Carlsbad 5000, and come Sunday, March 30, Bernard Lagat will look to make it nine.
Among “the fastest road 5Ks in the United States, if not the fastest,” according to Runner’s World, the Carlsbad 5000 is known for attracting top-flight talent. This year is no exception, and in order to break both the tape and the American 5000-meter road record, Lagat will need to beat some world-class athletes.
Chief among his competitors is Ethiopia’s Dejen Gebremeskel, the 2012 Olympic silver medalist in the 5000 meters. Gebremeskel has age on his side—he’s 19 years younger than the 39-year-old Lagat—and he comes to Carlsbad having won the event three years straight.
“I realize I will make history if I win a fourth race in Carlsbad,” says Gebremeskel, according to Runner’s World. “It's a special race for me and a special race in American road racing.”
Despite Gebremeskel’s youth, he and Lagat have a long rivalry. This year’s Carlsbad 5000 comes mere weeks after the 2014 IAAF World Indoor Championships in Sopot, Poland, where Lagat bested Gebremeskel in the 3000 meters, taking silver and relegating the Ethiopian to bronze.
The pair’s first meeting came in 2009 at the Reebok Grand Prix in New York, where Lagat and Gebremeskel finished second and third, respectively, in the 5000 meters. The following year, Lagat again won the duel, grabbing silver in the 3000 meters at the Boston Indoor Games.
Lagat added another conquest in 2011, when he finished second to Gabremeskel’s third in the 5000 at the IAAF World Championships.
If Lagat is to break the American 5000-meter road record, he’ll need to top 13:24, the time set by Marc Davis in 1996. Given that Lagat holds the American record on the track at 12:53.60, the Kenyan-American certainly has a chance, though he’ll be making his Carlsbad debut.
“It's a truly iconic U.S. road race, with a great history of world records with many of the finest athletes of all time adding their names to the list of champions,” he told Runner’s World.
“Our races are to our sport what Wimbledon and the Australian, U.S., and French Opens are to tennis, and what the Masters, U.S., and British Opens and PGA Championship are to golf. Each race has the history, the tradition, the honor roll of legendary champions, and a special place in the eyes of all to make them stand apart from the other events.” Mary Wittenberg