College of William and Mary graduate and Nike athlete Ed Moran will compete July 4 in the 10,000 meters at the U.S. Olympic Trials in Eugene, Ore. He ran 27 minutes and 43.13 seconds for 10k at last year’s Stanford Payton Jordan Invitational, qualifying for the trials and eclipsing the Olympic “A” standard.
I spoke with Moran, his coach Alex Gibby – William and Mary head men’s cross country and track and field coach – and W&M women’s coach Kathy Newberry last week. The following is from part of the conversation we had.
On checking the declaration lists prior to the trialsMoran: This one is a unique situation in that it’s all about finishing in the top three. So it’s about getting out there, being aggressive early and making sure I stay focused and cover all the right moves. It’s about setting myself up to race everyone else.
I don’t usually get overwhelmed by who else is in the race. There’s always the exceptions when [Kenenisa] Bekele is in the race or someone like that and you’re like ‘oh my god,’ but besides that I think I have enough experience now that I’m pretty levelheaded when I step on the line.
On the strength of the 10k field:Moran: It’s amazing the steps the country has taken on a whole from the last trials to these trials. Last time [Dathan] Ritzenhein finished last and he stilled made the games because not enough athletes had the “A” standard. Now you’re talking about a race in the 10k where eight guys have the “A” standard, so now it’s a real race unlike last time when it really didn’t matter what happened on that day.
On his fifth-place performance at the Steamboat Classic 4-Mile June 14 in Peoria, Ill.:Moran: It was one of those things where it was a great rust-buster. I hadn’t raced in about six weeks, so it was good to just get into a competitive environment and go through the motions of just the mental preparations for a race. Of course it didn’t go as well as I was hoping, but stepping back and looking at it objectively, it wasn’t that bad an experience.
The race went out slow. We kind of plodded along for the first two miles and then I went to the lead and pushed it for a good mile and a half and then just got beat in a downhill finish. Only losing by six seconds when I wasn’t particularly race- or speed-sharp wasn’t a bad result.
Since then I’ve had the opportunity over the last two weeks to really put the extra gears in and mentally prepare myself for the same kind of closing experience.
The impact of that race on his decision to choose the 10k over the 5k for the trials:Moran: I had a pretty firm grasp on what I was going to run. I was just kind of waiting until the last minute to make that decision just in case something happened like an injury that took me off my feet for a little bit or some kind of last-minute preparation that showed me the 5k was going to be a better event for me. It’s always good to leave your options open until the last minute just in case.
On whether this race will be a different experience for him:Moran: The stakes are higher.
Gibby: You can’t really think about it. When you go into a race you can’t think about anything but performing well. The stakes don’t change your desire to run well. That’s a balance that everyone has to learn eventually. Just because you want to make the team doesn’t mean that that should be in the forefront of your brain.
Any consideration of making the team is something that’s going to happen over the last 800 to 1,000 meters. That’s where you’d maybe bring it back into your thought processes, but until then you’re trying to run well and set yourself up as effectively as possible.
As a coach, what are you doing during a 10k?Gibby: I usually try to convey relaxed information. They can usually hear me.
Moran: He usually lies about splits.
Gibby: Sometimes I lie if they’re out hard.
Newberry: Sometimes he stops giving them.
Gibby: If they’re not running well, I’ll stop giving them and they can focus on something else. But the problem with the 10k from a coaching perspective is that you can run a fantastic 8,000 meters and then explode. It’s like the World Series of Poker. There’s a lot of excitement early and throughout, but ultimately you’re only focused on the last 800 to 1,000 meters and it’s a matter of getting yourself in that position to make good decisions.
With both of them the key will be making the correct decision at the right time. There are very few wrong times. I don’t think you’re going to make an Olympic team or run well at the trials without taking some risks.
Kathy takes risks every year in cross country. Ed won the Pan-Am gold last year, taking risks. He did not take a risk at the U.S. Championships. But there’s something to be said for experience.