By Michelle Clarke
As a fan of track and field, the 10,000M can be an almost uneventful race until after the halfway mark. Tonight at the York University stadium, the Brazilian Ubiratan Dos Santos kept me, and the pack of men behind him, on our toes.
Surging (aka fartleking) is often used on the track as a way to push other runners, ultimately tiring their legs. Dos Santos used this technique on nearly every lap. He continued to surge out of the pack creating a gap and rather than let the pack catch him, he would fade back into it.
It didn’t take too many laps for the lead pack to break away from the rest of the field and turn this event into a six-man race. With Dos Santos out in front for more than half the race, the other five men stayed on pace, making it hard to determine who was going to have the final kick in the end.
As I sat in the stands, thinking Dos Santos was not getting the gold medal, instead he ended up DNFing in the final lap. The erratic racing wasn’t going to bode well for a first place finish with such a strong field behind him. Who was going take the gold? From my vantage point it was either the Barrios from Mexico or Canada’s Mohammed Ahmed. They both ran an incredibly smart race.
With two laps to go, the six men formed a tightly knit packed. All together they started to pick up the pace and the crowds went from cheers to roars, pushing all the racers to the bell lap.
As the bell rang on the final lap, the pack separated and the sprint was on: Canada, Mexico, Brazil, U.S.A., Canada. Runners rallied only a short time then, with 200M to go, Ahmed kicked. Completing ripping away from the others he crossed the finish line at 28:49 claiming gold.
I caught up with Ahmed after the race, with a sense of accomplishment in his eyes, I asked him about his strategy and when he knew to take the break away. “I was listening for breathing and looking around for who took what laps,” explains Ahmed. “There was a really strong wind off the back end and I knew all I needed to do was take the last 250m and hammer it home.”
The athletic events were dominated by the Canadians both infield and on the track. Matt Hughes and teammate Alexandre Genest took gold and silver for the men’s 3000M steeplechase. Hughes finished the race with a time of 8:32:18, with Genest following, one second behind. “We had a couple of game plans depending on how the race played out,” shared Hughes. “It just started bunching up with three laps to go. I just didn’t want to get caught up with that. I made a similar move in the national championships a few weeks ago, so I was confident in that move. I was hoping that (Alexandre) knew when I was going to go.”
Rounding out the evening, the women’s 100M hurdle finals was an intense 12.52 seconds. The entire stadium was silent, as the gun went off and in one, two, three blinks, Queen Harrison, and Tenaya Jones crossed the finish line claiming gold and silver for the USA with Canadian hurdler, Nikkita Holder taking bronze, who like me, admits that she doesn’t remember much of the race. But what I do remember is the smile was on her face as she took her victory lap with the Canadian Flag.
Since this was just the beginning of the track and field athletic events, there is sure to be more of heart pounding excitement, lost of hardware and definitely more personal bests as the 2015 Toronto Pan Am Games continues!
Michelle Clark is a Toronto-based runner sharing her perspective on the 2015 Toronto Pan Am Games. Follow her on Twitter @runningchic and on Instagram @michelletherunner.