Runner's World Article Text
A,ugust 25 2015
by CATHAL DENNEHY
Americans Shannon Rowbury and Jenny Simpson
went into Tuesday’s 1500-meter final at the
IAAF World Championships in Beijing hoping
to medal. But for very different reasons,
they left empty-handed, unable to match the
blistering finish of Ethiopia’s Genzebe
Simpson faded back through the field swiftly over the final 600 meters after getting spiked and losing a shoe on the penultimate lap. The 2011 world champion trailed home 11th in 4:16.28.
“I’m sad I didn’t have a chance to execute my race,” said Simpson, whose heel was blood-stained afterwards. “I got spiked pretty bad and my shoe got ripped when it came off. I just got unlucky.”
Rowbury, the American record holder, had no such explanations to explain finishing seventh in 4:12.39. “I just didn’t have it,” the 2009 bronze medalist said. “I did what I could. I thought I might have a little more in the tank but it just wasn’t there today. It’s disappointing.”
The initial pace was almost comically slow. Aware of the danger of running in the middle of the pack at such a stumbling speed, Simpson and Rowbury settled at the front. They took the field through 400 meters in 77.05—nearly the same pace as the first lap of the women’s 10,000 on Monday.
“No one wanted to go, so it was either [run in front] or slow down and let myself get buried,” said Rowbury.
Simpson was also intent on being at the business end of the field when the first big move was made. “The strategy was not to let anyone run away from me, be confident, be calm, and stay involved at the front,” she said.
Everyone, of course, was waiting for world record holder Dibaba to make her move. When she went to the front with two laps to run, there was immediate shuffling in the pack as the athletes prepared for what had become an 800-meter race.
Simpson was shunted to the inside by one of her rivals. She was thrown off balance, which led to being spiked from behind, causing her heel to come loose from her shoe.
“I was gripping my toes really hard to try to keep my shoe on, but it’s so hard to run fast like that,” said Simpson, who ran with one foot bare for the final lap and a half. “It’s about changing pace and it’s really hard to change pace and go with Dibaba when you don’t have a spike on.
“I tried to re-engage but 600 meters was too long. At that point I was thinking about my shoe more than my race. You’re kind of in shock, thinking, ‘Should I stop so I can race next week or keep going?’ You don’t want to injure yourself.”
Simpson quickly faded back through the field, but refused to step off the track. “With 200 to go I was thinking, ‘Just finish strong so you can be proud of yourself,’” she said.
Rowbury, meanwhile, was going full throttle as she entered the final lap, but her effort wasn’t nearly enough to match Dibaba at the front. The Ethiopian ran her third lap in a blistering 57.24.
“I was preparing myself for the move,” said Rowbury, “but I didn’t quite have what the others had in them. I couldn’t match the move and I was trying to see if I could pick off anybody, but I just didn’t have it in me.”
Rowbury couldn’t pinpoint anything she could have done differently in the build-up or the race itself that might have led to a higher finish.
“We got ready for a change of pace and worked on a lot of speed stuff, so I was as prepared as I could have been,” she said. “It was just a really good group of girls, and the three best won today. I tip my hat to them. I can get back to work now and keep on pushing to better myself.”
Simpson was left to ponder what might have been had she not been spiked, but at age 29, and with two world medals on her resumé, she is experienced enough to know that sometimes, it’s just not your day.
“I’m so grateful that I made the podium in the past,” she said. “I’m in the best shape of my life, and in this moment I feel more sorry for all the people who have helped me get here: the people in Boulder, my husband, my coach. I really wanted to give them something to cheer for, so that’s the hardest thing to deal with.”
In reality, it’s unlikely Simpson would have been able to match Dibaba over the final 800, which the Ethiopian covered in 1:57, fast enough to win most world-class open 800s.
“It’s the Dibaba show,” she said. “I was trying to stay in touch, but I just couldn’t go with it.”
Simpson will close her season by competing at the Zurich and Brussels Diamond League meets in early September.
“Hopefully,” she said, “I can beat some of these people there.”