PHILADELPHIA (20-Sep) -- At the end of a long season on the track, Bernard Lagat came here to re-claim the American record for 5 kilometers on the road which slipped through his fingers in Carlsbad, Calif., last March. In that event, the Carlsbad 5000, he clocked a sizzling 13:19, well under Marc Davis's 1996 record of 13:24, but found out later that a traffic cone had been misplaced and the course was a scant 4m short.
Competitor Group Inc., the organizers of the Carlsbad race and the Rock 'n' Roll race series, set up a special out-and back, record-quality 5-K course for Lagat here to get a second chance at the record. In near-perfect racing conditions, Lagat gave it his all with the help of Kenyan training partner Lawi Lalang, but ultimately fell short, finishing second in 13:31 to Lalang's 13:29. Lagat's time was the second-fastest by an American in 2014, while Lalang's was the fourth-fastest in the world this year, a personal best, and the fastest ever in the State of Pennsylvania.
"It means a lot to me, honestly," Lagat said of Competitor Group's efforts to set up another record attempt for him. He added: "They gave me a good opportunity and I'm happy with that."
Lagat, Lalang, and former Iona College standout Leonard Korir, got the race going on a sensible 13:30 pace through the first kilometer in 2:42. Running along Dr. Martin Luther King Drive next to the Schuylkill River, the men ran three abreast before Lalang took to the lead.
"I went with Lawi and trusted that he would take it," Lagat said after the race. "I give him a lot of respect; he led all the way from the word go. I wanted to hang tight with him. I did."
The pace picked up slightly in the second kilometer (5:22/2:40), but sagged a bit in the third (8:06/2:44) after the turnaround point. Still, Lagat thought the record was still possible, but it was going to be difficult. There is a slight uphill in the final 200 meters to the finish line.
"But, then I was seeing the time on the lead vehicle, and I'm like, oh gosh, we have to do, like, a negative split to get the time," Lagat explained.
The fourth kilometer went in 2:42, and so did the record. Lalang tried to get Lagat to the finish by pushing in the last kilometer, and ended up winning the race.
"We came here to get an American record," said Lalang, a former University of Arizona All-American. He continued: "I was actually trying to help get Kip there (to the finish) because, you know, I was looking behind to see if he's still around."
Dripping with sweat as the music blared over the public address system, Lagat was satisfied with his effort today. After sharing a congratulatory hug with Competitor Group Senior Vice-President of Events, Tracy Sundlun, he said he was looking forward to some time off.
"It's a good feeling, actually, that I get to go home now," said Lagat, who competed in the IAAF Continental Cup in Marrakesh last weekend. "Just be around my family, just take some time off, and just do some silly things like play golf and all that stuff, and spending time with kids."
PHOTO: Lawi Lalang wins the inaugural Rock 'n' Roll Philadelphia 5-K in 13:29, the fastest time ever in the State of Pennsylvania; Bernard Lagat finishes second (photo by David Monti for Race Results Weekly)
PHOTO: Bernard Lagat and Lawi Lalang in the fourth kilometer of the inaugural Rock 'n' Roll Philadelphia 5-K (photo by David Monti for Race Results Weekly)