Age no barrier, says evergreen Lagat

DAEGU, South Korea, (Reuters) – Bernard Lagat has  grown into the job of role model for the next generation of  American distance runners. He has also grown a beard to remind  them how old he is.

At 36, Kenyan-born Lagat has been a force in distance  running for a decade, winning gold in the 1,500 and 5,000 metres  at the 2007 world championships in Osaka as well as Olympic  1,500 silver and bronze in Athens and Sydney.

While he goes into the 5,000 at the world championships in  Daegu, South Korea knowing Britain’s Mo Farah is the heavy  favourite, Lagat said there was plenty of life left in his legs.

“I’m tired of people asking me which high school I go to,”  joked Lagat yesterday when asked about his new whiskered look.
“This proves that Bernard Lagat has been there a long time.  I’m an old man but I’m still running fast.”
Lagat, who became a U.S. citizen in 2004, said American  distance running had never been stronger.
“I’m really happy to be part of it. When I run with the  young guys they say, ‘Hey I’ve been watching you since I was  still in high school and now i can run with you’.

“Those are the things that make me happy. When I’m training  with the athletes in America, it makes them run faster and makes  them have goals, like to be the best in the world, to be like  me.”

Farah is in the form of his life going into the Aug.  27-Sept. 4 world championships and while Lagat is well aware of  the Briton’s strength he has enough experience to know that  anything can happen in a final.

“Everybody who makes it through to the final is a legitimate  threat so I have to pay attention to everybody,” he said.
“Nobody wants to be the pacemaker for others, and at the  same time no one wants to go all out. If you go all out everyone  will just sit on you and the chances of you losing are very  high, so no one wants to take that risk.

“I have to be ready for any situation. (The pace) could be  fast and I have to be ready for that.”

Lagat finished second to Ethiopia’s Kenenisa Bekele in  Berlin two years ago and was third in the 1,500. He hopes  concentrating on the 5,000 in Daegu will make a difference this  time around.

“Now I’ll be entering the 5,000 fresh, before I’d already  raced in the 1,500,” he said. “I’m going to use the semi-finals  as a warm up for the final. And those two days in between are  going to be really critical, that’s where I’m going to work on  my strengths and weaknesses.”
The 5,000 heats take place on Sept. 1 with the final on the  closing day.

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