Mandell beats personal best
BY JOJO SANTO TOMAS • PACIFIC DAILY NEWS • AUGUST 21, 2008
BEIJING — At the finish, the scoreboard showed that Derek Mandell was in last place in his heat — far, far behind the lead pack.
Didn’t matter. He knew that already, knew that as soon as the starter’s gun went off and the pack passed him at the first turn.
What was important were the two capital letters next to his time. It showed a PB next to his time of 1 minute and 57.48 seconds, his best time ever in the 800-meter run.
He nodded a little to himself, confirming what he already knew. He held his head high as he left the track.
“I had seen all my splits and they were exactly where I wanted them to be but still, it was the hardest race I ever ran in my life,” Mandell said. “I wanted to go faster, but you can never go wrong with a PB.”
It was almost a surreal experience. He stretched out, he lined up, he took off and he ran — only he didn’t realize it until there was about 150 meters left.
“It was crazy. I didn’t realize that I was actually running the race until I started feeling it in my arms the last 200 meters,” he said. “It felt like a dream the whole time I was running it. Next thing you know I was finished. I saw the clock say 1:56, 1:57 and I was like, ‘OK. I got it.'”
Mandell said that his two-second improvement — 1.77 seconds, actually — made his years of training worth it. No one except for the 80,000 plus spectators there would have heard it, but many cheered for the last-place finisher from Guam. He says with more training and discipline, he can shave another two seconds.
Mandell said he resisted the urge to try and keep up with the pack, which had a photo finish. The top five runners all finished tight with less than .74 seconds separating them. The U.S.’ Nick Symmonds won the heat at 1:46.01.
“It’s kind of scary to be out there in front of the world and the times are that far back,” said Mandell’s coach Jay Antonio. “He planned that race, and for him to keep that plan on a world stage, that’s pretty tough. I was glad that he didn’t get too excited and try to go out with the rest of them. Two seconds in the 800 meters is a lot, for those people who don’t really know about running. It’s good and I’m sure he’s happy about it.”