Welcome to the Science of Sport, where we bring you the second, third, and fourth level of analysis you will not find anywhere else.

Be it doping in sport, hot topics like Caster Semenya or Oscar Pistorius, or the dehydration myth, we try to translate the science behind sports and sports performance.

Consider a donation if you like what you see here!

Did you know?
We published The Runner's Body in May 2009. With an average 4.4/5 stars on Amazon.com, it has been receiving positive reviews from runners and non-runners alike.

Available for the Kindle and also in the traditional paper back. It will make a great gift for the runners you know, and helps support our work here on The Science of Sport.

Monday, October 29, 2007

The 38th ING New York City Marathon

Welcome to our preview week of the ING NYC Marathon! Now in it's 38th year, this event is jammed with a competitive men's and women's fields, and in addition to that NYC is hosting the USA Men's 2008 Olympic Marathon Trials the day before mass race. With $600,000 in total prize money, both winners from last year returning to defend their titles, and Paula Radcliffe making her return to the marathon, NYC looks to be a race not to miss. Let's start with the men's elite field:

The Men's Race - Lel vs. Rop vs. any new contenders?

With 15 challengers toeing the line to take on last year's surprise champion Marilson Gomes dos Santos, the men's field is deep and a mix of experience and new legs. On the experienced side we have Rodgers Rop, Hendrick Ramaala, Martin Lel, William Kipsang, Stephem Kiogora, and Olympic Champ Stefano Baldini. The other half of the elite field is less seasoned, but still very good and can threaten the favourites:

  1. Dmytro Baranovsky (UKR) (2nd in Fukuoka last year in 2:07:15

  2. Worku Beyi (ETH) (28:43 10km PB)

  3. Abderrahim Goumri (MAR) (2nd in London in 2:07:44)

  4. Elias Kemboi (KEN) (2:09:36 winner in Rome this year)

  5. Julius Kibet (KEN) (Debuting in NYC, but a consistent top half-marathon placer)

  6. James Kwambai (KEN) (2nd at Boston this year, but no other big race places)

  7. Demesse Tefera (ETH) (Debut)
Notably absent is Paul Tergat, 2005 winner and 3rd in 2006. But the presence of Martin Lel, who I (Ross) feel is one of the great current marathon runners is a massive drawcard for NYC. Lel won London earlier this year (his second London title, a sequence that has seen him go 1st, 2nd, 1st in arguably the world's most competitive race), winning a final 400m kick against a group of other athletes. He's a former 21km world champ, has speed to burn, and one of the great runners of the last five years. He is also in great form, winning last month's Great North Run in 60:10, so the signs are there that Lel is the man to beat in NYC.

He hasn't quite achieved the status of his Kenyan predecessor, but a win in New York, to go alongside London (and a win in New York in 2003) would certainly cement his position. After seeing that race in London earlier this year, Lel was my pick to break the then-world record of Tergat. As we know, Gebrselassie did that in Berlin, and New York is unlikely to throw up any world records, but Lel is certainly our favourite for the men's race.

Women's field - Radcliffe returns!

In contrast to the men's field, there are no debutantes among the women and all are seasoned and experienced. But the main hype around the NYC Marathon for women is the return of Paula Radcliffe after a lengthy layoff. And even more exciting, she'll be taking on Catherine Ndereba, the current world champion, and Jelena Pro

  1. Claudia Camargo (ARG) (Top Argentine runner but with only a 2:35 marathon she should not feature)

  2. Elva Dryer (USA) (Top US runner, but likely will not feature in NYC; 2:31 at Chicago '06)

  3. Lidiya Grigoryeva (RUS) (2007 Boston champ; 5th last year in NYC)

  4. Salina Kosgei (KEN) (4th in NYC 2005)

  5. Tegla Loroupe (KEN) ('94 and '95 NYC champ; former WR holder in marathon in 2:20:43)

  6. Catherine Ndereba (KEN) ("Catherine the Great;" 4 time Boston and 2 time Chicago champion)

  7. Jelena Prokopcuka (LAT) (Two-time defending women's champion)

  8. Paula Radcliffe (GBR) (Current WR holder; returning the marathon after having a baby)

  9. Constantina Tomescu-Dita (ROM) (Incredible form in '06, but nowhere this year)

  10. Gete Wami (ETH) (Currently leading the Women's World Marathon Majors)
What can Radcliffe do against a stellar women's field?

Of course this is a much anticipated women's race for two reasons:

  1. Prokopcuka's attempt to win three consecutive NYC's, and with it the World Marathon Title, which she had been leading until Gete Wami took first place after winning in Berlin just a month ago
  2. Paula Radcliffe's return to the distance after having her baby.

And then thrown into the mix, you have Ndereba, who has been in great condition, and Gete Wami, who apparently took Berlin relatively easy in an attempt to save herself for this race.

But it is Radclifee who is likely to garner much of the media attention leading up to the race. Radcliffe has shown in the past she has the strength and speed to beat them both in the marathon, but her form after childbirth is an unknown at this point. She made her comeback last month in the Great North Run, and was beaten into second by a remarkable performance by Kara Goucher. But Radcliffe still ran 67:53, a time that is a minute outside her PB for the distance (though she has run 2 minutes faster, but it was unratified). So that is certainly an encouraging comeback, and with 6 weeks between that race and NYC, there's a good chance she is at least approaching the sort of form she'll need.

A lot depends on the sort of training she was doing before the Great North Run. If that 67:53 performance was built off a really big mileage base, with limited speed work, then watch out! Because the marathon distance will probably not pose too many untoward challenges. If however her North Run performance was achieved with high emphasis on speed and little volume, then to build up to the marathon in 6 weeks is a very tough ask, and she may be found wanting at about 35 km, where Ndereba, Prokopcuka and the like will seek to drive home their advantage.

As for her tactics, it will be fascinating to see how she goes about the race. Her famed front-running tactics may not be the best way to go in this race, rather sit in and wait for the shake up in the final 5 or 6 km, when there are sure to be moves. But more than likely, she'll go out hard, so watch for an early fast pace by Radcliffe as she might try to run the others off her heels and break them early.

Whatever happens, there can have been few women's marathons as competitive and deep as this one. It should be a great race!

Join us later in the week for more build up to the race!

Ross & Jonathan