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.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Fukuoka Marathon 2007

Sammy Wanjiru's debut party goes as planned

This past weekend saw the 61st running of the Fukuoka Marathon, which until a few weeks ago promised an epic dual between the seasoned veteran Paul Tergat and the up-and-coming Sammy Wanjiru. Unfortunately Tergat pulled out, leaving no one who could, on paper at least, touch Wanjiru's potential.

Wanjiru has been devouring competitors in the half-marathon since 2005, when he set his first world record over that distance (59:16 at Rotterdam). He lost that record to Gebrselassie in January 2006, only to break it again in February of this year in Ras Al Khaimah (UAE) with a new time of 58:53. However that record was not ratified as no EPO testing was carried out at the race. Undeterred, he promptly lowered that time to 58:33 in March at the Fortis City-Pier-City Half Marathon in Den Haag. He later committed to Fukuoka as his marathon debut and had all eyes upon him this weekend---could be break Evans Rutto's debut record of 2:05:50?

The race: Wanjiru never in trouble

It was a typical race of attrition as the pace setters did their job and one by one runners dropped off the pack. By 20 km only 15 runners remained in contention, and five km's later only 10 remained. At 30 km the rabbits' job was complete, leaving just two other runners to challenge the novice Wanjiru. At that point he and Japanese national Atsushi Sato tightened the screws and ripped off a few fast splits:
31 km: 2:58
32 km: 3:01
33 km: 2:57
34 km: 2:58
35 km: 2:52
It was Wanjiru himself who attacked during the 35th km, breaking Sato and leaving only Deriba Merga of Ethiopia. Wanjiru then toocontrol as he surged again to break Merga:
36 km: 2:56
37 km: 3:04
38 km: 2:57
39 km: 3:11
Merga was dropped, but hung on to smash his own PB by over six minutes and also borke the prvious course record and finished only 11 seconds behind the debutante Wanjiru. A stellar run by Wanjiru, to be certain, but very brave running by the young Ethiopian who showed class and form by clinging to Wanjiru for so long and losing by a relatively small margin.

The official splits for Wanjiru as he broke the course record by 12 seconds :

5 km 15:04
10 km 30:02
15 km 45:06
20 km 1:00:11
21.1 km 1:03:30
25 km 1:15:04
30 km 1:30:05
35 km 1:44:49
40 km 2:00:03
42.2 km 2:06:39

What is next for the young star?

So everything appears to be going exactly as planned for Wanjiru. He seems to be connecting the dots one by one from a very young age and turning in big performances along the way. Wanjiru claims to have Olympic Marathon aspirations, and so far has met his goal of debuting with a 2:06 marathon. His next goal is to run 2:05 in a spring marathon, perhaps London, in hopes that a feat of that magnitude will secure him a spot in Kenya's Olympic Marathon team. Another performance like this in London will signal his arrival on the Big City marathon scene. This past weekend, although matched against the best Japan has to offer, he did not run against such a stellar field. London's ability to secure both the fastest runners and best racers is legendary, and Wanjiru must prove he can beat the experience of guys like Felix Limo, Evans Rutto, Jaouad Gharib, Daniel Njenga, Robert Cheruiyot, Paul Tergat and Gebrselassie, among others. For now, though he owns the course record in Fukuoka and remains on a larger path to more success.


bk said...

Yes excellent running by Wanjiru, who has an incredible future ahead of him.

Incidentally, all the Kenyans who have excelled in the marathon have been trained in Japan: Douglas Wakihuri, Eric Wainaina and now Wanjiru...seems like an interesting area of study???

Ross Tucker and Jonathan Dugas said...

Hi bk, and thanks again for your comment on The Science of Sport.

Indeed there are a number of Japan-based Kenyans who have done well. However you have left off the one Kenyan who is arguably the best, at least in the modern era:

Paul Tergat

But again, your point is well taken, and perhaps there is something there (better coaching and management, we say!). It would be interesting to examine this issue.

Thanks again!

Kind Regards,

Ross Tucker and Jonathan Dugas said...


Yes indeed - and the really interesting thing is that these guys have never really been incredibly fast runners (time wise), but have performed brilliantly in big races.

In fact, this observation is the reason why, if I were a betting man, I would place a great deal on the winner of the Olympic Marathon next year being a Kenyan who is based in Japan, just as happened this year. A couple of reasons for this - one is the heat and humidity, which seems to be very similar in Japan as expected in Beijing.

Then also, it seems that the racing in Japan is conducive to few, high quality performances a year, whereas in the States and probably in Europe, there are too many big races and the athlete's ability to peak for the right race is compromised.

So everyone will be looking at Gebrselassie in Beijing next year, my 'dark horse' is a Kenyan based out of Japan.

Thanks for the comments!