Gebrselassie hints at reversing his decision to withdraw from the Olympic Marathon
Just time for a very short post today (I promise I'll find time and tackle running shoes and barefoot running soon!), and thanks to Lorenzo for providing the following link, which hints that Haile Gebrselassie may actually go back on his decision to pull out of the Olympic Marathon!
BBC News article: Gebrselassie drops marathon hint
In the article, Gebrselassie is quoted as saying that he will consider running the Marathon, but only if:
- The start time is changed, to take place in the cooler part of the day, and;
- The course is moved away from the city centre, where pollution is in theory the worst
Now, I remember a previous occasion where Gebrselassie made similarly bizarre requests. The event was the IAAF World Championships in athletics, held in Seville, Spain, in 1999. Gebrselassie withdrew from the 10,000m event saying that the track surface was too hard to run long distance races on! There was talk at the time, if I remember correctly, that he actually asked the meeting organizers to pour water on the track just before the start, so that it could be softened!
They refused (I suspect they knew that it wouldn't work, along with everyone else), and so he said he would not run. Eventually, he was "persuaded" to run by a combination of pressure from the Ethiopian federation, and I seem to recall that his shoe sponsor Adidas designed extra-cushioned spikes for him to run in!
So perhaps this is all just the same thing, 11 years later. Or maybe it's Gebrselassie's rather unique sense of humour. Whatever the case, when I first read the announcement, I was quite sceptical that he'd actually go through and pull out. He may yet, but I wouldn't be that surprised if he changes his mind and lines up on the roads, even if it is inside the city centre!
More information on the conditions in Beijing
Just one more story I picked up on in the news in the last couple of days - apparently, in September last year (which is only a few weeks after the Olympics will end this year, so weather conditions are much more similar than for the Beijing Marathon in October), Beijing hosted a pre-Olympics Mountain Bike event, to serve as a trial run for the Games.
Well, 50 cyclists started the race, and a grand total of.......EIGHT athletes managed to finish, most dropping out, in part due to oppressive heat, in part due to difficulty breathing! It's apparently difficult to differentiate between the two - very hot and humid air is certainly difficult to breathe (if you've ever been in a steam bath, you'll relate). And we received a great comment with some personal experience from Jamie, which you can read below in the Comments section - he was in Beijing last August for a test event on the rowing course. His report? Heat and humidity were significant factors, but the pollution not so noticeable.
We've of course neglected to focus on the heat in the last few posts, courtesy of Gebrselassie's decision based on the pollution. But there's no question that the heat and humidity are going to be significant factors. If that's what Beijing has in store come August this year, then it's anyone's guess who'll win the endurance events. My money is still on an athlete who is based in the Far East - a Kenyan who lives and races there (think Wanjiru), or one of the locals, seems the best bet.
But, in closing I do just have to add that I don't believe there is a long term danger of exposure to that pollution on a very short term basis. Gebrselassie has been quoted as saying that he fears for his long term health, and more recently, that "our [the athletes] safety has to be protected". I certainly believe the pollution will compromise performance, but the worst case scenario, in my estimation, is that an athlete will be unable to breathe, maybe feel nauseous and pull out of the race quite early on. But he'll live to fight another day, and no long term, residual effects will slow him/her down for years to come. So as I said previously, a short term negative effect, absolutely. But I don't buy this theory of long term damage - the exposure is just too short.
Anyway, that's all on this issue, for now. I have a feeling that we'll be coming back to it again in the future.
Oh, and last thing, as much as I would love to claim that Haile Gebrselassie is changing his mind as a result of reading this site, I can't bring myself to do that!