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Sunday, September 25, 2011

Berlin Marathon 2011: Live

Berlin 2011: Magnificent Makau 2:03:38!

Patrick Makau has broken the world marathon record.  He raced to a 2:03:38 on the streets of Berlin, breaking Gebrselassie's world record by 21 seconds.  It was a terrible day for the Ethiopian emperor - he stepped off the road soon after Makau launched a big surge at around 27km, and while he did resume running, he was not a factor and it seems that he bailed some time later.

The questions will begin again - it is Geb's second DNF if two marathons, after New York.  On that occasion, he retired, and questions will now be asked again.  It's a sad way to go if it's true - two DNFs and the loss of his world record.

But today, it was Makau all the way.  Below are the splits (for the men - I lost track of the women's race as the men's world record became more and more apparent), and my comments as the race unfolded.

For a more detailed breakdown of the race, including a comparison between Makau 2011 and Gebrselassie 2008, click here

But briefly, halfway was reached in 61:45, which projects a 2:03:30, and that was more or less the pace from the start.  Makau and Geb were in the group, 11 strong, until around 25km when things began to fragment.  That's when Makau, perhaps sensing a weakness is Geb, pushed the pace, and under the pressure of his surge, Gebrselassie stepped off the road.  He seemed to be clutching his stomach - it was either a stitch, stomach cramp, or maybe asthma.  We'll find out later.

But the pace of the Makau surge was brutal - 14:20 for the 5km segment from 25km to 30km, and that's what took Makau from being in with a shout to having a real shot at it.  He did pay for that surge later in the race, and when we compare the splits later, you'll see that Makau got slower and slower from that point onwards.

But he had enough of a 'buffer' in hand - he was 49 seconds ahead of Gebrselassie's time at the same point in the 2008 record, and 45 seconds ahead of the pace required to break the 2:03:59.  So even though Makau did slow over the final 5km in particular, he had the record in the bag, and went on to break it by 21 seconds.

That's the short version - below is my coverage of the race as it unfolded, and here is the more detailed breakdown for those interested.

And thanks for following our live coverage of the race!


Men                                                                  Women

5km - 14:36 (2:03:13 pace)                           5km - 16:37 (2:20:14)
10km - 29:17 (2:03:34)                                  10km - 33:16 (2:20:22)
15km - 43:51 (2:03:21)                                   15km - 49:50 (2:20:11)
20km - 58:30 (2:03:25)                                 20km - 1:06:32 (2:20:22)
Half-marathon - 61:43 (2:03:26)                Half-marathon - 1:10:11 (2:20:22)
25km - 1:13:18 (2:03:43)                               25km - 1:23:15 (2:20:31)
30km - 1:27:38 (2:03:15)                                
35km - 1:42:16 (2:03:17)                              
40km - 1:57:15 (3:03:41)                          
Finish - 2:03:38                                                Finish - 2:19:44

Apologies - in all the drama of the men's world record, I missed a few women's splits, and the truth is, Kiplagat was just churning out consistent kilometers.  I'll see if I can update the splits later.

The men's race deserves more analysis, and so I'll have a closer look at that in a follow-up post


Comments in reverse order - most recent at the top




Makau has done it, he has held on to break the world record by 21 seconds!  That was a hard effort at the end, Makau was fighting over the final 5km but he did it, and did it in style.  Even vaulted the advertising wedges in the finish straight to do it!

More analysis to come, including a comparison of this race with Geb's 2008 record.  Check in shortly!


Makau is hanging on to world record pace - the last 5km was run in 14:59, and Makau only needed to run 15:20 to get this record.  So he is on course for a 2:03:41.  He has slowed slightly - the last interval was easily the slowest of the race!  But he has a buffer of sorts, and the last 2.2km are a race against the clock!

In 2008, Geb reached 40km in 1:57:34.  Makau reached it 19 seconds faster (1:57:15).  But remember, he was 49 seconds ahead at 35km, and so he is "losing ground" to the virtual figure of Gebrselassie on the road!

6 minutes of running is all that stands between him and the WR.  It's going to be a great finish!


Makau is still on course for a big world record.  It's looking more and more like he is not just going to edge it, he is going to smash this record!  He's looking at a sub-2:03:30 time, and this is history in the making!

5km to go, and Makau needs to run it in 15:20, this is a world record on the way!


Makau is on course for the world record!

Makau is out on his own now - it's a tough, tough ask to race the final 10km at world record pace.  You'll recall that Gebrselassie had James Kwambai with him in 2008.  The time at 35km is 1:42:16.  In 2008, Geb covered it in 1:43:05.

So Makau is still ahead, and he is holding onto the pace he needs.  To put it into context: At 30km, Makau was 47 seconds ahead of Gebrselassie's split from 2008 (1:27:38 for Makau vs 1:28:25 for Geb).  Now he is 49 seconds ahead, and so the world record is on!  Makau has run these 5km as fast as Geb did in 2008 (14:38)!  But the section 35km to 40km is where Geb really picked it up 3 years ago!  Does he have enough in reserve to do this?  Fascinating finish in prospect!


With 10km to go, Makau needs to run 29:49 to break 2:04 and the world record.  It's definitely on, the only question is how Makau recovers on the run from that 14:20, and whether those first 20km were just too quick?


It's Makau's race now - he's out in front with two pace-makers for company, probably over a minute clear of Gebrselassie.  The last 5km were run in 14:20, which is incredible - that was the acceleration that pulled Makau clear of Gebrselassie, just before the Ethiopian stepped off track.  That was very, very quick and now the race, and possibly the World Record's, is Makau's to chase.  His projected time at 30km, by the way, is 2:03:15.

The big question is what the surge takes out - Makau now has to consolidate - it may be "only" 12km to go, but the potential for time losses here are enormous.  He needs to run just inside 3 min/km to get that world record.  That is definitely doable, and this could be a great race to the line against the clock!

Gebrselassie is up and running again.  One of the pacemakers has dropped back and is now pulling him again.  He seems to making ground on those runners between himself and Makau.  He is 1:10 down on Makau, and we'll check that again at 35km to see if Geb has really recovered.  Quite extra-ordinary developments with Geb stepping off the road and now seemingly back, running still well under 2:04:30 pace!


Gebrselassie has STOPPED!  He was dropped by Makau and he has stepped off the road, clutching his stomach, bending over and cearly in trouble!  Maybe asthma - he seemed to gesture that he was unable to brath.  Either that or a stomach problem.  Cramp/stitch maybe.  He is crouched over.  Now he is back running again, but he's lost big ground.  What a great pity!

Gebrselassie is now running again, and doesn't seem to be going too slowly.  It is very peculiar because he really did look to be in trouble there.  He was either struggling for breath, or had some kind of cramping or stitch pain.  But to reverse that and resume racing a minute later...very interesting.  We'll get you a split of the gap shortly, and keep an eye on it.


The men have now begun to slow - the last 5km were run in 14:48.  It's the first time that a 5km split has been outside of the pace required for a world record (that's 14:41, by the way).  The projected time is now 2:03:43.  However, I can tell you that if they maintain the 14:48 pace for the rest of this race, they will finish in 2:04:12.

The TV coverage keeps flashing a projected finish time of 2:03:05, which is never going to happen.  not sure where that projection comes from.  Makau and Geb playing games shadowing one another!  A taste of things to come?  The last 10km might be very slow if they start racing and playing tactical battles

On the women's side, no change.  Kiplagat ran the last 5km in 16:43.


The men's halfway split is 61:43.  Easy maths - it projects a 2:03:26.  The world record is now a definite possibility (it was at the start, of course).  The key will be after 30km, when most of those pace-makers drop out, and we're left with Makau and Gebrselassie.  Then we'll see if the early pace is costly.  If the pace is going to drop, it's going to be 25km to 40km.  Fascinating race developing though - the possibility of Geb vs Makau needing a 29-min final 10km to break the WR is mouth-watering.

Kiplagat has reached halfway in 1:10:11, 19 seconds ahead of Radcliffe.  If both keep going at this pace, they'll run 2:20:22 and 2:21:10 respectively.  That's probably a "par" for Radcliffe, given the build-up and hear she has had.  For Kiplagat, it's a good comeback after failing to finish Boston.


Still no sign of slowing - after hitting 15km 12 seconds faster than the WR split from 2008, they ran a 2:58 and a 2:55.  So not surprisingly, they hit 20km in 58:30 . The 2008 split at 20km was 58:50, so they're 20 seconds ahead of that.  That's a big improvement - it projects a 35 seconds breaking of the world record.  The last 5km, incidentally, were done in 14:39, so they're holding faster than WR pace.  Every split so far has been faster than the WR pace.  It's still an 11-man group.

Kiplagat has continued to roll - 16:42 for the last 5km, so a small slowing in the pace.  She is 17 seconds ahead of Radcliffe, who has now dropped back to around 17 min/5km pace.  Unless there's a dramatic change of fortunes for one (or both), the women's race is developing into a victory for Kiplagat by just over a minute.  She's on for a 2:20:22 still.


The men have actually sped up on the last interval - 14:34 giving them a 43:51 at 15km.  For comparison's sake, when Geb broke the world record in 2008, he hit 15km in 44:03.  They're actually saying that they ran the 15th kilometer in 2:45, which is unbelievably fast.  I'm more inclined to call that an error in the distance markings than a real time!  But it's very fast.  It now projects 2:03:21, so they're setting up an incredible day.  Or a big meltdown over the final 10km!

On the women's side - a big development - Kiplagat is nine seconds ahead at 15km.  Radcliffe has dropped off the pace somewhat.  Kiplagat has run with amazing precision.  The last 5km were 16:34, for a 15km split of 49:50.  Radcliffe came through in 49:59, so that's interesting.  Kiplagat meanwhile, has produced splits of 16:37, 16:39 and 16:34, and she's on course for a 2:20:11.  Will keep an eye on Radcliffe to see if she's going back, or holding that gap.

10km situation

The men have hit 10km in 29:17, so that's 14:41 for the last 5km.  The projected time now is 2:03:34.  There are still 11 men there, five of them pace-makers.  The other four (excluding Geb and Makau) are running many minutes faster than their bests, so that group could get very thin very quickly once the pace-makers start dropping off.

The commentators are saying that it's unusual for Gebrselassie to misjudge the pace.  I remember the Dubai race a few years ago where he went through 10km in a mid-28 time, projecting 2:02.  And I think the same happened the next year.  So it's not entirely unusual.

In the women's race, Radcliffe and Kiplagat have already opened up a sizeable lead over Mikitenko.  Their 10km split was 33:16, a last 5km of 16:39, so they're rolling along at the same pace.  Projects a 2:20:22.

5km reached

The men hit 5km in 14:36.  That's 2:03:13 pace, so fast, but that's normal for the first split.  There are eleven men in the lead group, five of them pace-makers. Gebrselassie and Makau are there.  They've requested 62 minutes to halfway, so if they get that, they'll be on course for a world record, and a race between Makau and Gebrselassie at that pace will be fascinating.  Early days yet.

Nice slow-motion shot of the elite runners feet landing - notice how they're heel-striking?  Gebrselassie in the yellow shoes - used to be a very clear forefoot striker on track.  It's a quick transition to mid-foot though, so the definition of "heel-strike" is disputable.  Flat at best.  But it sure isn't a fore-foot strike...

The women are on course for a 2:20:14 at 5km - 16:37.  The split was Kiplagat's, with Radcliffe listed at the same time.  So far no coverage of that race.

Shots of Geb training in Ethiopia now.  Nice touch for the human side of the race.


They're saying there are 30 pace-makers in the race today.  Not all for the elite men, but for various groups.  Of course, the build-up to this race included discussion of the role of pace-makers given the IAAF's recent decision that they will not recognize women's records set in mixed races, because this allows women to be paced by men.

I appreciate the reason for this, but I can't help feeling that if men are able to be paced to 30 or 35km, then women should receive at least the same benefit.  Of course, women's running lacks the depth of the men's race, and so they can't find six or seven women to get to 30km in the 1:40 required for a 2:20 marathon.  So women are either advantaged (by having men as pace-makers all the way to the finish), or disadvantaged (by having no pace-makers, or pace-makers to only halfway, for example).  There doesn't seem to be a middle ground.

But there's no question that the men get a large benefit - when the current record was broken by Gebrselassie, he was surrounded by men for 30km and then had Kwambai for "company" over the final 10km.  It's impossible to quantify the advantage this would provide, but it's fair to assume that it does help for a variety of reasons, both physiological and psychological.

To me, the best solution would be to allow men to do a pace-maker job for women, but only up to 30km.  Enforce something similar to the Ironman triathlons, where there is a "no drafting" rule that prevents athletes from riding in groups.  Why not have a rule that says after 30km, any men who are pace-making for women must drop back by a minimum of 50m?  They can still finish, but may no longer support and set the pace for the women.  Seems like the most reasonable compromise, given that it is a tricky situation, where either of the current situations creates advantages and disadvantages.

Anyway, enough of that, the race is about to start...