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Sunday, July 08, 2007

Comrades marathon - some really fascinating questions

Every once in a while, we get some absolute pearls from visitors to the blog. And this email, which we recieved yesterday evening, is an example of one. I will paraphrase Mr Alan Sleath's questions, which we at The Science of Sport will attempt to address over the next while.

Alan's questions were the following:

1) At the Comrades Marathon this year, the following performances stood out:

  • A 70-year old man, Calie Beneke, ran 8 hours 4 minutes for the 89 km!
  • Leonid Shvetsov of Russia broke the course record by running 5 hours 21 minutes!
  • A british double-amputee, Richard Whitehead, ran sub-10 hours on prosthetic limbs!
Alan has asked us to rank these performances, based on physiology! Ouch! Can we take the 5th amendment on that one? But we'll do our best, it's an interesting challenge.

2) Second question, Alan has asked us to compare the achievement of breaking 6 hours (which I think about 17 runners did this year), with the achievement of winning 25 consecutive silver medals in the Comrades. Again, tough one, but we're up for anything here!

So over the next week, we'll do our best to cover these interesting cases. At this early stage, I am going to find myself a nice seat on the fence, from where I can hedge my bets really nicely!

The reality is that ranking the performances is probably going to be impossible, because they are so different. But what we will do is look at the unique physiology that allows each of them to happen, because each is quite remarkable, though for different reasons.

By next week this time, we'll have looked at each case, please forgive us for some delays, but sometimes the demands of work keep us from the interesting questions!

See you soon!
Ross and Jonathan

P.S. Andrew once asked about supplements - I haven't forgotten, I'm just busy looking up some information and waiting for it to arrive, so that I can do the job right.


Andrew said...

70! And he ran that time! Any history on this guy? How many has he run before? It seems Comrades' result site is down, so I can't check myself.

alan sleath said...

Hi Andrew
Calie Beneke aged 70 race no 900
wait for it ran 7hrs23min aged 66 in 2003.Has run 32 comrades first in 1967 in 8hrs12 Pb in 1980 6hrs04
pos 17.Amazing athlete a felt he needed the recognition