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Monday, April 21, 2008

Boston Marathon Result and splits

Cheruiyot of Fire: Robert Cheruiyot wins his 4th Boston title in dominant style

Robert Cheruiyot fulfilled most people's predictions today, by winning the 112th Boston Marathon. But it was not so much the fact that he won as the manner in which he did it that was remarkable. He absolutely destroyed the field through his own front-running efforts, taking up the pace very early on in the race, keeping the tempo way below course record (2:07:14) schedule, and then attacking the field off that fast pace on the famed Newton Hills.

At one stage, the predicted finish time was on for sub-2:06, which is absolutely unheard of in Boston, and would have smashed the old record by over a minute! It was not to be, as Cheruiyot himself paid the price for his incredible front-running, and he ended the race running nearly as slowly as the women - he covered the final 2.2 km in 7:03, which is only 4 seconds faster than the women, who were involved in a great race for the line (see below)! Ultimately, Cheruiyot came home in 2:07:46, 32 seconds outside record pace.

However, by then, the damage had been done, and he had created gaps of minutes over his nearest rivals. The table below, followed by the graph, show the splits and a summary of how the race unfolded.

The graph below shows the time PER MILE over the course of the men's race (click on the figure to enlarge and read the text - apologies for the small size!):

Incredible front running in the middle of the race

It's clear that after a slow early pace (very slow for the first three miles), Cheruiyot decided to lift things - he said in the post-race interview that this was his tactic. Just how much he lifted the pace was remarkable - between 5km and 30km, the pace never dropped slower than 3:00/km.

In fact, this 25km stretch, which includes a few hilly sections, was covered in 1:13:52, which equates to an average pace of 2:57/km. That equates to a marathon time of 2:04:40. Given the course profile, which is hardly a Chicago, Berlin or London course, this is incredible running. To have run this from the front, without pacemakers, is even more remarkable, and testimony to the kind of form that Cheruiyot carried into Boston.

The gaps that eventually gave Cheruiyot the victory were created soon after the start of the Newton Hills at 17 miles. At this stage, four men were together, but between 17 and 18 miles, Cheruiyot moved to the front, ran a 4:52 mile on one of the Newton Hills, and the race was over. It was the decisive move, though Cheruiyot continued to grow his advantage, opening up a lead that would end at 1:18 over Morocco's Bouramdane.

The final 10km were a real struggle for Cheruiyot (and everyone else!), thanks to the searing pace that broke the race up. He built a lead, but his earlier efforts saw the pace drop to slower than 5min/mile (3:06/km), and eventually, he missed his own course record, finishing in 2:07:46 instead.

Nevertheless, a dominant performance, against an admittedly weaker field than he might encounter in Beijing (should he be picked, which seems likely), and evidence yet again that Kenya has some serious marathon talent at its disposal - if you think back to a week ago, on ONE DAY, THREE KENYANS BROKE 2:06, and now Cheruiyot has confirmed that he, despite his slower time, is right up there in the talent stakes and must be a sure pick for the Beijing race. Their Olympic Marathon team will be a remarkable one!

Women's Race: Fantastic sprint down the straight as Tune wins closest ever finish!

The women's race was no less spectacular, though the characters might have been somewhat unexpected. All attention before the race was on Jelena Prokopcuka, twice second in Boston, and this year's pick for the title. However, a rather topsy-turvy and erratic women's pace saw Prokopcuka first take on the pace soon after halfway, and then get dropped when the pace was stepped up at about 25km!

It was left to somewhat unheralded runners in the form of Dire Tune, and Alevtina Biktimirova, to create a fantastic final sprint down the finish straight. The two of them were alone for the final 10km, and the pace they set was searing. In the end, it was Tune of Ethiopia who prevailed in the final 300m, winning the race by the narrowest margin in history - 2 seconds, in a time of 2:25:25. The table below shows how the winner's race was put together.

A race of two halves and fantastic finishing

The women's race was really a race of two halves - the halfway mark was reached in 1:14:45, on course for a pedestrian 2:29:30. It was soon after this that Prokopcuka went to the front, and pace was picked up very slightly. However, at 25km, things really started to happen, as Biktimirova and Tune moved clear, with Jeptoo of Kenya. This 5km split would be run in 16:47, a pace of 3:21/km (a 2:20 marathon).

From then on, it just got faster and faster, despite the hilly profile of the second half! The subsequent 5km splits were all covered in faster that 3:20/km, and ultimately, the second half would be run in 70:40, which is absolutely remarkable given the Newton Hills that fall in this period!

Coming into the final 2km, the two women were side by side and attacking each other! No one made a decisive move, and then with about 700m to go, Tune moved clear with a big surge! She opened about 5m over Biktimirova, but it too was not decisive. Biktimirova bridged that gap, then went clear herself, opening a 5m gap of her own! This too was closed down, and with 300m to go, despite three changes of lead, two gaps of 5m, no one had yet shaken the other!

Finally, with the finish in sight, Tune found something extra, moved clear, held that gap, and then with 100m to run, Biktimirova was broken and it was Tune who went on to win what was the closest finish in history! Her margin of 2 seconds beat the previous gap of 10 seconds (Jeptoo beating Prokopcuka). The eventual winning time was 2:25:25, which is incredible given how slowly the halfway point was reached.

The final 2km, as mentioned, were covered in about the same time as Robert Cheruiyot covered his final 2km, testimony to how fast the women were running, and how much the great Kenyan had done earlier in his race!


There's more to come from Boston - we'll bring you discussion of the race, insights, analysis, some quotes and more detailed reports tomorrow. A great race, and (yet another) Kenyan major marathon triumph - you have to go back an awful long time to find the last non-Kenyan to win a Major Marathon. In fact, here's a bit of trivia - if you take London, New York, Chicago and Boston (I'm excluding Berlin because it's not really much of a race these days, more a record attempt time-trial), who is the last non-Kenyan to win the race? That's for discussion tomorrow, join us then!



FatDad said...

Um, wow. Amazing to call two majors in both sexes so well! Kudos.

Dave B said...

Thanks for the analysis of the Boston Marathon (and other races). I just stumbled across your blog and enjoy the scientific perspective on running and other sports.

Anonymous said...

Excellent analysis (as always). Thanks for providing the link to wcsn, I managed to follow the race on the web and it was great fun watching.

To answer your trivia questions are these close -
- Negussie, Hailu (ETH) won the Boston marathon in 05.
- Gezahegne Abera (ETH) won the London marathon in 03.
- Lee, Bong-Ju (KOR) won the Boston marathon in 01.

Christopher Tassava said...

Agreed - great coverage and great analysis. The most recent non-Kenyan Majors winner, though, was Marilson Gomes dos Santos of Brazil, who won New York in 2006.

Ross Tucker and Jonathan Dugas said...

HI everyone

Thanks for the responses and compliments.

On the note of the Kenyans, quite right - 2006 in New York was won by a non-Kenyan, a surprise winner that year. Other than this, London was last won in 2003 by Ethiopian, Boston in 2005 also by Ethiopia, and New York previously by Ramaala of SA.

We're looking at a post on the Kenyan dominance, which is extra-ordinary, particularly in Boston, but across all the majors. Obviously, this excludes Berlin, which is Gebrselassie's race these days, and probably will be in 2008 as well.

It's interesting to note that only 3 weeks ago, Kenya was pushing the panic button because of their poor showing in Edinburgh at World X-Country, and are now utterly dominant in the marathon, and of course, they're different events, but I find it intriguing that perhaps the gap has been narrowed over shorter distances and they may soon find their marathon dominance eroded as well.

We'll post on this soon! Thanks again!


adventurelisa said...

Heya Ross,

I got to gym early on Monday (a little after 4pm) to watch the race on telly there. I climbed on the treadmill about 45-mins into the women's race - I enjoy running "with" the pros.
Well, with 800m to go in the women's race and such excitment the power went out. Yes, indeed it was 18h00 loadshedding time!
Fortunately the generators kicked in and the screen on my treadmill powered up. I caught the last mile of the mens race and had to wait to find out who won the women's race.
Nonetheless, it was a gutsy and exciting race.
As I don't get to watch many of these races I don't know whether it is customary to start the women's race at an earlier time? I quite liked it - gave the women some focused attention.

adventurelisa said...

Something else I remembered... the one commentator said that Cheruiyot is 6'1" and that the average height of marathon champs is 5'7".

If you add little Kebede in Paris and now tall Cheruiyot in Boston you'd perhaps average 5'7".

Hahaha. Lisa

Anonymous said...

You have a superb blog. Thank you for taking the time to do so much so well.

I have been going to the Boston Marathon for more than 30 years (running it once myself), and I have NEVER seen the elite men haul by at mile 10 like the group on Monday. I knew it had to be on record pace. You could literally see the beads of sweat on Cheruiyot's forehead, and it was cool with a little headwind. The pace was indescribable. It literally brought tears to my eyes.

Unfortunately, by comparison, the rest of the field looked like they were sticking to the pavement. :)

Ross Tucker and Jonathan Dugas said...

Hello Linda

Thank you for your kind words and compliments!

I agree that the men's race was a remarkable performance. It's a real pity the men's field was so weak, with the exception of Cheruiyot, because that kind of aggressive front running would have made for an amazing race had there been 3 or 4 men capable of sub 2:06 performances, as there were in London the week before. Now that would have been an amazing race. Bring on the Olympics!