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Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Marathon season is upon us!

Spring races loom on near horizon

As some of us slog through the last vestiges of the northern hemisphere winter, the spring marathon season approaches. Being an Olympic year adds to the excitement as many Olympic hopefuls will use a spring marathon to gauge their preparation. We have focused quite a bit on more technical posts recently, and with the racing season approaching we will take a turn towards more performance analysis. Let's take a look at what this spring will offer!

London has become legendary due to the intensely competitive fields they compile, while Paris has long been relegated as a second-tier race with a less competitive field, in spite of having "IAAF Gold Label Road Race" status. Having said that, however, it did have 35,000+ starters last year and nearly 27,000 finishers. The racing in France is this weekend (6 April) but does not see any big names toeing the line for the 25,000 Euros up for grabs. If the male winner breaks 2:11:45 and if the female winner breaks 2:23:15 that purse doubles to 50,000 Euros, which interestingly is not very different from the prize money and bonuses on offer at London.

The field for Paris reads like a "who's who" of second-tier races. Only two runners Takaoka Toshinari and Tola Tesfeye have sub-2:07 performances. None has a major marathon victory, although Toshinari was third in Chicago 2002 (2:06:13) and Joseph Ngolepus was third in London 2003 (2:07:57). The top five starters have PB's within 90 s of each other, so perhaps it could be a competitive race? As a side note, the organizers of the Paris Marathon are Amaury Sport Organisation, or ASO, who also organize the Tour de France and a number of other big French sporting events.

London brings the guns. . .again

Although Rotterdam is also on 13 April, something tells us that most eyes, including ours, will be focused on the racing in London. Yet again the organizers have assembled an incredible field. Those who are committed and still in the race include:

  • Felix Limo (KEN), 2:06:14, 2006 race champion
  • Emmanuel Mutai (KEN), 2:06:29, 2007 ING Amsterdam Marathon champion
  • Sammy Wanjiru (KEN), 2:06:39, 2007 Fukuoka Marathon winner; half-marathon world record holder
  • Martin Lel (KEN), 2:06:41, defending champion/2005 race champion and 2007 NYC champion
  • Hendrick Ramaala (RSA), 2:06:55, 2004 ING NYC champion
  • Jaouad Gharib (MAR), 2:07:02, two-time world champion
  • Stefano Baldini (ITA), 2:07:22, 2004 Olympic Marathon gold medalist
  • Yonas Kifle (ERI), 2:07:34, 2005 World Half-Marathon Championship bronze medalist
  • Abderrahim Goumri (MAR), 2:07:44, 2007 NYC and London runner-up
  • Ryan Hall (USA), 2:08:24, U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials champion
  • Luke Kibet (KEN), 2:08:52, 2007 world champion
  • Aleksey Sokolov (RUS), 2:09:07, 2007 adidas Dublin Marathon winner
  • Meb Keflezighi (USA), 2:09:53, 2004 Olympic Marathon silver medalist
Noticably absent are Paul Tergat and Haile Gebrselassie, although this field still contains proven champions from a number of high-level races. Admittedly runners like Ramaala and Baldini have not done much since their big years of 2004 when Baldini won gold in Athens and Ramaala won the NYC marathon, but Lel has proved to be perhaps the best tactical marathoner ever while Goumri has lost to him twice last year and surely represents a threat. And we cannot exclude Gharib, either, who lost to Ivuti on the line in Chicago last year and also is a two-time world champion.

We will get stuck into a more detailed preview next week when the final media guide for this year's race is released, so be sure come back for a more detailed analysis then.


For the record, Rotterdam is also being run on Sunday, 13 April, and the organizers claim to have assembled the best field the race has ever seen. It includes five athletes with sub-2:07 PB's and six more who have run better than 2:08:
  • Robert Cheboror (Kenya) 2.06.23, 2004 Amsterdam champion
  • William Kipsang (Kenya) 2.06.39, 2003 Amsterdam champion
  • Paul Kiprop Kirui (Kenya) 2.06.44, 2006 Rotterdam runner-up
  • Richard Limo (Kenya) 2.06.45, 2007 Amsterdam runner-up
  • Driss el Himer (France) 2.06.48 Paris (4) 06-04-2003
  • Joshua Chelanga (Kenya) 2.07.05 Berlin (3) 26-09-2004
  • Benjamin Maiyo (Kenya) 2.07.09 Chicago (2) 09-10-2005
  • Salim Kipsang (Kenya) 2.07.29 Berlin (3) 30-09-2007
  • Rodgers Rop (Kenya) 2.07.32 Hamburg (1) 29-04-2007
  • Francisco Javier Cortez (Spain) 2.07.48 Hamburg (2) 22-04-2001
  • Jimmy Muindi (Kenya) 2.07.50 Rotterdam (1) 10-04-2005
  • Daniel Kipkoech Yego (Kenya) 2.08.16 Roma (3)13-03-2005
  • Solomon Bushendich (Kenya) 2.08.52 Amsterdam (1) 15-10-2006
  • Elijah Chemwolo Mutai (Kenya) 2.09.27 Chunchon (1) 23-10-2005
  • Daniel Rono (Kenya) 2.09.36 Toronto (2) 30-09-2007

While London's field has outpaced Rotterdam's in recent years, we should not forget that not too long ago Rotterdam held the World Record for the marathon and attracted the fastest runners. It is truly a fast course that can produce exciting racing.

112th Boston Marathon

Following London and Rotterdam by one week is the historical Boston Marathon. Again, we will save the in-depth preview for later, but suffice to say here that the notable entries on the men's side are 2007 Chicago champion Patrick Ivuti and 2006 Chicago and Boston champion Robert Cheruiyot.

Moving into May we will see the African Champs, which surely will be an important event for countries such as Kenya and Ethiopia as they make final Olympic selections, and then in June we see the start of the IAAF Golden League. By then we will be stuck into full Olympic mode, and every race will be an important indicator of who is showing form or not in the pre-Beijing run up.

For now please keep the debate and discussion going on running technique. It has been lively and very interesting so far, and join us next week for the full London preview!