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Sunday, January 18, 2009

Haile Gebrselassie Dubai splits

Haile Gebrselassie's splits from Dubai

Following on from yesterday, here are the splits from Haile Gebrselassie's 2:05:29 in Dubai. Thanks to Ray for pointing out the LetsRun thread with some splits, but especially to Sean Hartnett, who kindly provided these detailed times from the race (Sean was responsible for the "RaceTracker", which was featured before the race in an IAAF article. Thanks Sean, hope your food poisoning has been conquered!)

The graph shows the splits from Dubai, compared directly to those from Berlin last year, when the 2:03:59 record was set. I've indicated the pace required for the world record with the dashed purple line, but bear in mind that the numbers you see are a direct comparison between the races.

The boxes at the bottom are the comparison. Dubai is shown in blue, Berlin in Orange, and then the green and red boxes show the time difference in the 5km intervals between the two (green when Geb is ahead of the record from Berlin, red when he is behind). At the top of the graph I've shown the overall gap between Berlin and Dubai. (you might need to click on the graph to enlarge - had to squeeze information in)

Brief analysis

It's very apparent what transpired in Dubai - the record was on up to about 30 km, and then the final 10km cost him enormous time. The weather reportedly worsened at about 35km, which would seemingly track the gradual slowing down. Bear in mind that in Berlin, Gebrselassie finished astonishingly fast - his final 10km were covered in 29:09! So given that he was 8 seconds faster than Berlin at the 30km mark, he still required an exceptional finish in Dubai.

In fact, he needed to speed up - his time at 32km was 1:34:17, which meant that he needed to run the final 10.2 km in 29:43, which is a pace of 2:54.8/km. That is the SAME SPEED as he finished with in Berlin (a 29:08 10km), and is FASTER than he'd been going up to that point (2:56/km), even without the weather complication.

Therefore, the weather ultimately put paid to any hopes that may have existed. However, as I wrote yesterday, I don't think it would be correct to say "the weather denied him the record". That assumes that the record was a guarantee, and given that he need to at least match the spectacular finish in Berlin, the outcome in Dubai was anything but certain. Very importantly, he needed it without any company (the pacemakers were gone by then. Berlin was a little different), and that would have been tough, even on a good day. So what the weather did is deny him the CHANCE - he had put himself in an excellent position, equal to Berlin, but he still needed a mighty good last 10km. I guess we'll never know.

One other observation - the early pace in Dubai was quite conservative - 14:50 for the first 5km, and then it really started to pick up. That slower than in Berlin (which was too quick), and different from previous years. I can't say that's down to anything. The other amazing thing is the consistency of pacing between about 10km and 26km. Apart from one 'aberration' at 22km, he reeled off 16 consecutive kilometers within two seconds of 2:55. Quite amazing.

So that's the splits, as promised. The rest of the week holds the promise of some more (hopefully) interesting discussion of physiology of performance. Also, the Australian Open, the year's first Grand Slam, starts tomorrow, and might warrant a post, if I can get my hands on some interesting data I once saw regarding it!

Join us then!


Anonymous said...

Doc, very good analysis, as usual. One of the reasons I read your e-newsletters and visit the site is because you put seriously intelligent, well thought out, comprehensible ideas and analysis into what you write, unlike editors at, say, Triathlete (USA) or some other publications, who frequently pretend to be students of the topics on which they write.

It's interesting, but not unique, that Geb's not raced well against other top-tier runners and that he's somewhat avoided it. Maybe he's not competitive in that sense -- battling against others head to head. However, as a time-trialer, he's the man. Perhaps the message is that competition is how we define it. (This coming from a guy who's got a Bachelor's in sport sociology and should know better than to suggest that...but I am one to push people's thought process!)

Think about it...he's out there to prove, on his terms, that faster world records are out there. He's an inspiration to millions of runners who will never race, per say, but participate in races and only shoot to improve their personal time. There's something to be said for that. I'd be fascinated if Tiger, or Lance, or other went out to do the same -- perform for a world record only to show that "Yes, you can, if you put your mind to it!" for anyone in their own sport.

Anonymous said...

Your welcome,

Of course for Geb's detailed race splits, I can not compete with the developer of the Race Tracker:

- Ray

Anonymous said...

Good articles as always guys.

One thing that we all seem to be forgetting about Geb, is that during his track reign, he was THE racer. His game plan in any competitive and/or championship race was to beat the opposition. never to chase a time. and beat them he did. i can't recall how many times i watched him sitting on the shoulder of the lead man, waiting and waiting. he was a tactical genius who used his weaponry (basically a monster kick) to his best advantage. Ask Paul Tergat whether he considers Haile to be good at racing the top guys.

Anyway, he won it all, almost always in this fashion. Olympic titles, World Titles, many world records en route. I'm not surprised he is focussing on times now. Why does he need to add a World Marathon title to his collection of World Titles? What he is after now is a marathon world record that he can really be proud of and be confident (or hopeful at least) that it will stand up to some rigorous testing at the hands of the world's best marathon runners in years to come.

That's it. Love the site guys, just felt someone had to point out these things in the face of some unfounded Haile criticism.

mcgrathe said...

Mark, good point about Gebreselassie - he definitely has proven himself as a racer and his place as possibly greatest distance runner ever is fairly secure. However, records notwithstanding, he hasn't yet proven himself the greatest marathon racer of all time. In one sense, it reminds me a bit of the El Guerrouj era of the late 90s - undoubtedly the greatest 1500m runner in the world, but until he won the Olympics in 2004, his legacy wasn't complete.

As Hammstah says, it also depends on how we define competition. Times and records are important because they allow us some measure of comparison between athletes that never or rarely competed against each other, but at the moment, I would not make Gebreselassie overwhelming favourite for London, were he to enter it.

Anonymous said...

A reply to Hammstah's quote was purely ridiculous. Although you have a degree an all, Haile remains to be racing at top form and has proven that even in the best of competion, he can pull off wins. Maybe i sense jealousy from a man who was a WANABErUNNER? So according to my analysis doctor culo, your comment has nothing on us Ethiops. Go write about your alan webb or something. But please leave the King of Distance out of this!!!

Ross Tucker and Jonathan Dugas said...

Good grief

What a great debate until Anonymous joined it at the end there. Thanks to Hammstah, Mark and mcgrathe for their very thoughtful opinions and arguments. But to anonymous, I'm not even going to waste time responding to what must rank as some of the stupidest opinion we've had here in nearly two years. You arrive with blind patriotism, zero thought, insults about our own running ability, zero constructive contribution, and a defensive attitude that moves the argument backwards.

So let me rather address the other commenters:

To Hammstah

Good points, and you're absolutely right. I certainly don't wish to detract from Geb's inspiration. I've watched him since 1995 and he is my favourite runner of all time, for all the things he has achieved. And I believe him to be the greatest of all time, thanks to his range and success over many years. However, I'd still say he's not the best marathon runner in the world today, and he'll retire having never won a marathon against another top 5 ranked runner. The essence of sport is competition, and I guess one could rightly argue that Geb competes against history/the clock. But he's been beaten every time he races against other top marathoners, and I'm just a little disappointed that his will be a career that ends without the full marathon picture.

To Mark

You're right. I think Geb has found the marathon a different proposition when it comes to tactics. I recall that his first race in London went bad because he reportedly didn't drink until too late. Then the next time it was wet conditions, then the next was breathing problems brought on by cold air. It seems that he's found difficulties dealing with a competitive marathon. That doesn't detract from his legacy as a great racer - as I wrote to Hammstah above, I would still consider him one of the great runners of all time, perhaps the greatest. But I wouldn't ever be convinced that he is the greatest marathoner, because he can't win (and now doesn't race) in competitive races.

So the context of the opinion is very specific - Gebrselassie as a marathon RACER, which is why I believe it's not unfounded criticism. It's his choice, of course, and good luck to him. He does so much good with his status that I can't begrudge him that. But I agree with mcgrathe - if he lined up in London, he'd be third favourite, and that's something I'd love to see him change.

Then to mcgrathe, I agree, as I said above. Again, doesn't take away what's been achieved, but he hasn't proven his marathon racing credentials. Should we care? I suppose not. But clearly some people do, and I'd love to see him race.

Thanks again!

therealmince said...


Thanks for your response. I see the specific nature of your opinion relating to Geb's marathon racing performances and I can't argue with that.

I think he did get his fingers burnt the first couple of times he raced competitive marathons, and realised his technique on the track didn't translate as well as he'd have liked. For that reason he has leaned towards chasing even-paced fast times and I think that's fair play to him.

I would love to see him racing the top guys in London but I fear they would have his number and I would hate to see the curtain come down on such a great career with a series of marathon defeats. He has identified his weakness and adapted accordingly. So the world is left to speculate as to how he would get on against the big boys.

A phrase my Dad used to like comes to mind, if you'll excuse the tenuous link "...tis better to keep your mouth shut and be thought a fool, than to open it and remove all doubt".

Go Geb. I hope he finds another WR performance before he hangs up his racing flats for good.

mcgrathe said...

I just had an interesting thought. Given the various issues discussed so far, what would happen if Sammy Wanjiru (or one of the other 2 or 3 runners capable of beating Haile) turned up in Berlin?
Would the pacemaking and record attempt burn them off, or might they be able to pick off the record themselves?

Anonymous said...

Good discussion, well mostly...

I can see a strong argument that Geb hasn't found the winning strategy for himself in a competitive marathon. Doesn't mean there isn't one, but perhaps he has decided not to 'waste' some of his limited number of peak marathons on the search.

Could he sit on Wanjiru's shoulder through multiple surges? Would it be smart to let Wanjiru surge and run a steady pace until he came back, in spite of having to run without someone in front of him until it happened? Who would go with the surge and who would stay with a steady pace in this scenario if there were a number of runners in the front group?

No one has the answer, and we may never have it. Not to be obsessed with just two runners, since there are a few potential winners here; it is just Wanjiru proved willing to front run and Geb more inclined to an even early effort with a huge final push. If Wanjiru went to Berlin and ran past the pacers it'd be interesting.

Anonymous said...

Not exactly on the topic of Geb, BUT... I wanted more info on these splits:

has anyone seen the base data for this article? I want a more thorough analysis...


Ross Tucker and Jonathan Dugas said...

Hi Steve

Yeah, I saw them, and it's very interesting. I will definitely do a post or two on the article, probably only next week though.

Not sure how much more analysis is possible unless the statistician releases the data or publishes it.

But here's hoping...