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Monday, April 13, 2009

Two Oceans Marathon

Two Oceans Marathon Recap: Paying the price for poor pacing

As promised, a brief recap of the Two Oceans Marathon is the topic of today's post. Many of you may have run the race (or the 21km), and are hopefully enjoying a well deserved day off work and off your feet today.

There are few more beautiful races in the world, as I'm sure anyone who ran will testify. The Cape Town weather played along this year, providing a cloudless sky and ideal conditions for running, although those who are coming out of a winter (northern hemisphere visitors, that is) would have found it warmer than they'd hoped. You can read the race report here - my post is more of a commentary on the tactics and the standard of running, as highlighted by the results.

The elite races produced two very different stories. In the men's race, the pre-race favourite was Marko Mambo of Zimbabwe, the defending champion and a winner of the race back in 2004 and 2005 as well. He was heavily favoured to win this year, mostly because the local runners are now so poor over the marathon that they would have to run a miracle to feature.

What Mambo didn't bargain on was a Kenyan - John Wachira. Kenyans have never really turned their attention to our races here in SA, and I don't expect Wachira's performance to start a trend (more on that later). But Wachira, a security guard who is now based in Johannesburg, seized upon a racing error by Mambo and took the title in a time of 3:10:06.

How it unfolded

The race went pretty much according to script for the first 54km (at least for Mambo, that is). The men's pack started pretty conservatively, and at times resembled a cycling peloton with small attacks coming off the front, with the main contenders sitting in and waiting. Those attacks were all by runners who lacked any credentials, so the main pack was content to let the jousting continue. For example, at one stage, two local athletes with marathon bests of 2:24 and 2:26 went off the front.

Consider that at the pace they were running, the marathon mark would be reached in about 2:21, and you realise that when a 2:26 man heads off the front, you'd be a fool to chase him. He'd have to run a PB by 5 minutes and then continue for another 14km. Little wonder that the South African men struggle to compete, given that a 2:20 marathon is now seen as "fast" by many in this country. Sadly, it's fast enough to win prize money in many races, and therein lies our problem.

The jousting continued up to the bottom of Chapmans Peak, at around 28km. The halfway mark was reached in 1:33, relatively slow. It was at this stage that some of the main contenders started to appear at the front. A small pack of about 10 athletes formed, including all the main protagonists. The surging continued, but this time, with a difference - the big names were now tracking those attacks.

It was a remarkable period of racing, considering that the finish line was still 27 km away. Imagine the elite field of London throwing in surges after 15km of the marathon and you get the idea. Moses Njodzi, himself a former Zimbabwean winner, was one of the first big names to throw in a surge, and he was immediately tracked by Mambo. Mambo then went straight by, and drove the pace on over the top of Chapmans Peak. That little surge-countersurge exchange reduced the size of the lead group to two - Mambo and Njodzi. Amazingly, the elite field had been trimmed with more than a half marathon to go. I'm told that the pace coming over Chapman's Peak was around 2:50 per kilometer, which partly explains why this would happen.

At the time, I remember being surprised at how early this was happening and how easily the race had been trimmed. Sitting in the commentary booth, I was assured that Mambo was in superb shape and was not making an error in judgement. And given that he'd won three times, it certainly seemed to be the decisive break.

However, as anyone will tell you, the Two Oceans race only really starts on the climb of Constantia Nek, a steep and winding climb just after the marathon mark. Perhaps it's the combination of the timing with the steepness, but this is a brutal climb, and it was here that the first signs of weakness appeared for Mambo. He looked laboured, but was by this stage well clear of second place. Just how far clear is impossible to say, because no time splits were being provided.

He crested the climb and began the long descent towards the finish line looking tired but with a large lead. The second man on the road by this stage was John Wachira, a 2:11 marathon runner who was looking far stronger. However, in the absence of time gaps, it was difficult to anticipate how secure Mambo was.

As it would transpire, very insecure. With 5km to go, we received our first time split of 1:21, which meant Mambo had 15 seconds per kilometer in the bank. With 3km to go, it was reported as 55 seconds, and it seemed as though Mambo had done enough to claim his fourth title.

However, as it turned out, that split was incorrect, much to everyone's surprise, including the TV commentators at the time, who declared that Mambo had a secure lead only seconds before he was caught by a fast finishing Wachira! With just under 2km to go, the lead changed hands and Mambo was gone. So dominant was Wachira's finish that he built a lead of 46 seconds in those final 2km.

Mambo therefore paid the price for his earlier efforts, over-commiting to the race over Chapmans Peak when he might have been a little more prudent. Wachira becomes the first Kenyan to win the race, only a day after I wrote that I didn't think that the best Kenyans would run here. I stand by that, by the way, because to me, a Kenyan with a 2:11 marathon is not the "best" Kenyan (given that most of their top men are running 2:07 these days). Wachira is a Johannesburg-based security guard who probably lacks the pure speed to feature in global marathons, but his 2:11 marathon makes him the class of the field in South Africa. Sadly, the size of our pond is shrinking and the bigger fish from elsewhere are moving in...

Women's race - a procession as normal for the Nurgalieva twins

Speaking of small ponds, South African women's running is in dire straits. Twenty five years ago, Helen Lucre, who was commentating with me, ran 3:52 to win the race. In those 25 years, the women's record in the marathon has plummeted by 10 minutes, training methods have improved, and yet South African women are now SLOWER than they were then. In the late 1980s, we had Frith van der Merwe, who ran a 2:27 marathon and a Two Oceans record of 3:30.

On Saturday, the best South African woman finished fourth, in a time of 3:59. Little wonder then that the Russian Nurgalieva twins, Elana and Olesya, have come to South Africa to bank their cheques for the last five or six years. Between Comrades and Two Oceans, the Nurgalieva twins have reduced local athletes to extras in their timed training runs. On Saturday, so dominant were they that they held hands over the finish line with a lead of 16 minutes, and effectively dead-heated the race. Rules don't allow dead heats, and so Elana was given the win ahead of Olesya, but it really was academic.

Third went to a Zimbabwean, Samukeliso Moyo, fully 16 minutes back, with South Africa's first finisher, Farwa Mentoor, a further minute down in fourth.

The sad dilemma for the race and the future of SA running

Sadly, this dominance by international runners does little for the appeal of the elite race to locals, as does the dominance of the men's race by non South Africans. In the absence of local interest, media interest dwindles and neutrals will never be attracted to the race. Most South African running people know who the Nurgalieva twins are, but very few care. So low was the media interest this year that the press truck that carries journalists on the route was cancelled.

Against this backdrop, the governing body for the sport in this country have remain unchanged and continue oversee a dramatic decline in our standards. They are quick to remind us that athletics provided South Africa's only medal in Beijing, as though this justifies their existence (and salaries). No change, no implementation of grand ideas, and meanwhile our races continue to support the GDP of our African neighbours. If that seems harsh, bear in mind that in the 1980s and 1990s, we had about half a dozen men running the Half Marathon in 61 minutes, and have produced winners in New York, the Olympics, Fukuoka, as well as three or four men ranked top 10 in the world lists.

What then should be done? Well, talk is cheap, to begin with, and much has been said by those in charge about their grand plans. Usually, they say the right things. Those involved in the sport will tell you that nothing is being done though. The biggest problem we face is that we have supported and rewarded mediocrity among our runners. When a man wins a marathon in 2:18, he is NOT fast. He is in fact very poor compared to global standards. Yet he's now fast enough to win locally, and so given the incentive to make money off running, we have succeeded in incentivizing mediocrity.

Our athletes race almost every weekend, and there is no long-term development strategy. This should commence with juniors, and a ten-year plan should be put in place to manage the athletes better. This begins in schools, but should be focused on what is, in South Africa, a very well developed club running scene. Unfortunately, given the abysmal quality of our coaches, we have reaped what we have sown, and expecting it to change with the same people involved is a day-dream. So for now, I am resigned to saying the same things for another generation at least.

Until the governing body, the clubs and the athlete's coaches recognize that we must benchmark against global standards, and then realize that changing the incentives is the only way to change behaviour, races like Two Oceans will continue to be money-machines for international athletes.

Apologies for the doom-and-gloom review of the race, but it's impossible, as a South African (especially one who coaches and is involved in the problem) to discuss local running without pointing out the problem. The saddest part of all is that every year, we produce hundreds of men who run 2:20 for the marathon, and can't turn a single one into a world class marathon runner. Only fifteen years ago, we had some of the best in the world. Much like the stocks of GM, Chrysler and Ford, SA athletics is in freefall, and now worth very little. Unlike those companies, we will have the same leadership for years...

My own Two Oceans from the commentary box

In the interests of finishing off positively, I had a good Two Oceans from behind a microphone making my commentary "debut". I'm sure there is room for improvement, but I did get to explain some of the research that was being done at the race, and hopefully dispel a few myths about dehydration, heatstroke and muscle cramps during my stints. I would have liked to do more race-specific commentary, but perhaps in the future, that will happen. My role instead was to comment on related aspects of physiology, like the heat, cramping athletes, physiology of running etc.

And like every other commentator, I was fooled by the provision of the split times in the elite men's race, and had pretty much given the race to Mambo, only to be proved incorrect!

But that not withstanding, it was a good experience and hopefully added some value to the broadcast and the race! Like this post, I hope!



Douglas Kretzmann said...

3:10 isn't even particularly fast. The first time I ran Two Oceans in 1979, it was won by Vincent Rakabaele in 3:08..

Nothing useful to add, only a memory:
twenty-five years ago, Helen Lucre and I ran for Phobians running club. I was the only Phobian to beat Helen that day, the first time I ran sub-4 at Two Oceans.

It's puzzling the SA runners are so slow now - seems like the incentives are much the same as they were in the 1980s 'when we were fast'. I'd have expected the opportunity to win dollars at US races would have produced more rational training/racing plans.
Do the mines still have running teams ?

Ross Tucker and Jonathan Dugas said...

Hi Douglas

Thanks for the comment and the info. You're right, the men haven't really improved either. I didn't mention that in this post, short of bemoaning how we used to produce 2:08 marathon runners every year, now we produce 2:18 runners.

I'm not sure how the racing scene has changed since 20 years ago. I have a feeling prize money was not the same back then. I seem to recall that Comrades introduced prize money in the 1990s. Fordyce even chose NOT to run Comrades in 1989 to run in a 100km race with money, if I remember correctly.

Two Oceans would have been similar. And if the two largest races only had prize money introduced in the 1990s, then the smaller races would almost certainly NOT have had them. So the introduction of prize money, particularly in the "second-tier" races, has created a culture where you can race mediocre times but survive.

The other big difference, which then feeds the first, is that the mines don't employ runners anymore. They're now "sponsored" by the big clubs (Mr PRice, Nedbank, formerly Harmony), and that means that the incentives are different. As I understand it, the mines would employ people to run, providing some form of security and decent management. Now, it would seem that athletes must run to justify their contracts, and unless those in control are wise enough to regulate that racing schedule, the system spirals ever downward.

One thing to remember is that for the sponsors/clubs, the incentive is not to help the athlete get better - it is to gain exposure and create a presence in local running. Agents live off commission, so rational training plans that produce victories in two years' time are not going to create wealth now, and therein lies a big part of the problem, from the part of the athlete, the coach, the manager and the agents.


Buli said...

Hi Ross,

Great article (great info, great analysis, well-written), as always. Thanks!

I just don't see why you say prize money is giving incentives to mediocrity. If people are motivated by money, wouldn't athletes train harder to beat others and ensure they got that prize money? That seems to work in many other countries, often attracting foreign talent that raises the stakes when local talent is not too competitive. For example, in my country (Portugal) you see not-too-fast Africans winning most races, even many 2nd tier ones. It seems we have a similar crisis of talent in long distance running... but I don't see how prize money could be an explanation. The root cause lies probably in the clubs (less grassroots activity) and perhaps in the fact that the African dominance makes locals feel they don't have a chance to succeed - the carrot is too far away to be worth pursuing it?

Keep posting!


Oliver said...

Some interesting points as usual, but some not so relevant imo.
The TOM website is down at moment so I can't verify some things exactly...but...

You are correct in the standards of marathon performances dropping, but not vis vis 15-20yrs ago, more like 7 yrs, when we had the likes of Syster coming 5th at London in 2:07, Ramaala's city marathon performances et al.
However it is even worse in Australia and England if you compare to the greats those countries had in the past and the amount of support elite athletes get in those countries.
Perhaps there is another more global reason for the shift, and SA is actually not so bad relatively.
If the coaches and admin in SA are so bad as you keep telling us, then what are the 'elite performance managers' and other fancily named experts getting paid for in Australia?
Not an excuse, but just giving relative global context

One of the things that I have been critical of the SA marathoners has been that they 'save' themselves for big city races rather than perform at OG, GG, WC etc for their country. We have seen the likes of Ramaala be competitive until halfway (at 2004 OG) then when he realises there is no easy win, he drops off, only to back up at NYC marathon.
Maybe its just a logical outcome of the fact that he can get more from a big city race than from the (lack of ) publicity afforded a championship winner in his country.

Anyway, food for thought- but the demographic of SA runner has changed. The pool from which the best came were from a disenfrachised background who knew that you could go froma 12hr/day digger 3,000m below to a supervisor by just performing in running for your mine.
Today there are many other options.

As for Two Oceans, what it is , is just a classic ultra like Comrades and the focus has been on winning it rather than on the winning times. It is not standard and by no means a measure of the health of the sport. Its greater contribution and role is to generate a big event for the city, and in that it succeeded with the bigest field in the Ultra in a few years and an oversubscribed half.
Where it could lift its game is in getting more internationals to the event (and by that I mean weekend warriors as well as good runners).
Put the city on the map. It lags behind Comrades in that respect.

As for performances itself, take away Magawana's two best times and Halberstadts' then the 3:07 which was run in 2007 is right up there. Take the nature of the course and its always a competitive issue rather than a record time issue.

As for incentives. They have not kept pace with the market nor inflation. In 1988 Magawana ran his best, won a top of range Jetta (todays's SA price more than double today's prize money) plus about R30K (again more than today), and he could make a living out of running by winning money and good mining job.
In fact he told us after the race that after also winning a Nissan Skyline (at Loskop?) prior to TOM he was selling that one and keeping the Jetta !
Actually less incentive these days.

Where I would think that the incentivised races has affected performances is where runners have chased TOM, Comrades etc to the detriment of their standard performances. Ngomane ran 2:13 in Feb (04?), 2nd in TOM then won Comrades and was 'the next big thing' ...he should gave been running 2:06 now but chased the $$ in short term ,possibly ill advised by his 'club'/corporation/managers.
There are other examples.

TOM is still a good high class classic and shouldn't be judged on performances.
If the IAU becomes something other than a 'little club' and 'championship' distances such as 50km get credibility and rewards, then perhaps we will again see better credentialled runners (Kenyans maybe even) use the TOM to set a fast qualifying time...because as it is TOM churns out the fastest 50km times in world en route year in year out -so the overall times can't be that bad in relation to that!

Until then it is just a non standard 'classic'.


Ross Tucker and Jonathan Dugas said...

Hi Buli

Fair questions. Let me give my take on it. The problem is that the prize money is not sufficient in most races. Two Oceans offers R150,000 for the winner, which is about 15,000 Euros. That's huge compared to most races. Most races around South Africa offer about 500 Euros (R5,000) to the winner.

The problem is that this small prize money attracts ALL the local athletes, because economically, these runners have to race to survive. I once coached a young guy, aged 18, and he felt obliged to run because he was his family's only source of income. His prize money (average of about R1000 per weekend) was feeding him, plus his whole family of six or seven!

So the athlete is compelled to race every weekend for tiny amounts of money. That means the standard will never improve to world class levels, because you simply can't race that often.

So the point is that the prize money is there, and encourages the guys to race often, but there is no athlete management allied to it. The governing body should control the incentive by offering performance bonuses, and the clubs should restrict participation of athletes. If the money was available, then the top athletes should be identified and placed on a programme where they don't have to run to make paltry money.

So to sum up, the problem is that we have talent at junior level, and over shorter distances. But there is no way for these talented athletes to survive this way, so they are compelled to step up and start running marathons when they are not ready. As a result, they join a large "pool" of runners who run 2:20 for the marathon. The prize money on offer is just enough to allow this, but not enough to incentive more selective racing and quality performances. The other point I must make is that we have about 2 races a weekend, so the competition is completely diluted - you very rarely get high quality fields, it's the same two or three athletes winning every week. And why run 2:10 when you can win in 2:20?

I don't know if that makes it any clearer.


Ross Tucker and Jonathan Dugas said...

Hi Oliver

I'm well aware of the global context, particularly in Australia. But to suggest that we need not be as critical here is to say that we can find solace in the fact that we're regressing less quickly as other nations. That's not good enough, in my opinion. And yes, you're right about Ramaala and Syster, but how does that change the interpretation of our current standards? If anything, it adds to the argument. The better global context should come from the USA, where a similar situation existed maybe 15 years ago, and look at them now, they must be in the top 5 nations for distance running.

I believe that we should still be producing world class runners. As you yourself point out, we've had 2:07 runners in the last 6 years, and a host of sub2:08 athletes before that. I dare say that if you compiled a list of the top distance running nations in say 1990, SA would rank pretty close to the top. That same list in 2009 would see us well down.

Aus and England would not have featured, even in the 1990s. Perhaps in the 1950s and 1960s, but then there are many reasons why that would change. But I think one would find that we are that bad, relatively.

So I stand by what I say - the standard of coaching and management is so poor in this country, and I know that because I've had dealings with many of our "best" coaches, as have colleagues of mine in the high performance research area.

On the note of athletes saving themselves for big city marathons, name them? Ramaala, and who else? The problem is that we don't have runners fast enough to do that anyway. Second best to Ramaala is a 2:12 guy, and he can't make big money in the big city marathons. So I don't think that is true. Maybe for Ramaala, but no others.

And then to the demographics - how has it changed? What does a poor, unemployed runner have today, these "many options"? I coached a young athlete a few years ago, and he used to sneak into half marathons every few weekends (the focus was to work on speed over 5,000m on track) so that he could make money. He could earn R1,000 a weekend, and that money had to feed him, plus six family members.

He was on a programme to provide education through a local college so that he could get employment, but he was unable to find work. Another athlete I coached had the same problem - a 1:52 800m at the age of 16, he was forced to give up track so that he could make a little bit of money. These guys have very few options, but the paltry prize money they can win by racing on the roads drives them to it. SO if anything, the options have become narrower and that is the problem

They are the same disenfranchised people, they just have no security that the mines would provide, and that is a crucial difference.

Then on Two Oceans, more international runners come for Oceans than Comrades, so I don't think it lacks behind. And it most definitely is a barometer for the health of elite running in this country. It's the second biggest race and attracts our best marathon runners, so of course you can judge the standard of SA running.

And to say that the 2007 time is up to standards set 20 years ago only demonstrates that we have not progressed. I hear you about the fact that it is a competitive race, but the natural evolution is to get faster, and bearing in mind that the marathon record has improved by 3 minutes over the same period, and Two Oceans is behind. Regardless of competitive, if the standard is improving the race would get faster.

I agree that incentives have not kept pace, which is a key part of how we have incentivized mediocrity. And the point you make about athletes choosing Comrades and Oceans to the detriment of their shorter running, well, that's pretty much the basis of the entire argument. But you have to ask what is required to allow that situation to develop? And the answer is improper incentivization (prize money at smaller races over marathon distances), poor athlete management, and bad coaching, which fails to create long term athlete development plans.


Oliver said...

I absolutely agree that the standard of SA marathoning has dropped over the last 7 to 10 yrs, but I don’t necessarily agree with the reasons given, which are mostly anecdotal. This doesn’t mean I am looking for an ‘argument’ with Ross, just throwing up some different possibilities.
I made the ‘global relativeness’ comment not because ‘if others’ standards are dropping, why shouldn’t SA’s, but to put it in context that perhaps there are reasons other than (perceived) mal-administration –which are said not to exist in the other countries mentioned- and moreover those countries specifically target ‘elites’ to gain a medal outcome rather than the masses.
Australia is a good example of declining fortunes. It has been the holder (once in retrospect) twice in the last 40 yrs, and has in past produced elites not as an anomaly but as a due course of a running culture that existed and no longer does.

So if you compare the two, then SA has been out pointing Aus in sub 2:18’s by 3 :1 over the last 3 yrs, 92% of SA’s times being set within the country vs zero for Aus and the latter not producing one sub 2:20 from a local ‘big’ marathon vs several in the 2:13-2:15 bracket for SA’s local marathons.
Sure those times are not world class, but we can also cynically muse over other reasons for the sub 2:10’s run locally in an isolated country many years ago…not an argument, just a thought.

So what are the Aussies reasons for the standards slipping? Poor high performance coaching and plenty of $$ are certainly not the case, so why would it necessarily be so in SA?

Are too many races a problem? SA is in the fortunate position of offering that smorgasbord for runners in general in SA, not only elites. You will be reminded of how lucky you are when you step in say Aus and find there is nothing. Keep it that way and perhaps reduce the incentives even further at races deemed non-essential to developing runners looking for buck, however that would be determined.
How do you stop a guy from looking after his family with his talent…which is why I thought that perhaps the Temane’s to Magawana’s had a better chance of being selective with their mine jobs prospects….don’t know , just a thought.

As for my comment on some of them underperforming at champs, sure that’s probably not a reason, just a gripe I have with them, and its not only Ramaala…if you look at underperformance since Thugwane’s victory you would see the names of those popping up at money races shortly after. Ok, not a reason for lack of performance…just an issue I have.

One could go on and on about it because the reasons may be wide and varied.
E.g. ‘what has happened to the ‘Anglo-Saxon’ SA’s who ran sub 2:15 times back then (Shaw , Halberstadt, Rose et al) or performed at TOM…
…the last group who ran 3:12 and lower at TOM were Halbestadt, Page, Chamberlain, Ewers- all prior to 1986, this year has none sub 3:35 (or in top 50) and last year one at 3:31 (44th)…..what is the reason for their demise which relatively is greater than that of the ‘black SA’s’ and the Anglo-Saxon Aussies…is that also mal administration, incentives etc etc…or do they have some special reason?

Its easy to get emotive over an issue which is close to you e.g. the way sport in general is administered…much better to coldly stare at the facts or lack thereof.

Oliver said...

Ok on to the Two Oceans performances and pacing itself, which was the gist of Ross’ post.

Is TOM really a marker of the performance standards of SA marathoners or on the contrary does it impact on (diminish) the performance.

On the former first, as I said earlier if you took a way the performances of Magawana (’88,’89) and Halberstadt (’81), then 6 of the remaining 7 all time top ten were set between ’04 and ’07, with only Sique’s ’97 time in 6th on the list as an outlier.
The argument about why the top 3 times have not been threatened notwithstanding (although Mambo was close in ’05) ...the list does not ‘correlate’ with the ‘highs’ and ‘lows’ of marathon performances, especially the lack of representation from the ‘90’s, when there were supposed to be better quality.
[And you can go further down the list too].

So a single year or even a few years trend tells nothing about the standard of marathoning- which we have agreed is bad anyway.

On the latter, there is a greater argument to be made, albeit somewhat anecdotal, that participation in TOM and Comrades have impacted on the marathon career of certain individuals, Ngomane in particular where he gave all out attempts in both.

Was this year in particular a bad year anyway, and was it badly paced? Probably no and definitely no on the two counts respectively.

Only dealing with the latter, because the former is subject to speculation re competitiveness of run etc:

From your post...
The comments about pacing are not supported by the splits of the race. I would be interested to look at video footage when I get it and look at the finer details, but…

“when a 2:26 man heads off the front, you'd be a fool to chase him…” It has always been thus, for 5min of TV glory..which is why they didn’t bother chasing.

“The halfway mark was reached in 1:33, relatively slow.” No, not really. Mambo’s halfway split was 26sec faster than in ’05 when he finished in 3:05:39 (2 sec outside Halberstadt) and only bettered by his split in ’06 when he was part of a huge group just under 1:30, and Njodzi ended up winning in 3:06.i.e. they went for it. imo a split of probably 1:31-32 would be needed to break the record.

“Mambo ….. drove the pace on over the top of Chapmans Peak. …..I'm told that the pace coming over Chapman's Peak was around 2:50 per kilometer, ….” Not supported by the splits. Mambo ran Chapmans to marathon 12sec slower than ’05 to reach it 14sec up on the ’05 split in 2:19:22. Perfect so far.

“on the climb of Constantia Nek, …. the first signs of weakness appeared for Mambo. He looked laboured, …..” Perhaps, but not due to his ‘heroics’. He finished slower in ’08 when he held on doing that split to finish 6min slower than ’05 in 52:04. There he had gone over Chapmans 45sec quicker than this year.

"Wachira, …. seized upon a racing error by Mambo…..
So dominant was Wachira's finish that he built a lead of 46 seconds in those final 2km."
Wachira benefited from Mambo slowing rather than a dominant finish. He would have caught him in ’08 as well (but not the other occasions)…perhaps Mambo can no longer ‘finish it off’ rather than due to his early pace.

"Mambo therefore paid the price for his earlier efforts, over-commiting to the race over Chapmans Peak when he might have been a little more prudent."Mambo ran exactly the pace necessary for a 3:05 or even under in line with (within seconds of at halfway) previous successful experiences that brought him 3 wins.

Just thought I would add some more perspective on the actual pacing on the day.


Anonymous said...

Wow, Oliver sure knows a lot.

Hey Oliver, maybe you should start a blog and do this kind of post, seeing as how you know everything.

What perspective, and delivered with the grace and elegance of aloofness that is usually reserved for aristocracy.

Oliver said...


Perhaps its because I would have waited for the actual accurate splits, then compared them with the freely available previous splits, before launching an attack on the poor pacing.

...or tried to make some correlation between the slowing of TOM times and general times.

That said, I agree wholeheartedly that SA marathoners are not as fast as they were.
And just not agreeing to stay onside :) :)


Oliver said...

One thing I forgot...general request please.

Does anyone have the accurate 50km splits for the race.
It would show where Mambo actually slowed, which is just useful to know , but more importantly it ties in with what I mentioned about IAU World 50Km Champs earlier.

We disagree (as usual :)) that TOM is less popular than Comrades to internationals. In particular in Australia TOM is not known at all even in ultra running circles and the only ones that run TOM are expat runners, and is not talked about on forums other than by expat runners.
Comrades is extremely well known in Australia and usually about 50 Aussies make the trek, some of them expats though, but whole threads are devoted to the race on forums, the race itself is followed 'live' on a forum and wait for it- the Aussies (not expats, sacrilege to them) host a Poor Mans Comrades on same weekend (supposedly for those who can't justify the expense) between Sydney and Gosford (96km)- they call it up and down, when its really north and south as both are at sea level- albeit with hills in between.

OK, back to IAU 50km. If splits are taken (esp at an IAU 'labelled race' which TOM and Loskop are) then the top three runners are subsidised to the WC , but more importantly the race can also claim and market the positions of those on world rankings.
The pancake flat Canberra marathon, with 50km option, claim the 'fastest 50km times in world' every year in their marketing newsletters. The race has grown in popularity and credibility. This is despite TOM having had much faster times on a much tougher course (we are talking 2:40's vs high 2:50's). Canberra also claim world age group records etc despite better times at TOM.

This has been pointed out to IAU and TOM and the latter has thanked for 'heads up' and had said that they will definitely make sure splits are submitted.

Unfortunately it appears that the timing mat at 50km may have malfunctioned...if this was not the case it would be good to know.

Rather than me talk about the deterioration in performances at TOM etc, I think - and TOM agrees- that this would be a great marketing tool for them.

Imagine (as I sugested earlier) the IAU 50km champs gains credibility as a WC (currently a B-grade boys club imo) and gets big prize money etc...that may put a whole new spin on the status of TOM.

You could even get internationals coming out to use it as their qualifying race, but also a swing from Comrades marathon and also something for local standard marathoners to aim for.

If the bodies and events around the world (its not only in SA where you get self serving) work together, then the future of the sport and TOM may be brighter.