Welcome to the Science of Sport, where we bring you the second, third, and fourth level of analysis you will not find anywhere else.

Be it doping in sport, hot topics like Caster Semenya or Oscar Pistorius, or the dehydration myth, we try to translate the science behind sports and sports performance.

Consider a donation if you like what you see here!

Did you know?
We published The Runner's Body in May 2009. With an average 4.4/5 stars on Amazon.com, it has been receiving positive reviews from runners and non-runners alike.

Available for the Kindle and also in the traditional paper back. It will make a great gift for the runners you know, and helps support our work here on The Science of Sport.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Chicago 2009 Preview

Predictions from Chicago: Sammy Wanjiru vs...?

Good morning from a cold, still dark, but as yet not too windy Chicago Marathon! Jonathan and I are sitting at the start line near Grant Park, preparing for the race, which sadly we're not running, but tracking from the IT center and medical tent.

Right now, the temperature is -1C, or 31F, and so with two hours to go to the start, the runners are in for a cold first few miles! The wind is a gentle breeze from the north-west, which will make the first few kilometers, in that direction, pretty biting!

All the talk, somewhat over-expectantly, has been around whether Sammy Wanjiru, the London and Olympic champion, can grab the world record of 2:03:59. That expectation, which requires that everything be absolutely perfect, from the pace-making, to Wanjiru's condition, and the weather, means that the race is likely to become about Sammy vs the clock.

We think that's too much to expect, though it's not because Wanjiru doesn't have a record performance in him. I believe on the right day, he would break that record. Earlier this year, he ran London in 2:05:10, after covering the first half in 61:45 (thank to an even faster first 10km). The second half of London was "tactical", and he still wound up running 2:05:10, which suggests that he has something quite a bit faster. That performance in Beijing suggests the same, and so I think Wanjiru is a real 'contender' to get that record.

However, for today, I think it should be seen as a bonus, because there are a few factors that may conspire against him. First is the wind - the northerly wind means that the last part of the race, perhaps 5km, will be run directly into it, and if the record is touch-and-go at 35km, it's likely to slip away. The cold temperatures may also be a touch too cold - it's not certain how Wanjiru will handle it.

Then there is the World Marathon Majors, which Wanjiru is odds-on to win overall. It means he will have a focus on finishing and securing that title, which may moderate his normally aggressive racing style somewhat. And finally, the only incentive I can see is for the course record. At least, nothing has been said about the world record in terms of financial bonus, and so it may be a factor that causes Wanjiru to shoot for a low 2:05 and not risk the Majors with a 2:03-something.

The prediction - Wanjiru to win, off the record

So I think what is likely to happen is that Wanjiru will start on record pace - he has in Patrick Ivuti a pacemaker who was winning this race two years ago. Ivuti is not in the best shape (otherwise, he'd be racing and not pace-making), but he should be good for a 61:50 to half way. After that, who knows? If Wanjiru feels brilliant, he may take it on. However, if I had to stick my neck out, I'd guess he'll assess that it's too breezy (assuming it picks up, of course), too cool, and there may be some pretty good company around him. He'll then slow down, and the section from 21 to 30km will drop the pace to around 2:06-projected.

The final 10 will resemble London and Wanjiru should win, despite some good competition.

So, the crystal ball calls it this way:

1. Sammy Wanjiru - 2:05:55 (after a first half of 61:57)
2. Tadese Tola - 40 seconds back
3. Abderrahim Goumri - a further 25 seconds down

Or, I'll probably be completely wrong! Time will tell!

Live split times:

The next post you'll see from me is a post on the split times. As I mentioned, we're stationed at the finish, and we're going to try to get live 1km splits. The race doesn't do this, by the way (they do 5km splits), and so we've got an ambitious project with 'spotters' located out on the course, and so we're going to do our best to catch the elites as they hit each kilometer.

So I'll do the usual live posting, with a table of 1km times. Let's hope it works! If not, I'll go with 5km times instead!

So join us throughout the morning (or afternoon, for those on the other side of the ocean!) for race coverage!



Unknown said...

Thanks for the analysis. Any thoughts on the female runners?

Kristanna said...

How do you spell Cutler? G.R.O.S.S.M.A.N.! He looked like crap! I live in Michigan and I was telling all my friends (mostly Lion fans) how awesome Cutler was and I got it served back to me at work today. We would have done better with Orton (who I always supported). Without Urlacher and a lousy offense we'll be lucky to beat anybody. I'll always be a Bear fan but this season I think I'm going to feel like a Lion fan. That means a losing season.

sd card