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Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Rotterdam Marathon splits

Rotterdam Marathon splits and comparison to last year

Well, better late than never, I always say!  Jonathan managed to hunt down the split times from the weekend's Rotterdam marathon, which by now, you probably know was won by Patrick Makau of Kenya in the 2:04:46.  It makes him the fourth fastest marathon runner in history, and the way the race was won suggests that Makau's name can now be added to the list of men who have a realistic shot at breaking the current world record.  The Rotterdam race also produced the fastest fourth placed finisher ever, as pointed out by the guys at Letsrun.com - a 2:05:23 by Feyisa Lelisa (only 20, maybe himself a contender for a 2:04 some day) good enough for fourth!

It really is a remarkable era for men's marathon running.  The list of men who are capable of breaking that record is growing every time a major marathon is run - Gebrselassie has done it, Wanjiru, Lel, Kebede, Kibet, Kwambai (though since his 2:04:27 he has had two forgettable performances), and now Makau.  You might even add Geoffrey Mutai to that list (a sub-2:05 performance is worthy, even if it was in second!).  And I'd add Zersenay Tadese to it as well.  These are indeed great days to watch men's marathon running!

The splits from Rotterdam

So as I said, Jonathan managed to track down the splits, which are graphed below, along with some comments in the boxes.  We have received a good few emails from you about the wind, which certainly seems to have derailed the record from 20km onwards.  Thanks for the mails, by the way!

The graph supports this - you can see below how the pace in the 2010 race was faster all the way to 20km.  At that point, the projected time was 2:03:40, and the pace was 28 seconds faster than in 2009.

Then the race turned (literally), and the wind seems to have affected the pace.  The 10km stretch from 20km to 30km was covered in 30:19 (2:07:55 pace, to give you an idea of just how much the pace changed). 

The pace did start to increase again at 25km, but it never reached the levels of the 2009 Kibet-Kwambai duel, and by 30km, the 2010 race was 5 seconds behind the 2009 race, a swing of 33 seconds in this interval.

From 30 to 40km, the "gap" opened even more, and 2010 was 42 seconds slower than 2009 at 40km.  That happened despite, or perhaps because of, the surges in pace that the runners seemed to be putting in over this interval.  It was aggressive racing, albeit at a slower pace than the year before.

A final observation is that the final 2 km were covered much faster in 2010, which does suggest that Makau has a little more in the bank.  He said as much after the race, saying "Of course I was capable of doing the world record, if there was not a strong wind".  I think it comes across a little more confident than intended after translation, but the point remains, Makau finished fast - 23 seconds faster than Kibet in 2009, giving him the 2:04:46, 19 seconds slower than the race last year.

How much faster can he run?  Kwambai has learned the hard way that great performances don't predict future great performances, even when you feel that the training has been perfect.  Twice now, he has been reduced to walking in the final 10km of marathons, and Letsrun are reporting that he covered the final 7km in about 40 minutes, and basically walking the whole of the last kilometer.

Makau may experience the same in the future, but after a 2:06:14 on debut, and a 2:04:46, he'll enter his next marathon marathon (Berlin, New York, Chicago?) with a target firmly on his back and aspirations of the world record.  We look forward to it!



Jan said...

Was it just the stronger wind? I thought the pace was incredible high to start with. Decimating the headgroup rapidly in the first couple of kilometers.

~ Chi

Ross Tucker and Jonathan Dugas said...

Hi Jan

Probably a contributing factor, yes, but the pace wasn't THAT fast - sure, it was world record pace, but it was only 1 sec/km faster than that, not the kind where the guys will blow massively as early as 20km. Perhaps had they maintained it, we would have seen a drop at 30km, where it suddenly fell to 3:10/km. This happened to Geb in Berlin.

But to me, the fact that it first slowed as early as 20km, and then picked up again at 30km suggests that most of the drop was down to the wind. Not all, of course. That's why it's such a pity - the record may have been on otherwise. Or a spectacular melt-down in the last 5km!


Thomas (NL) said...

It seems that Makau actually said "maybe" he would have broken the world record despite the wind - if only he had started his final surge a bit earlier.

By the way, according to a Dutch newspaper report Makau's preparation was far from perfect: After his marathon debut in Rotterdam last year, he suffered from knee problems for ten months. He still tried to run the New York Marathon but dropped out after 15km. Preparing for Rotterdam, according to his manager Zane Branson he did the first training run longer than 25km only two weeks before the race. What can we expect from him if he is well-prepared and completely fit?

Dutch TV interview with Makau (in English) and race manager Brommert (in Dutch) at http://player.omroep.nl/?aflID=10840007 - first interview in that programme. At the end, Makau was asked whether he will run Rotterdam again next year or "go for the money" - he said he will come back, but only after some hesitation. I didn't understand what Brommert said after "and if you come to London ..."

Ross Tucker and Jonathan Dugas said...

Hi Thomas

Thanks for the information.

Interestingly, Letsrun.com are talking about his excellent preparation. A quote from him: " "If you train, [and] you train hard," Makau said, "Then most of the times you win easily. So [this year] is not like last year. I had done just little training. So I finished last year and I was so tired."

That seems to say that he trained even LESS last year than this one! I did see however that he ran a half marathon in 66 minutes in January, but then only 2 months later, was down to 59:51 to win a half marathon in The Hague.

So interesting build up for sure.

I guess it's always tricky to know what the athlete has done, because it does change with the benefit of hindsight! Perhaps had he run poorly, this would have emerged much more!

As for next year, I really can't see Rotterdam keeping him. The Majors simply have too much pull. It seems time that Rotterdam became a Major race, by the way - it's right up there with the others now, and it could attract even better fields with the Major incentive. But I think the bigger purses of London will be tough to beat, unless Rotterdam gets the status and money of those races.


Steve said...

Kudos to Kwambai for finishing the race. I always find it distasteful when elite runners try to think strategically and drop out of races if they aren't in contention. I can see their logic (saving for other races), but I find it admirable when people finish what they started, even if it's not going as well as they hoped.

Thomas said...

Which half marathon did Makau run in January? The Dutch Wikipedia page for Makau (for some reason more detailed than the English one) mentions six half marathons in less than an hour (personal best 58.52, Ras al-Khaimah 2009) and two more in 1:00:00 and 1:00:08.
So January seems to be an outlier - either he was still seriously injured or conditions were particularly tough. It wasn't Egmond, also in the Netherlands - that race (7km beach, about 10 km dunes) was cancelled this year due to snow and ice.

As to Rotterdam becoming a Major race, I wonder if the other races would welcome them - it's so close in time to London, at least in one year it was even on the very same day. And even if race organization and running times can compete (and the budget might become competitive), Rotterdam as a city doesn't quite have the appeal of Boston, New York, Chicago, London and Berlin ... .

Both major Dutch marathons, Rotterdam and Amsterdam, were sponsored by major banks and suffered from the financial crisis - Amsterdam even lost its main sponsor ING Bank.

What Rotterdam is hoping for: Makau might give it a serious try for the world record next year - also financially spoken, this would be a long-term investment (increasing market value IF he succeeds) with respect to faster money he can earn in London. There is some hope but not much - actually the reporter's question was "Do you come back to Rotterdam next year, or do you go for the money?". So the Dutch are well aware of the situation.

Anonymous said...

Actually Makau DNF'd @ ING NYC this past November. I remember distinctly passing him @ mile 11!

I don't think what has happened to Kwambai at either NYC or Rotterdam is an indication he can't run 2:04/2:05 again (or even < 2:04). He was with the lead group late in each race. When running that well, I can imagine just the slight problem can throw one off.

Dannux said...


Very nice posting and I like your articles. However, I think you can perform another kind of analysis on about sports in general and the subject of doping.

I have seen how many times you have written some analysis about numbers and rider performances in cycling. It is easy to see that they are using doping.

My suggestion here is that you should do the same kind of analysis for other sports specially long distance running. It will be very interesting to compare the doping test that both cycling and long distance runners have. How often, what kind of test, and what they are looking for. If you do that I think you will be surprise how little doping controls have running over cycling. (I do not even want to compare against other sports such as soccer, football, baseball and so on)

Will an article about that will be possible?


Ross Tucker and Jonathan Dugas said...

Hi Dan

It's a good concept, but I don't know how you would go about analyzing it.

The data is less "obvious" for running. IN cycling, you have power output and lab data, for running you have running speed (largely influenced by gradient) and very little lab data that I'm aware of that would be of use. So specifically, how would you do this?

One thing I will say is that I don't believe the problem in running (long-distance, that is), is that great. I look at these young Kenyans, only 18 or 19, who are coming out of Kenya for the first time in their lives, and they are running 28 minutes for 10km. Some of them are running 27 minutes. These are guys who never in a million years have had access to drugs, yet they are within 3 to 5% of the world record.

That tells me that the natural talent is deep enough, and that the African athletes are capable of 2:05 without doping. I'm sure some are doping, but I think many are clean. They just have such exceptional talent compared to the European athletes (or they train that much harder when younger).

So to me, a 17 or 18 year old running 28 minutes for 10km in Kenya is a guy who, without doping, can run 2:05 for the marathon.


Dannux said...

Hi Ross/Jonathan thanks for answering my post.

My main point here is that Cycling has been accused of being so dirty (I agree with that concept) However, I think cycling is leading the doping control and being the most brave sport to come out and get numbers up there and see what is possible.

I agree that African athletes has amazing talent. However, please remember that many of these guys are mentoring by European specifically part of the Italian school. As Paul Tergat's book describes.

I am not implying they are using doping. However, if you lack numbers and lab analysis you cannot say they are clean. We all people in the cycling community believed that in the past the big cycling champions were amazing and full of talent. Which can be true. However, once cycling has been open and gathering information we see how those legends are talented and amazing but not clean.

In my opinion, the article should be focus on the analysis of doping control. Cycling vs Other Sports. How much data is collected and analyzed.

Thank you for considering my posting and I do enjoy reading your blog and analysis.