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Monday, April 18, 2011

Boston 2011 Live!

Boston 2011:  2:03:02 for Geoffrey Mutai!

Geoffrey Mutai has won the 2011 Boston Marathon, in the incredible time of 2:03:01.  No, it's not a world record.  It's not recognized because the course is downhill, point-to-point.  And that means that the WR belongs to Haile Gebrselassie at 2:03:59, but this is an extra-ordinary time nonetheless.

Aided by the strong tailwind, Geoffrey Mutai of Kenya has scorched his way to a 2:03:02.  Yep, you read that right, no typos here.  2:03:02.  Incredible running, with a first half of 1:01:57 and a second half of 1:01:05.  And that includes the Newton Hills.  That shows the strength of the wind and also the incredible performance of Geoffrey Mutai.

In second was Moses Mosop, a marathon debutant, in 2:03:06, and third was NY champion Gebre Gebremariam, while Ryan Hall ran 2:04:58 to finish fourth.

The table below shows the splits.  An absolutely extraordinary start and finish to the race.  The first 10km were covered in 29:06, which was projecting 2:02:47.  Then it actually slowed a little, the middle 20km being covered in 59:17, which is "only" 2:05 pace!

The final 10km are the real story though.  5km splits of 14:12 and then 14:13 saw Mutai break away, and then hold off a spirited Moses Mosop.  That 10km stretch from 30km to 40km was therefore covered in 28:25, absolutely staggering running from the Kenyan who finished second in Berlin last year.  I could scarcely believe the times, I've had to check it over and over...it brought the time down from a projected mid 2:04 to the 2:03:02 we ended up with.  Amazing running, made all the more incredible when you bear in mind the Newton Hills, and that Boston does have a hilly second half.

How much did the wind give?

A word of caution though, not to dampen the mood...that was a mighty strong tailwind.  The strength of the tailwind and its possible effects will be a talking point.  How much advantage would it provide?  And given that Boston is a hilly course (the Newton Hills), does the advantage provided by the win offset the disadvantage of those hills - remember, Boston's record has always been about 90 seconds to two minutes slower than that of London, Berlin, Rotterdam.

I'll give some thought to this question, and look at it in detail in a follow up post (once the dust has settled, or the "wind has died down", so to speak!).   But it is telling that Moses Mosop was a 2:03:06 guy on debut and that Ryan Hall broke 2:05, almost four minutes faster than he's ever run on this course.  And yes, people improve times, but 4 minutes?  Even 1 minute for an established athlete at that level is enormous.

Geoffrey Mutai came into the race with a PB of 2:04:55, on the flat Rotterdam course last year.  He improved it by 1:53.  Hall meanwhile brought a PB of 2:06:17 into the race, and ran 1:19 faster, compared again to a flat course.  So how much was that wind worth?  Unless one believes that already-world class runners can knock 2 minutes off their best, then it's worth a great deal.

If I had to guess, I would say that the wind today was worth around two minutes, compared to a flat course with no wind.  And three to four minutes faster than Boston on a still day.  Remember, Boston is always about 2 to 3 minutes slower than the other major marathons of London, Berlin, Rotterdam.  And so to be faster, that's not simply a great runner (or two - remember Mosop, only 4 seconds behind!).

So I'd estimate three for that reason, and because if you look at Hall and the women, they're running that much faster, and I'm afraid I don't believe in huge PBs for athletes who are already at that level.  Keitany going much faster, yes, but that's a different situation.  But as I said, I'll give it some thought and follow it up in another post!

Below are the splits from the race, and my race commentary.  More to come, including some comments on the women's race.  I just have some other commitments to attend to right now!

Join me tomorrow for more discussion - I'm sure it will be lively!  And thanks for joining our marathon coverage!



Men's Race
Distance Time Interval time Pace for interval Projected time
5 14:29 14:29 2:54 2:02:13
10 29:08 14:37 2:55 2:02:47
15 43:45 14:39 2:56 2:03:04
20 58:43 14:58 3:00 2:03:53
Halfway 1:01:57

25 1:13:16 14:33 2:55 2:03:40
30 1:28:23 15:07 3:01 2:04:19
35 1:42:35 14:12 2:50 2:03:40
40 1:56:48 14:13 2:51 2:03:13
Finish 2:03:02

Women's Race
Distance Time Interval time Pace for interval Projected time
5 16:41 16:41 3:20 2:20:47
10 33:29 16:48 3:22 2:21:47
15 50:09 16:40 3:20 2:21:04
20 1:07:11 17:02 3:24 2:21:44
Halfway 1:10:52

25 1:24:15 17:04 3:25 2:22:12
30 1:41:49 17:34 (not Smith)
35 1:58:37 16:48 3:22 2:23:00
40 2:15:13 16:36 3:19 2:22:38
Finish 2:22:36

Race commentary

The men's race is off to the expected (and traditional) fast start.  14:29 through 5km and 29:08 through 10km means they're on course for something under 2:03.  But before getting to excited, that's normal because the first 10km are downhill and very fast.

On the women's side, Kim Smith of New Zealand is well clear. Her 15 km time of 50:09 projects a 2:21, and she has a lead of 53 seconds.  Interesting tactical game developing because Smith is not a rank outsider.  It may be her first foray into the event, but her track pedigree is not the worst.  So the main field are giving her some rope and allowing this large lead and it will be interesting to see how it unfolds.  Certainly, 2:21 is not that quick - it will also slow down in the second half, so expect the pack to close down on her in time.

Men at approaching 15 km and Ryan Hall has gone ahead, he's only about 30 m clear and the pack (which is still very large) are behind watching.  Nothing major will come of this, and Mutai has led the field back to Hall.  The group was thinned by the move, and the pace is still very high, but the main protagonists are all there.

Men at 15km and the pace is still super fast.  The time was 43:45, projecting a 2:03:04.   For comparison, Robert Cheruiyot broke the record last year and they went through 15km in 44:48, so they're a full minute faster.  This could be super fast if they just maintain it.

The field has bridged the gap to Hall and they've spread out over the road, about 12 men in the lead pack by my count.  Hall has made a habit of running his own race in the past, and I guess it's a matter of opinion as to whether it works.  It has brought some podium finishes, can it produce a win? 

Kim Smith is through halfway in the women's race - 1:10:52, so she's slowed just a little.  The gap is still large though, 50 seconds to the chase pack, a group that includes all the major protagonists including Kara Goucher and Dire Tune.

The men's race is now being pulled by record holder Robert Cheruiyot as we approach 20km.  Mutai has been paying particularly close attention, whereas Gebre Gebremariam has remained "hidden" in the pack so far.  The same was true in New York last year, he was barely mentioned until Central Park, when he was untouchable.

Hall is playing to the crowd as they run through Wellsley.  Interesting.  He held his hand to his ear, gave the crowd a "come on" in encouragement.  He must be feeling pretty good at sub-2:04 pace...

Kim Smith at 25km, and the pace is slightly slower.  17:04 for the last 5km, following a 17:02 from 15km to 20km.  That slight reduction has seen the chase pack close the gap a little.  It's 46 seconds now, so it's inching down, but nothing dramatic just yet.  Last year this time, there was a 58 second lead and that came down, but it was a different race then.  The chase group is large, but doesn't include Kara Goucher, who has dropped off the chase pack.

The chase group are also within sight of Smith, the long straight roads don't help the breakaway, and so that group will just watch Smith, hold that gap and move in on her, probably when we get to the Newton Hills.

Men at halfway, and it's 1:01:54, and so the pace has slowed, though not by much.  Hall is still being the aggressor, he's at the front, looking behind as if urging the group on.  The group is still large, at this pace (it's almost a minute quicker than London yesterday).

Kim Smith has stoppedA right leg injury!  And the defending champion Erkesso has dropped out, it sounds like - no splits at 15 or 20km.  Kim Smith seemed to grab her right calf muscle and seems to be flinching.  She's continued to run, but the main field is now much closer.

They'll close this gap quickly and once that happens, expect Smith to bail as well.

There is action on the men's side as well!  Hall is gone from the lead pack and the group is strung out in a long line!  Mutai is up there, Gebremariam is up there, and Hall is not.  The attack was made by the Ethiopian Bekana Daba, who went to the front and glanced behind him repeatedly while ramping up the pace

That pace was fast enough to shed Hall and a host of others, including defending champ Cheruiyot.  There are six men in the lead group now - Daba, Gebremariam, Mutai, Tola.

Kim Smith is caught and she has joined that lead group of women which is also six strong.  Now it's five-strong, and Kim Smith is gone from the lead group.  Her race is pretty much run now.  Dire Tune is there, a former winner, and host of Kenyans.  Names to follow...

The men's race is taking shape as they're near 25km.  Apologies for the lack of split times - the website is not refreshing and the TV coverage is not showing times.  But I can tell you that six men are in the lead group: Mutai, Gebremariam, Daba are there.

There is a lot of cagey running going on on the men's side.  The six are all abreast and looking at one another.  It's going fast then slow and this tactical game will cost time.  The course record was looking under major threat, but if this continues, it may not continue.  The 16th mile of the race was apparently 4:23 which is unbelievably fast - 2:43/km!  That was responsible for the split in that big group, and it accounted for Hall and the defending champion.  Hall is not done though - he is visible just off the back of the group.

1:21 into the men's race and now Mutai has come to the front.  He's clearly strong and aggressive.  Gebremariam is still in the group, which is interesting, he hasn't shown anything at all whereas Mutai is very prominent.  As mentioned earlier, Gebremariam did the same in New York and timed his only move to perfection.

Also in this pack:  Robert Kipchumba, Moses Mosop, Philip Sanga and Bekana Daba.  Meanwhile, Ryan Hall is closing very gradually on the pack.  That tells me that the pace of that group is slowing.

Things are hotting up on the women's side too.  A surprise move by Desiree Davila at the front group, which is now 5 women.  Four Kenyans and Davila.

It will be fascinating to see how Hall gets on in the men's race.  The 5km from 20 to 25km was 14:33 and that was when the damage was done.  Hall held the same pace, and now, as we head to 30km, the pace of the lead group has slowed and Hall has caught up again.  He is therefore the barometer for the main pack - when they attack, he'll be gapped, and when they slow as a result of tactical games, he'll come back on.

Geoffrey Mutai is still the aggressor in the men's race, driving the pace on.  It's a long line and so this is a big push.  As anticipated, Hall is at the back of that line, and so you know the pace has increased.  Hall's even pace is a good indication of the elite pace.

Desiree Davila is still there with the women, and they're down to three, as Alice Timbilil is dropped.  It's an amazing performance from the American.  The pace is holding firm - 16:50 for the last 5km and that's decent but not spectacular.  Davila is being aggressive, not just sitting in, she's actually moving to the front and stretching the Kenyans.  Caroline Kilel of Kenya is paying closest attention, with Sharon Cherop in third.

And Cherop seems stretched to me.  Kilel is hanging in second, but it's Davila who is pushing the pace! They've just hit the two hour mark, I'm sorry I have no splits for you, but the TV coverage is very poor (at least it's there, I know...)  This is about 20 minutes of running left, and the Kenyans are being challenged by a relatively unheralded Desiree Davila.

They're in a long line, the elastic being stretched by this move.  This is a decisive 5 minutes in this race - if Davila can just sustain this pressure, she could do what few thought possible.

The men are at 30km, and the time there is 1:28:23.  The last 5km have been run in 15:07, the slowest of the race but that's expected given the hills.  The group is 8-strong.  The projected time is 2:04:19, and so it's slowing down, but we may yet get that record.  The last 5km of this race can be incredibly long though.  Interesting finish developing.

Geoffrey Mutai is clear in the men's race.  He's gone to the front and this is a decisive move. He's opened up what looks to be 10 seconds in next to no time!  Are we going to see a second Mutai victory in one weekend?  No relation, by the way, but the manner in which they're running the races is remarkably similar between this race and London yesterday!

Desiree Davila still has the two Kenyans for company.  The commentator keeps calling her Dasilva.  He says that the Kenyan with longer legs will have the advantage.  Someone should tell that to Haile Gebrselassie - if height predicted performance, well...

The women's race is still together, three in that group, whereas the men's race has been fragmented by Mutai.  He is making a big bid, a long way out.

There was a time about 10 minutes ago where it seemed that the Kenyans were under stress, but the front three are now together and much tighter, and Kilel looks particularly sprightly.  Kilel is gone!

That's a big move, 2:11 into the race, and Kilel has made a big move, Cherop is following in second, but Davila is behind.  She's trying to hang on, but the Kenyan surge has put her into some difficulty, for now.

Davila has now caught up!  This is a great race among the women.  Boston has produced some awesome women's races in recent years and this is building to be another one!

In the men's race, Mutai still has a small lead, but it seems to be shortening now.  Hall is 57 seconds back, and the splits will be interesting to see later.  Just a word on Mutai, his 5km split from 30 to 35 km was 14:12 - that's 2:50/km and an extra-ordinary move.  That was what gave him the lead, but it's now slowly been reeled in by the chasing Moses Mosop.

2:16 in the women's race and Desiree Davila is still at the front, both Kenyans being towed along behind.  Davila is stretching them - they may not be out of touch, but at this stage, you wouldn't be 5 m back of the leader if you could be 3m back and so the Kenyans are being challenged.  This may well come down to a final sprint.  Caroline Kilel is definitely looking the better of the Kenyans, but this is going to come down to a final sprint.  Only about 6 minutes to go...

Mutai has now been joined by Mosop in the men's race, at 1:50.  There are probably 15 minutes to go, they are on course for a huge course record.  The tailwind has definitely done its job!  Mosop is pushing on and these two will compete for first and second.

The Kenyans are back in front on the women's side.  Davila is still there though, nothing decisive just yet. Davila has attacked.  She's gone super hard with about 3 minutes to go!  Kilel has responded and now counter-attacked, but Davila has dropped Cherop.  Kilel has maybe 5 m on Davila!

Davila responds!  Kilel responds!  300m to go, and this is amazing racing!  Kilel has every answer though and she's finally subdued an amazing challenge from Desiree Davila.  That was track racing between the women, and what a race.

The time is quick, as they come up to the finish line, it's going to be Caroline Kilel to win in 2:22:36 and about 2 seconds back, Desiree Davila of the USA, with Sharon Cherop in third.  That was an epic finish!

To the men - about 7 minutes of running left as they're hitting 40km.  It's Moses Mosop vs Geoffrey Mutai over 2km.  Great, we get an advert break...

Men at 2:00 - Mutai and Mosop are together.  It's Mosop in unchartered territory as this is his debut.  Mutai is forcing the pace, but this too is not decisive.  It will certainly be a new record, and we get to watch an interview with Davila, with only 3 minutes of the men's race.  Great.  What a genius director.  I mean, could you guys not wait literally 4 minutes for this interview and let us see the men's finish?  The mind boggles...

I can't believe that we'd take an interview with 3 minutes to run.  Just wait 4 minutes...

The men are into the final few bends, and they're still locked together, side by side.  They have made the left and now into the finish straight.  It's a sprint for the line at what will surely be around world record time (though it can't be ratified, since it's a downhill course).

Mutai is in front, he's making the first big move and leads by 4 m.  5m.  10 m and it's going to be Mutai.  He'll finish in under the world record time.

It's Geoffrey Mutai and the time is 2:03:01! Incredible!

Moses Mosop is second, a few seconds behind. And Gebre Gebremariam has finished third and Ryan Hall is fourth, a few seconds back of that.

Of course, it can't be a world record, but it does complicate marathon running for a while!  It means we'll now always refer to "that other time, the unratified one" whenever we talk about the event!

But incredibly fast, and that's the power of that tailwind.  It was predicted and the best athletes in the world have delivered on the promise of fast times in great conditions!