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Sunday, August 05, 2012

London Women's Marathon

Women's Olympic Marathon: Live splits and comments

Welcome to live splits and coverage of the Women's Olympic Marathon from London.  I'll be updating the splits every 5km, and adding a few comments as the race unfolds

Splits and projected times

5km - 17:20. Projects a 2:26:17
10km - 34:46 (17:26).  Projects 2:26:42
15 km - 52:10 (17:24)
20km - 69:26 (17:16)
Halfway - 1:13:13
25km - 1:26:23 (16:57), projecting a 2:25:48
30km - 1:42:44 (16:21), now projecting a 2:24:30, but with this pace, the Olympic record is under threat
35km - 1:59:29 (16:45)
40km - 2:16:10 (16:41)
Finish - 2:23:07 (final 2.2km in 6:57, and a second half of 69:54)

Race report


Tiki Gelana of Ethiopia has won the Women's Marathon - it's a significant victory, and it comes as something of a surprise given the credentials of Keitany and Kiplagat.  Not that Gelana was an outsider - her PB is 2:18:58, and she won the Rotterdam Marathon earlier this year, so a highly pedigreed athlete.

Her winning time was 2:23:07, and a new Olympic record.  The race was a big negative split, after a cautious first half.  The pace, as expected, was ramped up by the Kenyans soon after halfway, and they put in a 16:21 5km segment from 25km to 30km.  That pulled a group of six away - three Kenyan and three Ethiopians, much as most would have predicted.  However, Russia's Arkhipova defied that script, and reeled the leaders back, and one by one, the east Africans began to fall off.

The 5km from 35 to 40km was run in 16:41 (3:20/km), and by then it was down to four, as Kiplagat had surprisingly been dropped early, and the Ethiopian challenge had been reduced to one.

The final 2.2km were run in 6:57 (3:10/km), and that gave Gelana the record and the win, as she was able to surge to gap a group of four, including pre-race favorite Keitany, Jeptoo and surprise Russian Arkhipova.  The other huge surprise was that neither Keitany, the London champion earlier this year, or world champion Edna Kiplagat, were able to medal.

So that's two women's distance races, and two Ethiopian gold medals.  First Dibaba beat Kenya's best in the women's 10,000m, and now Gelana has "stolen" the Olympic gold from the favoured Kenyans.  Add to this the Kenyan men failing to medal in the men's 10,000m, and the Kenyan hopes for London are being rapidly revised.  Their next chance to get on the board comes in the men's steeplechase later, where surely they'll win their first gold.

But for now, it's an Ethiopian celebration for Gelana.  She was the last surviving Ethiopian, with three Kenyans, but came through in the end.

The race was, also unsurprisingly, a massive negative split - halfway was hit in 1:13:13, which means the second half was run in 69:54. I must confess that I'm a little surprised that this was good enough to win - don't get me wrong, it's incredible running, but when you think of Keitany's London win earlier this year, she ran a 67:43 off a faster first half than today (70:53).

That is perhaps testament to the course, with its twists and turns, which were arguably made even more challenging by the conditions - it was wet at the start, and poured heavily in patches.  It may force a rethink about the men's race, because this kind of course may be ripe for surprise, and while Gelana was not exactly a long shot to win, as I mentioned earlier, few would have expected neither Keitany nor Kiplagat to win a medal.

As it unfolded


Keitany is dropped!  The pre-race favourite is in trouble, and is gapped, and there will be no coming back from this - too quick now and that is too big a drop-off for her.  It's Gelana doing the work now, capitalizing on that surprise.  Jeptoo is also being gapped and it's going to be an Ethiopian gold if this keeps up!

It's four women for three medals, and only 1.5km to sort them out in.  No one making the decisive move, and so this may boil down to a final 1km, like a track race.  Will Arkhipova (or Petrova, for those with confusion) manage to disrupt an African podium?  It'll be an amazing effort if she can.


Last five kilometers were done in 16:41, which is fast.  But here again, that doesn't tell the story of the fast-slow tactics being employed.  Arkhipova has been a good indication that those 16:41 have not been even-paced, which makes them even more impressive.  There were some undulations in that section, however, and they may also explain some variability in pace.


Arkhipova is being stretched here, every time there is a surge, she's off the back.  She's fighting for all she's worth, but the signs are there that when the big, final push comes, she'll find herself in the fourth position.

It's the east Africans who are being aggressive again, with only 3 km to run.


With four in the lead group (Keitany and Jeptoo for Kenya, Gelana for Ethiopia, and Arkhipova for Russia), the final 5km holds some serious questions.  The pace, for these women, has not been quick, so there should be surge and countersurge for the next 15 minutes.

Keitany to the front again, but it's not for a decisive increase in the pace.  So far, everything has seemed rather subtle.  It's been enough to crack those who are weak, but there's no indication, yet, of which of these four is on the limit.

I'm surprised the Kenyans have allowed the race to fall back into this kind of pace (17:15 per 5km).  It only allows runners in, and they have such superiority in terms of performance ceiling.  Then again, this is the Olympic marathon, and with much at stake, perhaps the caution is understandable.  But there's no question that when you are a 2:19 runner, as they are, then running 2:24 creates an "unpredictable" race, and that leaves a door open.


Last five kilometers in 16:45, so it has slowed ever so slightly, and that explains why Arkhipova got back to the group.  Interestingly, at 35km, the Russian went to the front, and Kenya was slow to respond!  Gelana made the first move along with the Russian, and so that is interesting.

The slow pace from 30 to 35km may have moved the Olympic record beyond reach, because they're now projecting 2:24:03, which means the 2:23:14 from Sydney may just survive.

Kiplagat seems to have been dropped now, and the only way she gets back is a drop in pace.  With 7km to go, that seems unlikely, and the Kenyan sweep is no longer on.


The group is now five, the small gaps to Kiplagat and Arkhipova have disappeared and so we once again have five.  The mile-by-mile splits would be fascinating, because I suspect the leaders are going fast-slow-fast-slow, rather than it being a case of digging in and returning to the pace of the front-runners for the Russian and Kiplagat.


The pace seems to have been lifted again.  The stimulus for that may have been the arrival of Arkhipova, because no sooner had she joined and Kiplagat was dropped, and now the gap is just starting to appear to Arkhipova.  The medalists may be taking shape, because if these two can't pull through this phase, then it's down to three - Keitany, Jeptoo and Gelana.

And a Kenyan is off, and it's Kiplagat!  That's a surprise as well, because she pressed Keitany in London earlier this year.  Now it's Keitany and Jeptoo, and the possibility of a Kenyan sweep seems gone, unless she can somehow recover.  The elastic is stretching, but not broken just yet.


Now Dibaba of Ethiopia has also dropped off, and so it's three Kenyans against a sole-surviving Ethiopian challenge.  That comes from Tiki Gelana, who now faces Jeptoo, Keitany and Kiplagat.

And Arkhipova has closed the gap to the leaders, and so now the lead group is back up to five.  It dropped to four, but it was effectively a substitution - Dibaba is out, Arkhiopova is in.


Keitany is pressing the pace, she is at the front and has been for the last 5km, and so is feeling confident enough to lead.  Nothing dramatic, if you don't count a 16:21 5km split as not being too dramatic!

Of the chasers, Flanagan is 17 seconds back and hoping for a blow from three or four women in front.  Arkhipova is also in front of Flanagan, and so she represents the first non-African threat to the medals.


30km is reached in 1:42:44, so the last 5km were done in 16:21, and that's been the source of the damage.  That's a pretty significant increase in pace compared to the first half (3:16/km compared to 3:27/km), but it only tells part of the story - the surges are doing more damage, and it's the reason we're seeing three Kenyans against two Ethiopians for the final 10km.  This is the section of the race that Keitany covered in 31:53 when winning London earlier this year.  Again, that was a different course, with fewer twists and no water, but the question is whether she has that in her again.  Or possibly even more, given the slower pace to date.


Now Zhou of China is also just dropping off slightly, and so it's five again.  That's a function of a slight increase in the pace at 27km, and we'll see how the 30km split reflects that.

No single person is assuming the leadership of the race, but it's Kenya at the front.  Side by side, the three Kenyans are pressing now, and the race is becoming just what everyone thought it would be - a direct clash between the Kenyans and Ethiopians.  So far, this marathon has had so much more tactical intrigue than the 10,000m race last night.


One of the Ethiopians has dropped off - Mergia, who won the Dubai Marathon has lost about five seconds to the lead group.  That group now has three Kenyan, two Ethiopian, one American (Flanagan) and one Chinese women in it.  Flanagan is being stretched by the pace though, a gap just starting to appear.


The last five kilometers were done in 16:57.  That's not breathtaking, but most of it was in the last two kilometers.  That was when first Keitany eased the pace up, and then Kiplagat surged, and the result is that split.  Goucher, Flanagan, the Chinese, Mikitenko are all off the back, but they may be able to claw back if the pace slows. But I'm expecting more of the same in the not too distance future.  The non-Africans will actually provide a nice barometer of the pace - if they drop, it's been ramped up again.  Look for the splits to get faster and faster now.

Now the big move, by Edna Kiplagat and within one kilometer, it has become an African race and a "rest of the world race".  The lead group has gone from 12 to 6, and not surprisingly, it is made up of three Kenyans and three Ethiopians.  Here comes the race!

The front group is now being headed by Mary Keitany, the champion in London earlier this year, and so perhaps the race is now about to become an African affair.  The lead group is thinning, but still large, with about 12 runners in it at 25km.

Some real race developments since halfway.  Biggest of all is that Shobhukova has stopped, clutching her right hamstring, and so an injury presumably explains her poor showing.

Keitany must be an enormous favourite here - apart from that second half of 67:43 in London this year, she covered the final 10km in an astonishing 31:53.  You can see those splits here


The most interesting development so far is that Lilya Shobhukhova is off the front group - she is 16 seconds down at half way.  There are 22 in the lead group, but she is not one of them, and that is a big development!

The split at halfway is 73:13, so it's on for a mid-2:26, but the pace may ramp big time from here on in.  Interesting stat - when winning the London Marathon earlier this year, Mary Keitany ran the second half in 67:43, and that was off a 70:53 first half.  Today, the first half is over 3 minutes slower, and so that gives an indication of what Keitany can do in the event.  If she produces anything like that speed, nobody in this race will match her.  The question is whether she can do it on the different course, in the wet?


Still no action, other than the teams working together to get water, and the dropouts.  The latest to step off the road is van Blerk of South Africa at about 18km.

The group is thinning, but only very, very slightly, as the 2:30 runners begin to drop off the 2:27 pace.  It has been an incredibly consistent pace - 3:27 to 3:29 for every 5km interval so far.


Not much change, literally.  In fact, the pace has been almost identical the whole way.  The first 5 were 17:20, then 17:26 and now 17:24.  So nothing to speak of yet.  The rain has relented, leaving only wet roads to contend with.

First 10km

At 10km, the lead group is still large, about 20 women, but there's still no real split in the race.  All the big names are there - three Kenyans, three Ethiopians, Shobukhova and the two American's featuring prominently at the front.

The slow early pace is no surprise - unpaced marathons rarely go out hard, and with the stakes as they are, and the field as deep as it is, expect a cautious game until just after halfway.  It is not inconceivable that the second half might be in the range of 68 minutes, depending when the attacks come, because the first looks likely to be in 73 min.

The biggest factor so far has been the weather - it has been wet since the start, with period around 5km where it poured down.  Women were jumping puddles.

The Kenyans are known to dislike running in the rain more than most, and so this may well prove to be an equalizer of sorts.  We'll know after halfway, as that's where the increase in tempo is likely to happen, at least based on Keitany's marathon past.

The other news is that of a few significant drop-outs.  Mara Yamauchi of GB pulled out with what appeared to be a leg injury, and the USA's Desi Davila pulled out even earlier, having carried a hip injury into the race.