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, September 29, 2013

Berlin Marathon 2013: Live splits and analysis

World Record! 2:03:23 Wilson Kipsang
Live Splits and Analysis

Wilson Kipsang has broken the Marathon World Record!  2:03:23 in Berlin.

Here is how he did it, splits and analysis from the race!  I'll post more later!

Overall splits Men

5km:  14:34.  2:55 per km, projecting 2:02:56
10km:  29:16.  14:42 for the last 5km, pace of 2:56/km. Projected time now 2:03:29
15km:  43:45.  14:29 for the last 5km, pace of 2:54/km, the fastest so far. Projecting 2:03:04.
20km:  58:19.  14:34 for the last 5km, pace of 2:55/km.  Projecting 2:03:02
Halfway:  61:32. Easy calculation, it projects 2:03:04, a WR by 34 seconds
25km:  1:13:13. 14:54 for last 5km, pace of 2:59/km, so slowest segment. Projecting 2:03:35
30km:  1:28:01.  14:48 for the last 5km, pace of 2:58/km.  Projection of 2:03:48
35km:  1:42:36.  14:35 for the last 5km, pace of 2:55/km. Projecting 2:03:41
40km:  1:57:12.  14:36 last 5km, projecting 2:03:38. Epic finish coming up!
Finish: 2:03:21.  The World Record is gone!


It's on. Final 2.195km at 2:54/km will get the WR.  By 1 second!  As you can see above, that's what they've done since 30km, and so the record is a real possibility.  Kipsang leads Kipchoge by about 10 seconds, so it is a one-man race for the WR.  Silence now until the end, I'll fill in the blanks later.  This will be a "sprint" through the Brandenburg Gates for the World Record.

Kipsang has slowed slightly in the last 2km, so he needs a pick up.  But it's so close now, if he can just dig in and find 5 minutes of effort, he'll get this.


The pace has now picked up, with the pacemaker having dropped off.  Wilson Kipsang has led the upturn in pace, which has seen the last 5km covered in 14:35 .  That included a 2:52 34th kilometer, very fast.

Wilson Kipsang is the aggressor, leading the race, but with company from Geoffrey Kipsang and Eliud Kipchoge.  Kipsang, as the senior, pedigreed man, obviously has the pressure and obligation to keep the record viable.

With 10km to go, the TV graphic suggests that a 29:30 10km will be needed.  That is definitely feasible.

The pacmaker fought to about 31 km then dropped off, leaving the big three.  It's the Kipsangs, Wilson and Geoffrey, along with Kipchoge.  So as expected, those three fight for the win.  Whether their fight produces a record, that's the intrigue.


They've remained slightly slower than WR pace.  2:58/km gives 14:48 for the last 5km, and a projection of 2:03:48.

So, having been well under WR pace at halfway, it's now going to take a real aggressive final 10km to get the WR.  Whether anyone will take the 'risk' in the company of other men is going to determine how close they get.  That will depend on how they each feel, of course.

At this stage, it's a good time to consider who the viable candidates are.  Wilson Kipsang, Geoffrey Kipsang and Eliud Kipchoge are all there, as is one pacemaker, and Kirwa and Kipchirchir.  An all Kenyan front five, plus the pacemaker Rono.  Five men is good in the sense that 'company' helps in the latter part of the race, but it will be interesting to see how the racing affects the pacing, as it were.

It was this segment where Patrick Makau made the surge that would drop Gebrselassie on route to the current WR in Berlin.  He ran a 5:30 2km segment then, which certainly helped his race, but probably cost him some time.  So the comparison with Makau, which up to now has seen 2013 ahead, will probably look different at 30km, but that's still OK - there are 12km to go from that point, much can happen.


The last 5km were run in 14:54, which is 2:59/km, the slowest segment of the race.  You can tell the pace had slowed because the front group at halfway was thinning out, and it has now expanded again, as runners who had dropped off have come back on.  That's always a sign.  The projection now is 2:03:35, and so it has suddenly come back from being a big WR projection, to a touch and go race.

There is some talk that the runners were benefiting from a tailwind between 10 and 20km, which is now gone.  These are the subtleties that affect WR potential...

At this stage of the race, patience really counts for a lot, so the slowing is not necessarily a bad thing.  The temptation, as the field thins out, is to get aggressive, because you're on the way "home", as it were.  We've seen in London and other big city races how aggression at 25km often blows the race open, but it comes at the cost of the fast time.  So it's important here to be patient, and avoid a 5:35 surge for 2km that can easily derail the WR.  Kipsang of course did that in the Olympics, not off a WR pace, but may have learned from that.  They do have a buffer of around 30 seconds for this second half - a 62:00 still gives a WR.


61:32, so a WR projection by 34 seconds.  It promises to be an intriguing second half.  For one thing, the pacemakers will drop at around 30km, and then it will be up to the big three, assuming they're all there, to decide how best to push the pace to keep the WR in view, while still racing and not pulling a colleague to the WR.  That will be perhaps the race's decisive moment.


58:19 at 20km, the projection is for a 2:03:02.  The last 5km was 14:34, so 2:55/km, but there were reports that the 18th kilometer was 2:52, which is very fast and suggests a little bit of oscillation.  Again, the athletes can see their pace and the projected time continuously in Berlin, so when the pace is faster, it's not an accident caused by lack of information, it's a conscious decision to ramp the pace.  They are being incredibly aggressive, and that makes for an interesting second half.  They should hit halfway in about 61:30, and so the second half is guaranteed to be attritional.  The question now is whether it is attritional enough to cost them the WR, or whether they hang on?


The pace has actually increased - 14:29 for the last 5km, and the projected time is now down again, to 2:03:04.  This is quick, and maybe cause for concern.  If you're 15 to 20 seconds up on WR pace through halfway, then that's bordering on reckless.  So it will be interesting to see how the section 25 to 35 km goes.  That's often where the "interest" payments are made.

A TV graphic is showing that they're currently 36 seconds faster than Makau was at the same stage - the coverage is good so far.  Remember that Makau had a race with Gebrselassie that really jacked the pace up after halfway, so that gap may come down later.  The optimal way to run is even pace, so the Makau comparison is less informative, but interesting.  Also, in Berlin, runners have access to the car in front of them, which gives all the information required to manage the pace.  It even gives a projected time, so if they're running under 2:03-pace, then it's because they have chosen to, not because they're making a mistake in the absence of information, which is important to consider.

Florence Kiplagat has gone through 15km in 49:27, which projects a 2:19:06, so she has slowed very slightly, but still on course for a big PB and significant performance under 2:20.


The pace has been maintained, 14:42 for the last 5km.  That's very steady.  The biggest challenge is consistency, so it would be good to see splits by kilometer, rather than 5km, because that would tell you exactly how the pace is fluctuating.  Physiologically, there's a big difference between going 2:52-3:00-2:52-3:00, and running 2:56 every kilometer, even though overall it's the same pace.

So far, that seems to not be the case.  A TV graphic showed a sequence of kilometer splits and the range seems to be narrow - 2:54 to 2:58, so it's a good pacing job so far.  If that continues, then the record is on, and the only determinant is the condition of the atheltes.

No splits from the leading woman, who is Florence Kiplagat.  They're saying her timing chip is not working, so the only splits coming through are for the women in the group behind her.  Will get a split as soon as possible.  She's just gone through 12km in around 39:30, which is 2:18:50 pace, so Kiplagat is going fast too.


14:34, which projects 2:02:56.  The target was apparently 14:40, so they're inside it.  For now, not too damaging (though of course there may have been a 2:40 km in there, I'm not sure), but that is quick.  There's more risk of losing the record by going too fast at this stage.  Not surprisingly, the big three are in the group, along with perhaps 7 or 8 others.  That should thin out at this pace.


As we wait for the first split. a prediction.  I don't think the WR will fall.  Too many things have to be absolutely perfect.  Weather, conditioning of the athlete, the pacing, the intent, and the presence and support of other runners when it counts.  If any of those factors are even 5% below optimal, the price is stiff and the record is gone.

I don't think that the three big names in this race have the necessary ability, so my call is a time just outside 2:04.  Let's call it 2:04:15.  5km split next.