Category Archives: Analysis

Posts analysing other commentary

Stephen Kiprotich unquestionable champion

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Uganda’s Stephen Kiprotich has cemented his status in the marathon history elite and cemented his legacy, backing up his Olympic gold medal from London last year and overcoming a strong Ethiopian contingent to win the 2013 Marathon World Championship in Moscow.

Kiprotich ran out the race in 2:09:51, relatively pedestrian compared to the times seem at the World Marathon Majors, however while Kiprotich may never be the fastest marathoner in the world, in being only the second marathon runner to complete the Olympic/World Championship double, he has certainly earned the credentials as the premier tactical and championship racer.

The Ugandan was followed home by a trio of Ethiopians, Lelisa Desisa in 2:10:12, Tadese Tola in 2:10:23 and London Marathon winner Tsegay Kebede in 2:10:47.

Conditions were much more pleasant for the men than the women’s field faced a week ago, but again it was the 40 kilometre mark that proved the turning point of the race, first with Kiprotich and Desisa dropping Tola, and then Kiprotich found an extra gear to kick clear. He entered Luzhniki Stadium 100 metres ahead of Desisa and was never challenged.

On paper Kiprotich never seemed a real threat to repeat his Olympic success, having only the 14th fastest personal best out of the starters, his a full three minutes slower than most of the Ethiopians. As the Olympic and World Championships prove though, racing on a national team, without pace-setters and chasing a medal is a very different type of run to a major city marathon. With an Olympic Gold and World Champion title around his neck, Kiprotich is the current generation’s unquestionable big race champion.

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Analysis of Women’s World Championship

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So Edna Kiplagat made history, retained her title, restored some Kenyan dominance and won the 2013 Women’s World Championship. But what were the other stories of the race?

Of 72 listed starters, 70 toed the line. The controversial 2pm local time start of the race, in the heat of the day with temperatures of 27C/81F as the gun went off, was always going to be factor and it undoubtedly was – only 46 of the 70 (65%) crossed the finished line. Admittedly this is not uncommon amongst professionals, who will often drop out and save themselves for another day but it is still worth noting.

Best performing country?

One thing that did become clear from this race was that women’s marathoning truly is a global sport and less prone to the African dominance seen in men’s racing.  There were only two countries to have two runners in the top 10; Japan in third and fourth, and Italy in second and sixth. The top 20 placegetters had representatives from 13 countries with the most dominant country in that list been North Korea, with three. To put that in perspective, there were more finishers from North Korea in the top 20 than from all of Africa!

American vet hangs up boots with top 10 finish

40 year old American Deena Kastor was thrilled with a top 10 finish (9th) in what she announced was her last competitive, high level marathon, admitting it was hard work saying “It was a torture, it was a hard race out there. I felt like I was trying to get those negative thoughts out, so it was a lot of mental work out there.”

Team GB has solid day

Great Britain’s Susan Partridge was one who used the heat to her advantage, saying “I started off and I was way back and for a minute I did wonder if I had been a little bit too cautious. It was just getting my rhythm going and I didn’t really think about the times or even paying attention to the kilometre markers. It was all about looking at the next person in front of me and trying to get past them and it was a proper race in that sense.” She went through halfway in 22nd but finished strong to cross the line in ninth. Compatriot Sonia Samuels finished in 16th.

Comments from the medalists:

Edna Kiplagat was thrilled with her result:

“I’m delighted I was able to defend my title successfully. I got confident I was going to win at the 40km mark when I upped my pace. I felt a bit tired at the start – my body did not react immediately. I just wanted to relax, prepare my body so I could pick up gradually.””

Surprise second place getter, Italian Valerio Straneo said:

“I’m feeling in a dream now! I knew [that Edna would win]…She is too strong. At 40km I had to let Edna go because I felt pain in the muscles of my legs. But I’m really comfortable with heat and so I was happy that today was warm. It was a dream and a surprise. Maybe tomorrow I will realize what I did!”

Bronze medalist, Japan’s Kayako Fukushi, also expressed surprise at her result:

“I didn’t realize I won the bronze until I entered the stadium! I thought somebody was behind me.”

Full results

The full results can be viewed at the IAAF website.

 

 

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If the World Championship was run to PB times…

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In a completely hypothetical and largely pointless exercise, Marathon Intervals compiled the start list of the 2013 Men’s Marathon World Championship to be held in Moscow on August 17. Now while we know there is never going to be a race where everyone runs a PB, not to mention the impact that race tactics have on a major race such as the World Championships, we thought it would be fun to see where everyone would finish on their recorded best time. The results are about as predictable as you would.

Ethiopian runners hold the five fastest times by personal best, led by 2013 Virgin London Marathon winner Tsegay Kebede (2:04:38). The first non-Ethiopian runner is Kenya’s Bernard Koech in 2:04:53. Of the top 12 runners, only three countries are represented; Ethiopia (6), Kenya (5) and Morocco with Jaouad Gharib in 2:05:27.

2012 Olympic gold medalist Stephen Kiprotich slots into 14th fastest with his 2:07:20. Eritrea has three runners in the top 20 while Japan has all five of their representatives in the top 25.

The field consists of six runners who have gone under 2:05, a further three under 2:06, four under 2:07 and six runners who have run 2:08 flat or under. The slowest runner in the field by PB is Guatemala’s Jermias Saloj who has a best time of 2:16:56.

Of the 77 runners toeing the line at this stage, only 29 have gone under the 2:10. If you take out the strong Ethiopian contingent there is definitely a noticeable absence of some of the worlds best.

The full list of runners sorted by their personal records can be downloaded here

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Energy drinks and supplements blamed for London Marathon fatality

A coroner has ruled that 30yo Claire Squires death in the 2012 London Marathon is attributable to an energy drink she had consumed before the race.

A coroner has ruled that 30yo Claire Squires death in the 2012 London Marathon is attributable to an energy drink she had consumed before the race.

The safety of so called energy drinks and supplements have again been bought into question with a coroner ruling that one product likely contributed to the death of 30 year old Claire Squires in the 2012 Virgin London Marathon.

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Source: The Independent

UK Coroner Philip Barlow stated that Squires ‘had taken a supplement containing DMAA which, on the balance of probabilities in combination with ­extreme physical exertion, caused acute cardiac failure which resulted in her death’.

DMAA has the chemical name methylhexanamine and is commonly known as 1,3-dimethylamylamine. It is traditionally sold as a diet, energy and body building supplement. It is believed that the DMAA was consumed by Squires in a product called Jack3d. DMAA is banned in many countries after links to a number of deaths by cardiac arrests, especially soldiers in the US Army.

Coroner Barlow added ‘My hope is that the coverage of this case and the events leading up to Claire’s death will help publicise the potentially harmful effects of DMAA during extreme –exertion.

‘She was obviously a very dedicated and well-motivated person. She died raising money for charity. I can only offer my condolences to all members of the family for a very tragic loss of an obviously dear person.’

Dr Jon van der Walt, who performed Squires’ post-mortem said that, on the ‘balance of probability’ based on his own examination of Squires and on evidence from the inquest, the cause of death had been a heart attack caused by ‘extreme physical exertion complicated by [DMAA]’.

Dr van de Walt added: ‘[Squires] had taken vigorous exercise over many years. I would regard that as a stress test: she has been able to do all this before, therefore it is unlikely that she had fatal arrhythmia.’

Have you ever used an energy supplement during your marathon preparation?

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Houston Marathon preview

houstonSunday will see the running of the 41st Chevron Houston Marathon, however more eyes may be on the Aramco half marathon than the full 26.2 with the offer a $50,000 bonus for a world record.

The men’s elite field for the marathon will be headlined by PB 2:05:25 runner, Bazu Worku from Ethiopia. 2012 second place finisher and Ethipoian compatriot, Debebe Tolosa (2:07:41), will be the main challenger.

It is a stellar elite field for the half marathon though, with the fourth fastest half-marathoner of all time, 22-year-old Ethiopian Atsedu Tsegay Tesfaye headlining the field. He has a PB of 58:47 in March last year and will be going hard to run down Zersenay Tadese’s 58:23 set in 2010.

Challenging both Tesfaye and the world record will be a competitive field including one of America’s favourite distance runners, Olympic silver medallist Meb Keflezighi, 2:05:37 marathoner Kenyan Wilson Erupe and defending champ Feyisa Lilesa (59:22). Keflezighi recently announced he will be running this year’s Boston Marathon.

The other interesting race should be in the women’s elite marathon where Ethiopia looks strong in the female fields also. There appears a good chance of a head to head battle between two strong runners starting with 2011 New York runner up Buzunesh Deba who has a PB of 2:23:19 who is likely to be challenged by 20 year old emerging star Merima Mohammed who recorded 2:23:06 as a teenager.

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Would you rather race too far or too short?

tape-measure1Surely one of the biggest gripes race directors must have regarding the growth of technology in running is everyone who complains that a race route was too short or too long because it measured that way on their GPS watch!

Bearing in mind the standard response that your GPS watch will never measure the exact route distance due to a number of factors including that you probably will not be running the most direct route and the allowance for margin of error in the devices, a quick search online indicates that there are indeed many times where races have been measured too short or too long.

The 2012 Vienna Indoor Marathon measured 1.8km short

The 2012 Vienna Indoor Marathon measured 1.8km short

The most recent example is the Vienna Indoor Marathon held in Austria on 16 December this year where promoters has advertised the race as perfect for setting a PB due to ‘zero incline or descent, no wind and a constant temperature of 15 degrees Celsius’. All good factors to help set a marathon PB, but not as helpful as the fact the course was 1.8 kilometres short!

There are a list of other examples all around the world of courses been too short or too long; the 2005 Lakeshore Marathon, the 2010 Cardiff Half Marathon and the 2012 Hull Marathon, Whistler Half Marathon and Huntly Half Marathon.

Debate still occurs about the 1954 Empire Games (now Commonwealth Games) held in Vancouver where English marathoner Jim Peters entered the stadium some three miles ahead of his closest competitor. He collapsed upon entering the stadium and took 15 minutes to go just 200 yards and story has it he fell numerous times before collapsing over the believed finish line and into the arms of his trainer – however it was the wrong finish line, used for track events, while the marathon line was further on. He was disqualified for receiving outside assistance. There is still a belief by some that the actual course was measured too long.

This all raises the question – would you rather have your race measured too far or too short?

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Honolulu Marathon preview

honolulu1Tomorrow will see the running of the 40th Honolulu Marathon and one of the final big name fields of 2012. The race will have more than 31,000 entrants – the biggest field in 15 years, and has the added interest of a number of big name professionals who entered the race after the disappointment of New York.

Headlining the elite field is Olympic bronze medallist and second fastest official marathoner of all time, Wilson Kipsang. Kipsang was a surprise entry in the race after missing out on the ING New York City marathon and would on paper surely be an odds on chance of breaking the course record if conditions were favourable. His personal best of 2:03:42 was admittedly set in the much cooler climate of Berlin last year, however still has some seven and half minutes on the 2:11:12 set by compatriot Jimmy Muindi in 2004.

While Muindi has again entered Honolulu, his 20th time, he is not likely to be amongst Kipsang’s challengers with his recent best in Honolulu falling off to 2:24:40. Muindi has won the race seven times with his last win in 2007.

Wilson Kipsand winning the London Marathon.

Wilson Kipsand winning the London Marathon.

Most likely to challenge Kipsang will be 28 year old Ethiopian Markos Geneti who set his personal best of 2:04:54to finish third in the now well renowned Dubai Marathon in January this year.

Kenyans have won more than half of all Honolulu Marathons with 21 wins and there will be a number of Kenyan challenges in addition to Kipsang and Muindi. Two-time defending champion Nicholas Chelimo will wear the number one bib, however his recent best of 2:16:44 in the Eindhoven Marathon in October was some nine minutes of his personal best 2:07:38 set in the same race in 2010. Other Kenyans include 2008 and 2009 winner Patrick Ivuti (PB 2:07:46) and 2011 third place finisher Josephat Boit (2:15:40).

In the women’s field it is very much an Ethiopian affair with both the defending champion and second place getter returning for another crack. Woynishet Germa won the race on debut last year in 2:31:41, beating out Misiker Mekonnen by 12 seconds (2:31:53). The most likely challenger is a pace setter from last year and 2012 Gold Coast Marathon winner, Japan’s Kaori Yoshida. American Stephanie Rothstein is also a chance, aiming to be the first American winner since 1988 with a personal best of 2:29:35 set in the humid 2011 Houston Marathon.

vogThe factor likely to protect course records for another year is the unique Hawaii phenomenon known as vog – volcanic smog and gases from Kilauea. Vog makes the air more moist, increasing humidity and attracting pollutants, making it harder to breathe. Race president Dr. Jim Barahal has already flagged that the increased vog present in Honolulu at the moment will lead to slower winning times and he has pleaded for the amateur entrants to run to the conditions.

“When the weather is bad, hot, humid and voggy the best thing to do is slow down you’re not going to run a personal best, just accept that from the beginning,” Dr Barahal said.

 

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Fukuoka Marathon preview

fukuokaIt’s less than five hours until the start of the Fukuoka Marathon so just enough time to have a quick look at the field and see if we can make any predictions. The race has a number of notable names, none more so than legend and former world record holder Haile Gebreselassie.

With a marathon best of 2:03:59, on paper Gebreselassie has a PB minutes faster than any other competitors. Kenyan Martin Lel was next fastest with a 2:05:15 prior to him withdrawing earlier this week with an injured right thigh.

There has been a lot of water under the bridge since Gebreselassie ran that time. His recent best was a 2:08:17 in this year’s Tokyo Marathon, finishing fourth behind Olympic champion Stephen Kiprotich which, if ran in Fukuoka, should still be very competitive for the win.

There are a number of other international entrants worth keeping an eye on; Ukraine’s Dmytro Baranovskyy and Kenya’s Isaac Macharia have both run low 2:07’s (2:07:15 and 2:07:16) but neither since 2008. In my opinion the international to keep an eye on and best placed to win the race is Poland’s Henryk Szost. The 30 year old has had a wonderful 2012, recording his PB of 2:07:39 (a national record) in March while finishing second in the Lake Biwa Marathon and then running 2:12:28 in the challenging conditions of the London Olympics to finish ninth.

Other internationals of note include Canadian record holder and London Olympic 26th place getter Reid Coolsaet (2:10:55, 2011) and the UK’s Scott Overall (2:10:55, 2011) and Andrew Lemoncello (2:13:40, 2010).

The local field though is just as likely to take the win, with the charge led by fan favourite Yuki Kawauchi. The 25 year old who also works full time has a personal best of 2:08:37 when he finished third in the 2011 Tokyo Marathon. Another Japanese runner not aligned to a club and in fact is self-trained is Arata Fujiwara. With a personal best of 2:07:48 (2nd, 2012 Tokyo Marathon), Fujiwara also ran in the London Olympics and finished 45th in 2:19:11.

There are numerous other local runners with PBs in the 2:08/2:09 area that could also challenge if everything goes to plan on the day; James Mwangi (2:08:38), Yoshinori Oda (2:09:03), Cyrus Njui (2:09:10), Hiroyuki Horibata (:2:09:25) and Harun Njoroge (2:09:38).

The Fukoka Marathon is reasonably unique in that it has very strict entry standards. For ‘Group A’ marathoners the time required is 2:27 with cut-offs throughout the race at 95 minutes for the first 30km and 65 minutes for halfway. The more ‘relaxed’ ‘Group B’ times are 2:42 for the race with 110 minutes for 30km and 70 minutes for halfway.

Marathon Intervals predicts a Fujiwara, Kawauchi, Gebreselassie top 3

Marathon Intervals predicts a Fujiwara, Kawauchi, Gebreselassie top 3

What this all should mean is a fast and highly competitive race. The temperature won’t be a factor, with a maximum of 12C/54F but there is rain expected. Marathon Intervals prediction is Kawauchi, Fujiwara and Gebreselassie to battle out the podium with a finish time of 2:08.

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Marathon = death? Call me a sceptic

All my time running I’ve loved the way that it’s made me feel, made my body look (well except for when a little too undernourished!) and the good that I know it is doing for my health.

I’ve also had to deal with the comments from friends and family on how it’s bad for my knees, will wear out my heart and the tales of people who die whilst running. The recent example is two people who died last week in the Guangzhou Marathon in China, one of which was running a 5 kilometre event, while there was major international coverage after the death of 30 year old Claire Squires in this year’s London Marathon.

Well that debate looks like not disappearing any time with the publication of a report and subsequent article in the British newspaper The Daily Telegraph about the health risks of marathoning.

The article, titled ‘Too many marathons can kill, warn doctors’ essentially claims that too much sustained exercise can lead to “overstretching of the organ’s chambers, thickening of its walls, changes to electrical signalling, accelerated aging in the heart, diastolic ventricular dysfunction and large-artery wall stiffening”.

30yo Claire Squires died in the 2012 London Marathon. It was later revealed she had an irregular heartbeat.

To me this is ridiculous. The claim is essentially that there is more damage to the heart by running than there is listed by the Heart Foundation on how smoking damages the heart. There is also more damage done to the heart by running than by being obese. This really, really scares me as I reckon people will use this as an excuse to not exercise.

I’m not saying that the science is fraudulent. I do reckon though that the sample they are looking at is miniscule and similarly the number of people who die each year running a marathon as a percentage of entrants is tiny.  I could just easily scan the entrants list of an Ironman or marathon race and find people racing well into their 80’s.

Just like everything in life, training for marathons and running needs to be done in moderation, but there needs to be caution in over exaggerating the risks to the masses of something that is relevant to a very small number.

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The solitude of running

I was reading an article online from the UAE-based Khaleej Times called ‘Long-distance runners lap up miles for the love of it’ that analysed why people run, especially marathons, and what sort of personalities are drawn to running marathons.

American sports psychologist Gregory Chertok was attributed in the article as saying ‘long-distance running seems to be appreciated by those who enjoy solitude – or periods of solitude – and are OK with monotony’. During my running life I certainly enjoy the time alone that running brings me, to either gather my thoughts, think through issues or on a really good day think of absolutely nothing at all and just get lost in the run!

It was interesting to note that a 2007 published scientific study (The psychology of the marathoner: Of one mind and many, John Raglin) seemed to contradict this ‘solitude’ approach, claiming that marathoners ‘are generally less introverted than non-athletes and possess more desirable mental health profiles, scoring lower in depression, anxiety and neuroticism, and higher in desirable variables such as emotional stability and psychic vigor’. It was also noted though the act of running marathons is not a cause of these factors, but rather that these personality traits make it more likely for these people to be pre-disposed to an attraction to the challenge of marathons.

I largely run by myself due to the fact that it gives me greater flexibility to run when I can as work or family commitments can make it hard to run only at set times. I know though for a lot people the community and comraderie from a running club is what makes the sport so enjoyable. I do enjoy the times when I get to run with my brother or a friend so can definitely see the appeal of both group running or running alone.

To run a marathon though I think does certainly take an element of selfishness in order to meet the commitment required. I know my personality type using Jung typology is very much more aligned to been an extrovert in certain settings such as work or with friends, but my preferred default personality is to be slightly introverted, not in a shy way, but more that I am comfortable with my own company.

For me, I think my personality certainly plays a part in why I run and the enjoyment that I get from not just racing but also the training and even the analysis of all the associated data such as mileage, heart rates, pace, etc.

Do you prefer to run by yourself or in a group? Do you think your personality attracts you to running?

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