Category Archives: Professional

Posts on professional running or events

2020 Olympics could propel Japanese to marathon greatness

tokyo2020

A long time popular, Japanese marathon running is now in the midst of a golden age in terms of global competitiveness. The announcement this week that Tokyo was selected as the host city for the 2020 Olympics may see the nation of Ekiden and corporate runners challenge for global dominance.

Japan was extremely consistent in the marathons at the recent IAAF World Championships in Moscow. The Japanese men, although slightly disappointed not to win a medal, had four finishers in the top 20 with the best place fifth. The women also stayed very competitive, finishing third and fourth.

These results come on top of the fact that seven Japanese men have run under 2:10:00 this year alone and 11 women are listed in the fastest 80 marathon times so far this year, all under 2:28:00. There is depth there and although the top Japanese still remain a few minutes of the elites of Africa, the Olympic announcement may be the push they need to bridge that gap.

Studies have shown that hosting an Olympic Games has a significant increase on winning medals. There is a moderate increase in medal numbers for the Games preceeding, in this case Rio de Janeiro, but the real pay day comes when a country hosts the Games, winning 1.5 times the number of medals compared to the Games before or after, both of which are higher than the average medal tally.

Percentage of medals won at host city Games compared to two games pre and post. Source: Plus Magazine

Percentage of medals won at host city Games compared to two games pre and post. Source: Plus Magazine

If this statistic holds true for Tokyo, the marathon will likely be one of the events the Japanese will target to pick up medals. They surely have a good platform from which to launch. If nothing else, the passion and understanding of marathon running that is part of the Japanese psyche and culture will ensure that marathon in 2020 may be the memorable moment from those Olympic Games.

Leave a comment

Filed under News, Opinion, Professional

Stephen Kiprotich unquestionable champion

kiprotich300388worlds

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.

Leave a comment

Filed under Analysis, News, Professional

Analysis of Women’s World Championship

dc81b039ce59141a3a0f6a706700cc52

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.

 

 

3 Comments

Filed under Analysis, News, Professional

Edna Kiplagat becomes first woman to defend World Championship

Kenya's Edna Kiplagat celebrates after winning the 2013 World Championship

Kenya’s Edna Kiplagat celebrates after winning the 2013 World Championship

Despite a far from ideal preparation and travel to Moscow, Kenya has claimed some redemption from last years Olympics, with defending champion Edna Kiplagat becoming the first woman to retain her title.

On a hot and humid day, Kiplagat crossed the line in 2:25:44, kicking clear for the win at the 40km mark from Italy’s Valerio Straneo. Straneo had set the pace all day but couldn’t overcome Kiplagat’s spurt and settled for second 10 seconds later. It was the best performance by an Italian in a World Championship marathon. Japan’s Kayoko Fukushi claimed third in 2:27:44.

The highly fancied Ethiopian team failed dismally, with no runners in the top 10.

Edna Kiplaga breaks the tape to defend her world championship

Edna Kiplaga breaks the tape to defend her world championship

Leave a comment

Filed under News, Professional

Bizarre start to World Champs for Kenya’s marathon women

There will be no Kenyan trifecta in the 2013 Women's marathon.

There will be no Kenyan trifecta in the 2013 Women’s marathon.

Tomorrow will see the start of the 2013 IAAF World Championships, when the eyes of the athletics world will descend upon Moscow. One of two medal events on the first day is the Women’s marathon, and most punters would expect Kenya to be challenging for the medals after their podium clean sweep at Daegu in 2011. Before the starters gun has gone off we can say with certainty that there will be no Kenyan clean sweep this year.

Such a claim is not a prediction on form or a preference for runners from rival Ethiopia (although they will certainly be a factor) but rather it is a sad statement of fact with news that Kenya has right royally stuffed up the logistics of getting to Moscow, meaning two of their four competitors will toe the line.

The Kenyan Daily Nation reported that defending champion Edna Kiplagat and Lucy Kabuu will be the only two starters after Team Kenya’s flight to Moscow on Monday afternoon was cancelled due to lack of jet fuel and bizarre decisions saw half the squad not make the onward flight to Russia.

The paper reports:

Valentine Kipketer was left behind when the team left on Tuesday morning, while Margaret Akai was secretly axed from the team owing to an injury. Kipketer was left stranded, with no official from Athletics Kenya to sort out her travel issues as most of them had travelled to Moscow.

Kipketer, winner of the 2013 Mumbai Marathon in 2hrs, 24:20min, was left asleep at the Laico Regency Hotel when the team departed on Tuesday morning and was hoping to catch a flight to Moscow on Wednesday night.

However, the fire at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport Wednesday morning left her stranded after all the incoming and outgoing flights were cancelled. Kipketer was eagerly awaiting communication from Emirate Airlines regarding her next flight.

What makes the decision even stranger is the pressure the Kenyan athletes are feeling to set the tone early and overcome the perceived failures from the 2012 London Olympics. Lucy Kabuu had earlier said to media that“It’s not just for the fact that we are under pressure to retain the title. I believe victory will set the ambience for the rest. It’s important that, being the openers, we do just that.”

The path to redemption just got that bit harder for the Kenyan powerhouse.

UPDATE: KIPKETER DID EVENTUALLY GET TO MOSCOW AND TOED THE STARTING LINE.

The Kenyan men’s team is set to fly to Moscow next Tuesday.

Leave a comment

Filed under News, Professional

If the World Championship was run to PB times…

moscowlogo

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

Leave a comment

Filed under Analysis, News, Professional

Berlin will see fastest ever runners go head to head

Patrick Makau set the marathon world record (2:03:38) at Berlin in 2011.

Patrick Makau set the marathon world record (2:03:38) at Berlin in 2011.

The BMW Berlin marathon has announced that this year’s race will see the two official fastest marathon runners of all time going head to head at their event on 29 September.

Kenyans Patrick Makau and Wilson Kipsang ran 2:03:38 and 2:03:42 respectively in 2011 to set the two fastest times officially recorded. Makau set the benchmark at the Berlin event while Kipsang pushed it to the brink only weeks later, also in Germany at the Frankfurt marathon.

Last year’s race also saw the fastest marathon time anywhere in the world in 2012 run by winner, Geoffrey Mutai (2:04:15) and the fastest ever marathon debut by countryman Dennis Kimetto (2:04:16).

Mutai is the fastest man to cover the marathon distance, running 2:03:02 at the 2011 Boston Marathon, however this is not an official record due to the difference in elevation being greater than 1 metre per kilometre between the start and finish.

Kenyan marathon runners have faced some criticism for electing not to run the upcoming IAAF World Championships in Moscow, with critics claiming runners agents are putting prize-money from the Marathon Majors ahead of the world title. Neither Makau nor Kipsang are running at Moscow, although Kipsang placed third in the 2012 London Olympics.

1 Comment

Filed under Professional

IAAF World Championships preview

moscowlogoWe’re one week out from the opening of the 2013 IAAF World Championships and the eyes of the athletics world are set to descend upon Moscow.

It’s a big ask to follow up the success and highlights of the 2012 London Olympics, but someone has to do it and Moscow outbid Barcelona and Brisbane for the opportunity. So what does it have in st ore from a marathon perspective? Well let’s just say the vibe so far isn’t exactly great…

We’ll begin with one thing we know – the course. The route will start and finish in the centrepiece of the championships, the Luzhniki Stadium, with the first 600m and final 300m run on the track at the stadium. The distance in between is run through central Moscow, along the banks of the Moskva River. It is essentially four laps from Luzhniki Stadium up to the Kremlin and back, although the first lap is shorter with a turn at 6.25km while the other three laps are 10km each (5km each way). A course map is pictured below.

The 2013 World Championship marathon course.

The 2013 World Championship marathon course.

While that may sound picturesque, the course has received some criticism with former Kenyan Olympian Kipchoge Keino describing the course to marathon commentator Toni Reavis as ‘a glorified time trial’. Keino goes on to say  a ‘5K up and down the Moscow River six times, and this is the best you can do for the sport?   There are no real hills or turns to use to try to escape the competition.  They just compress 42 kilometers into a four mile area so they can pack the crowds and make them look big’.

The timing of the event has also raised eyebrows, with the women’s marathon starting at 2pm local time and the men’s event at 3.30pm. The current long range forecast has the temperature for the two races sitting at 31C/88F and 30C/86F. By starting at this time it is likely the races will be at the hottest parts of the day. This is certainly going to take a toll on the runners. It has been speculated that the reason for the time is to satisfy the Japanese TV rights holders whose sole interest in the event is the two marathon races.

In terms of actual athletes who are running, there are a number of big names missing in both events. Although we are still awaiting a complete list of entrants for the two events, the short priced men’s favourite in my eyes would have to be a battle out of Olympic gold medalist Stephen Kiprotich and London 2013 winner, Ethiopia’s Tsegaye Kebede (2:04:38), however Ethiopia has three other runners also with PB’s under 2:05. The Kenyans are led by Bernard Koech (2:04:53) who has run the fastest half-marathon in the world this year, and teamed up with Michael Kipyego, Bernard Kipyego, Nichola Kipkemboi, and my favourite of the Kenyans, Paris Marathon winner Peter Some.

The Kenyans have stated that they will need to run as a team and have a very tactical race if they are to challenge the Ethipioans and retain the title won by Abel Kirui in 2011.

On the women’s side it is again the Ethiopians that look strongest, led by Boston marathon winner Lelisa Desisa, although defending champion, Kenyan Edna Kiplagat is racing and will be in the mix to defend her title.

Given the headline news major marathons have had lately with Boston and New York, I think we all just want the racing to start and let a new legend of the sport emerge.

Who is your pick for the word titles?

1 Comment

Filed under Opinion, Professional, Uncategorized

New York facing challenges behind the scenes

Runners are hoping for better news in the 2013 ING NYC marathon.

Runners are hoping for better news in the 2013 ING NYC marathon.

We’re still four months away from a foot pounding Central Park in anger, but the 2013 ING New York City Marathon is already facing challenges behind the scenes. Fresh off the cancellation mismanagement in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy last year, news is now surfacing that the race will be searching for a new naming rights sponsor and is struggling to fill charity entry allocations.

Following a decision to rebrand and move away from it’s Netherland parent-company, ING US will not renew it’s naming night sponsorship of New York and will withdraw from long distance running sponsorships in the USA, including races in Miami and Connecticut. They have been the primary sponsor of NYC since 2003. The New York Road Runners (NYRR) are reportedly seeking $10m a year for naming rights.

In another blow, it has surfaced that half of the more than 8,000 spots allocated for runners raising money for charities are not filled. It is speculated that the low uptake may be due to the mismanagement of last year’s race, fear following the Boston Marathon bombing in April and the fact that NYRR were behind schedule in allocating the charity spots, doing so only eight weeks ago.

The marathoning community, especially in the US, could certainly use a boost following the issues surrounding both Boston and New York so we hope that these are just minor glitches on the way to restoring the NYC Marathon back to its prestige of been the most desired race for marathoners.

Leave a comment

Filed under Professional

Kimetto wins Tokyo Marathon

Kenya's Denis Kimetto wins the 2013 Tokyo Marathon in course record 2:06:50.

Kenya’s Dennis Kimetto wins the 2013 Tokyo Marathon in course record 2:06:50.

Berlin runner up and the fastest man to never win a marathon, Kenya’s Dennis Kimetto, can now remove that caveat after winning the 2013 Tokyo Marathon in a new course record 2:06:50.

Kimetto was the strong pre-race favourite in the best field ever assembled for a Tokyo Marathon, a reflection of its upgraded status to a World Marathon Major. Known as a strong finisher, Kimetto hung with the lead pack through halfway in a modest 64:22 until putting in surges of 14:20 for the 5km between 30 and 35km and 14:35 to cover 35km to 40km mark.

He was followed by compatriot Michael Kipyego and had a six second gap at that mark, but Kimetto then kicked to cover the last 2.195km in 6:34 and break the course record by 33 seconds. Kipyego, the 2012 winner, also snuck in the course record finishing in 2:06:58. The Kenyan trifecta was completed when Bernard Kipyego crossed in third (2:07:53).

tokyorace13aKimetto, who will move to the top of the World Marathon Majors leader board with his win, now has his sights set on greater accomplishments.

‘Maybe I can go to the world championships or Berlin,’ Kimetto said.

‘Maybe if I go to Berlin, I can break the world record.’

The course record was even more impressive considering the race was held in blustery headwinds that affected many of the runners.

On the women’s side it was Ethiopia who claimed bragging rights, with Aberu Kebede crossing first in 2:25:34 and compatriot Yeshi Esayias second in 2:26:01. The fastest female in the field, Germany’s Irina Mikitenko crossed third in 2:26:41.

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Professional