Tag Archives: marathon

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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The 2013 elite marathon schedule

Tokyo will launch the 2013 World Marathon Majors

Tokyo will launch the 2013 World Marathon Majors

The year after an Olympics is always hard to follow, but a quick glance at the marathon calendar appears to have plenty to keep the interest flowing. The highlight will be the IAAF World Championships, held in Moscow. The women’s marathon will be on the opening day of the event, Saturday 10 August while the men will be on the penultimate day, Saturday 17 August.

In terms of the first main race of the year, Dubai will unofficially start off the year on 25 January, where it is expected there will be a cluster of super fast times similar to last year. For the formal World Marathon Major schedule however it will be a debut race to start off the year with the addition of Tokyo running on 24 February.

From there the calendar can be planned out as follows:

  • Boston Marathon, 15 April
  • Virgin London Marathon, 21 April
  • Berlin Marathon, 29 September
  • Bank of America Chicago Marathon, 13 October
  • ING New York City Marathon, 3 November

The big question will be which nation will dominate the 2013 marathon year? 2011 was so clearly owned by the Kenyans but 2012 saw Ethiopia claw back some ground.

2013datesThe World Marathon Majors last year still saw a strong Kenyan dominance with Wesley Korir winning Boston, Wilson Kipsang in London and Geoffrey Mutai running the fastest time of the year in winning Berlin while Ethiopia’s Tsegay Kebede won Chicago. There was no winner for New York with the race cancelled due to Hurricane Sandy and Uganda’s Stephen Kiprotich scored the upset win at the Olympics.

On the women’s front Ethiopia took three of the five majors; Aberu Kebede winning in Berlin, Atsede Baysa in Chicago and Tiki Gelana running away with the Olympic title. For Kenya it was 2011-12 World Marathon Major winner, Mary Keitany, who won last year’s London Marathon and compatriot Sharon Cherup taking the honours in Boston.

In terms of standings in the 2012-13 World Marathon Majors title, both the men’s and women’s tables are evenly balanced.

For the men Ethiopia’s Kebede and Kenya’s Kipsang lead the men’s title on 35 points each, Korir is third on 26 points and Kiprotich and Mutai round out the top five on 25 points.

On the women’s side it is defending champ Keitany in the lead on 35 points and then five tied in second place on 25 points; Kenya’s Cherop and Priscah Jeptoo and three Ethipioan’s in  Baysa, Gelana and Kebede.

The attention may not be as singularly focused as the London Olympics last year, but 2013 is shaping up to be a great year in elite international marathon running!

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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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Defending champs return to Boston

17heatpictwo2012 Boston Marathon defending champions Wesley Korir and Sharon Cherop have confirmed that they will attempt to defend their titles in the 117th running of the race on 15 April next year.

The two Kenyan born athletes won this years race in stiffling heat, running within themselves to beat a field of more fancied runners. For Korir the 2013 edition of the race will be his ‘A race’ for the year, a race that he acknowledges the significance of winning.

“Winning the Boston Marathon was the biggest accomplishment of my life and the win placed me in a distinguished group of champions who are legendary.

“The entire world recognizes and respects the Boston Marathon, and I am proudly a Boston Marathon champion forever,” said Korir.

boston-marathon-logoFor Cherop the appeal of the course and standard of competition made her decision to return an easy one.

“I know that there are some of the best athletes in the world competing in Boston in 2013, but I’ll be ready for the big race. The course is very hard because there are a lot of hills and you are running without pacers, but I like this course because it’s also making a natural selection among the athletes.

“I will be in Boston to try to win again and perform at my best level,” said Cherop.


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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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Marathon medals

Finished a marathon lately? Then apart from the buzz of completing the distance, maybe recording a PB and having a happy snap to share with friends, you will undoubtedly have received a finisher’s medal. The question then becomes one of what to do with said medal after the race.

For me personally it’s always just been put in a box on a shelf in my study and occasionally I’ll also keep my race bib and write my time on the back of that as a memento of my performance. Others I know have them framed or hang them all together and then others again give to their kids to play with, throw them in a sports bag or get rid of them all together.

I’m a fan of the medal as a way to recognise the achievement of completing a marathon and remembering a particular event. I’m sure that some purists would argue though that the awarding of finishers medals has contributed to the mass participation/’finishers’ mindset as opposed to the days when marathons were raced. This point is pushed even further with medals awarded nowadays in some cases with races as short as 5km.

I doubt that people would choose to race a marathon, or even one event over another, because of the medal but if for some people that encourages them to run then I say go for it. I think the marathon is such a significant event in terms of effort, training and commitment that it deserves recognition and a medal is entrenched as a way of doing that.

For elite races and to recognise place getters there are still trophies, prize money and other efforts to reward high achievers, but I don’t feel that the awarding of a finisher’s medal undermines the achievements of those who win.

What do you think of finisher’s medals? What do you do with yours?


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Training session: hill reps

Anyone training for a marathon will have come across hill repetitions somewhere in their training program. For me, it is one of my favourite marathon training sessions and one that I know can leave me feeling exhausted but as strong as an ox.

It’s important to remember that a hill session is not necessarily a hill repetition; gentle rolling hill runs or sprinting up hills encountered on a training run all provide running value, but for me the pick of hill sessions is definitely hill reps. My session of choice is 15 repeats of 300m hill sprints with easy jog back down for recovery, preceded and followed by a 10-15min easy jog warm up and cool down.

The benefits of hill repeats include the physical benefits of quicker and longer leg strides, improved leg strength, increased cadence or stride frequency, increased VO2 max and higher anaerobic and lactate thresholds as well as the psychological benefit that comes from knowing hills are no problem.

If your marathon in on a pancake flat course, the strength benefits of hill training and hill reps in particular will still carry through so it is recommended as a part of a structured training program. It is important to remember though that while hillwork is sometimes called speedwork in disguise, there is still a need to incorporate standard speedwork as well as the best way to run fast in a race is to run faster in training.

For me I’m lucky enough to be able to do this in the Melbourne running mecca known as The Tan, which has an iconic hill called Anderson St which just so happens to be a perfect distance from my gym to do my warm-up and cooldown there and back. I find it important to start off so that I feel a slight effort but with plenty in reserve, because I want to be able to hold the same time for each hill repeat on my first as I do on my thirteenth or fourteenth time. After reaching the top I jog comfortably back to the bottom, focusing on form on the downhill but certainly not worrying about pace other than not stopping or walking – always running!

What is your favourite hill session?

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Marathons in costumes: good or bad?

Personally I find running a marathon hard enough in a pair of shorts, singlet and a trusty pair of shoes.  I try to stick to myself, find my rhythm and run the best race I can. If you have seen a mass participation marathon lately though you can clearly see that others have a different opinion and run to really bring fun to others, attention to themselves and some colour to races when they run in costumes.

From superheroes to sports stars, surgeons to celebrities, the extent of the costumes appear to be limited only by imagination. Personally I have seen Superman and Wonder Woman, a man dressed in a bride’s gown, a number of fairies, a baby, a squadron of storm troopers and a devil while overseas fame has been achieved by people ‘running’ as a deep sea diver, a gorilla, a camel, a sumo wrestler, running on stilts, dressed as a banana, tiger, lion, Spiderman and Batman and of course Santa Claus!

The reasons behind why people wear costumes in race seem to fall under two categories; to help raise money for a charity or for the attention that such an outfit naturally brings.  Comments on the Let’s Run and Cool Running forums on running in costumes are generally supportive and include “I can highly recommend running in costume- it’s a hoot. For me I found that people cheered, waved, high fived, offered drinks and young women occasionally displayed interest”.

Do costumes take away from the purpose of the marathon or add colour? (Photo by Jed Leicester/Getty Images)

Not all runners share the same enthusiasm though. Marathon aficionado Toni Reavis asks the question ‘Is it really road racing anymore?’ in a blog that questions whether stunts like costumes have undermined the competition and elite level of marathoning.  I can certainly concede that the natural attention from the media that costumes draws does distract from the achievements of the elite in the mainstream media, however the counterargument would be that what level of media interest would there be if the focus was purely on the elites. The human interest and common man angle is something that allows mainstream media to connect with marathons in a time when the dominance by the Africans means that for most Western media cannot not otherwise build a story.

The debate will continue as to the appropriateness, but it should also be noted that just because these entrants are in costumes does not mean they are not running respectable times. Races of note while dressed in costume include Adam Campbell running the fastest marathon dressed in a suit (2:35:53, 2012), Michael Wardian running fastest in a superhero costume (2:34:56, 2011), Kevin Harvey in a nurse’s uniform (2:51:37, 2012), Michael Brigham as a baby (3:11:53, 2012) and Naomi Garrick in a wedding dress (3:41:40, 2012).

Have you ever ran a marathon in a costume? Do you think they add to or detract from an event?

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Athlete profile: Liliya Shobukhova

Russian marathoner Liliya Shobukhova turns 35 today (13 November). Marathon Intervals took a look at the life of the second fastest woman to ever run 26.2 miles.

Liliya Shobukhova crosses the finish line in the 2011 Chicago Marathon. (José M. Osorio/ Chicago Tribune)

Liliya Shobukhova has not had what could be described as a standard entrance to the world of marathon running. She grew up in the rural Russian town of Beloretsk in the 1990’s her family facing extreme poverty, the winter temperatures getting as low as -25 and the nearest indoor track more than 100km from her house. As a child her ambitions were more focused on ice skating than on running. Having been convinced to join her local running club as a nine-year-old, she raced predominantly shorter distances as a sprinter and then building up to become a 1500m and 3000m runner, setting personal bests for both in 2004 (4:03.78/8:34.85).

In 2007 she started running longer, winning the Prague Half Marathon and competing at the IAAF World Road Running Championships. After representing Russia in the 5000m at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, Shobukhova made the jump to the marathon, coming third in the 2009 London Marathon in 2:24:24.

From there she had a golden run, winning three Chicago Marathons (2009/10/11), the 2010 London Marathon and placing second in London in 2011. She ran the 2011 Chicago Marathon in 2:18:20, the fourth fastest time by a female ever and the second fastest woman as the three other times were recorded by Paula Radcliffe.

Shobukhova sadly could not continue her form through to the London Olympics, withdrawing with injury just over halfway through. She ran the 2012 Chicago Marathon but could not defend for a fourth title, finishing fourth in 2:22:59, 56 seconds behind Ethiopia’s Atsede Baysa.

Shobukhova has had to deal with personal tragedy with the death of her first husband, however is now re-married and has a daughter, along with five cats, a dog and a parrot!

“I think the marathon best suits my character,” Shobukhova told the IAAF in the lead up to the London Olympics. “It is like playing chess. I have a goal for every 5kms of the race. If the situation changes I have to correct my goals, to adjust tactics. It is really a great challenge for me.”

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