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Amazing Things Happening in the Marathon

Amazing Things Happening in the Marathon

I’ve written here before about some of the championship demands of the modern-day marathon. For example, to just qualify for the US Olympic Marathon team, you would have had to run the 26.2 miles averaging 12.2 mph (that’s a mile every 4 minutes and 55 seconds).  Sports Illustrated’s David Epstein – who visited College Station recently – has a new piece in the 4/16/12 edition of SI about the 2008 Olympic Marathon champion Sammy Wanjiru, who was found dead several months ago.  I would highly recommend this piece, not only for Epstein’s analysis of how Wanjiru changed the marathon forever, but to get a sense of how dominating the Kenyans have become in this race….

Some fun – wow - facts:

- As Epstein notes, “It's hard to come up with any measure sufficient to characterize the strength of the Kenyan marathon army, but try this: Sixteen American men in history have run faster than 2:10 (a 4:58 per mile pace); 38 Kenyan men did it in October.”  Amazing.

- Each country’s Olympic Marathon team is limited to only three participants.  It is going to be interesting to see how the Kenyan Olympic team will be picked, given that Kenya had the top 10 or so marathoners in the world last year (and the same goes for the Ethiopians after the next paragraph).

- There has been a lot of discussion about the Kenyan’s recent dominance of the marathon, especially at the expense of the Ethiopians.  However, this past weekend (and today), there have been major marathons all over the world (Paris, Rotterdam, Boston) and almost without fail, the Ethiopians have dominated every one.  As Ross Tucker, from the Science of Sport blog noted yesterday “Of the four individual titles on offer on the streets of Paris and Rotterdam, Ethiopia claimed three, along with two course records”.

(Update) - Last Monday, the Boston Marathon was run in unseasonable heat.  The heat played havocwith many of the top runners (really probably all of the runners) with several Kenyans taking the lead only to be dropped when they had heat issues.  Wesley Korir and Sharon Cherop, both Kenyans, won the men’s and women’s titles respectfully, with Jason Hartman being the highest finishing American (4th place, 2:14:31).  Unlike last year when an unofficial world record of 2:03:02 was set, the heat slowed Korir’s winning time to 2:12:40. To give you a sense of how bad the temperatures were for racing, the organizers of the race said that over 2000 runners sought medical attention during the race and about 120 of those were subsequently transported to local hospitals for further treatment.

(Update) - The London Marathon, using the same course that will be used for the Olympics later this summer, crowned two Kenyans - Wilson Kipsang and Mary Keitany - as winners of the Men’s and Women’s races. Mary Keitany’s marathon was the fastest women’s marathon in the world this year (and a Kenyan record) with a time of 2:18:36.  Wilson Kipsang ran his race in 2:04:44 which was just 4 seconds short of the course record (can you imagine running 26.2 miles only to miss the world record by 4 seconds?).  Ross Tucker again does a great analysis of both races and the incredible pace in both.

- Overall, of the four major marathons in the past nine days, the Ethiopians and the Kenyans split with two wins each in both men’s and women’s races.  While most Americans have tuned out on the marathon (but many still run them), the amazing performances happening in the marathon over the past year are truly noteworthy, regardless of your nationality.  Stay tuned – the upcoming Olympic Marathon should be epic.

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