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Sunday, April 13, 2008

London Marathon

WCSN on-demand video will be located here.
Let's Run's live thread is here.
Or you can scroll down to see what happened.

London Times story
Less Than Our Best live beer blog

In the men's race, a lead group of nine, including Ryan Hall, went through the half in 1:02:13. By 30k four of them, again including Ryan Hall, were dropped. On the drive in to the finish it was between Martin Lel, Samuel Wanjiru and Abderrahim Goumri, with Lel getting the win by nine seconds in 2:05:15, a course record. Hall was in sixth when dropped, but hung on extremely well, came back up to fifth and damn near got fourth (nipped by two seconds). His time was 2:06:17, the best fifth-place time ever and 16th on the all-time world list (and the idiots will argue is an American Record).

On the women's side, the times weren't quite as spectacular but the race was at least as interesting. Pre-race favorite Gete Wami fell hard at about 30k but made a strong recovery to get back with the leaders. She and Svetlana Zhakarova were dropped at 24 miles by Irina Mikitenko, a Kazakh-born German who was running her second marathon ever.

What do these results mean in the larger picture? If you're cheering for Ryan Hall, you'd have to say he's among the favorites for an Olympic medal but by no means the favorite to win. However, I think an Olympic race plays to his strengths. An extremely fast pace simply doesn't happen without rabbits, and his demonstrated late-race staying power is a tremendous tool for either running down a breakaway runner, or being the breakaway himself. As far as the conditions specific to Beijing (heat, humidity, pollution), I cannot say, except that the Americans have a plan.

Martin Lel has proved himself the best marathoner in the world. Yes, Gebrselassie has all those fast times. But he has run against weak to nonexistent fields, while Lel has a three-marathon winning streak in deep races, two with rabbits and one without.

This Irina Mikitenko character is towards the end of her athletic career (she will be days away from her 36th birthday at the start of the Beijing marathon) but at the beginning of her marathon career. The second fact is far more important than the first, and with that career on an upswing (debuted with second in Berlin '07, then won today) she is my favorite to win the Olympic title.

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