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Monday, April 20, 2009

Boston Marathon reactions

AP article / IAAF recap

My thoughts on this morning's Boston Marathon…

Why was it not on TV? It was on Universal Sports, but almost no one gets that. It was carried on ESPN's foreign affiliates, such as Canada's TSN.

I'm not sure either Ryan Hall or Kara Goucher could have won, but I think both followed strategies that made it more difficult.

Goucher's strategy was jog 20 miles and race 10k, which allowed far too many athletes to hand around. The longer I saw Dire Tune in the picture, the more I thought about a) her close win a year ago and b) her track world record. Based on Tune's post-race stretcher cart-off, if the pace had been pressed earlier I doubt she would have beaten Goucher.

Hall's press from the gun / wait and see strategy didn't get rid of anybody except runners that weren't going to make a difference anyway, and it may have used up just enough energy that he couldn't respond when Merga made the real break. Had he been able to keep it close, he might have been able to reel in Merga near the end.

I think both of these strategies can be considered playing from a position of weakness; Hall's in fear of a too-slow race and Goucher's in fear of a too-fast one. Like poker, you'll only win in marathoning from a position of weakness if the cards break just right.

Did you see who was #1 in my men's road race rankings last week? Deriba Merga.

Did you see who was #3 in my women's road race rankings? Dire Tune. First (Aselefech Mergia) wasn't in the race and second (Vivian Cheruyiot) isn't a marathoner. Goucher was fourth and Kosgei way back in 37th.

I watched it online (I taught during the early miles and kept my students busy during the real nitty-gritty). I'm so glad I didn't get to hear Larry Rawson's awful announcing. From the Let's Run thread: "The holy grail: Larry Rawson has managed to combine 'the shoes weigh the same as two slices of bread' AND 'leg turnover' in one sentence."

Are either Hall or Goucher interested in winning Boston specifically or just a major marathon in general? Because everyone says Boston has a learning curve. It's no surprise that the same Kenyans keep coming back to there every year. London, Berlin and Chicago don't have a learning curve: pacemakers + flat course = brainless running 'til you're the last one standing.

If Boston and New York get far and away the lion's share of domestic marathon media attention, and shoe companies invest in American marathoners in order to sell sporting goods in the USA, why don't their contracts provide strong incentives for Americans to run New York and/or Boston?

Late Edits: I don't want it to sound like I think Hall and Goucher threw away wins; most likely, Merga and Kosgei would have won in any case. But I don't think they gave themselves the best chance to win.

The race got decent coverage on ESPN. It was in the "Mailbag" segment on PTI (Tony Kornheiser joked that Tune should have dove at Kosgei's feet) and prominent on SportsCenter (that fat tub of goo John Kruk said he was late to the studio because he ran the race).

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