2011 L.A. Marathon lineup is listed below. Next week we finalize this year’s Gender Challenge Differential. Now in its 7th year, the Gender Challenge was instituted to create some kind of interest in the pro races given that there’s no home team to root for. The thinking being, women would root for women, men for men, regardless of who they are or where they came from. TV ratings over the years have bolstered that thinking
Last year Kenya’s Edna Kiplagat won the women’s race on the new Stadium to Sea course in 2:25:38. Fellow Kenyan Wesley Korir took his second straight men’s title in 2:09:19. The difference in those two times is 16:19. Last year’s differential was 18:47, meaning Edna won the $100,000 Challenge bonus by a wide margin.
Yet at halfway last year the women were only up :22. By mile 17 the men had carved the advantage down to just :08, and it looked like we might get a strirring stretch run down San Vicente heading to the Santa Monica finish.
Then a 5:06 18th mile killed the men’s chances. The women ran 5:24 that mile as they ramped up while the men continued to lose time from then on. Edna’s breakaway 23rd mile was a 5:23 while the men took 5:17 when they hit that mile. Considering that they needed to average :43 per mile to make up the differential on an even-split basis, that cost them :40. Game, set, and match.
Question is: with the depth of the men’s field and lack thereof on the women’s side – Mara Dibaba has a two minute PR advantage on the other women – how to best set the differential to accomplish the close gender race at the end? Do we go with a straight 16:19 separation from last year’s race, knowing the men might whip by somewhere around 20 miles? Or, do you try to stretch it out? We’d love to hear your suggestions and comments.