COOLER WEATHER PREDICTING FAST TIMES IN HONOLULU

Honolulu, HI. – As the countdown to the 45th Honolulu Marathon continues and the hotels along Waikiki Beach fill up with runners, all who assumed that the world’s most tropical marathon would once again offer balmy conditions are now digging into their luggage for any long-sleeve shirt they might have brought along by mistake.

Waikiki Beach

“Only twice before in race history have we seen conditions like this,” said Honolulu Marathon president Jim Barahal as temperatures hovered around the mid-60sF. “In 1986 when Ibrahim Hussein ran a course record (2:11:43), and in 2004 when Jimmy Muindi ran 2:11:12.”

The conditions Dr. Barahal describes are light north winds bringing dipping temps with low humidity. Typical December weather on the islands call for temps ranging from 76F – 87F, rarely falling below 64F, with winds predominately from the east.

Last year with light breezes replacing the traditional trade winds buffeting miles 11-15 along  Kalanianaʻole Highway heading to the marathon turnaround in Hawaii Kai, Kenya’s Lawrence Cherono and 2014 champion Wilson Chebet dueled below the 2004 course record of 2:11:12. Cherono became the first man ever under 2:10 in Honolulu with his 2:09:38 win. Chebet took second in 2:10:50. Continue reading

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BEKELE STILL TRYING TO FIND HIS GROOVE

Strange to see Kenenisa Bekele still having issues in his marathons after such a long run of success on the track and cross country.  After being widely recognized as the distance running G.O.A.T.,  you just expect each of his following steps to be equally agile and precise.  But after eight marathon starts in four years, this GOAT seems to be butting his head against a particularly stubborn foe.  To date he has only racked up two wins, one fewer than his total number of drop-outs.

The three time Olympic and five time World track champion has pledged that he will break the marathon world record before he retires, and said his DNF in Berlin September 24th had more to do with the cold and rain than with his  preparation. And he was “dismayed” after his manager Jos Hermens suggested to Letsrun.com that Bekele spent too much time concentrating on his business interests rather than training.

Several years ago I wrote some verse – THE END OF MYTH –  about the demise of the marathon as a truly scary distance for top tier athletes after Ethiopian track man  Markos Geneti ran 2:06 to win his debut at the 2011 Los Angeles Marathon. But every once a while, and notably with someone like Bekele, the old lady can still bare her teeth and say, “Not so fast”. Continue reading

MOTHER NATURE SAYS NEIN IN BERLIN

You can’t fool Mother Nature. If she doesn’t sanction it, nothing else matters. So despite the great field assembled by race director Mark Milde – including the Big 3  of former champions Kenenisa Bekele 2016, Eliud Kipchoge 2015, and Wilson Kipsang 2013 – despite the excellent pacing job that put the athletes right on record pace through 30km, when the start time temperature for today’s 44th BMW Berlin Marathon was in the mid-50s and the streets were puddled with rain – meaning high humidity – though it may not seem like an overly big thing, in fact, it was just enough of a thing to put the world record out of reach.

Berlin conditions

What’s the first lesson every coach drums into his/her athlete? Have realistic expectations. We have seen enough of these things to know that unless every piece of the puzzle falls into place – athletes, training, pace, competition, and conditions – all you can hope for is a great race.  And we sure got that today. In fact, this marks the nth time a great duel has emerged in Berlin in recent years. Continue reading

BERLIN 2017: IS PAST STILL PROLOGUE?

In the past, it was the pure strength men, or those who couldn’t quite finish fast enough on the Olympic track to earn medals, who sought solace in the marathon. Back then the world record was less a goal than an outcome. Names like Derek Clayton, Ron Hill, Frank Shorter, Bill Rodgers, Toshihiko Seko, Alberto Salazar, Rob de Castella, Steve Jones, and Juma Ikangaa are still venerated by old hearts.

Today, with the rewards to be made, young men come into the game totally fearless, all the progeny of the late Sammy Wanjiru, the mercurial Kenyan who announced a new era in marathon running when he attacked the 2008 Beijing Olympic course on a hot summer’s day as if he were on a 10k romp through a dewy meadow on a perfect spring morn. The following spring in London he goaded pacers to a 28:30 first 10k on the way to a 1:01:36 half and a brave, but fading 2:05:10 win.

Wanjiru forever changed the relationship between racers and the distance in those two races, stripping the marathon of much of its mystique, and arming marathoners everywhere with new courage at starting lines around the world.

We saw the full effect of the Wanjiru Era last May in Monza, Italy when former 5000 meter world champion Eliud Kipchoge came within 25 seconds of the two-hour barrier at Nike’s Breaking2 Project exhibition.  And now on September 24th in Berlin, Kipchoge, along with defending champion Kenenisa Bekele of Ethiopia and 2013 winner and ’16 runner up Wilson Kipsang of Kenya will meet at the 44th BMW Berlin Marathon, hunting for sub-2:02:57, the official marathon world record. It is a glorious matchup between two former track men moving up and one pure marathon man, each a past winner in the German capital.   Continue reading

BERLIN’S DREAM RACE

This is one of those everyonevhasanopinion races.
Like the prize fight between Floyd Mayweather and Conor McGregor August 26, or Triple G vs Canelo Alvarez last Saturday (16 Sept.), this coming Sunday’s BMW Berlin Marathon has something for everyone.

It is an interesting notation, however, that never in modern history have all the top marathoners in the world been on the same starting line at the same time. Even the Olympics limits competitors to three per nation. With so many events glutting the calendar, there is a natural leveling in the quality of all race fields, including within the Abbott World Marathon Majors, which all draw from the same talent pool.  This year, however, and perhaps for the first time, Berlin race director Mark Milde will showcase a trio of past champions that make his race the brightest light in the fall marathon firmament.

On September 24th defending champion Kenenisa Bekele of Ethiopia will again take on 2016 runner-up and 2013 champ Wilson Kipsang of Kenya, with 2015 Berlin winner, 2016 Olympic champion, and 2017 Breaking2 supernova Eliud Kipchoge adding to the thunder.  In this time of natural dilution, Berlin has gathered the dream (men’s) race everyone wants to see.

Last year Bekele and Kipsang battled to a near world record in the German capital, with Bekele besting his Kenyan rival by ten seconds, 2:03:03 – 2:03:13, Bekele just six seconds shy of Dennis Kimetto’s 2:02:57 world record set in Berlin `14.  Eliud Kipchoge arrives off a historic 2:00:25 Breaking2 marathon exhibition in Monza, Italy in May. And last year he not only won the Olympic gold in Rio, but came within eight seconds of the world record in London in April.  All three men have been sharpening their pencils to rewrite the record book on Sunday.

To date, the Dream Race title holder is the 2002 London Marathon where America’s Khalid Khannouchi – remember him? – took on Kenya’s Paul Tergat and a debuting Haile Gebrselassie of Ethiopia, with Special K taking the win, breaking his own world record by four seconds in 2:05:38, ten seconds up on Tergat and 37 seconds clear of Geb. Continue reading

TWO MARATHONS PER YEAR?

Japan’s “Citizen Runner” Yuki Kawauchi is notably famous for his relentless marathon schedule. Since his humble start in February 2009 when he finished 20th at the Beppu-Oita Manichi Marathon in 2:19:26, the now 30 year-old school custodian has run 67 marathons, 22 of which have ended in victory. Twice, 2014 and 2015, he has started 12, and generally his time range has been from 2:09 to 2:18.

Kawauchi, however, is the outlier. The conventional wisdom has long held that at the very highest level professional marathoners optimized at two per year, one in the spring, one in the fall. The original cast of five Abbott World Marathon Majors was built on that assumption.

With a marathon training cycle of roughly 12 weeks, and a proper recovery requiring one month, it was felt that two per year was the way to best schedule a marathon career, with exceptions made for an Olympic or (possibly) a World Championships year, where athletes were willing to compromise their fall effort for a shot at Olympic or WC glory.

Wilson Kipsang breaks from Eliud Kipchoge in 2013 Berlin, the only loss in Kipchoge’s marathon career

The perfect illustration of this is the current world number one marathoner Eliud Kipchoge of Kenya. Since the ’03 5000m world champion began with a win in Hamburg in April of 2013 (2:05:30), he has run two per year like clockwork, one in the spring, one in the fall, winning each and every race except his second career start in Berlin in September 2013 where he took second place (2:04:05) to Wilson Kipsang‘s then world record 2:03:23.

Even last year when Eliud won in London in April in a near-world record 2:03:05, then came back in Rio in August to claim Olympic gold, he didn’t force a fall start, saving himself instead for the mighty effort in Monza, Italy this past May in the Nike Breaking2 Project.

So, too, with rival Wilson Kipsang. His marathon career has stretched from Paris 2010 (3rd, 2:07:13) to Tokyo in late February 2017 (1st, 2:03:58). Only twice in that span has he added a third marathon, 2012 when he took bronze at the London Games, and 2015 when he DNF’d at the Beijing World Championships.

Ethiopia’s Keninisa  Bekele, too, has generally stuck to the two-per-year model since he began in Paris 2014 (1st, 2:05:04). However in 2015 he only made one start, DNF’g in Dubai in January as he worked through an injury.

But as the paydays continued to spread around the world and opportunities began to crop up where the weather was conducive to marathon running in what previously might have been off season, we have begun to see more and more athletes stretch their wings and challenge old assumptions. Continue reading

KIPCHOGE TO ATTEMPT OFFICIAL WORLD MARATHON RECORD IN BERLIN 2017

To nobody’s surprise Kenya’s Eliud Kipchoge will make a world record attempt this September 24th at the BMW Berlin Marathon, site of the last six men’s marathon world bests dating back to Ethiopia’s Haile Gebrselassie‘s 2:04:26 in 2007. That Kipchoge would run in Berlin this fall was always one of the probabilities coming out of Nike’s Breaking2  Project from this past May in Monza, Italy where the 2016 Olympic Marathon champion completed the marathon distance in a remarkable 2:00:25 in an unratified attempt to break the two hour barrier for 26.2 miles.

Kipchoge came so close to the sub-two hour barrier in Italy in May using a rotating stream of 30 even-tempo pacers, that a sub-62 first half in Berlin will seem modest by comparison. In essence Breaking2 will have been a speed session for Berlin.  Continue reading