I woke up at 4 AM to watch the Flora London Marathon yesterday over UniversalSports.com’s live video stream. While my laptop booted, I brewed coffee and toasted bread. And then, there they were, the elite women, already charging through the suburbs of London, hell-bent and determined to get to Buckingham Palace in two hours and twenty minutes. Irina looked strong, and led with Mara Yamauchi (I somehow missed her sixth-place finish at the 2008 Olympics, and expected her to be Japanese rather than an English Rose) and Olympic bronze medalist Zhou Chunxiu from very early on, with all the lettered vets in a second pack behind them. I was psyched to see Zhou up there for so long–don’t you think she’s kind of like the Terminator?–but this time her cold got the better of her and she finished 12th. Mara’s stunning performance on her home turf was a thrill; she set a huge “pee bee” (as the Brits call our PRs) by 1 minute and 51 seconds. My predictions were crap; I only called the winner (a no-brainer). Kate O’Neill, the top American seed, came in 14th, in 2:34:48.
Women’s Race (Prediction / Actual)
- Irina Mikitenko / Irinia Mikitenko
- Gete Wami / Mara Yamauchi
- Svetlana Zakharova / Liliya Shobukhova
The men’s race was exciting, primarily because of the speed. The lead pack went out very fast, at sub-world record pace. I am not quite sure why they asked the rabbits for that, did Sammy really think he was going to set the world record? Maybe this is where my staunch belief in the negative split falls away–at this level of racing, they don’t use such strategies because they are just that good? Or maybe the pacers just screwed up. When the pack of three leaders broke off–Wanjiru, Kebede, and Gharib–I must admit I was disappointed Goumri wasn’t with them. He ultimately finished 6th. Wanjiru broke the course record, and 4 men finished under 2:07. Again, my predictions were el stinko, since I called the winner (again, a no-brainer) but bombed the 2-3. I do think that Tadese will podium in a major marathon soon–even though he wasa DNF yesterday.
Men’s Race (Prediction / Actual)
- Sammy Wanjiru / Sammy Wanjiru
- Abderrahim Goumri / Tsegay Kebede
- Zersenay Tadese / Jaouad Gharib
I had one misty moment when the cameras panned the starting line for the men’s race. They showed the hordes of runners all packed in for hundreds of yards back, and the announcers went on about “36,000 runners today…” One tear snuck out before I chided myself, Do you think Paula’s sitting at home with her broken foot sniffling into her tea? No! I mean, really, TK: move on!
One thing that made this spectating experience fun was that I was also logged in to Twitter the whole time. After a while, the chorus of tweets from @PatriceMalloy, @joegarland, @flotrack and others began to feel like we were all sitting around on the ass-magnet couch in my loft, drinking beers, just a bunch of friends watching a big “game” together and talking distance running. Normally, I’d have been emailing frantically back and forth with my girl TS, but she was out on the course with her camera getting some fabulous action shots. Recommended reading: her from-the-curb spectating report , replete with amazing photography.
So let’s talk about pacers. Really, why must the WMM races keep the pacers? These athletes are professionals, they spend every waking hour preparing to race the marathon. Don’t you think they should manage their own pace from the start? New York City has no pacers–and we have had remarkable races here. Not to mention that the rabbits block the view of the runners for those of us watching at home. It just seems like a little too much pampering, too much of an assist tot he elites, especially now when finishing times are faster than ever. The IAAF condones the use of pacers; others do not; and here is some history on how pacemakers came to be common practice.
At 7 AM I shuffled back to bed, satisfied with the knowledge of Sammy’s win and Meb Keflezighi’s 9th place finish (Dathan cramped up, and came in 11th. Poor kid). One of my predictions, though, was spot-on: as I snuggled in for an early-morning nap, Husband grumbled, “What was all that shouting?”