Sunday, August 12, 2012

Olympic Marathon 2012 Recap

Blogging while I watch the race today.  The weather is not great for the guys running in London today.  Apparently it was mid-60s at the start, with humidity in the mid-70s.  By mile 2 it was 70 degrees with 77% humidity.  Ugh.

It's funny to be watching the marathon right now, I just finished my 17 mile group run this morning and we were saying it felt like September.  We had temps in the mid-70s but only 67% humidity, and there was even the slightest of breezes.  But best of all, we had clouds.  We finished about 10 miles before the sun came up, and we ran in full sun for a few minutes, but then we had cloud cover for the rest of the run, which was insanely awesome. 

Given the choice, I'd have picked running in Dallas this morning over the Olympic conditions.

However, the Olympic course is flat -- the lowest point is 5 feet, the highest is 58 feet, and their biggest climb gains 53 feet in .8 miles.  That's nothing. 

But what I think makes this course so challenging (besides obviously the weather today) is that it includes over 90 turns and bends including 4 u-turns.  That's a lot and honestly, wouldn't be something I'd pick for a race.  But that should mean great crowd support today -- it's really awesome weather for spectators. 

In the first couple miles, my favorite part was seeing a Latvian runner waving at the cameras.  It makes me think how excited some of these guys must be, particularly some who in some ways are just like the rest of us -- no hope of winning, just out there to run their best.  I have no idea who the Latvian is, but he's not right up front and I'd think I'd know if he was one to watch. 

They also aired an interview with Meb, who is my favortite of the Americans.  He won a silver medal in 2004, but didn't compete in 2008.  He's 37!  The interviewer commented that he had the largest cheering section -- 24 family members came to watch him run, and he said about 25 friends did as well, just to see him.  Man, I hope he kicks butt today.  It's his last Olympics.  He went alone in 2004 to Athens, so he's really happy to have everyone there for him.  He thinks he'll be able to hear them on the course, and it will give him more energy.  I mean, just like me!  He won the Olympic trials this year, and he won the NYC marathon in 2009, so I really hope he can get a medal, but realistically, here at mile 4 or so, they're predicting a 2:08 Olympic marathon finish, and that would be a PR for Meb by a minute.  His best so far is 2:09:08. 

The commentator just said that for Meb to get a top 10 finish would be fabulous, a medal would be miraculous. 

He and Abdi (another American) have been up at the front for the first few miles, but there's a huge pack.  Not sure where Ryan Hall is, the third American.  I think he's in the front pack too, just not right up front.  He doesn't have as much experience as Meb and Abdi.  He's clearly an awesome runner, but I think people with more marathon experience generally tend to do better.  But time will tell I suppose!

Brazil is out front now at mile 4.  Maybe a little bit slower pace than expected.  Kenyans and Ethiopians have the fastest times on paper, but this is a race you have to run smart.  No South American man has ever run the marathon, so it would be pretty incredible if he did this (though unlikely), what a cool lead-in to Rio.

By the way, hubby and I are talking about maybe going to watch the Olympic marathon in 2020 when it's in Rome.  That would be pretty awesome. 

Now mile 5 and Meb is out front of the pack (the Brazilian is still a bit in front of him though).  Ugh.  I don't like that.  I'd rather he ran with the pack more.  It's a lot of work running out front alone.  There are a a couple guys very close to him, but it would be nice if he could slip in behind one of them for a few miles at least.  Eritrea and Morocco are with him, but the whole pack is really right there. 

The Brazilian is a 2:12 marathoner they said, so not likely he'll be able to hold it.

Oh yeah, saying he's a 2:12 marathoner blows my mind.  Insanely fast, and more insane that there are many who are faster.  I wonder how long it will be before the 2 hour mark is broken.  I think it will happen in my lifetime.  Keep dropping about a minute every 10-20 years.  Crazy. 

They're saying the crowds are deafening.  That's got to be so exciting. 

Wow, mile 6 and the Brazilian, Almeida, is grabbing water from spectators and pouring it on his head.  Oh my, it's got to be hot out there.  I'd be surprised if they really hold the 2:08 pace.  But Beijing was hotter and that was super-fast, so I guess they can do it.  I just can't imagine.  Italy is in 16th place right now. 

Sefir of Ethiopia is pretty far back.  He was one of my picks to place top 10.  Right now he's right in front of Hall, the American.  Hall is in 39th place.  The commentators are saying it's hard to believe Hall would fall that far behind as a matter of strategy, especially when up front they're not going very fast (HA, I snorted when he said that, it's all relative!).  He's allowed himself to become detached and is further back than expected.

Hall's pre-race interview said he's self-coached.  That's interesting.  He almost doesn't make sense when he talks about strategy, running out of himself, etc.  He said he wants to stick himself in the front, but apparently that plan isn't working.  He just said he's "God-coached."  Hmm...

Italy's up to 15th now.  They're hitting 7 miles (or at least Hall is, leaders probably around 8).  4:45 for the last mile for the leaders.  OMG. 

Yikes.  They just showed an Austrian going through one of the u-turns, cramping up, hopping, limping, then sitting.  Something very severe and traumatic, maybe his Achilles.  They're guessing it was a pre-race injury, not something caused by the u-turn. 

The lead pack is starting to break up already.  The pack of 25-30 is whittling down.  Mile 8 and a lot of my favorites are up there.  Kiprotich is in the lead now.  He's one of my picks (haha, I know, I know, not rocket science for me to have picked all 3 Kenyans in the top 10).  Abshero is in second, another pick of mine.  They're just hitting mile 12.

Meb is now back to 16th place.  Wow.  They're really stringing out!  Meb started running in grade school.  He kept beating his own mile time and his gym coach said if you keep doing that, you'll go to the Olympics some day.  He went home and asked his dad what that was.  His family is originally from Eritrea, which had a civil war in the mid-80s, and his family fled to California as Red Cross refugees.  The parents and 7 kids on food stamps, 3 bedrooms and 1 bathroom, eventually 11 kids, and his father would wake the oldest kids up at 4:30 a.m. to practice English from a single shared dictionary.  Now that family includes a doctor, a lawyer, an engineer, an MBA, and of course MEB!  These are the kind of stories that make me love running.  People who overcome so much.  And it makes me feel a little patriotic too.  Though yeah, I'm happy to see them all run fast.  In October it will be 25 years in the U.S. for his family. 

So the marathon has been the same distance since the 1908 Olympics.  26 miles, 385 yards, set so the course should go past Windsor Castle.  Anyway, mile 9 now, Kirprotich is still out front, and then there is a chase pack of about 7, and then a string behind them.  The Brazilian Almeida is back to 12th place now, 26 seconds behind the leader. 

Kiprotich has won his last 4 marathons and he is the second fastest man in history, just 4 seconds off the world record.  And he's the London marathon champion.  And he just ran 2 miles in 9:06. 

Dear Lord! 

He's got a lead of about 15-16 seconds.  The group behind him has the advantage probably, but you never know, he might set the pace for the rest of the course.  It's just so early for a break.  The commentators definitely think it was too early for such a move.  16 miles to go, which is a long time to hold a lead. 

Marial they're showing now, from Sudan.  He competed for Iowa State and is now competing without a country.  They had a big interview with him in the London paper.  He left as a Christian refugee and has lost 8 of his 10 siblings, was kidnapped by nomads, was taken by the army and had his jaw broken with a rifle butt, and then went to the US as a refugee. 

I seriously can't fathom overcoming the circumstances that some of these people endure. 

Marial in the US works in a home for mentally disabled adults from 11 p.m. to 9 a.m.  He sometimes uses the track at the University of Arizona, but otherwise he just trains on the roads. 

Kiprotich is still in front and the chase pack is a lot of Kenyans and Ethiopians and a couple I don't recognize.  They're really rocking today. 

Hall has just left the course.  Dropped out of the race.  There's one of my picks gone.  Did I just pick him because I wanted to be on the Hall bandwagon?  In a few years I think he'll really do well.  Meb is in 17th (40 seconds back) and Abdi is in 29th place.  Maybe Ryan would be better off with a coach in human form?  It's obviously a tough day to be out there.  I could see him making the team in Rio. 

Mile 11 at 52:56, so up to a 2:06 finish prediction.  The first 5 miles were 24:44, then 23:23 for the second 5 mile segment.  That's what thinned the crowd.  Kiprotich is taking water at every aid station. 

Shoot.  Abdi is out too I think.  He's walking.  He's got great abs.  Meb is now the only American left.  Abdi is walking backwards I think.  Oh my.  He's covering his face with his shirt.  Oh, that's so sad.  Well, maybe human coaches aren't really an advantage. 

Lots of the guys are grabbing sponges.  It looks so hot.  Kiprotich's average over his last 5 marathons is 2:05:13.  Wow.  It's possible he could hold this pace.  Unusual tactic, but his lead doesn't appear to be growing -- the chase pack is pretty close to him. 

The chase pack includes a Ugandan and a Brazilian.  Kiprotich just hit mile 12.  He just ran a 40k training run, his longest, in under 2:10.  Meb is at the back of a pack chasing the chase pack.  Kiprotich has a 14 second lead, but given all the turns, he is out of sight of the pack.  They say lots of the athletes are going through the misting stations, it's hot in the sun, they're all being careful about taking water. 

Wouldn't it be amazing if Kiprotich did this, with a break around mile 8?  Maybe earlier?  He just hit mile 13.  He's still heading for a 2:06 pace.  He's shaking out his arms, just like I do!  Chase pack of 7. 

Kiprotich after secondary school got a job as a traveling salesman.  He read about Tergat breaking the world record in 2003 in Berlin and he started running then, at age 21.  Now at age 30, he's leading the Olympic marathon.  Wow.

Kiprotich accidentally passed a water stop and had to double back a few steps to go get his bottle.  But he's not skipping the water stops.  Very smart.  He's got 16 seconds on the pack right now.  He must have been in some big mental haze.  Only 3 in the chase group now, including Kirui and Abshero, plus a Ugandan!  Kiprotich just made a u-turn, so he can see exactly how many are how close behind him. 

The chase pack of 3 looks really close.  Hall just said that his hamstring was tight and getting progressively worse, his stride didn't feel fluid from the beginning, so he stopped.  His first DNF in his life.  "It's a real bummer."  Wow.  He said he's in shock, it hasn't hit him what happened.  He knew his body couldn't handle it today.  Meb is "well-back" at the moment. 

Kirui has a lot of experience too.  He was a pacer for Gebrellaise (sp?) before, so he really knows what he's doing.  The gap is now down to about 7 seconds.  "The writing is on the wall."  We have a real race on our hands if they tighten this up. 

Pretty crazy.  But last 5k was the slowest of the day.  Kiprotich seems to be slowing down.  Darn.  It would have been cool to see him run away with it.  The pack of 3 is only 5 seconds back now.  The pack is Kirui, Kiprotich of Uganda, and Abshero, all 5-7 seconds back, then a Brazilian in 5th who is 27 seconds back.  Meb is just over a minute back and in 14th. 

Kiprotich just got caught during the commercial break.  He's running with Kirui and Kiprotich of Uganda now.  Abshero is back a little.  Man, I hate the commercials.  I can't believe we missed something that big!  Abshero has only run one marathon, and that was Dubai in January.  I wonder how he'll do.  At mile 17, he is 12 seconds back from what is now the lead pack of 3.  The Brazilian in 5th place is not the same one who was leading the race early on. 

Now they're starting the final 8 mile loop.  Kiprotich from Uganda is fairly unknown, Kiprotich of Kenya was a pre-race favorite, and Kirui is a world champion, so these final 3 will be interesting if they all hold on and no one else joins them. 

Now Meb is about 2 minutes back.  Only about 7.5 miles to go.  Kirui "looks really fresh and bubbly to me" according to the commentator!  But he's predicting that the level of camarderie will go down now.  The Ugandan actually trains in Kenya, so it's kind of cool they're all together.  He said there was a lack of trainers in Uganda. 

They show these slo-mo shots before commercial and you can see them grabbing water from the spectators and pouring it on their heads.

The practical side of me wonders, are their shoes getting soggy?  When I pour water on my head, my feet slosh.  Heck, if I sweat too much, my feet slosh.  I wonder how they feel right now. 

Meb is in 10th now, about 2 minutes off the leaders. 

They think Kirui did Kiprotich a favor -- he didn't pass him and pick up the pace, they held it maybe even a little slow.  They gave Kiprotich a chance to rest.  Instead of the usual 15:00 for 5k, this last one was 15:17.  They think the Kenyans are how discussing how to run the ret of the race.  Abshero is slowing down a lot. 

5:05 for mile 20.  4th place is Brazil, about 50 seconds back. 

Last year, of the top 20 in the world, 18 were from Kenya; running distance there is a road out of poverty.  They win about 92% of major races and are a big inspiration to kids at home.  Wow!  It lifts you out of the chaos of daily life in Kenya, and in running, the marathon provides the most economic opportunity. 

Very pretty, the bells of St. Paul's are ringing.  Now 4th place is 59 seconds back, and the total time is at 1:44.  The two Kenyans are running side-by-side, kind of leaving out the Ugandan.  Aww...

Meb looks like he's still running good though, right on the heels of a couple guys, possibly moving as fast as the leaders or even a little faster. 

At mile 22, Kiprotich of Uganda is a second back from the pair of Kenyans (Kirui and Kiprotich). 

They're all grabbing water.  Now they're into the final u-turn and Kiprotich of Uganda was so close to Kirui and Kiprotich of Kenya that they probably didn't even see him.  But now at least 4th can see where everyone in front is.  But Meb is apparently in 6th now!  He's picking them off -- very impressive. 

Ooh, at mile 23, Kiprotich of Uganda has passed the two Kenyans.  4:57 for that mile.  He sailed past them in a turn and then did a big surge on the uphill.  Wow!  What a move!  Now the Kenyans are a second back from him!  Oh, how embarassing for me if I didn't even have the winner in my top 10!  Haha.  Oops. 

Meb has moved into 5th now.  That means he and the Japanese he just passed have both passed Abshero. 

Kiprotich of Uganda getting a gold would be huge for Uganda.  They haven't had a gold since 1972 in the 400 meter hurdles.  Wow. 

Brazil still in 4th and now over 1:30 back.  As they head into the final downhill stretch, you can totally tell that Kiprotich of Uganda trains in Kenya with a former 5k world champion -- he's really got some pull at the end.  He's opening it up like crazy with only about 10 minutes left of running.  Kiprotich of Uganda finished 9th in London last year (and both the guys right behind him have done much better there), and he hasn't raced much this year -- 3rd in Tokyo, and a 10k race in the UK only about 10 weeks ago. 

At mile 24 Kiprotich of Uganda has 12 seconds over Kirui of Kenya, and 25 seconds over Kiprotich of Kenya.  4:42 for that mile, one of the fastest for the entire race.  They're predicting low 2:07s for the finish now.  Wow, even at mile 24 the leader is grabbing his water bottle to drink and he's actually carrying it for a minute or so to drink a lot of it. 

Best moment so far:  1:59:40, Kiprotich of Uganda sees a bunch of people with Kenyan flags on the sidelines and does a little finger wave and has a big smile for them. 

If we end up going to Rome to watch, I'm totally taking a few flags to cheer!  US of course, but also probably some East African ones -- they deserve the support and admiration.

Even near mile 24, Kiprotich looks totally relaxed.  But when there's a camera actually next to him, he is just sailing.  I can't believe how fast he's moving.  Kiprotich of Kenya in contrast you can see doesn't have an easy rhythm.  Kiprotich of Uganda hit mile 25 at 2:01:56.  Second place Kirui is 20 seconds back, and Kiprotich of Kenya is now 56 seconds back.  Wow, what a drop!  I wonder if he'll be able to hang on for bronze.  4:58 mile 25.  Wow.  It included some uphill. 

Finally around 2:04 Kiprotich of Uganda starts to look a little more off his rhythm.  He's wiping his eyes a lot and doesn't look quite so smooth now. 

Wow.  2:05:05 and Kiprotich of Uganda takes water and a sponge!  Geez, it must be so hot.  At that point even I'd be tempted to skip it under usual conditions.  He's got to know that there's just a few more minutes and he'll be done -- though I guess a few minutes at that speed is just under a mile.

And Kiprotich of Uganda grabs a Ugandan flag from spectators a little prematurely I think, but wraps a Ugandan flag around his shoulders and wins it in 2:08:01.  First Ugandan marathon medal!  When he crossed the line, he kneeled down and you could see all these crazy muscles in his quad! 

Wow, and it turns out it's the only Ugandan medal at the London Olympics -- gold in the marathon, the one that I think is most impressive.  Second Ugandan gold ever (after the 1972 one). 

And then the rest of the field comes rolling in.  Unbelievable how many are between 2:08 and 2:20. 

So, here's how I did on my predictions (I had to look a lot of these up because stupid NBC seemed to think the only runners that matter are the top 4 finishers and the 2 American DNFs, they didn't even show a top 10 list, as they did with the women's (notably when there were 2 Americans near 10th place)): 

Mutei (KEN) -- 17th, 2:14
Dino Sefir (ETH) -- DNF
Kiprotich (KEN) -- Bronze medal, led the race for a long time, 2:09:37
Abshero (ETH) -- DNF after running 35k -- must have really been hurt to not finish the last few miles
Meb (USA) -- Fourth place!!!!!  2:11:06
Feleke (ETH) -- DNF
Kirui (KEN) -- Silver medal, 2:08:27
Hall (USA) -- nope, DNF
Fujiwara (JAP) -- 45th, 2:19 (after he crossed the finish line, he bowed to those behind him or the crowds, interesting)
Pertile (Italia!) -- 10th place!  2:12

The ones I missed: 
Kiprotich (UGA) -- Gold Medal!!  2:08:01
Dos Santos (Brazil) -- Fifth place, 2:11 (not the Brazilian who was leading early)
Nakamoto (JAP) -- Sixth, 2:11
Nyasango (Zimbabwe) -- Seventh, 2:12
Paula (Brazil) -- Eighth, 2:12 (again, not the Brazilian who was leading early)
Szost (Poland) -- Ninth, 2:12

Also notable:
Almeida (Brazil) -- 13th in 2:13 (the early Brazilian who was out in front)
Marial (no country, South Sudan) -- 47th in about 2:19

Not bad considering there were over 100 starting, and considering 45th place was only about 15 minutes back from the leader.  But yeah, I missed picking the winner, I picked two Ethiopians who didn't finish, when actually all three Ethiopians did not.  So I correctly guessed 4 of the top 10.  And another 4 of my guesses didn't finish. 

Meb grabbed a flag before the finish, waved it as he crossed the line, crossed himself twice, then stopped his watch!  Then Meb hung out in the finish area, smiling, posing for pictures, and my favorite, grabbing hands with the other guys who came through the line. 

In his finish line interview, Stephen Kiprotich of Uganda said the initial pace was too fast for him so he had to stay with the pack.  When the Kenyan moved into the lead, he still couldn't keep up and had to stay with the group.  He decided to break when he did because he wanted a medal.  He tried to settle it then.  He also said he loves the people of his country, then he said he likes them.  AHHH!  I cannot imagine how happy he is! 

Meb's post-race interview was great too.  He said he didn't want to finish 4th, but he'd take it.  Obviously he really didn't want to be 4th in the trials, he said that would have been devastating (interestingly, at the trials this year, fourth place was just moments behind third place, I wonder if he'd gotten to run instead of Hall and Abdi if he'd have done better).  But fourth in the Olympics was good and he was proud of himself and his country.  He said his motivation was Carlos Lopes (of Portugal), from 1984's Olympics in LA, and he was going for his time of 2:09:21.  Meb said it was awesome to hear his family and all the "USA! USA!" chants.  He felt great about being in 10th-15th place and working his way up to 4th.  He even plugged his book, Run to Overcome.  He said that with all the opportunities Italy (woot!) and the US gave him, he and his family worked hard to be the best citizens they could, to accomplish their dreams. 

So there you have it, possibly my longest blog post ever, one of my first Sunday posts ever, and the least professional Olympic recap you'll ever read.

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