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Talking Point: Time Trial vs Racing

October 17, 2019

 

 

This Saturday we were all encapsulated with Eliud Kipchoge’s attempt on a sub 2hr marathon in a controlled event in Austria targeted at achieving exactly that. Watching him meticulously chip away at this monumental mark and ultimately sprint down the finish straight to squeeze under this magical mark left running fans in absolute awe. The very next day the women had their say... Brigid Kosgei smashed Paula Radcliff’s 16yr old marathon world record by 1m21s with a time of 2:14:04 at the Chicago Marathon. It’s difficult to quite believe what a coincidence it is that these happened on back to back days, and perhaps begs the question...Which was more impressive?

 

 

Let me first start by stating that, in general, I’m not the biggest fan of these glorified marathon time trials, in general. I get the motivation behind it – Push human limits – But for me it takes something away from the sport. I’d much rather see a guy like Kipchoge racing marathons against the worlds’ best. For me personally, as a running fan, I’d rather see an exciting men’s race with a finish marginally over two hours (but perhaps still a world record) than one guy running a sub 2hr time trial. 

 

At the Berlin Marathon, just two weeks before, Kenenisa Bekele fell only two seconds outside Kipchoge’s world record set in Berlin the year before. I feel that with Kipchoge’s omission from the race we were perhaps starved of an incredible head to head, which would have perhaps resulted in the winner trimming the world record anyway. We will never really know.

 

With that said I do want to admit that I was completely melted into Saturday’s event. Once the event started what I was encapsulated by was the fact that for the first time ever, people from all countries and cultures are supporting the same, one man. The entire world was behind him. It was something very rare. When he achieved this mark it almost felt like Kipchoge was representing all of us, as the human race. So for me this was special, and yes, it may have been worth it to rip him out of other competitions to prepare him for this, as it was a truly unique experience. I may have been somewhat converted here!

 

 

Over to the streets of Berlin! Was it possible that the events that transpired in Austria were the motivation behind Kosgei smashing the WR? We know that she was planning an assault on it. She spoke of that. But one could argue that her belief and motivation may have been boosted by Kipchoge’s performance. Be that as it may, Kosgei obliterated Radcliff’s record that, let’s face it, many of us thought would never be broken – Nobody else has got anywhere close in the last 16yrs.

 

What was so impressive was how she ran alone for most of the race (albeit with two pacemakers), in a time trial of her own, and split her first and second halves of the race in 1:06:59 and 1:07:05. That’s incredibly meticulous pacing – Anybody who has ever run a marathon knows how tough it is to pace the first half so that you can back it up with the same pace in the second.

 

 

So here we are...in the wake of a groundbreaking and historic weekend of running, we are left trying to gain perspective on a few things. Which was more incredible, Kipchoge going under 2hrs in a purpose built contrived event, or Kosgei breaking the 16yr old ladies marathon record? The second question is which you would rather see, athletes breaking records and racing each other in official marathons, or athletes and sponsors combining to bring us a dedicated time trial events. In my opinion there may have been a place for these Kipchoge-style events to break the 2hr barrier, but perhaps now that that’s done there is no real need for it? Or perhaps it is an interesting format which can be used to create intriguing events with big sponsors that can add excitement and draw new fans in to the running community? Let us know your thoughts.

 

Over and out

Sean

 

 

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