University of Wisconsin Eau Claire geography professor (and writer for Track & Field News), Sean Hartnett, is one of the sport’s keenest observers. Below is a copy of the e-mail he sent with his take on this year’s Virgin London Marathon, which he watched from his lead motorcycle position.
“Yes London was another pace surprise (63:10 at halfway) although not the shocker like last year (61:35 halfway). After reviewing my photos, race video, and discussions with the athletes the slow pace reflected that it was was rough day for running.
“Most of the guys talked about slipping on the slick pavement, some even said that there shoes were not well suited for the wet pavement. I didn’t talk to Sammy (Wanjiru) after the race, but I think he had the same shoes as Chicago, and you can imagine those hard slap – slap shoes on wet pavement. The athletes also mentioned having water splashed on their legs causing some cramping.
“Like you – watching the race develop - I wondered what was going on. I double and triple checked the Pace Display sign to see if it was working. I got a thumbs up when pointed to the sign after 5K, and I saw a pick-it-up reaction from Sammy and Gharib after they saw the slow pace at 15K. I think that despite displaying Marathon Pace along with every mile split, the athletes still only trust the Km splits.
“All told I just have to think it was a slow day – just the opposite of Boston. The sight of a few runners in the lead pack who obviously didn’t belong there seemed to reinforce the slow pace theory, but that slow pace destroyed them as they all jogged home or DNF’d. It was a shame after all London had to cope with to get the athletes in place, and that a week of sunny San Diego weather turned to rain an hour before the race – again the opposite of Boston.
“Attached is the pace data displayed to the athletes. Splits were dead on as Hugh Jones was with us and we got splits right on the survey marks on the road.”
Here is a link to a London SlideShow
Thanks to Sean Hartnett for his unerring eye, and dedication to detail.