Saturday, August 11, 2012

A look at the marathon field and Canada's chances at cracking top 25

Canadian marathoner Dylan Wykes says a top 25 finish would be his target, a top 10 a dream. People have high hopes for Ryan Hall but the coverage is focused on the Kenyan and Ethiopian athletes who are lining up Sunday for the men's Olympic marathon.

The IAAF released the start list of the 105 marathoners who will be racing in London, and it provides a very interesting snapshot. I took the list and sorted them by their personal best and 2012 best times. (SEE GOOGLE TABLE BELOW.)

On 'paper,' the coverage focusing on the Kenyan-Ethopian rivalry holds very much true. According to the personal-best times, the top six runners are indeed from the two countries, with fastest times from 2:03:42 to 2:05:04. Ryan Hall's best time, which coincidentally clocked in London, puts him as the seventh fastest by personal best times.

Of course, Ryan wasn't able to muster that type of performance at the Olympic trials, so it's a big unknown on whether he'll be in the form to match the type of running he did to stick with the top of the pack. (Note Ryan did that blistering 2:04:58 in Boston, but that doesn't count as a record because of the nature of the course.)

If you sort the field by their 2012 season best times, the top four are from Kenya and Ethiopia, and the U.S. runners Meb Keflezighi and Ryan fall to 18th and 19th.

On the Canadian end, the tough qualification standards we put our guys through actually put them in a good mid level position. Dylan's best time puts him at 39th out of 105 athletes while Reid Coolsaet is at 42 and Eric Gillis at 46. The Canadian runners aiming for top 25 finishes which seems very doable in the course of a race like this.

The Olympic marathon, unlike flat, cool and fast marathons in Berlin or Chicago, are not expected to produce anywhere near record times. Though those who would doubt the field only need to look at the stunning performances in Boston two years ago and in hot Beijing in 2008. Clearly, some runners are pushing the marathon way beyond what commentators expect. According to forecasts, the start time Sunday will be 22C and climb to 24C by 1 pm. The wind, at 15km, should be a small factor but also the winding looped course with tonnes of turns. With that weather, more than 8 to 10C higher than ideal cool fall conditions, I'd be excited but surprised if we saw anywhere close to record pace.

But with so many fast runners in the field, who knows.
Below: Click on tabs below to switch between PBs and 2012 times

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