News : Preview, schedules, television and the Kipchoge-Bekele of the London Marathon
A few days before the start of the first and almost the only ‘Major’ of this 2020 (together with Valencia in December), it is time to reel off and try to explain how the London Marathon will be next October 4. We say try because the modifications and changes with respect to everything we have seen before are so many that it is difficult to put ourselves in a situation. But if anyone can give us a hand for this, that is undoubtedly Marc Roig, one of Eliud Kipchoge’s physiotherapists, the world distance ‘record-holder’, and coach of the ‘NN Running Team’ for which both Eliud and his great run rival, Kenenisa Bekele. In addition, Marc is the elite coach of the Valencia Marathon.
What does it mean that this first great marathon in the COVID era can be held?
“For the elite sport, not for the popular, it is a success, it is an oasis in the middle of the desert. It is difficult to see how other sports are being practiced almost normally and athletics have a hard time getting started. Most marathons rely heavily on the popular marathon to defray costs. We have seen that most have been discontinued and for elite athletes it has been a tremendous economic blow. That it can be celebrated in London is something that I celebrate, a success, as a sports fan, as part of some of the athletes that will be there like Kipchoge and also as part of the Valencia Marathon. London is competition, but we need each other. If it had not been played in Valencia we would not be able to welcome all the athletes who could not participate there ”.
How can all the changes affect athletes?
“I believe that the absence of popular will not affect the performance of the elite. But it’s not just that; The bubble effect is going to affect them, which can create some confusion or nervousness, that more routine people, who have such fixed habits, can alter them a little. For example, athletes usually have physiotherapists in the hotel where they are, there is usually a lot of bustle of managers, sponsors, etc; in this case they will be completely isolated. Some may even benefit. Those who go from having interviews and a busy schedule will go from having nothing. Others will miss the ‘spark’ of the competition preview ”.
A marathon in repetitive circuit format …
“It generates many doubts. As we have never seen a marathon in this format We think it can affect, but maybe it doesn’t affect anything. What strikes me the most is that there will be athletes doubled over. The laps will be given around eight minutes, seven something. Running a marathon in 2h02 or 2h03 means that those who are going to do more than 2h10 ‘will be doubled. Can create some confusion. We will also see that since they are always turns to the same side (clockwise, to the right, unlike in an athletics track) we will also see ”.
“The marathon is usually run in a peloton. With so much repetitive spin I wonder if there will be disputes regarding the placement of the athletes. If you are on the right side you will always run on the side of the curve, if you are on the left you will take them open. I personally would always want to take them inside. These are doubts that arise. Then there is the monotony. Of course, the marathoner is trained in monotony, but not to the extent of doing 20 laps of a circuit. I don’t know if they are going to go to world record. For the public it will be attractive. A closed circuit gives a lot of play, gives a lot of life to a television broadcast. In the playful aspect we will not lose out ”.
To what extent does it make sense to organize a marathon in these conditions?
“Here are different answers. Whoever organizes a marathon for profit will assess whether the result or the balance is positive or not and decide whether to organize it or not. Then there are organizations like London, who want to show their muscle, whatever the cost, and more having Bekele and Kipchoge on the starting line. That justifies everything I think. Then, for example, there is the case of Valencia, which wants to show that it is in the Champions League of the marathons, but also has a strong solidarity component towards the almost professional athlete, of professional dedication although of maximum difficulty when living from it. Sub-elite programs have been run for years helping runners achieve their Olympic minimum. It was repeated last year in the face of Tokyo and has returned to bet on it. It will also be an autonomous championship ”.
And that long-awaited duel between Bekele and Kipchoge …
“They are both sports professionals. Ways to train and experience preparation quite different, but they know what it is to run in 2h01, they know how they have achieved it and that the goal is there again, in a head-to-head. Either one and perhaps both of them are not going to win. The pressure is there, but knowing how to get to the starting line with homework done is also assumed. They are very veteran, they sprinted to win the 5,000 World Cup in Paris 2003. They know what this is all about ”.
“As part of Eliud’s team I have my favorite, but it is true that I had previously worked with Kenenisa. As a fan I am more than delighted to see this race, how it will be played, how it will end. Not only is it a face to face with two runners, there are many people there behind whom you cannot trust. As in 2003, it seemed that the battle was between El Gerrouj and Bekele and Kipchoge won. Let no one be surprised, let’s sit down, grab whatever popcorn you like and enjoy ”.
Can we expect historical marks?
“Experience tells us that when there are too many roosters it is hard for the brands to come out. Because when an athlete is a winner he does not like to race another and perhaps lose the opportunity to make a world record if in the end he loses the sprint. It is possible that if the race is contested with many people reaching the end that the opponents decide to save themselves for a hypothetical final sprint. And that slows down the pace. The race is so different from what we have been experiencing that anything can happen. It can also happen that the circuit format, which seems to me that it can slow down the rhythm, places the athletes in a row one by one and they go down little by little. Who knows”.
How have these previous months been in Kenya, Marc?
“In Kenya, training centers have been closed since the beginning of the pandemic and so far they have not reopened. The ministry has published that non-contact sports can return to work with some normality. Means that athletes have had to be at home, which doesn’t have to be bad. But it is true that most of them have young children and that they know how to function very well when they live in community in the training camp, where the obligations are very few and it is about training, eating and sleeping. Among the neighbors they have been able to train in a group, but perhaps the rest part has been affected. How much does it quantify? I dont know. In Ethiopia the situation has been similar, there has been some mobility restriction. Bekele for example is quite lonely, he likes to exercise on his own so it will not have affected him much. Kitata, Mosinet, I don’t know. Something similar must have happened ”.
Let’s talk about the female event. Kosgei, big favorite …
“Of course on paper the difference is too great for there to be any doubts. It has already happened other times than in London on the usual circuit, which in the first 5000 has a favorable unevenness, as Keitany had been too animated in the first bars and had paid a lot at the end. It could happen to him. We will see what the approach is. By having male hares in the other tests, very individual races can be done, here I understand that being female hares the race will resemble the male one “.
“I don’t know if the organizer will accept a very aggressive step, at a world record pace, that would benefit Brigid, or if they will bet more on the competition with a more intermediate pace. This will help the girls who play the hare go further. Why there are not many girls who are able to pass the half marathon at 1h07 and then continue until km 30 which is what is usually asked. They may run out of hares shortly after the average. From experience, girls very seldom act as a hare and that can condition that the rhythm is not so patterned, like a metronome ”.
And in Valencia nothing. What a month you have been …
“It has been a year of a lot of work, of ups and downs, of seeing how the half marathon was canceled, then the popular part of the marathon. Then put both elite only events together on one date. The sports part, to enjoy a marathon of Valencia of the highest level, where the objectives are to break the records of the circuit, to fight world records. I think no one is going to be disappointed. The exit list, the announcements, are coming down ”.