Build-up to Boston 2009: Men’s race preview

15 Apr 2009 Posted by

Building up to Boston A look back at last year’s men’s race

Well, as promised yesterday, we begin with a build-up to Monday’s Boston Marathon, which should be a great RACE this year, with Ryan Hall being brought in to spice up what has become a Kenyan parade in Boston in recent years.

I emphasize “Race” because last year, the 112th Boston Marathon, became a solo run for Robert Cheruiyot of Kenya, when he blasted a 25km stretch of the race at faster than 3:00/km. You can read the entire post-race analysis here, but for today, a recap of then, and a look forward to Monday where Cheruiyot will return to face what should amount to much stiffer competition.

The race began slowly enough, but Cheruiyot took off soon after 5km and pretty much drove a solo effort along at sub-2:06 pace. Remember that Boston is not the fastest course in the world and you appreciate the Cheruiyot was awesome during this period, where he averaged 2:57/km (2:04:41 pace).

The table and graph below show Cheruiyot’s split times (the table over 5km and the graph per mile) during his win, and pretty much summarize last year’s race.

The 2009 race – enter Ryan Hall, a challenge to the Cheruiyot of Fire?

This year promises to be a little different. Last year, Cheruiyot was very much the class of the field. There were good runners, sure, but the tall Kenyan was a previous champion in Boston (the course record holder at 2:07:14 in 2006) and Chicago and very much the favourite going into the race.

The addition of Ryan Hall to the field changes that. The American, who I said yesterday was the lone-standing challenger to the African dominance in the marathon (apologies to other non-Africans I’m forgetting), carries with him enormous Patriot-day hopes of a first American victory in Boston since Greg Meyer in 1983.

Hall is a 2:06 marathon runner, a 59-minute half marathon man, and carried great hopes into Beijing’s Olympic marathon last year as well. There, he disappointed despite eventually finishing 10th, falling off the pace very early on. By his own admission, the training had not gone well and he was not 100% going into that race. So far, in the build-up to Monday’s race, the noises coming from Hall have been quite different. In this interview with Runners World, he talks about the improvements in his training between Beijing and now, and the numbers indicate that if Cheruiyot does decide to replicate the aggressive race of last year, Hall will certainly be up for the challenge.

Hall is a refreshing presence on the global running scence. Apart from being a new hope for the USA, he also speaks openly and honestly about his training and brings interest from people who might otherwise simply dismiss the sport as lacking spectator interest. Anything that adds to media value is good for the sport, and to be frank, when running (and athletics) is competing against other sports for a share of media exposure, it’s good to have people who excite the journalists and offer stories other than the typical “dry” East African dominance of running.

Whether that interest will help or hinder him come Boston is another story. His training has been exceptionally focused – he has raced sparingly, passed up a half-marathon so that he could do more Boston-specific hill training, and he’s chosen this race ahead of the big pay-day of London.

Other big names to look out for – it’s much more than a two-horse race

But he’ll have his hands full, not only with Robert Cheruiyot. In fact, there are at least TWO OTHER Cheruiyots to contend with – Evans Cheruiyot has a PB of 2:06:25, set last year in Chicago, and which is the second fastest in the race (behind Hall’s 2:06:17 from London last year). And then another Robert Cheruiyot comes in with a PB of 2:07:21. Evans in particular will be very dangerous – he has won his last two marathons (Milan and Chicago last year), and he has a 59:05 half-marathon PB from 2007. Those are great credentials, and so there is a real chance the race will be won by a Cheruiyot, but not the one everyone is expecting!

Add to this Deriba Merga of Ethiopia and Daniel Rono of Kenya and you have another sub-2:07 men (both in 2008, so recent) to contend with. Then there are a number of other athletes with 2:08 performances. We saw two weeks ago in Rotterdam and Paris that men with 2:08 bests can suddenly produce 2:06 times (or even bigger improvements than this), so they can’t be written off either!

All told, the field is strong and deep and it should make for an enthralling race on Monday. I‘m going to delay my predictions (and winning time crytal-ball) until my Friday post, when I’ll call both the men’s and women’s races.

Tomorrow, I’ll look at the women’s race from 2008 and the line-up for this year (including some controversy with Ndereba being denied entry), so join us then!

Until then, get your predictions for the men in!


P.S. Don’t forget to join us on Monday, within 30 minutes of the finish of the Boston race, for all the splits and pacing analysis (as for the graph and table above)

This post is part of the thread: Marathon Analysis – an ongoing story on this site. View the thread timeline for more context on this post.

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