Sunday, October 04, 2015

Run for the Records

With near ideal weather conditions the top athletes in the Medtronic Twin Cities Marathon and 10-Mile entertained thoughts of course records in the marathon and the equalizer bonus for the 10-Mile. Any man or woman who broke either Phil Coppess' 30 year old mark of 2:10:05 or Russian Zinaida Semenova's 14-year old women's course record of 2:26:51 would get $25,000 on top of the $10,000 winner's check(and an added bonus in the marathon of $2,500 if an American finished first).

The first runner off the starting line was the only one to take down a record.  In the 10-Mile, the women start first and the men took off about six and a half minutes after the women.  The first runner who crosses the finish line in front of the State Capitol wins their gender category and the "equalizer bonus."  Late entrant 2012 Olympian Molly Huddle bolted off the starting line determined not only to win the  race, but to make sure that none of the men starting later could make up the "handicap."
Molly Huddle said her strategy for winning the equalizer bonus was to get so far ahead
that the men chasing her could not see her on the horizon in front. Douse any incentive they
 might get from seeing her up ahead. Photo by Gene Niemi

Track fans who watched this year's 10,000 meters or the endless replays afterward of Huddle raising her arms in celebration of the bronze medal she was going to earn for placing third.  Huddle didn't realize that by slowing down with the premature celebration she allowed another American, Emily Infeld, to pass her to take away that medal.

Nobody was going to surprise Huddle on Sunday.  Huddle said after winning the race and the equalizer bonus that she thought running faster than Kara Goucher's course record of 53:16 would win the woman's race and the equalizer.  She also believed she was capable of running 52 minutes plus.  Her first miles were 5:15 and 5:10 up the steepest hill on the course.

She "negative split" the race running 26:01 for the first five miles and 25:43 for the second, averaging 5:11 per mile to break Goucher's record by a minute and 32 seconds with a time of 51:44.  That is the fastest 10 mile ever run by an American, but it won't count as an American  record because the TC 10-Mile course is laid out "point-to-point" going from a higher elevation to a lower one thus it is not "record eligible" because it has more downhill than uphill, which  means the performance could be deemed aided by the advantage given by the downhills.

The other hurdle to getting a record ratified is that the runner who ran a record eligible time must be drug tested soon after the race.  So, a testing crew was notified and was going to meet her at the airport to get a test done, just in case something was overlooked and further examination of the course reveals it to be record eligible and her time would replace Cathy O'Brien's record of 51:47 set in 1989.

There was no ambiguity in the men's or women's TC Marathon.  The only woman who had a fast enough PR to challenge Semenova's course record, Kenya's Sarah Kiptoo(2:26:31 PR), couldn't match or run faster than her best on Sunday and finished fourth in 2:35:25.  In front of her were two Ethiopians and a Kenyan, none of whom had broken two hours and 30 minutes for the marathon.

After the race, the woman's winner, Serkalem Abrha, from Ethiopia, sat on a chair in the press tent her head in her hands.  She wasn't weeping in disappointment, but with joy as not only had she won the three woman battle for first between her and runner-up Jane Kibii of Kenya, and Ethiopia's Simegn Abnet Yeshanbel, Abrha had run a personal best of 2:31:40, four seconds faster than Kibii and a minute four second gap to Yeshanbel. 

Yeshanbel could no longer keep up with Abrha and Kibii by mile 25 and lost all that time between her and the other two in the last 1.2 miles.  Kibii hung on until the final meters of the race despite a dodgy hamstring and late in the race, a pain radiating from the bottom of her left foot.  Kibii thought that the foot pain came from favoring her tight hamstring, and she felt she needed to wait until the very last strides of the race to make any effort toward passing Abrha.

By then Abrha had already started her kick and opened a gap that couldn't be closed.

In the men's marathon three Kenyans had run faster than Coppess' record:  The two  Grandma's champions, 2014 winner and course recordholder for Grandma's, Pius Dominic Ondoro, and his training partner, this year's Grandma's winner, Elisha Kiprop Barno, and Abraham Chelanga.  Neither Ondoro or Barno were willing to push the pace from the start out of fear that if they spent too much energy early in the race, they would pay for it later.

So the pace languished through the half marathon that the trio reached in 1:07:12.  Knowing that was 2:14 marathon pace, Ondoro went from running 5:04 miles to 4:52s. They maintained the 4:52 pace up the hills from the transition from the East River Blvd. to Summit Avenue. Chelanga was far back in the rear view mirror and when Ondoro cranked off a 4:36 for mile 23 he broke away from Barno and the race for first was over.

Despite a huge negative split on the second half of the race (1:04:04) and a 29 minute plus last 10K, Coppess' record survived another year. As Ondoro was resting after the race in the press tent he was asked if the delicate looking necklace with a crucifix on it was his good luck  charm.  "Yes, I am Catholic," thus his first two names, Pius Dominic.  Maybe he needs to say a few more prayers next year.   With their success at Grandma's and Twin Cities, both Ondoro and Barno spoke enthusiastically about running both Minnesota races again  and taking another shot at the record.


Kyle Serreyn said...

Where do people keep getting this downhill thing from? If anything the finish is higher than the start. Its not record-eligible because the finish is more than half the race distance from the start and is therefore susceptible to tailwinds.

jdf said...

Utah. You may remember years back that a course in Utah was very downhill and very "fast" Want to get a Boston qualifier, go to Utah. Yes, wind is also an issue, but it is not always there. When they get a Noreaster at Boston, people run PRs. There was much discussion about what constituted an "aided" course. Some were obvious like Utah. Others not. Twin Cities course was specifically laid out so that it is not an aided course. I don't remember any discussion on the 10 mile course one way or another. So, that is where people get "this downhill thing. I'll run this by Ken Young and see what he has to say about it.

jdf said...

Ken Young's comments:
Kyle is correct. It is not that the course is definitely aided. Rather, it is that the potential exists. Any course with a start/finish separation greater than 30% is susceptible to having tail winds in such a manner as to produce what is considered excessive aid for records.
Since it is not feasible to set up wind monitoring and characterizing the wind effects directly, this requirement helps insure against accepting a wind-aided mark. This does reject some marks which may be perfectly valid but we are not able to determine whether or not those marks are valid for record purposes. The rationale is basically that it is better to make errors of the second kind (reject a valid mark) rather than errors of the first kind (accept an invalid mark).

Net drop and S/F separation are two SEPARATE requirements. A record quality course must meet both of these requirements. Ideally, one should combine both of these factors, e.g., a net drop of 0.8 m/km and separation of 25% might be rejected or a net climb of 1 m/m and a separation of 40% might be accepted. However, these would be far to complicated for the USATF or IAAF to understand so we keep it simple. A record quality course cannot drop more than 1 m/km AND the S/F separation cannot be more than 30% (ARRS).