"If you’ve raced with men on foot and they have worn you out, how can you compete with horses? If you stumble in safe country, how will you manage in thickets by the Jordan?" (Jeremiah 12:5). Our journey is intended to be more than simply "stumbling" through the days while the world "wears us out.” We are made to experience the thrill of "running with horses” and to navigate life amongst the "thickets." The RWH blog focuses on both the spiritual race of which Jeremiah speaks, and the physical act of running that I absolutely love. In short, it's where "the miles meet the Message" to provide insight, perspective & encouragement that might enable you & I to successfully run either of the races set before us. May our course be purposeful and may we be passionate in our pursuit of the abundant life He desires for us.

Friday, August 3, 2012

The "Mini-Golf" of Marathon Courses

There will be no world records set the next few Sunday mornings at the Olympic Marathons. In fact, most experts believe the winning times will be several minutes off elite standards. Rather, what viewers will see is an extremely tactical and unique distance race like none before. In short, the London course has been designed with a series of loops, turns, sights and surfaces. A literal maze of a marathon that starts and finishes down the historic Mall, and not the stadium like previous games.
A U-Turn near Tower Bridge
Let's start with the turns. With the longest straightaway on the course at 800 meters, it's easy to see how there are over 110 turns and bends. For those unfamiliar with road racing, and the impact of turns, what you need to know is that courses are measured with the shortest possible path, not the center line. So, "running the tangents" is a key technical element to ensure that your 26.2 miles does not become 26. 5 or greater. Now imagine the difficulty and focus required to hit each of these 110 tangents exactly right. (SEE: Running Tangents)

The start and finish down the Mall

As to the loops; basically there is a large loop that is approximately 7 - 8 miles that will be completed three times.  Inside of that loop is a smaller loop that is covered once.  This will make it absolutely wonderful for the expected 200,000 cheering fans lining the streets.  It's not often that a viewing location provides multiple glimpses of the runners in a marathon.  It will also make the course interesting on television as the loops ensure coverage of all major landmarks. But between the turns and the loops, the runners will be faced with the possibility of losing line of sight early on. This is important as runners usually employ a particular race strategy and target pace against various stages of the race. If they fall out of the lead group, it might be their plan, as they can still keep watch from well back.  Not in London. Lose the leader around the corner and you might not have any idea how far back you are, or how much of a lead you have on the chasers.  Again, a real twist that adds to the tactical aspect of these races.

If you have never watched a marathon on television, I highly encourage you to give it a try.  Both races are set for 6:00 a.m. EST, women run this Sunday and men next Sunday, the 12th. If you aren't up and going, or if you are out on your own long run during this time, DVR it! You will be amazed to watch the strategy played out and to learn more about running in general. Cheer on our American runners (Desiree, Kara, Shalane, Abdi, Meb and Ryan) and know that a medal for any of them will be quite a story.

Finally, if I still haven't persuaded you to tune in, how about I mention the four U-turns, the cobblestone and marble streets, the short, steep uphills and downhills, the windmills to run through and the ramps to jump along the River Thames ..... OK, so maybe there aren't any windmills or ramps, but there might as well be. Either way, it is certain that the personalities and the course will combine to make these races some of the more memorable in Olympic history.

PREDICTIONS
Women : Mary Keitany - Kenya (2:22:22) 
Top USA : Shalane Flanagan (3rd BRONZE!)

Men : Wilson Kipsang - Kenya (2:09:18)
Top USA : Ryan Hall (6th)

Runners go through the covered Leadenhall Markets


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