Where Your Dreams Become Reality
Recap of 2008 Women's Olympic Marathon
Despite the better-than-expected conditions, the race started off at a dawdling pace as the first kilometer was run in 3:50 (roughly 6:10 mile pace) and two miles hit in 11:56. For much of the early going, Britain's Liz Yelling had the lead, strolling through 10k in 36:10. The pace gradually got faster as the 20k was hit in 1:11:27 (35:17 for the 2nd 10k). At 20k, Romania's Constantina Tomescu led the large lead group as the field was only on 2:30:45 pace. Between 12 and 13 miles, Tomescu broke things open with a big surge. At 1:13:56 into the race, she threw off her hat and threw the hammer down in the process.
Tomescu, the 2004 Chicago Marathon champion and 2005 Worlds bronze medallist in the marathon, ran miles 13-17 in 5:33, 5:26, 5:27, 5:22 and 5:16 and the field failed to respond. By 18 miles, Tomescu's lead was 54 seconds.
The chase pack included many of the pre-race favorites, including Britain's Paula Radcliffe. The two big no-shows in the lead pack were 2004 Olympic marathon bronze medallist Deena Kastor of the USA and 2007 Worlds bronze medallist Reiko Tosa of Japan. Kastor dropped out very early - in the first 5 miles - as it appeared she seriously injured her foot.
Tosa didn't appear to be injured, but the television footage of her was painful to watch. She barely could put one foot in front of another and we were hoping someone would prevent her from running any farther barely halfway into the race as it honestly looked if she tried to continue that she would seriously damage herself.
At 1:48 into the race, the chase pack was down to 11 and Radcliffe was soon to be dropped. The world record holder would not abandon this race, however. She would gamely continue on to a painful finish, forcing herself to finish in 23rd in 2:32:38, to make amends for her dropout 4 years ago. Watching her hobble into the stadium, one had to wonder if Radcliffe's stress fracture had truly healed, as she was limping noticeably.
Up front, Tomescu continued to lead. The Romanian did a few bizarre things - at least twice she she grabbed things out of her uniform and seemed to inhale/eat them. The first time, she took something out of her top and sniffed some sort of "substance." Later, she pulled something out of her bun huggers and ate it. (Message board speculation on what she was doing here)
Hearing the awkward silence from Ed Eyestone of NBC when he was asked by Tom Hammond what was going on was well worth a TiVo replay.
The chase pack remained fairly large (7 chasers were still together at 35k, indicating that the pace for them was not all out), and as the miles whittled down, the expected pursuit of Tomescu never materialized. In retrospect, it seems like the size of the pack and the fact silver and bronze medals were on the line as well, never gave any individual the impetus to being the pursuit of Tomescu in earnest.