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LetsRun.com Editorial: Ryan Hall's Making The Correct Choice In Deciding To Run In 2008 Flora London Marathon
On Monday, it was announced that 2008 US Olympic Marathon Trials champion Ryan Hall will run the 2008 Flora London Marathon. Considering that one of the reasons given for moving the men's trials to the Fall rather than its traditional Spring date was to give the athletes a larger window to properly prepare for the Olympics, we're sure his decision will be second-guessed and criticized in some quarters as being greedy. In fact, it already is be second-guessed on our very own message board.
Let it be clear, however, that LetsRun.com believes Ryan Hall's decision to run the 2008 Flora London marathon is the correct one. He certainly needs to do something between the Trials and Beijing as a 42-week buildup is too much.
Running a spring track season makes little sense in our minds. From a training standpoint, the track season comes too late in the year for a proper Olympic marathon buildup. From a confidence standpoint, we doubt running track would help. Even if Ryan did amazingly well on the track, it's unlikely to make much of a difference in bolstering his confidence.
Ryan's 59:43 half marathon, his scintillating debut in London last year and his destruction of the US Olympic Trials field (more here), show that he was born to run the marathon. On a good day, he has shown that he can compete with ANY marathoner in the world. On the track most likely his times wouldn't be amazing by world standards and thus it might only dampen his confidence, as his subpar performance at the Gate River Run did last year.
The only other option viable to Hall besides track would be to maybe run a cross country season and run the world championships. But from a preparation standpoint for Beijing, running world cross versus running London makes only a negligible difference. World cross takes place only two weeks before London (March 30th versus April 13th). Yes, we realize it's somewhat easier to recover from a cross season than a marathon, but Hall will have plenty of time to get ready for Beijing after London.
Hall will have 23 weeks and a day between the Olympic Trials and London, which is a pretty standard marathon buildup time as the Trials were held the same weekend as the ING New York City Marathon. Between London and Beijing, he'll have 19 weeks. A bit less but even with 2-3 weeks off, Ryan will have nearly 4 months to prepare which is plenty for a proven marathoner like Hall. If you are a contrarian who says "that's not enough time," please realize the facts are against you. Hall had 19 weeks and 2 days to get ready for the Olympic Trials after running the 10k at the 2007 US nationals and things worked out pretty well for him.
Perhaps the more important facts are historical ones. As Wejo points out on the message boards, 8 of the last 9 Olympic or World Champs ran a spring marathon prior to winning their Olympic or World title. Thus, skipping a spring marathon would be the untraditional route to the Olympics.
Financially, running London obviously makes a lot of sense for Mr. Hall. Ryan will deservedly be paid a lot of money to toe the line in London. There's nothing wrong with this and we think it's great that he'll be able to get a big payday in prior to the Olympics. The fact of the matter is runners' careers don't always last that long and one is only an injury away from no income. To ask a marathoner to pass up three seasons of appearance fees (fall marathon because of the trials, spring and fall marathon because of the Olympics) is unrealistic.
Putting aside talk about Olympic buildups and finances, we are most pleased that Ryan is running London for an entirely different reason. He is a supremely talented marathon runner in his prime. As a result, he needs to compete with the world's best when he is healthy. With distance runners, one never knows what the future holds.
Hopefully he has a long marathoning career like Lee Bong-Ju (who ran 2:14 way back in 1991, made three Olympic appearances, with a silver medal in 1996, and was still running 2:10 in 2006), but it's certainly possible that he could be like Alberto Salazar - a runner who was much better early in his career. We believe that Hall is being guided very capably by his coach, Terrence Mahon, but the future is never certain. Strike while the iron is hot.
A win in London on April 13th, 2008 certainly would be a historic and unbelievable accomplishment. It wouldn't have the same society-at-large implications as a win on August 24th, 2008, but from a running standpoint, one could argue it's even harder to accomplish as the London field is totally stacked and will include way more than three Kenyans.
The runners already expected for the 2008 London men's race include:
The field is totally loaded, proving once again that London is the top marathon in the world. Of course, London is helped by the fact that the historic Boston Marathon seems to be totally dropping the ball and failing to get with the times by securing a title sponsor. In the year 2008, you've got to pay big-time appearance fees and/or big time prize money (like next week's Dubai Marathon and its $250,000 1st prize) to get the world's best marathoners.
With so many people running London, one person asked on the message board what we've started to half-jokingly ask ourselves: Will there be any world class runners in the Boston Marathon?
We're sure the most historic of all the marathons will have some accomplished athletes, but clearly Boston needs to adapt to the modern era of marathoning and start paying more money to lure elites.
At the turn of the new millennium, New York (under the capable guidance of Mary Wittenberg) got with the times after the upstart Chicago started totally ruling the Fall marathon scene. It's long past time for Boston to wake up from its hibernation.
Olympic Trials Notes: With Ryan Shay's death, we think a lot of people missed how impressive Ryan Hall's run at the Olympic Trials was. As this thread with statistics shows, over the hills of Central Park, his last 23 miles were at 2:07:26 pace, his 2nd half of the marathon at 2:05:30 pace. All of this over rolling hills. Truly incredible. NBC has archived this thing of beauty if you want to rewatch it.