2011 IAAF World Championships Women's Marathon Preview
August 24, 2011
The 2011 World Track & Field Championships get under way on Saturday morning (Friday night 8 PM on the East coast in the US) with the women's marathon.
Before we get started in our preview, let us state (as we've always said) that predicting a championship marathon is next to impossible for two key reasons:
1) Running a race and running a race in hot weather are two totally different sports.
2) Many of the top stars only run the World Championships reluctantly to please their federations so they'll be in good graces when Olympic decisions are made. As a result, some really aren't focused on Worlds and the real goal is a late fall marathon like New York.
Now that we've got the excuses out of the way, we'll start our brief preview by saying that by World Championships standards, the weather forecast for the women's marathon isn't terrible, as it's predicted by weather underground as being: "Mostly Cloudy. High: 77 °F. Wind NE 4 mph. 20% chance of precipitation."
For a WC race, that's not unbearably hot, but it's far from ideal for a marathoner.
A Re-Run Of Virgin London 2011?
In many ways, the race is a re-run for many of the top runners from April's Virgin London Marathon, including 3rd placer Edna Kiplagat of Kenya (2:20.46), 4th placer Bezunesh Bekele of Ethiopia (2:23:43), 5th placer Atsede Baysa of Ethiopia (2:23:50), 6th placer Yukido Akaba of Japan (2:24.09), 9th placer Aberu Kebede of Ethiopia (2:24.34) and 12th placer Azusa Nojiri of Japan (2:25:29). Additionally, 2011 Dubai winner Aselefech Mergia, who got the bronze at Worlds in 2009 but dropped out of London, is also competing.
Since Kiplagat is also last year's ING New York champ, she on paper is the best of the bunch. The problem is that it's hard to know what type of fitness she's in (or nearly any of the top ladies, as hardly any of them have raced this summer) and if anyone would know her fitness it would be us, as LetsRun.com co-founder Robert Johnson even spent a ton of time with her in Kenya in June. The main thing Robert picked up from spending time with her was that in the past she was over-worked and now she's working on not overtraining. With the goal being most likely to defend in New York, we doubt she'll be in peak form for Worlds.
(Editor's addition: On Thursday, Kiplagat spoke to the Daily Nation and said her training has gone well. Plus she said she wants to do well at world's to try to get world marathon major points. The problem is if Liliya Shobukhova wins in Chicago she can't be beat. Kiplagat said,I have trained well and I will be considering two factors here on Saturday (tomorrow) to help Kenya win the team title and to chase the World Marathon Majors points.)
Of the other London performers, the 4th through 6th placers all could win in Daegu. Bekele is a very consistent racer who is used to racing three marathons in a year and this is only her 2nd of 2011, so she shouldn't be discounted. Baysa did run a 70:11 half marathon in May to at least show she had recovered well from London. Reports indicate that Akaba, who has a nice 10,000 PR of 31:15, has been training well in Boulder, and Kebede (who won Berlin in 2010) is only 21, so she shouldn't have any trouble bouncing back.
If you are a betting man or woman, you should definitely put one Japanese woman in your top three, as in 8 of the last 10 WC marathons, a Japanese woman has medalled. As a result, another Japanese runner in Yoshimi Ozaki can't be forgotten. Ozaki got the silver in 2009 at Worlds and reports also say her training went well in Boulder. That being said, we'll point out that she was only 13th in the NYRR Mini-10k in June in 33:30.
But discount her at your own peril, for as Ryan Hall showed in Boston this year, bad races prior to a marathon sometimes mean absolutely nothing.
In terms of other people not in London, 2008 Boston champ Dire Tune, who was 6th in Boston this spring, is also running Worlds. She's one of the few to have put up a strong showing since the spring marathons, as she ran a 31:44 for 10k on the roads in Ottawa in May.
History, though, says picking Ethiopians may not be the smartest move, as only Ethiopian has earned a WC medal in the marathon - a single bronze in 2009. That means we probably should pay attention to Kenya, which has won two golds and a silver. Some of the other Kenyan entrants are legit besides Kiplagat.
Kenya's Pricah Jeptoo had a big breakthrough - a 4-plus minute PR - in Paris this year, where she won in 2:22:51. And then there is the person we've been talking a little bit about all summer, Caroline Rotich. The 4th placer at Boston this spring picked up $12,500 by dominating the Bix 7 miler in oppressively hot conditions on July 30th.
1) Rotich - We know running a 7 miler may have nothing to do with marathon fitnesss, but it's hard to judge the others when they haven't raced. Plus, the sport is becoming boring for the fans as no one races any more, so we'd like to see her win.
2) Akaba - The Japanese definitely train all out for this race and she's very good.
3) Bekele/Tune - Ethiopia doubles it's medal count. Bekele is always consistent and Tune is in shape - or at least she was in May.
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