WTW: The 2020 Boston Marathon Is Going To Be HOT, Caster Semenya Vs Luke Wilson, and Will The Coronavirus Result in Eliud Kipchoge Debuting in New York This Fall?

The Week That Wasn’t in Running, March 9 – 15, 2020

By Robert Johnson
March 18, 2020

The coronavirus wiped out almost all of the running action last week, including the NCAA indoor meet. However, there still were a few key developments worth talking about.

Past editions of the Week That Was can be found here. Got a tip, question or comment? Please call us at 844-LETSRUN (538-7786), email us, or post in our forum.

It’s Going To Be A Busy Summer/Fall For Major Marathons / Look For Boston 2020 To Be Slower Than Normal

Last week, both the Boston and London Marathons were postponed due to the coronavirus (COVID-19). Assuming the 2020 Tokyo Olympics aren’t cancelled, here is how the marathon calendar will look this fall in terms of the majors.

August 8 – Women’s Olympic marathon
August 9 – Men’s Olympic marathon
September 14 – Boston Marathon
September 27 – Berlin Marathon
October 4 – London Marathon
October 11 – Chicago Marathon
November 1 – New York City Marathon

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Seeing that schedule, four thoughts popped into my head.

1) My God, we’d better bet Kipchoge vs Bekele at some point this year.

It could still happen at the Olympics or London in the fall but I was really looking forward to that.

2) That’s a very crowded schedule.

Some lesser names are definitely going to rack up some major wins and high placings that might not otherwise do so. Of course, that’s a good thing financially for the racers as with the spring marathon season essentially cancelled, most elite marathoners are losing out on 50% of their paydays.

3) Boston is on September 14. How hot is it going to be?

Embed from Getty Images

Considering I often go the beach in Massachusetts in late August/early September, I was stunned to see a September 14 date for Boston. So I decided it would be interesting to compare the expected weather for Boston in April and September. And since I was doing Boston, I added in London as well. The data, courtesy of Dark Sky, reveals that not much will change with London, but Boston will most likely be much warmer than normal.

Boston Marathon Weather
Expected weather for Boston at 10 a.m. local time, April 20, 2020:
49 degrees (9.4 C). Low for day: 44 (6.7 C). High for day: 56 (13.3 C). Dew point: 35 (1.7 C). 
Expected weather for Boston at 10 a.m. local time, September 14, 2020: 
64 degrees (17.8 C). Low for day: 58 (14.4 C). High for day: 70 (21.1 C). Dew point: 54 (12.2 C).

London Marathon Weather
Expected weather for London at 10 a.m. local time, April 26, 2020: 52 degrees (11.1 C). Low for day: 49 (9.4 C). High for day: 57 (13.9 C). Dew point: 41 (5 C).
Expected weather for London at 10 a.m. local time, October 4, 2020: 57 degrees (13.9 C). Low for day: 53 (11.7 C). High for day: 61 (16.1 C). Dew point: 49 (9.4 C).

So Boston, on average looks like it will be 15 degrees warmer than normal, whereas London will only be about 5 degrees warmer. But Boston could be even worse. Twice in the last 5 years, it’s been over 80 degrees at noon on September 14 in Boston (during which point the elite women will be in the final miles). Here is the weather for Boston at noon ET on September 14, the last five years, courtesy Weather Underground:

Weather conditions in Boston at noon on September 14

2019: 71 degrees, 55 dew point, 55% humidity
2018: 73 degrees, 65 dew point, 76% humidity
2017: 81 degrees, 64 dew point, 56% humidity
2016: 87 degrees, 60 dew point, 40% humidity
2015: 68 degrees, 52 dew point, 56% humidity

4) Might Eliud Kipchoge do the Olympic/New York double?

With only so much top talent to spread around, the fields in the fall are going to be watered down and the pressure is going to be on the majors to do whatever they can to attract talent.

And that might be particularly true for New York. If you are a pro runner and you missed your spring marathon, are you really going to want to wait all the way until November to race a big one again?

New York is late enough in the year that they can occasionally get people to double back from the Olympics (in 2016, Ghirmay Ghebreslassie finished 4th at the Olympics and won NYC). So an idea popped into my head. Assuming the Olympics are actually held, it seems like a no-brainer for Eliud Kipchoge to do New York after the Olympics. He’s said a goal of his is to run all of the majors, and he could pick up a huge payday in New York, which might help him make up for losing out a payday in London this April.

I also think we’ll probably see a few athletes like Des Linden try the Boston/New York double. There are 48 days between Boston and New York this year, which is almost exactly the same amount of time that was supposed to be between the 2020 US Olympic Marathon Trials and Boston (51 days).

The 2020 World Indoor Leaders Were Hard To Predict

With little action last week, I thought it might be fun to take a step back and look big picture at the indoor season as a whole.

For the women, there was one theme that jumped out at me. A bunch of women no one would have expected ran super fast indoors.

Imagine if I’d come up to you on New Year’s Eve and said the following:

The world leader for the 800 indoors this year is going to be Brit Jemma Reekie. I know her lifetime pb is only 2:01.45 but she’s going to run 1:57.91.

The world leader for the mile indoors this year at 4:16.85 is going to be American Elle Purrier. Yes, I know her 1500 lifetime pb is only 4:02.34 and that 4:16.85 equates to 3:57.78.

The world leader for the 3000 indoors this year at 8:25.70 is going to be American Karissa Schweizer and that American record is going to come in the same race as Shelby Houlihan.

The world #2 in the 5000 this year indoors is going to be American Vanessa Fraser. Yes, I know she was only 8th at USAs last year and only has a 15:07.58 pb, but she’s going to run 14:48.51.

For the men, the names of some of the world leaders were surprising (Josh Thompson in the 1500 at 3:34.77 and Charlie Hunter in the mile at 3:55.41), but those times weren’t crazy fast by world standards. American Shadrack Kipchirchir deserves kudos for running an overall PB of more than 10 seconds to lead the world in the 5k at 13:08.25 (previous pb of 13:18.52) at age 31.

2020 World Indoor Leaders
Sex 800 1500 Mile 3000 5,000
Women 1:57.91
Jemma Reekie
3:59.87 Konstanze Klosterhalfen 4:16.85
Elle Purrier
Karissa Schweizer
14:30.79 Konstanze Klosterhalfen
Men 1:44.22
Donavan Brazier
Josh Thompson
Charlie Hunter
Getnet Wale 
Shadrack Kipchirchir

Caster Semenya Wants To Run The 200 At The Olympics. What Are Her Prospects?

Semenya flexing her muscles at the Pre Classic in 2018

One of the attributes we often associate with great athletes is mental toughness. Pundits like to say rave about their “competitiveness” and/or “will to win” that others don’t have. I think this line of talking is WAY overblown. I’m not saying there isn’t a mental side to sports — there is — but one must possess the physical gifts for the mental side to even enter the equation.

So last week when I read that Caster Semenya wants to run the 200 at the Olympics and declared, “We are chopping the times and I call myself supernatural. I can do anything I want,” I immediately thought, “No you can’t do anything you want. No athlete can. Michael Jordan couldn’t will himself to be a great baseball player, nor could he will himself to NBA titles when he was in his late 30s with the Washington Wizards.”

If sports was simply a matter of willing yourself to do something, then why doesn’t Semenya will herself to world-class men’s times and run against Donavan Brazier in Tokyo?

Ok, that’s enough mental toughness talk. Let’s talk about Semenya’s chances at the 200.

Will she be able to make the Olympics in the event? It’s possible.

Her 400 pb is 49.62. The Olympic standard in the 200 is 22.80. Most runners who run 49.62 are easily able to run 22.80 in the 200.

For example, American Phyllis Francis, the 2017 world champion at 400, has a 400 pb of 49.61. Her 200 pb is 22.42. At the high school level in the United States in 2019, according to MileSplit, just over 1,000 boys ran faster than 49.62 in the 400 last year (1,000th is the last time listed, and it was 49.56). The 1,000th-fastest boy in the 200 ran 22.01 for 200. Of course, that’s not a great comparison as it assumes one is just as good at 200 as 400.

Given her 800 and 1500 prowess, one wouldn’t expect Semenya to be nearly good at 200 as she is at 400, but she’s got quite a lot of room to work with as 22.01 is a long way from 22.80. Of the 11 HS boys in the US who ran exactly 49.56 in the 400 last year, eight of them had a 200 pb faster than 22.80, according to MileSplit. Here are the 200 pbs of the 11 boys who ran exactly 49.56 last year: 22.30, 22.51, 22.69, 22.27, 23.30, 22.11, 22.44, 22.46, 23.03, 22.37, no 200 pb listed.

Those stats and common sense indicate she’s not going to run 22.01 — that would put her in medal contention — but what about 22.80? Instead of finding random high school boys to compare her to, I decided to reach out to LetsRun.com coaching/stat guru John Kellogg to get his opinion.He ended up comparing Semenya to a fairly famous guy.

I’d guess with enough work at it, Semenya could run in the high 22s out of the blocks, maybe a little better, but almost surely wouldn’t make a global final. The handful of guys who ran in the upper 49s for 400 when I was at St. Mark’s (a small private school in Dallas where he met LetsRun.com co-founders Robert and Weldon Johnson) all ran 22.4 to 23.2 for 200 when they ran it. The couple of guys who were faster than 22.80 FAT were more 100/200 types than 200/400 types. The slowest 200 guy out of the sub-50 guys we had was undoubtedly Luke Wilson (yes, that Luke Wilson).

Embed from Getty Images

His 800 PR of 1:54.94 was pretty close to Semenya’s, but he absolutely hated running anything longer than that. One time, a teacher came up to him at a meet and said, “I didn’t see you in the 800. Are you not running today?” With a perfect Texas drawl, Luke replied, “Man, I gotta run the god damn mile!” So we’ll never know how good he could have been in the 1,500 or up, precluding any comparison with Semenya at those distances.

[His 400 pb was also very close to Semenya’s as he] ran 49.86 for the open 400 and split 48.9 with a perfect handoff coming to him. The one time he ran the 200 in a meet, he went 23.2 (hand time), looked tight doing it, and said afterwards, “I felt like a Volkswagen in the Indy 500.” He just didn’t get out of the blocks and up to speed very well. Maybe with more 200 races and eliminating some tension, he could have run 22.8, but it seemed like he simply didn’t have that explosive gear needed for anything shorter than a quarter.

For the record, Semenya’s 200 pb is 23.49, which she ran in one of the few races held last week. That was a huge improvement on her previous best of 24.26. Check out the race below:

One final thing needs to be made clear. If Semenya runs 22.80 — or really anything close to 23.00 — she’s on the Olympic team as the fastest time by a woman in all of South Africa last year was just 23.18. Anything close to 23.00 in a high-profile event should get her on as well as right now the last person slated to qualify in the 200 via world rank according to TokyoRankings.com has a 200 pb of 23.22.

More: 2006 LetsRun.com messageboard Talk: Luke Wilson’s Records
2007 MB: Luke Wilson (the actor) 400 and 800 pr’s??
2007 MB: Luke Wilson
Caster Semenya Says She’s “Supernatural” As She Pursues 200m Olympic Qualifying Time

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