Re-posted courtesy of Runners World
Tale of Two Races
Lessons from the New York City Marathon leaders. By Ed Eyestone Image by AFP /Getty Images From the March 2012 issue of Runner’s World
The marathon was once considered an energy management event. Traditional thinking held that since our bodies store only about 20 miles worth of glycogen, some of the race had to be run at a “moderate” pace to enable the body to switch to metabolized fat as fuel. With the recent spate of course record times in Boston, London, Berlin, and Chicago, it seems the world’s top marathoners have defied such thinking. They’ve run with little fear of hitting the wall.
Indeed, when Kenyan Mary Keitany shot off the line in the ING New York City Marathon, she roared up the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge. She hit 16:04 at 5-K and 31:54 at 10-K, running a blistering 2:14:40 marathon pace—over a minute under world record pace. But by mile 18, Keitany’s two-minute lead began to shrink, and by 40-K her 5-K split had slowed to 18:43, nearly three minutes slower than her split between 5-K and 10-K. Ethiopians Firehiwot Dado and Buzunesh Deba passed her after mile 24, with Dado eventually taking the win. Keitany’s loss reinforced the importance of running at a realistic pace early on. Had she gone out at 2:20 instead of 2:15 pace, she might have been victorious.
In the men’s race, things started more conservatively with a large pack going through 5-K at 15:34, a relatively pedestrian 2:11:26 pace. But when they reached the halfway mark at 1:03:18, there was no doubt it would be a record-setting day.
Seven men remained at mile 20, and none showed any sign of hitting the wall. But by mile 22, Kenyan (and Boston winner) Geoffrey Mutai made his move. He ran 9:04 for miles 22 and 23. He dropped his nearest competitor and fellow countryman, Emmanuel Mutai (no relation), by over a minute, and finished the race in an amazing 2:05:06—2 minutes and 37 seconds faster than the course record!
The two races were perfect case studies for the importance of knowing what you’re capable of running and sticking to that pace. Traditional thinking still holds true: Early conservative running can spare fuel and save legs for faster running at the end, while aggressive early racing can do the opposite.