With summer heat abating and marathons in Berlin, Twin Cities, Chicago and New York City coming up, we can examine elite road races, especially half marathons, for hints as to what form and fitness top entrants might show when they next race 26.2 miles. This weekend, there are long races in Philadelphia, Europe and Africa with those kinds of implications for the autumn. At the shorter end of things, there’s the national 5K road championships. Here’s what we’ll be looking for this weekend.
Rock ’n’ Roll Philadelphia Half Marathon
The story lines for Sunday’s race have changed with the withdrawal of Geoffrey Mutai, whose 2:03:02 in Boston in 2011 is the world’s fastest marathon under any conditions, and Dathan Ritzenhein, the fastest American marathoner of 2012 and 2013, who has a minor ankle injury.
Attention will be directed at Deena Kastor (above), 41, as the past Chicago and London Marathon champion tries to surpass her own American masters half marathon record of 1:11:38. Kastor is using the race as a key stepping stone to November 2’s New York City Marathon.
The reappearance of Kara Goucher should give hints about to what to expect from her in New York. Goucher hasn’t raced since June 2013. A broken metatarsal knocked her out of the 2013 New York City Marathon and a stress fracture of her sacrum ruled out a spring 2014 marathon.
Goucher has indicated she hopes for something in the 2:26 to 2:29 range in New York. ”I think I’m a few months away from putting together a 2:25 on the New York course,” she told ESPN. For Philadelphia, she originally had a goal of 1:11-1:12, but now says she can go a little faster.
Chemususu Dam Half Marathon, Kenya
Instead of racing as planned in Philadelphia, Mutai told event organizers that a family issue would keep him in Kenya. A source has told Runner’s WorldNewswire that Mutai, who has won the last two New York City Marathons, was concerned that inclement weather, creating extremely muddy conditions in his home region, has compromised his conditioning.
To not lose time to travel, Mutai will instead race in Kenya, in the Chemususu Dam Half Marathon in Eldama Ravine, according to Standard Media. Close to home, he may be getting just the New York City tune-up he needs. Given the altitude, expect Mutai to run at least a couple minutes slower than he would have been required to win in Philadelphia.
Dam to Dam 10 Miler, The Netherlands
Tiki Gelana, Ethiopia’s 2012 Olympic marathon gold medalist, has had a series of setbacks since the Games and hopes to return to form for the Yokohama Women’s Marathon on November 16. On Sunday she’ll do Dam to Dam, a very flat 10-miler in the Netherlands.
Gelana was scheduled to follow her Olympic win with the 2012 New York City Marathon, but that race was canceled in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy. The following April, she collided with a wheelchair at the London Marathon; Gelana managed to finish the race, but recovery from the incident took a long time. Earlier this month she was third in the Great North Run, the English half marathon, in 1:08:45. Dam to Dam should give further indication whether Gelana is ready to reclaim her niche among the world’s leading marathoners.
USA 5K Championships, Providence
Molly Huddle, who lives in Providence, Rhode Island, should feel right at home as she seeks her third straight USA 5K Championships title on the roads on Sunday.
Huddle’s had a great year, breaking her American 5000-meter record on the track (14:42.64) and running 30:47.59 for 10,000 meters, the second fastest time of the year. She was third in her half marathon debut at the NYC Half, and won the national 7-mile title in July and the 20K title on Labor Day.
Conventional wisdom would suggest she has enough left for a 5K in her hometown. An intriguing challenge comes from Mary Cain, 18, who won the world junior 3000-meter title in June. But Cain was 10th at last Saturday’s Fifth Avenue Mile, and was visibly upset after; her fitness level is not clear.
Jordan Hasay and Sara Hall are also in the USA 5K. Two-time World Championships 1500-meter medalist Matthew Centrowitz and USA 20K champ Girma Mecheso are in the men’s field in Providence, along with Aaron Braun, last year’s 5K runner-up.
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source: Runner’s World by Peter Gambaccini