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 Welcome to the Osaka 2007 Day 1 - Men's marathon 


Kenya struck Gold on the first day of the Osaka World Championships with Luke Kibet convincingly winning the Men's marathon ahead of former compatriot, now of Qatar. Victor Rothlin of Switzerland took a surprising but deserved Bronze in a tightly contested 3rd place battle which was only decided in the last 2km of the event. The event was run in particular distressing and hot conditions, totally unsuitable for marathon running.

What follows is the race as it happened.

With a pedestrian pace of 3.20 per km in the early stages, the field was most compact with any athlete of reckoning tucked within the massive front pack.

Even if the pace was slow the conditions seemed to be playing a role already, with many of the runner's brows creased and their vests beginning to tell the tale of exertion.

5k - 16:37

The 5k time of sent a shiver through the spine of the athletes as it was remarkably slow, even for a Championship race. The obvious daunting conditions are sure to trouble the warriors later.

A strong mind would be needed today, as this large pack uses a great deal of mental energy. My favourite, Abderrahim Goumri of Morocco, eventually showed his presence after 5km. Another athlete I was expecting or hoping to have a good one was Swiss athlete, Victor Rothlin, who earlier this year recorded a national record of 2:08:19 in Zurich.

Also within the pack was Tanzania's Melbourne Commonwealth Marathon Champion of 2006, Samson Ramadhani. Despite the slow pace, athletes were beginning to drop due to the slight variation in pace provided by the Moroccan, #36 Khalid El Boumli (who would eventually withdraw later in the race). Morocco were well represented at the front with 3 of their athletes keeping the pace ever so slightly true without sacrificing themselves before the latter stages. Goumri after his earlier showing had returned his presence to the obscurity of the pack, no doubt waiting to produce his own fireworks later.

Finland's Janne Holmen was also present, undoubtedly making the most of the summer weather which had eluded Scandinavia this summer.

The South Africa (SA) team had pledged their allegiance to a display of reckoning after the dismal performance of Helsinki 2005 where no athlete managed to finish. They fancied themselves as having a shot at the team medals. Besides Mbulaeni Mulaudzi in the 800m, the country are not in with a cry (for a medal) in too many other events at these Champs which have only just begun. Think the Carpenters when reading and think Weve only just begun.

Israel's remarkable veteran athlete (born 1955), Seteng Ayele is also within the lead pack and is an inspiration to us all to keep trying no matter our age. (he eventually finishes 19th - a great performance)

The water points are a pure shambles with such a lead pack and it is only via a miracle that no athletes tumble while manouvering through the feed stations (later to be renamed AID stations, no doubt)

These conditions are truly unfavorable for marathon running and there will be the expected high incidence of DNF's (Did Not Finish) associated and due to this.

The tempo has been stepped up and the enormous lead group is beginning to fragment however it is not a type of surge which would truly split the lead pack but more an increase in pressure which will merely stretch those who are already troubled by the restrictive weather conditions of between 27 to 29 degree celcius (80-84f) Water is truly a needed element today and the SA team make sure that they are looking after one another with a bottle being shared between three.

Th East Africans take over the pace pace duties with two Kenyans leading #15 and 10, Luke Kibet and William Kiplagat, with the Ethiopian contingent in close attendance. We have some sort of duo break approaching 14k however this is truly early days and I for one do not see this as the winning break but merely a light duster to clear away some of rubble.

The surge has disrupted the Osaka sight seeing tour of the pack though and there are now only about 12 athletes in the chase group who are closing in quite rapidly and regroup around 15K - 48:39 (5k split 15:48) Ramaala and Goumri are present and my roughie Rothlin.  [roughie being a horse racing term and it refers to a horse that could unexpectantly win]

Things have settled again as the runners glance at one another to take stock of who is left within the pack and who are the dangers to their own prospects. This group is now made up of around 18 athletes with a few still hoping to rejoin the front pack. Morocco to the foire as the pace begins to drop again with Goumri showing concern at the drop in tempo. Spain's Jose Rios comes to the fore and is content to be at the front end of things.

Ramaala is either brave or foolish to run at the rear of the pack as they begin to approach the hour mark as well as anothewr much needed water-point. (when an athlete languishes at the rear he can be split from the pack if they surge and this occurs often at water-points when the atheletes relax to take water etc) Julio Rey (Spain), is also playing a dangerous game by drifting off the rear. The host country doesn't seem to be well represented at their own party.

Now what was I saying, as I now see 3 Nippon athletes in close attendance?

20k is passed in 64:25 and Morocco's Abderrahime Bouramdane is happy to provide the pace for his more favoured compatriot.

The turnaround point is awkward to say the least.

The feed station with personalised bottles and we are that stage of the race where the runners need to consider their intake more seriously. 29 degress (84f). We have a lone Eritraen athlete, #73 - Yared Asmerov and Portuguese athlete, Alberto Chaica, also amongst the lead group as the progress through 21k (halfway) in 68:29.

A feed station yet again splits the group. Spain's Rey is bouncing around in the rear as he attempts to saunter back. He can't do that too often now, as it won't be long before a break away will occur.

The virtual team standings after 21km has Kenya leading Japan by 10 seconds with Morocco, Ethiopia and South Africa filling 3rd to 5th respectively. Absolutely nothing between the top 2 teams.

Spain's Rios keeps for his compatriot who is now some 30 to 40m off the lead group. Qatar's Mubarak Hassan Shami is to the fore and the pace becomes somewhat real again. His effort is having an effect on the field and I don't see Rey being able to make it back in today's race. 78mins pass and Kenya's Kipkemboi is no longer a threat, maybe the constant variation in pace with the intake of water can lead to unexpected happenings.

Continued Part 2 - Men's Marathon 2nd half

Men's Marathon Results - Saturday, August 25, 2007 : click here

Osaka 2007 - Track World Championships
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