Marathon team ready for London streets

2012-08-04 00:00

FOR the first time South Africa will be fielding a full marathon men and women’s squad in the Olympics.

With women only being allowed to run since Los Angeles 1984, there has never been a trio of South African women in the 42 km distance.

In 1996 Elana Meyer took to the streets, dropping out at 15 km, but since then it’s only our men who have tackled the 42,195 km Olympic distance.

Tomorrow Rene Kalmer, Irvette van Blerk and KZN’s Tanith Maxwell will all target sub two hours and 30 minutes, which had there been a team competition would provide a useful combination.

The Olympics, however, are an individual championship event, albeit that there can be no question countries still run this as a team event with detailed preparation aimed at launching their chosen winner at the critical distance into the race.

The London course lends itself to this team-work and detailed preparation.

Over the three-and-a-quarter lap course there are more than 100 corners and a deceptive total climb in excess of 160 m.

Although what goes up must come down, there are only a couple of places where any downhill benefit will be noticed and the effort required to climb is always around double that of any equal descent.

The steepest ascent gains nine metres in a 200 m distance from the Embankment up to St Paul’s Cathedral. The highest point is up near the Guildhall while the lowest is along the Embankment to the River Thames.

None of the ascents is in itself taxing, but the cumulative effect of multiple laps will tell in the finish time, particularly for those who have failed to do their homework.

The London circuit produces an excellent TV tour of the city centre including Buckingham Palace, Westminster, St Paul’s, the Tower of London and the Bank of England.

There are few, if any, corners or streets that are not steeped in history or likely to offer a “special” moment for the viewer, but for the runner the twists and turns will prevent any rhythm, while opening up numerous opportunities for contenders to break-away out of sight of the chase pack.

By their nature championship races, where the focus is on the title, tend to be tactical events.

Running a tactical race will be a challenge for the South Africans, who realistically are not medal contenders but could improve their personal bests, and use the opportunity to test their team running tactics for next year’s Moscow World Championships where team performance is critical.

On paper Kalmer would be the favoured choice as she is the only one of the trio to have slipped below two hours and 30 minutes, but a repeat of the front running that characterised her debut at the Daegu World Championship is likely to replicate her slog over the final seven kilometres.

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