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Why world record marathon times are tumbling like snowflakes from the sky

Posted Apr 25 2011 12:13pm

Canova-300x253 Renato Canova is an Italian running coach. Some would say that today he is one of the best running coaches in the running business. Certainly many of the runners he coaches are breaking records all around the globe.

Canova coaches Kenyan born world record holder of 3000m Saif Saeed Shaheen and perhaps more importantly he also coaches Moses Mosop (who took second a week ago today) at the Boston Marathon, and in the process unofficially shattered the world marathon record.

Recently on Canova analyzed the reason that world record marathon times are falling, and his analysis is a interesting read for any pro or amatuer runner.

It seems to us that it will only be a matter of time before triathlete learn from their road running colleagues. We can't help but wonder how long before record breaking marathon performances translate to record breaking Ironman marathon performances? Chrissie Wellington is certainly paving the Ironman record breaking road, but we have no doubt that others will soon follow.

Here's an except of what Canova wrote about why running world records are tumbling like snowflakes from the sky.

"Now I say my explanation for what happened.

1) In a course without rabbits, nobody supposed that one athlete (Ryan) could go from the start at so fast pace, without any mental inhibition. Ryan was wonderful as personality and as interpretation of the race, knowing his only chance is in a very fast but even pace. Of course, he didn't know the potentiality of Geoffrey and Moses, and he tried his best. Without him,probably the race could be a normal competition, with a final time about 2:05.

2) Geoffrey and Moses never looked at the watch, so were not afarid about the speed because they didn't want to know it. Honestly, we feared Gebremariam, and the tactic, involving Geoffrey, Moses and Robert Cheruiyot, was in any case to push very hard immediately after 30 km.

3) Without any mental conditioning, Geoffrey hammered in incredible way, running 28:24 between 30k and 40k. But wonderful was Moses, having a max gap of 8.0, never thinking to look for maintaining the second position only, but always concentrated on Geoffrey. His ability to stay in the race, in his first marathon, closing the gap after being 50m behind, was something really unbelievable (14:07 between 35 and 40k). And they were still able to finish last 2195m in 6:14 Geoffrey (exactly 2:50 per km) and 6:18 Moses (2:51.7).

4) They average was 2:55 per km, and this is possible only for athletes able running at the moment 10k under 27:00.

The reality is that Marathon is changing, with this type of athletes. Till 5 years ago, few athletes able running about 27:00 moved to marathon, and only when old, and no more to run faster than 27:30. The same Tergat (WR holder of 10000m in 26'27") moved to marathon when no more able to run faster than 27:10.

Instead, athletes like Geoffrey and Moses move to marathon WHEN ARE ABLE TO RUN 26:45. This fact provokes different effects :

a) These athletes are younger (so more fresh in their mind and their body) and faster than before

b) Their training changed. I use very high intensity for extensive workouts (for example, Moses ran 40k 3 weeks before Boston in 2:07:15, on rough road, start and finish in the same place, and heavy training shoes), and of course I need to give more days of recovery between one specific wokouts and the next one. In this case, Moses had the next training on track (10 x 1600m with 2' recovery in 4'35" / 4'32" with the last in 4'17") exactly 6 days after his 40k.

c) Their level of intensity NEVER goes under 85%. This is a big difference, because in Kenya and Ethiopia the post-race behavior is to relax without doing any alternative training for rebuilding speed and muscle strength, so everytime the athletes prepare a new marathon they start again from a low level. Instead, Geoffrey using competitions, Moses using training, both of them maintain a high quality also short time after the marathon. We saw this last year with Geoffrey and Wilson Kiprop, this year with Mary Keitany.

d) Physiologically speaking, this type of athletes are able running a HM near 6 mml of lactate, and their marathon is near 4 mml. In other words, if till 5 years ago the best marathon runners were DIESEL ENGINES, now are TURBO DIESEL (whar already happened with Paula Radcliffe).

So, I really think that we don't have to wait too long time for looking at the first 2:02, also if it's difficult to have all the components favourable like in Boston this year.

At least, everything has a logic explanation, and to do wrong analysis for justifying something out of the normality is an exercise that has the only effect to create limits in the mind of the athletes, and excuses for their poor performances."


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