The World Cross Country Championships are in Kenya next month, followed by the Boston Marathon in mid April will star top American Deena Kastor, defending New York City champ Jelena Prokopcuka, and defending Boston champ Rita Jeptoo.
A week after Boston, the epically deep London Marathon field that will feature Americans Ryan Hall, Meb Keflezighi (2:09:53) and Khalid Khannouchi (2:05:38) will go after world-record holder Paul Tergat (2:04:55), and two-time Olympic champion Haile Gebrselassie (2:05:56), as well as Felix Limo (2:06:14); Martin Lel (2:06:41); Hendrick Ramaala (2:06:55); Jaouad Gharib (2:07:02); defending Olympic champion Stefano Baldini (2:07:22); Benson Cherono (2:07:58); Hicham Chat (2:07:59); defending New York City champ Marilson Gomes dos Santos (2:08:48); and Briton Jon Brown (2:09:31).
Outside of the Olympics the London field could be the deepest ever assembled.
But more than the spring marathons and big track meets, the news on a snowy Tuesday focuses on the autumn, specifically the two big races in New York City on the first weekend in November.
That’s where Lance Armstrong will take another crack at the New York City Marathon on Nov. 4. Last year, as was well documented, Armstrong completed the hilly NYC course in 2:59:36 thanks in part to being paced through by Alberto Salazar, German Silva, Joan Samuelson and Hicham El Guerrouj. Actually, Armstrong’s outing in New York was a big-time production magnified by a phalanx of security, famous Nike runners, and a pace car reporting his splits along with the equally ridiculous “Lance Cam.”
Meanwhile, Armstrong finished 856th.
Afterwards, Armstrong called marathoning much more difficult than cycling:
“I can tell you, 20 years of pro sports, endurance sports, from triathlons to cycling, all of the Tours – even the worst days on the Tours – nothing was as hard as that, and nothing left me feeling the way I feel now, in terms of just sheer fatigue and soreness.”
Afterwards, Armstrong revealed that he did not train as hard as he had claimed even though he was diligent. The fact of the matter is that Armstrong worked out hard, but just not enough, which is understandable since he had just retired from hard training and competing.
But the marathon is humbling and there is no place to hide weaknesses. A runner has either done the work or he hasn’t – it’s that simple. In that regard, Armstrong got a taste of what it’s all about and it’s unlikely that he will leave New York feeling as banged up and bruised as he did last November.
I think there is something more to Armstrong choosing to run the marathon again and it’s more than an elite athlete being humbled in a new event. In fact, I’ll be willing to wager that Armstrong puts in a big-time training effort in attempt to be the top American in the race.
After all, there will be no elite-level Americans racing in the 2007 New York City Marathon. They will all be racing in the Olympic Trials the day before the annual marathon. With such a depleted field it’s reasonable that Armstrong can put in nine more months of training to lower his 2:59 considerably. After all, he has one of the highest VO2 marks ever registered. Though he’s a little older now, his body hasn’t taken the pounding typical of runners his age. Actually, the career on the bike might have provided a nice base to become an above-average runner.
It will be interesting to see what types of reports come out of Armstrong’s camp as the year passes.
Goucher to take a crack at the Trials?
While Armstrong’s entry into the 2007 New York City Marathon is as official as it can be nine months out, elite American Adam Goucher is contemplating his marathon debut in the Olympic Trials the day before Lance makes his second run in New York.
Fresh off his second-place finish in the USATF Cross Country Championships, Goucher announced that he – along with Jorge Torres and Abdi Abdirahman – was going to take a crack at Alberto Salazar’s 26-year old 8k American record (22:04) at the U.S. Championships next month in New York City. If he’s going to do it, Goucher will have a good reference point since his coach is the record holder.
But it’s the prospect of Goucher making his marathon debut at the Trials that has piqued the interest. A “B” standard qualifier with both a 27:59 10k and 13:15 5k under his belt in 2006, Goucher’s entry into the field automatically changes the tenor of the race. Already shaping up to be one of the deepest American marathon fields in a generation, the high-stakes competition and the criterion-style course through Central Park could suit Goucher’s style.
Plus, Goucher will get a first-hand look at portions of the course next month when he hits NYC for the 8k championships, and his well-documented training regime is, frankly, intimidating.
Yeah, Goucher is in.
Go Pound sand
Speaking of Armstrong, his arch nemesis and head of the World Anti-Doping Agency, Dick Pound, was essentially censured by the International Olympic Committee for his comments directed at the cyclist. Not that anything such as a rebuke, humiliation or censure will quiet Pound.
The IOC claims that Pound “violated the Olympic charter, the rules of the IOC, and the rules of the Olympic movement,” when Pound criticized a Dutch report last year that cleared Armstrong from doping allegations. Pound, published reports indicate, said the report was prepared by a lawyer with no expertise in doping control and that WADA was considering legal action against him.
Though the IOC’s ethics panel found no “incriminating element” in Pound’s conduct, it did find that he refused to respond to Armstrong’s complaint against him for continuing to make claims without undisputed evidence.
Defiant as always, Pound told Armstrong the rebuke is meaningless.
“If Lance thinks this is going to make me go away he is sadly mistaken,” Pound told reporters.
That is, of course, Armstrong chooses to sue Pound and the WADA… don’t’ bet against it.
Out in front
The New York Times, seemingly the only American newspaper outside of the Bay Area covering doping issues these days, offered a story about an American cycling team performing its own drug tests ahead of the agencies. It's very interesting to read how Floyd Landis' positive test in last year's Tour de France have affected many cycling teams.
Meanwhile, former marathoner turned physician, Bob Kempainen, reminisced with an Ivy League sporting web site. Kempainen, of course, was one of the toughest runners on the planet for a few years as evidenced in the 1996 Marathon Olympic Trials.