IT’S NOT OFTEN I HAVE NOTHING TO SAY

04.10.2017
Dan Cumming - In case you forgot what I look like!

Dan Cumming – In case you forgot what I look like!

AND, this isn’t one of those times.

Nor is the recent past despite the fact I’ve been pretty quiet. It has actually been another one of those times when life has been getting in the way of running and talking/writing about running.

BUT, it is Spring running season! As I started writing we had just ‘Sprung Ahead’ into Daylight Time, and the true official ‘first day of Spring’ was just around a week away. And then, more stuff happened, including the death of Ed Whitlock, which clearly took precedence over anything else I might have to say. So good intentions and all, here I am finally back to writing a bit of my regular running stuff.

A couple of biggies are on the horizon, the London and Boston Marathons, and sometime in the coming weeks Nike is going to unleash its first attempt at getting one or more athletes under the magic and mystical TWO HOUR  mark for the marathon.

Here in Vancouver, the number of races on the immediate schedule is ramping up fast.  The Sun Run is almost upon us and before you can turn around, the BMO Vancouver Marathon, followed by a bunch of seasonal standards from the Lower Mainland Road Race Series and the BC Athletics Super Series. This short list is just to mark a few of the dozens of runs that are right on the horizon. For me and quite a few local runners, an alternate race to Vancouver is the Eugene Marathon. Personally, the Vancouver Marathon is still way ahead on the count of times I have participated (11 I believe – 5 full and 6 half), but Eugene is a favourite and I think this is going to be my sixth time in the 11 years it has been in operation.

Getting back to the international stage, we may be looking at some spectacular marathon performances in the next while (none of which will be by ME). Boston does not meet the requirements for world records, but it can still turn in fast and exciting times. Among the runners will be a couple of notable Canadians, Eric Gillis (2:11:21) and Rachel Hanna (2:32:09)! London is known as a place to do a time, and it counts. There, Canadians should be keeping an eye on Krista Duchene (2:28:32). Of course, there will also be the totally ‘set up’ attempt by Nike and its three athletes, to run the track at Monza for that two hour time. A test run at half marathon distance demonstrated that the looped course and all the preparations could produce a fast time. It is going to be exciting to see what happens when they do it “For Real”.

The thing about insurmountable times is that once someone does it, everybody wants to do it!

Example? The four minute mile. It was once said that you would die if you went that fast. A humorous quote from Sir Roger Bannister highlights this belief:

“Doctors and scientists said that breaking the four-minute mile was impossible, that one would die in the attempt. Thus, when I got up from the track after collapsing at the finish line, I figured I was dead.”

Bannister’s time when he broke through the physical and psychological barrier was 3:59.4. .High school athletes have now cracked four minutes with the official US High School record standing at 3:53.43!

Even if Nike is creating a completely set up situation, including designing a new shoe they claim can knock 3-4% off the elite runner’s time, IF any one of those boys breaks two hours or even comes close, like say 2:00:30, I predict times will soon drop in some race, to near that same time or even a bit faster. Pride may even push some people to drive through to an unheard of time, just to prove they are ‘better’ than the Nike team that has everything optimized for the performance. People are like that!

We seem to collectively adopt a belief about things like the four minute mile and the two hour marathon, and, until someone proves otherwise, it becomes the limiting factor. Who ever imagined that, Nike notwithstanding, the marathon record would be sitting at 2:02:57? It wasn’t that long ago that 2:05 was seen as rocket fast. Since we got to the 2:03 point there have been a number of results just over or just under that. Maybe we just need to know, really know, that something is possible for a whole lot of other people to become believers.

One record that has not proven to be that way is Paula Radcliffe’s 2:15 marathon time. The second best time to that is 2:17 and it was done by Paula herself. As a matter of fact, looking back at top women’s marathon times (not records, because once someone sets a new record, people who are faster than the old record, but slower than the new one, don’t show up in the records stats), out of the top seven times recorded by women, Paula Radcliffe holds FOUR of them: 2:15:25, 2:17:18, 2:17:42 and 2:18:56. The fastest woman in the Top Five (since Paula R became the record holder) not named Paula Radcliffe is Mary Keitany (KEN) with a 2:18:37. Paula’s record time was done at London in 2003. Wonder, fourteen years later, what London might have in store for us in 2017?

Based on my little theory about people showing the way, Radcliffe actually showed herself the way, posting one of her 2:17’s (breaking Katherine Nedereiba’s 2:18:47) before she recorded the 2:15:25. Looking at the ‘followers’, that makes Mary Keitany next at 2:18:37 or more than THREE full minutes off Radcliffe’s best. The men continue to steadily push the times down.  Come on ladies, how about giving us some excitement this Spring!?!

At least in American marathoning, we are witnessing a changing of the guard. Ryan Hall has said he is done, but decided seven marathons on seven continents in seven days was a fitting way to say goodbye to the distance. Meb has signaled he is done with competitive racing, although I notice he is registered for Boston, so we’ll see. There may be some newcomers on the scene, but none as yet that have signaled clearly they are here and ready to join battle with the best of the best.

Canadian distance running is being well represented by several runners on both the male and female side, but the big target in Canadian marathon running remains Jerome Drayton’s 42 year-old record. So many have flirted with it and the gap has been closed, but Drayton is still ‘the man’ at 2:10:09. A personal friend, Peter Butler, was second with 2:10:56 – for years! He has slipped now to the fourth fastest person, but sixth fastest time with two of the faster times being 2:10:55 or just one second faster. To give him his due, Reid Coolsaet owns three of the times that bested Butler and stands second-best only to Drayton with 2:10:29. The other guys slipped in between Drayton and Butler, without besting Drayton. Dylan Wykes (2:10:47) and Reid Coolsaet wedged between the other two. It is a bit ironic that Peter has not lost a second on Drayton but has dropped from second fastest Canadian man to fourth. Statistically, you would have to say that someone has to break the 2:10 mark and set a totally new standard for Canadian men, but just now it is hard to see who that might be. Eric Gillis is only just a step or two back of Butler’s time and still active. None of the above named (well, except Drayton and Butler) are completely out of the picture, but all three are on the down side of things, at least in theory. Wykes may or may not put himself back in that mix considering the injury issues he has had in the last few years. Just to be clear, winning races is different from posting times. All I am talking about here is those record times.

On the women’s side, Lanni Marchant has set a new Canadian standard (2:28:00) and runs well. However, some younger women showing promise, may or may not ever reach her level of performance. The good news is that there are probably three or four coming along, and you would not want to dismiss what Krista Duchene might do on the right day in the right company. I (and a whole lot of other people) will be watching Dayna Pidhoresky (2:40:38) and Rachel Hanna (2:32:08) because they both have a lot of future in them.

All I know with respect to Canadian distance runners, male and female, is that I am going to be watching for something interesting during the coming year. There are many who still have potential, notwithstanding theoretical analysis of potential performance. It always comes down to the right circumstances on the right day and look out!

I will also be watching me! I’ve hit what I really believe now is a critical point in my own running. I already mentioned Eugene on May 7. A big group is going down to do the Marathon or Half Marathon. I will be one of the people in the Half. I love the race, with the great route and above all, the finish on Hayward Field. I also have a score to settle from last year. Officially, you will find me listed 5th in my age group with exactly the same time as the chap who was 4th. Seems to me that is a tie, but even though I can’t see it in the results, they probably timed into the hundredths of a second. I don’t care! they gave us the same time. I calls it a tie!! Anyway, I was holding back a little bit last year because I had another half to run in just six days. No hanging back this time!  Going for a better time (and hopefully a better placing)!

Then, later in June, I will run what may well be my last marathon, The Light at the End of the Tunnel Marathon. I am not going to say I will never ever participate in another marathon, but unless I trip coming out of the tunnel and roll all the way to the bottom in a BQ time, I’m pretty sure it is going to be my last ‘serious’ marathon, meaning with a time I can be pleased with as the best I could do. I do love marathons and everything about them except the training and hard work of running one for time, so I may do like a lot of people I know, and switch over to an experiential approach. By that I mean a slower time and less rigorous training program (which is really what is getting to me in terms of fatigue factors). There are a good many events in which I would like to take part, and today that is a huge ‘thing’ with a lot of people quite happy to run slower than I would, even on a slow day. I may need to become one of them. It is all relative, you know.

With that Tunnel Marathon behind me, my intention is to switch my focus to shorter distances, at least for the rest of the year. That may mean around 10K as the upper end, barring the odd 10 miler or 15K event that may or may not appear on the horizon. After I determine if not training ALL the time for the long races, gives me back some of the energy I now seem to find lacking, I may put some serious training back in for a Half Marathon now and then, but only one or two a year. This all fits with some other running challenges/opportunities coming up that I’m not ready to talk about just yet – soon, but not now. I’m very excited about this new personal ‘era’ and you will soon be able to see why when I can talk about it openly. Won’t be long now!

 

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