Can one cross the 5km mark at their personal best time and still win a marathon in another PB? Five lessons from the 2017 London Marathon


Justin Lagat sent this article to us just before he left for his upcoming marathon. Justin's piece includes some good observations on the Virgin Money London Marathon!

pack-men london .jpgThe men's lead pack at the Virgin Money London Marathon, photo courtesy of London Marathon

1. Yes. It is possible to cross 5km at your personal best and still win the marathon in another PB.
On her way to setting the new women's only world record, Mary Keitany crossed the 5km point in 15:31. Her personal best time for 5km, according to IAAF website, still remains at 15:40. This means Keitany crossed the 5km mark 9 seconds faster than her personal best time at that distance. She still had 37km to go, but still managed to maintain a steady pace till she crossed the 42.195km in a new world record.

So, no more excuses for blowing up and blaming a fast pace in your next marathon.

2. Marathon is a gamble, even after hard training and enough experience.

Poor pacing, stomach problems, blisters, missing drinks and sudden injuries are just part of the misfortunes that can happen to an athlete anywhere in the 42km race. Some can be avoided, while others are unavoidable.

Coming into the race, Kenenisa Bekele had the fastest personal best time of 2:03:03 which he ran less than a year ago and was obviously the favorite to win. However, after the half way point, he started to slow down and began to lag behind the leading pack. He recovered again towards the end of the race, but too late to close the gap that had been created by the eventual winner.

3. Breaking away early and holding on to the lead is another way to win a marathon.

In both the men and women races, the winners had made decisive moves to break away from the rest of the field some kilometers before the finish line. For Keitany, it was just after the 3km point. Not even Vivian Cheruiyot, the reigning Olympic champion over the 5,000m could resist the pace as she was left running lonely some meters behind her until the rest of the chasing pack caught up with her. Keitany's move appeared risky, but it eventually worked for her.

Daniel Wanjiru's move in the men's race was more calculated and looked less risky as he broke away with just a few kilometers to go. His focus in the last kilometer was to try as much as possible to maintain the nine to ten seconds gap between him and Kenenisa Bekele till he crossed the finish line.

4. Experience is key to winning a big city marathon.

There is so much that runners learn for themselves when they run one or two of their first marathons that nobody else can tell them. No one can explain fully the feeling of running a marathon to someone who has never run one.

In a number of her past marathons, Keitany has learned the habit of breaking away early in her marathons and it has often ended well for her. Wanjiru's run was also almost in the same version he ran to win the Amsterdam marathon last year when he had suddenly broken away from Sammy Kitwara with a few kilometers to go.

5. It helps to know what is in a fellow athlete's drink bottle.

When running hard, a drink that an athlete is not used to can easily cause stomach upsets. Wesley Korir during last year's Olympic Games alleged that he was accidentally handed Stanley Biwot's drink and his own given to Biwott and it affected their performances there.

In London, at some point Bedan Karoki ran up to Daniel Wanjiru after a drink station and used the same drink having missed his own. It could be an indication that the two were aware of the other's drink and that came handy to Karoki and resulted in him finishing 3rd in his marathon debut.

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