The European Championships of 2014, held in Zürich, produced an unforgettable Marathon course. The classic 26.2 distance, run on roads is invariable flat or has so little elevation as to make no difference. In fact it is well documented that courses that have few turns, with very slight inclines and declines are invariable faster. Take Berlin. It has also been shown that the slight inclines and declines actually save the legs from the continued pounding and associated problem of running a completely flat terrain – that is the earlier onset of fatigue. How true is this, well even shopping centres are adding slight inclines and declines to their walkways, with Meadowhall an example of an early adopter.
Repeatedly we are subject to the ideal Marathon course, for championship racing and major city record breaking courses. One of the few exceptions to this is New York which has an elevation gain of something like 240 metres. The Zürich Championship course is below this, yet the lapped course offers four stiff climbs with an 8.8% gradient and a 41 metre climb. (See profile above)
Ok, I get the idea of the fast, flat record breaking course. Commercially it makes sense, from TV rights to entries from the masses. Yet, like the first ever Marathon surely we should be looking at Championship marathons as being more of a challenge? Tactics and speed, yes OK, but what about strength? The ability to cope with hill climbs, fast sections and then descents? Surely this would be a better test of who is the best all round Marathon runner?
As spectators we would all have the added joy of watching the pit falls of racing this type of course, from wobbly legs to legs that refuse to function, as with the early leader in today’s race. The winner would have to be so much more than just a speed merchant. They would have to be strong in mind and body, deserving of the highest respect in road marathoning. Oh don’t get me wrong, we are not talking mountainous courses, they should be left to the likes of Kilian Jornet.
Yes I think, it would be great to see a format of Mountain Running becoming more main stream and beamed directly to our homes. For those that have not yet witnessed the great and the good that race the mountain trails, really are missing out on another type of Athletic super hero, who aren’t and perhaps should be, household names. Yes, road and trail racing should be viewed differently; they do require a different approach to training and racing.
I also feel city Marathons and half marathons should represent the City in which they are hosted, more than just a tour of landmarks. Which nicely links back to Sheffield. Why does the city I live in have a flat half marathon? The opportunity to host the countries ‘Toughest Half Marathon’ is starring everyone in the face. Now that would be a challenge and a real boast for every finisher.
As to watching live Mountain Trail Marathons on our TV’s as we do London, yes Please. I am just not sure how Brendon Foster would cope…
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