What to Expect/ Past Races
As with many of the major marathons, there will be separate starts for the women, men and wheelchair athletes. The purpose of the separate starts for women and men is two-fold: i) to ensure that the women do not receive assistance or pacing from men; but more importantly ii) to make it easier for television to cover the women's race while they are not surrounded by many male runners.
Elite Women Start: 9:00AM GMT
Elite Wheelchair Start: 9:25AM GMT
Elite Men and Mass Start: 9:45AM GMT
for USA/Canada readers, note that ET is GMT-5, CT is GMT-6, MT is GMT-7, PT is GTM-8
Expect the winning women to complete the course in 2:22 (11:22AM GMT), the winning men to complete the course in about 2:06 (11:51AM GMT) and the first wheelchair to complete the course in 1:30 (10:55AM GMT).
The London Marathon course is a flat and fast course, passing historic landmarks along the way. The course starts in Blackheath on the south side of the Thames River, heads east through Charlton and Woolwich before looping back west, passing the Cutty Sark in Greenwich at 10K. The course crosses the Thames River on the Tower Bridge just before mile 13, and ends along the embankment as it passes Parliament and Big Ben at mile 25.5 before passing Buckingham Palace and finishing on the Mall outside St. James park. There are no hills to speak of on the course and the entire run will be fast with little strategy based on terrain features.
London Marathon Course Map
Interactive Course Map on MarathonGuide.com
About the Pace Groups
The London Marathon is built for speed and organizers push runners to run their fastest race. This is not a strategic marathon, it is a test of speed. To ensure that runners are moving at record pace, the organizers have setup a group of pacers to lead the elite athletes. An understanding of this setup is important to knowing what one will be seeing on race day.
Pacers have been assigned by race organizers to run at 2:05, 2:08, 2:11 and 2:15 paces and will run that distance through 30K at which point they will have done their job and drop out (although the 2:15 pacers will actually complete the race). The runners who expect to compete for the win will all follow the 2:05 pacer and will be setup to run a fast race, although some will not be able to maintain that pace and will not make it to the finish line on the day. The 2:08 group is set for the second tier of elite athletes: those who believe that going out at a 2:05 pace is too difficult, those who are newer to the sport - note that the second pace group in 2007 contained runners such as Ryan Hall and Marilson Gomes dos Santos who started in that group, but partway through the race opted to move up to the front group. The 2:11 group is set for those who may round out the top 10 finishers and will be seeking Personal Bests with that time. The 2:15 group is a setup for those still seeking the Olympic qualifying standard or looking for a strong run.
The 2:05 group will be paced by Cuthbert Nyasango and Tewodros Shiferaw and we'll expect that group to contain Martin Lel, Felix Limo, Emmanuel Mutai, Samuel Wanjiru, Deriba Merga, Hendrick Ramaala, Yonas Kifle, Abderrahim Goumri, Ryan Hall and Luke Kibet.
The 2:08 group will be paced by Enock Mitei and will contain Stefano Baldini who has placed second at London twice, but has never run sub 2:07.
The 2:11 group will be paced by Dieudonne Disi and American Olympic Marathon alternate, Jason Lehmkuhle. In the 2:11 group will be American Peter Gilmore (previous best 2:12:45 at the relatively slow New York City Marathon) and Australian Andrew Letherby (previoius best 2:11:42 at the fast 2006 Berlin Marathon) among others...
There are not expected to be any pacers for the women, and with the experience in 2007, we think that is a good idea. So for the 2008 women's race, expect a strategic race, and also expect some surprises. Without an agressive initial pace, expect some newcomers to be in the hunt.
Why might female pacers be a bad idea? In the 2007 race, the women's pacers went out at a sub 2:20 pace, but only one of the elite women was up for that pace and the rest suffered mightily. Benita Johnson started with the leaders, but faltered at 15K and finished nine minutes back. Berhane Adere stayed with the leaders until mile 15, but could not keep the pace and eventually finished tenth nearly twenty minutes back. The 2007 winner, Chunxiu Zhou, was up for the pace and Gete Wami was mostly able to hold on and finished second. Constantina Tomescu-Dita ran a smart race, dropping back from the pack earlier than most and ran strong to a third place finish - but in general the female pacers were detrimental to the final results (except perhaps the winning time). We have not been officially told why there will be no female pacers for 2008, but we can guess it has to do with the depth of the field and the experience in 2007.
What to Expect in the Race - What We learn from past races...
See also: Elite roster
The weather for the 2008 London Marathon should be very good. Temperatures are expected to be in the high 40s for the start of the race and low 50s for the finsh - excellent weather. There will a headwind for much of the race, which may affect the run slightly and while rain is expected later in the day, the marathon should take place under partly sunny skies.
The Men's Race: Expect a pack of twelve runners plus two pacers to run a 2:06+ pace through the first 18 miles. During this time, watch for one or more runners to take briefly to the front to demonstrate to the others that he is feeling well. Also watch for any conversation between runners as they approach the point where the pacers will drop out - 30K. If some runners sense weakness in their competition, there may be a small break as early as Mile 19 or as late as Mile 24. By mile 24, we should see a group of just four or six men together waiting until the final mile or 800 yards leading to an all-out sprint finish. Goumri, having finished second twice to Lel will try to be in the lead before it comes to a sprint. Similarly, Limo will need to break before Lel can gain any ground on him. Emmanuel Mutai and Sammy Wanjiru will be especially dangerous and either can easily win, with our expectation of seeing something incredible from Sammy Wanjiru, the world Half-Marathon record holder. Ryan Hall - the American star - looked strong against this group in his debut marathon in 2007, but will not have the speed to win in a sprint and will need to make an early move to win. Expect a very fast race with the winning time just under 2:06.
The Women's Race: We won't expect any of the top women to shoot for a sub-2:20 finish and without pacers will expect a relatively slow start. Nonetheless, London's appearance fees are based on time goals and the women will know that they must run a certain time to receive a full appearance stipend in addition to the published prize purse. The women will likely run together for the first half of the race, then expect the field to break apart then with the initial group consisting of women of different abilities. Six women in the field have finished second at this race with much experience on this course. Of these past runners-up: Constantina Dita (nee Tomescu-Dita) appears to have some sort of cold, and we'll expect that to hamper her performance; Zakharova's best times are, honestly behind her. Therefore, once the leaders break, expect especially Gete Wami and Berhane Adere to set the standard. Watch for a surprising debut marathon performance from Everline Kimwei, a 20 year-old Kenyan, who has the fastest Half-Marathon time in the field and could be a surprise winner if she can hold the distance.