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Wanjiru in the Aftermath

A roundup of some coverage of Samuel Wanjiru since Sunday`s Fukuoka International Marathon.

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Wanjiru Wins Debut Marathon in Fukuoka Course Record

http://www.asahi.com/sports/spo/TKY200712030126.html

translated by Brett Larner

Half marathon world record holder Samuel Wanjiru`s strength is such that there was never any possibility of his finishing second in his debut marathon. Saving his racing until the pacemakers dropped off after 30 km, he had no problem applying a sustained last spurt over the final 1.5 km. Runner-up Deriba Merga was utterly unable to follow. Setting a new course record, Wanjiru stated in Japanese, "I achieved my goal of a 2:06. It was tougher than when I set the half marathon world record but I`ve gained the confidence I needed."

Waniru trained for this marathon for only one and a half months, less than half the time that most runners spend in preparation. Training at what is for Japanese runners a high pace of 3 minutes per km, Waniru ran a stamina-building 40 km tempo run just two weeks ago. His coach Koichi Morishita commented to reporters after the race, "I think this was a mediocre performance for him, but I told Wanjiru, `That was good enough.`"

Taking control of the race after the 30 km point, Wanjiru relentlessly pushed the pace in pursuit of his intended Fukuoka course record. In achieving this goal, he has gained the experience and self-assurance he will need to qualify for the Beijing Olympics Kenyan marathon team at next April`s London Marathon. "I expect to run a 2:05, but if my training goes well I will run 2:04." Coach Morishita`s eyes widened at this comment, but the confidence with which Wanjiru made both the statement and his debut showed that he intends to follow through.

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After Victory in Fukuoka, Wanjiru Predicts a Medal in Beijing

http://www.nishinippon.co.jp/nsp/local/20071204/20071204_001.shtml

translated by Brett Larner

Winning his debut marathon at the Fukuoka International Marathon in a course record of 2:06:39, Samuel Wanjiru (21, Team Toyota Jidosha Kyushu) spent Dec. 3 giving interviews in a hotel in Fukuoka.

Although he holds the world record in the half marathon, his first time covering the 42 km distance left the champion a weary man. "I`m much more tired than yesterday. Ekidens and half marathons leave me saying, `I`m beat,` but my whole body is sore now. I want to take a break for a while, you know?" he laughed.

Yes indeed, but his break will only be this week. On January 1st Wanjiru is slated to run in the All-Japan Jitsugyodan Ekiden (New Year Ekiden). "I have to do more speedwork to get ready for that," Wanjiru admits. His training for Fukuoka was at 3 minutes per km pace, but his training for the ekiden will be at 2 minute 40 second pace. After that Wanjiru will spend the spring focusing on preparations for the Kenyan Olympic Trials at April`s London Marathon.

Opening the year by setting the world record of 58:33 at The Haag International Half Marathon, then ending the year by winning Fukuoka makes for quite a 2007. Wanjiru nods, "It`s been a great year. Next year I will top it with an Olympic medal."

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Letsrun.com has an insightful writeup of Wanjiru`s performance and year. I would add a few comments of my own. The main thing which strikes me about Wanjiru is the discipline and honesty of his self-assessments. When he makes a pre-race estimate of his performance, he follows through. Before setting his second half marathon world record this year, he told reporters that he would go through 10 km in 27:30 and that if pacemakers could not handle this pace he would do it by himself. This is exactly what happened, as he hit the marker alone in 27:27. He said before Fukuoka that he would run a conservative 2:06, and again this was exactly what happened.

Watching the video of Fukuoka it is clear that this was only a perfunctory run by Wanjiru, the minimum expenditure necessary to meet his goals. Despite a few nervous glances at Atsushi Sato (he seemed to be unconcerned by Deriba Merga for the most part), Wanjiru never once appeared to strain himself. It`s very impressive considering his time and the lack of training with which he entered the race. With three months of training leading in London and more serious competition in that race it is not hard to believe Wanjiru`s post-Fukuoka predictions for his London performance.

It`s also noticeable on the video how much shorter Wanjiru`s legs are than other Kenyan marathoners. Not only his legs but his form is different from that of most other Kenyans, his hips sitting lower on his legs, body held upright and arms moving with mechanical efficiency despite some imbalance to the left. This type of form is typical of many Japanese marathoners and clearly shows that Morishita has had some influence on Wanjiru`s development.

I would also like to add as a post-script that Wanjiru`s 2:06:39 on the fast Fukuoka course illuminates what a truly incredible performance Gert Thys` 1999 Japan all-comers` record of 2:06:33 was on the much more difficult Tokyo International Marathon course. I saw that race and it goes without saying that it was impressive at the time, but with almost 10 years` worth of perspective now it truly deserves to be remembered among the legendary marathons.

(c) 2007 Brett Larner

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