Olympic Men’s Marathon 2008 – Coach Steve’s Thoughts

Sammy W
Sammy Wanjiru Crossing the Finish Line -photo Dennis Passa – AP

I don’t know about you, but I got chills watching Sammy Wanjiru running into the Bird’s Nest listening to the massive crowd cheer for the first Keyan to win an Olympic gold medal in the marathon. Not to mention, he smashed the 24-year old Olympic record on a hot humid day and it was only his 3rd marathon. Oh yeah, he is only 21 and Tsegay Kebede from Ethopia at 21 years of age took bronze. There is a new guard in the sport of marathon.

The strongest survived and won while the smart runner took the bronze. The first few miles were run at a blistering pace and only 5 could maintain it. At mile 18 things started to change. A couple bumps in tempo dropped runners. Jaouad Gharib, the silver medalist, yo-yo’d falling back just a little then climbing back to the lead runners. Soon Sammy W. would drop the hammer and leave no doubt who the strongest and fastest marathoner was on this day. Kebede was a good minute back of the leaders at mile 20, he ran his race and beat out his fellow countryman in the last 300 meters.

So, here’s what I took away from watching the men’s Olympic marathon.

Cadence: I was counting foot turnover and the leaders I counted were around 180-186 SPM (strides per minute).

Heel Kick: With the exception of Gharib, the Moroccan, the runners heels seemed to float effortlessly back and up almost touching their rear-ends.

Forward Lean: Very present in the Ethiopian runners not so much with the Kenyans.

Pace: Out of the gate,it was too fast for most of the field. I watched to see who was thinking conservation of energy and the Kenyans drafted off the leaders the entire first half of the race.

Hydration, Fuel and Cooling: As I watched I really only saw Gharib eating and it seemed like they took big gulps of fluids each time they drank rather than small sips. I wondered, what was in their special bottles. And lots of water went over their heads to help keep their core temps down

Training: I am intrigued by what the announcers talked about being the Japanese training system. Sammy W. moved to Japan to train at the age of 15. I will find more information on this but it was inferred that mental training was a big part of it. It was also said that Kenyan isn’t quite as hot as some of us might think and the Kenyan runners live and train at 8,000 feet in Kenya, so Sammy W. had to put in some additional lowland (heat and humidity), which obviously paid off.

The Americans: “Ritz” and Hall did us proud with a 9th and 10th place finish, Brian Sell finished 22nd.

Not only did I get chills watching Sammy run on to the track at the Bird’s Nest but I had that feeling for all the runners. Running inspired.

Let us know how watching the Olympic marathon made you feel and are you more motivated than ever? Leave a comment below.

Train Focused, Steve Mackel – MarathonTraining.TV Head Coach


2 Responses to “Olympic Men’s Marathon 2008 – Coach Steve’s Thoughts”

  1. Jason Simmons on August 26th, 2008

    I really did enjoy watching the marathon. It was so amazing to see the pace they where going. Watching the marathon has given me more appreciation on training and focus. Boy. Sammy Wanjiru look so relax when he came thru the tunnel to the bird nest. Thank you Steve for your observation on the marathon. It was well worth it.

  2. Sandy on August 27th, 2008

    The Men’s Marathon was awesome! I bought a tv at a thrift store, hooked up bunnyears, and tuned in. It is the only Olympic event that I watched. I watched it mostly to see Ryan Hall run but watching the leaders run was phenomenal.