The Extra Mile

World Marathon Series Reaches Home Stretch

Sunday, September 28, 2008

The Olympic gold medalist, the world record holder and an up-and-coming American novice headline fall marathons in Berlin (today), Chicago (Oct. 12) and New York (Nov. 2) in what amounts to a postseason extravaganza of distance running.

Haile Gebrselassie, who ran 2 hours 4 minutes 26 seconds last September in the Berlin Marathon to break by 29 seconds Paul Tergat's 2003 record (set on the same flat, fast course), will attempt his third straight Berlin win. But such is Gebrselassie's stature that anything short of a world record will be seen as just another race. Gebrselassie, 35, still has plenty of speed; he ran on record pace for more than half of the Dubai Marathon in January before finishing in 2:04:53, the world's second-fastest time, and he finished sixth in 27:06.68 at 10,000 meters in Beijing, where he skipped the marathon because of that city's pollution.

The Chicago Marathon, which will try to recover from the heat-inflicted debacle last fall that resulted in cancellation of the event midway, will feature Olympic champion Constantina Tomescu-Dita, a noted front-runner who broke away early to win in Beijing. Tomescu-Dita will be challenged by 2007 Chicago runner-up and fellow Romanian Adriana Pirtea, who raised her arms in victory last year before being outsprinted (and humiliated) by stealthy Ethiopian Berhane Adere. The two-time defending champ, Adere also returns.

The New York City Marathon will wrap up the second World Marathon Majors series, which includes the three big fall marathons, spring marathons London and Boston, and this year the Olympic marathon. Men's and women's winners, based on points scored in no more than four events in an overlapping two-year period, will be awarded $500,000 each. Inaugural women's winner Gete Wami, from Ethiopia, could win a second straight WMM title with a win in New York.

U.S. runner Kara Goucher, who finished 10th in a personal-best 30:55.16 at 10,000 meters in Beijing, will make her marathon debut in New York. "Beijing was kind of a turning point for me," Goucher said, "where I kind of started to realize that maybe there's something different for me."

Goucher is coached by Alberto Salazar, who won New York in 1980, '81 and '82.

Technology Knocks: The Marine Corps Marathon on Oct. 26 will use for the first time the ChronoTrack timing system, which features a disposable, paper-thin transponder that comes taped to each bib number for transfer to a runner's shoelaces.

-- Jim Hage

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