Sunday, April 13, 2008

London Marathon: Huge Day For Tomas Abyu and UKA

Tomas Abyu of Salford Harriers is running today's Olympic Trial/London Marathon as by far the fastest Brit. He clocked 2:10:37 in the last Dublin event. But through the perversity of the selection process Dan Robinson whose best time is rather slower is the only one who will be taken to Beijing if none of the Brits beat the clock today. Tomas is pictured at the XXI Club Dinner which I organised last November with Dr Ron Hill MBE who is a past Commonwealth, European, Boston Champion and three times Olympian with a best of 2:09:28. Which for many should have been recognised as a world record.

The pair compared notes on the selection foibles for these major events. Tomas is exceedingly fit and heads British rankings for half and full marathon. But he is recovering from bronchitis for this particular race day. Will he rise above that? We'll see.

At half way Abyu and Robinson were locked together on 2:11 (i.e. bare automatic qualification) pace. Brendan Foster is as ever prattling half truths and prejudices in the commentary. He wants Dan to go. Because he runs 2:14, 2:15, 2:16 in such events. That is mediocre in historic terms. Tomas has been much faster.

Brendan is also wrong with the 1908 Olympic anecdotes about moving the finish line. It was the start line that was moved in fact.

There is no earthly reason really why the Olympic and other championship marathons shouldn't have far more relaxed entry requirements. If every Olympic nation selected their best three a field of 600 would nonetheless be manageable. Why restrict this to 100? Or 50 or less in the case of a Commonwealth Games? Various past champions debuted in the Olympics and other Championship marathons. Not possible these days.

UPDATE: Robinson is getting the better of the Brits race and should run 2:12:30 or thereabouts. This will be a big improvement for him. But two minutes slower than Tomas' best. Robinson will get to go on the basis of finishing 11th in the Worlds in a relatively modest time. Today's race may well remain Robinson's life time best. Tomas will probably run 2:14/2:15 or thereabouts. I hope that UK Athletics come up with some way of beating the perverse system to take Abyu.

UPDATE 2: Foster has added to his catalogue of mistakes by suggesting the Dublin course was not properly measured. That is not correct. It was simply not an approved event for qualification times. It was of course 26 miles and 385 yards.

Apart from his persistent errors Foster is commercially involved in many of the races on which he commentates. Time for him to move over surely? Now if he'd pointed out the controversy over the course in Belgium on which Derek Clayton ran 2:08 in 1969 - probably at least 400 yards and up to 1200 yards short - and for which all charts and diagrams disappeared. And that Ron Hill should have had a world record in 1970 with the time quoted above. That would have been different.

POSTSCRIPT: Robinson ran about 2:13, Abyu about 2:15.

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