Kayoko Fukushi's debut - an amazing video of what happens when the marathon goes wrong
In our most recent post, we looked at some really interesting stories from the indoor athletics and tennis worlds.
But here's one that I felt should be added to this, and it includes a video which I found through the Let's Run website (great source of news).
The story, and the video, come from the Osaka Marathon over the past weekend. The full story of the race can be read here.
But the real story, from our point of view, anyway, was that of a Japanese runner, Kayoko Fukushi, making her debut in the marathon event.
Fukushi is Japan's national record holder over 3000m, 5000m and the half-marathon. Considering how many brilliant female athletes Japan has produced in the marathon, when one of their runners with such speed over the shorter distances steps up to the marathon, it is bound to cause a stir.
And so, at the Osaka Marathon, Fukushi lined up for her first marathon knowing that no Japanese woman had ever run faster than her over the half-marathon - a great source of confidence, no doubt.
But too fast too soon, and the price is paid
Perhaps a little too much confidence, in hindsight, because Fukushi set out at a pace of sub-2:20, leaving the entire field behind from the very first kilometer! According to reports, she ran about 3:20/km for the first 25km - just about on pace for 2:20. But by 32km, she had slowed substantially, run 3:42 for that kilometer. The rest of the field caught and passed her at about the 35km mark - she lost a lead of about 4 minutes within about 5 km! So the wheels had really come off.
Just how much did they come off? Well, take a look at this video (available also on YouTube), and you'll see her final kilometer, complete with frantic and excitable Japanese commentary, and a very enthusiastic crowd - it's quite an entertaining package and a courageous run, which we describe a little more below. The video is just under four minutes long.
Fukushi enters the stadium, falls flat on her face, stands up and soldiers bravely on. I timed her final 300m at 2 minutes and 21 seconds - a pace of 7:50/km! That includes two falls in the final 200m.
For more insight into this pacing strategy, the graph below shows the pace per 5km interval during her race. The blue line represents her pace (in min/km), and the maroon blocks are added to give an indication of the pace - they project a 10km time based on each 5km interval.
What is interesting as an observation is that she's not showing any mental symptoms like confusion (though she is smiling, which some would possibly say is a mental sign considering her physical state!). One of the main symptoms of hypoglycemia (running out of glycogen and hence your blood sugar levels fall) is deliriousness and confusion. Fukushi is running in a straight line (albeit slowly), at least. It's quite apparent that her physiology has basically shut down - she could not pick up the pace even if she wanted to. It would be really interesting to speculate just what percentage of her total muscle she's actually using. Is she using ALL the muscle? It hardly seems like. Rather, it looks as though something has put a brake on her running speed. This "central fatigue", characterised by poor co-ordination (she falls over repeatedly) and often, confusion (not apparent here) was recognised by scientists as a key indication that the fatigue was NOT simply in the muscles, but also in the brain.
It's also an illustration of just how badly things can go wrong if the early pace is too ambitious. Having reached half-way in 1:10.32, Fukushi covered the second half in 1:30.32! That's still a pretty respectable half-marathon time for many people, no doubt! It's all relative of course...
But then Fukushi's final 7.2km took her 40:25 (pace of 5:37/km), and her final 2.2 km was run at an average of 7:06/km, and includes that section from the video above! A courageous run by Fukushi, no doubt. One really interesting thing to debate is whether this is an "intelligent" act to continue. Just how much do the final 10km take out of her? Is there a chance that this effort will affect her future marathon running performances? Of course, it's just as easy to argue that she'll be stronger for it, and back for that 2:20 some day! Again, time will tell...
The moral of the story - patience, aim rather run a negative split, especially in your first marathon, and remember, you might pay heavily for a fast early pace!