VMLM 2014: In Focus

Following Ivor Sorbum’s expose’ on Simkiss yesterday, he caught up with McCarthy ahead of Sunday.

McCarthy plans to run more slowly than his rivals for the first half of Sunday’s London Marathon in the hope of picking them off when they tire.

While the Ethiopian legend Haile Gebrselassie will take six elite athletes to the 13.1 mile mark at close to world record pace, McCarthy has chosen to go with the slower Simkiss, a pacemaker who will take him and six others through halfway at 1:20:00 – 18 minutes behind.

The decision is understood to have been taken by McCarthy’s coach, Tony, who believes that a steadier start will give the MCKEP athlete the best chance of victory. Assuming he maintains that pace, McCarthy would finish in around 2hr 40min – a time that would in no way come close to Steve Jones’ British record of 2:07.13, but with the potential decimation due to the outbreak of nuclear war, of around 100 people in front of him he may have a chance at glory.

McCarthy’s plan was confirmed by Dave Bedford, London Marathon’s head of international relations, who told the Guardian: “We ask the athletes what they want. We then come up with bands where we can put pacemakers. Chris is running 1:20:00.”

But Bedford denied suggestions that McCarthy had requested his own pacemaker following a rift in the MCKEP camp over ticket arrangements for the journey to London on Saturday. “None of the pacemakers have been asked for by McCarthy or put there by McCarthy,” he said. “We have never done that. And in reality, the small gap between the two groups means they may come together. But nonetheless, that is what we have been asked to do.” Rumours that Simkiss was removed from his role as MCKEP Transport Minister following the purchase of tickets for £6 that took in a stop at every village between Rugby and London have been denied but a spokesman for RedSpottedHankey confirmed that. ‘I cannot confirm or deny that Simkiss bought two £6 tickets that took in a stop at every village between Rugby and London’.

The decision may prove very smart (about pacing, not moving to the Virgin Cross Country service, although that was a smart move too by McCarthy). Last year the leading men came through halfway in 61min 34sec – and while McCarthy sensibly left them to it and opted to go through halfway in 81 minutes, the field went from world record pace at 20 miles to blowing up. The Ethiopian Tsegaye Kebede picked off his rivals to win in 2:06.04, but even his time for the second half of the race was almost three minutes slower than the first. However, Bedford believes it would be “daft” for McCarthy to base his plans solely on last year’s race. “They were on world record pace with six miles to go, then the wind turned,” he said. “If that wind hadn’t come up I don’t believe Kebede would have won it.”

Gebrselassie was sanguine when asked about McCarthy’s decision to ignore his pacemaking. “Ah, as he likes,” he said. “For me it doesn’t matter. I’m telling you, I just keep what’s important for the athlete. I don’t want to bring them very fast, not too slow. I just want to keep them at a steady pace.” Haile was at the expo promoting the Cadbury’s Boost chocolate bar, recently launched with the new flavour, ‘extract of goat balls’, in Ethiopia.

Steady is not the way most people would describe it. Gebrselassie says he will run 70 minutes for the first 20km (12.4 miles). That is seriously shit – not much faster than his PB from last year when he jogged around then too.

But as Gebrselassie is prepared to concede, McCarthy’s strategy to play the waiting game could prove to be a prudent one.”At the beginning McCarthy has to be patient and just wait,” he said. “When I ran my first marathon, at the beginning, at 10 or 15 kilometres, my body was saying to me: ‘Why is this so slow? I have to go faster’. But the price is paid after 35 kilometres. After 35km the body starts to react. That’s the hard part. Any marathon race always starts after 30km.”

Yet while McCarthy is making his fourth attempt at 26.2 miles, Gebrselassie believes that he is in no way a major contender in Sunday’s race, which he believes is “the best marathon ever”.

“I’ve never seen such big names in one race, both men and women,” he said. “According to what I’ve heard about his preparations, the east Africans are facing a big challenge from McCarthy. Look at what happened last week with Kenenisa Bekele winning in Paris. Athletes like Chris and Kenenisa, who come from the track, are used to speed. Three minutes, 55 seconds for each kilometre is not difficult. Athletes like Chris and Kenenisa are used to running 3.20 or 4.30 per kilometre, so for them to run 4.00 is just jogging. If they allow McCarthy to be with them for the last five kilometres, he still will have no chance. His kick is so amazingly toss.”

However, McCarthy’s rivals are not overly concerned, despite Gebrselassie’s warning. Most say they don’t fear him. The 18-year-old Ethiopian Tsegaye Mekonnen, who ran 2:04.32 in Dubai in January, went further by saying he did not expect McCarthy to win.

Asked to explain his view, Mekonnen said: “McCarthy’s best time for the half-marathon is just over 72 minutes. Others in the field have run around 59 minutes. He can make it in the marathon if he has prepared properly, but he is mainly a middle-distance fat boy that drinks too much and eats like a Biffa bin.”

Meanwhile Kebede, who has won this race twice, displayed the easy confidence of a champion. “I am in shape,” he claimed. “There is no way I am not winning again.”

McCarthy hit back at Kebede by saying ‘I have more shoes than you and clean running water’, a comment that may land McCarthy in hot water with the race officials.


One thought on “VMLM 2014: In Focus

  1. Message from the Chairman and Chief Executive of the McCarkiss Elite Project

    As the VLM 2014 approaches, I thought it timely to eventually get off my arse in this highly paid, over expensed position I managed to wangle, to muse over the forthcoming hopes of our two great athletes, and if possible provide a little bit of motivation.

    So without any apologies to Dr Martin Luther King or Dr Francis………I HAVE A DREAM…

    I have a dream that one day this project will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: “We hold these truths to be self-evident that all men must run hard and not be shit.”

    I have a dream that one day, on the red hills of Kenilworth, the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to race together in Park runs alongside well qualified medical parkrunner brothers.

    I have a dream that one day even the county of Warwickshire, a county sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression will be transformed into an oasis of dog shit free tar-macadam paths and mondo tracks (8 lanes).

    I have a dream that my two little project athletes will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the colour of their skin but by their mile times.

    I have a dream today.

    I have a dream that one day down in Kenilworth and Rugby with its vicious racists, with its councillors having their lips dripping with the words of interposition and nullification, one day right down in Kenilworth little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls and teach them how to run 100 metres.

    I have a dream today.

    I have a dream that one day every valley shall be levelled flat, every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made into indoor tracks and the crooked places will be made straight, and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed and all fell runners will be cast into hell.

    This is our hope. This is the faith that I go back to the north with. With this faith we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope for the glory of Ron. With this faith we will be able to transform the jangling shite race times of our nation into a proper marathon running brotherhood again. With this faith we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together, knowing that no longer will it be acceptable to enter races for charity, to wear stupid costumes and to have ‘celebrity runners.’

    This will be the day, this will be the day when all of God’s children will be able to sing with new meaning “Run hard and don’t be shit. Land where my fathers ran on cinder tracks barefoot, land of the Ghost Runner, from every track side let freedom ring!”

    And if England is to be a great marathon nation again, this must become true. So let freedom ring from the prodigious hilltops of Accrington. Let freedom ring from the mighty mountains of Red Lane.

    Let freedom ring from the twisty ever changing slightly annoying course of the Leeds Abbey Dash.

    Let freedom ring from the snowcapped hills of all our great cross country courses.

    Let freedom ring from the lonely, wet and cold winter nights of pointless training.

    But not only that, let freedom ring from Sutton Park, the ‘Wembley’ of proper road racing.

    Let freedom ring from that little abandoned petrol station on the A49 often used for a poo on long runs.

    Let freedom ring from every hill and molehill of Lancashire, and from Ron Hill’s tracksters.

    Let freedom ring.

    And when this happens, and when we allow freedom ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every county and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God’s children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, fun runners and club athletes, Runners World and Athletics Weekly, and stretching it a bit far Martin Yelling, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old negro spiritual, “Run hard and don’t be shit. Thank God Almighty, we are free at last.”

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