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.