Coast is clear

In the spotlight today Men's marathon

Pollution now an afterthought

Kenyans Lel, Wanjiru favored

August 23, 2008|By Tribune Olympic Bureau

BEIJING - Forget disturbing weather forecasts and pollution-index numbers.

That's so yesterday.

The choked, clogged air of Week 1 seemed like a distant memory on the eve of the men's Olympic marathon. Blue skies and sun have been the norm in the latter stages of the Olympics, and the forecast is for the low 70s when the race starts at 7:30 a.m. at Tiananmen Square tomorrow. It will be shown live at 7:30 p.m. on NBC.

Wonder whether marathon world-record holder Haile Gebrselassie, who made a big media splash awhile back when he declined to run it because of valid concerns about the polluted air, is feeling any sense of regret?

Gebrselassie, who finished sixth in the 10,000 meters here, said Martin Lel of Kenya holds the edge in the marathon, and it certainly seems the safe choice, considering Lel became the first man to win the London and New York marathons in the same year.

Lel and countryman Samuel Wanjiru would be considered favorites based on their credentials, but the Olympic marathon is often wildly unpredictable.

Four years ago in Athens, Vanderlei de Lima of Brazil was leading about four miles from the finish when a protester, who was wearing a kilt and a beret, inexplicably attacked him and pushed him to the side of the course. Stefano Baldini of Italy ended up winning, Meb Keflezighi of the United States took the silver and the luckless de Lima the bronze.

The U.S. entrants are trials winner and first-time Olympian Ryan Hall, who grew up in Big Bear, Calif., and trains at Mammoth Lakes; Brian Sell of Rochester Hills, Mich.; and Dathan Ritzenhein of Rockford, Mich. Hall, whose personal best of 2:06.17 came this year in the London Marathon, arrived in China a couple of weeks early to get adjusted and detailed taking his first run in Beijing.

"I have never sweat so much in my entire life," Hall wrote in his blog. "By the end of the 30-minute easy run I was dripping in sweat. I was glad that I was there 2 1/2 weeks early to get used to the humidity.

"I had practiced in warm temperatures and overdressed in practice, but there was nothing I could have done to totally prepare for this level of humidity besides getting over here early to make the adjustment."

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