Archives for posts with tag: Analysis

The leaves are turning. It’s probably me looking for symbols but I find it apt: in a couple of weeks I will be moving back to NYC after a 4-year absence to start a completely new job. These are rather hectic days — movings are never easy — and bound to become more and more so, but I can’t leave the Valley without one final race, a farewell of sorts.

Part of Conway’s Festival of the Hills, Covered Bridge 10k is one of the toughest courses I’ve run to day: very hilly, it loops around back and dirt roads. The weather was perfect: it threatened to rain but kept a cool overcast sky that contrasts the red and yellow foliage of a rather early Fall. I am awfully undertrained but I did PR by 2 minutes: why are 10k’s so rare?

the race …


I will be missing the running scene of Western Mass. When I moved here 4 years ago, I was truly surprised by the volume of local races and talent present in the Valley. I join SMAC and I met remarkable people both on and out of the road; if I got faster, I know whom to thank.
During the summer, the Valley thrives with running series: the SMAC Race Series and the Northampton XC 5k.

The latter is a fun, local series held every Tuesday at 6:30pm at the Northampton Community Gardens. The route bridges between cross-country and trail: 5k long, it’s not an easy course and it took me a few times to get a handle on it. I learned a lot about racing by running it pretty regularly for the past 3 months: I learn the course and the people running it, when to hold and when to pick the pace.

I’ll be missing this little gem.

XC Runners at Noho XC

the race

As I was walking towards my car, I felt the cold weather and looked up to the early morning grey sky. “I love this weather,” I thought. The partying undergrads still asleep in alcohol-induced doze, parents probably awakened by their children’s horseplay: I wonder how people could miss racing on such a beautiful Saturday morning.

The race was starting at 9:30 and I planned to get up to Greenfield at least an hour earlier. At the Greenfield Swimming Area, I quickly got the race-tag and met up with few running buddies; Marc was there and so was Patrick — as of today, I am between Marc and Patrick in the SMAC Series. “Let’s warm up,” Marc said, and the three of us and Ashley took off for a quick and easy 2 mile warm-up. The race is flat or as flat as a race can possibly be in Western Mass, winding around Greenfield, just a mile south of Green River Rd, place of many Sunday long runs.

Race Recap

As we say in Italy: non c’è due senza tre. (Good things come in three’s is a rough equivalent.) After two weekends of racing, I needed a third race to finish August in glory: the Tomato Trot in Granby, a 5k XC race in its 9th year, felt about right.
I got a taste for cross-country with the weekly appointment of the Northampton 5k XC Series, and the Red Fire Farm Tomato Festival of which the race is part sounded like a fun activity for a lazy Saturday morning.

Tomato Trot 5k XC — photo credits: Red Fire Farm

Red Fire Farm Tomato Trot

Since my last post on the Rabbit Run in New Salem, I ran plenty of more races but I didn’t have the time to sit down and write two words on any of those. I doubt I will go back and post about those races since they’re fading away in the mist of memories, but here they are: VFW/SMAC 10k (48:26) in South Deerfield on Memorial Day, Lake Wyola 4.8mi (33:04) on June 10, Northampton Mile (5:50) on June 16, 4 around the Fourth (28:12) in Northampton on June 30, and of course MassDash where we placed 2nd overall, and the weekly Northampton XC 5k Series which is teaching me the hard of lesson of pacing.
(I might write on the amazing experience of MassDash and on the Noho Series, but I won’t promise.)

Bridge of Flowers – August 11 – Shelburne Falls, MA (photo credit:

Bridge of Flowers 10k

It’s almost unfortunate that the men’s performances shadowed the women’s race. As I was watching the race on Monday, I was electrified by Kim Smith’s solo in the first half and then the exciting duel between Desiree Davila and Caroline Kilel, but obviously the running world went crazy by seeing the impressive time of 2:03:02 by Geoffrey Mutai, and discussions about that world-record-that-wasn’t ensued.

Many have pointed out that, had the wind been such a big advantage, Kilel would have broken the world record set by Paula Radcliffe at 2:15:25 in 2003. It’s a good point, but it falls short: one doesn’t compare pears and apples, and the men’s and women’s race on Monday couldn’t have been more different. But it’s still a good point and I tried to analyze it following the same, generic lines of yesterday’s post.
The conclusions I drew are the same as in yesterday’s post: Mutai’s time is a statistical outlier.

I want to stress again that this statement isn’t about Geoffrey Mutai: he is a truly exceptional athlete who will be likely to reserve us many surprises in the years to come. My point here is to explain why — statistically speaking — Boston 2011 was “excessively aided.”

Cherop, Kilel, and Davila round the corner onto Hereford St in Boston - photo credit: Michael Dwyer, AP

statistical significance of the women’s race

The dust has yet to settle over Monday’s events. I read all kinds of reviews and analysis, furthermore the BAA, the race’s governing body, are petitioning the IAAF to have Mutai’s time recognized as a world record: 2 hours 3 minutes 2 seconds — I still can’t believe it.

Discussions have been focused on the divine tailwind and the net-downhill which created the perfect storm for an amazing race.
The best analysis I’ve read so far is from The Science of Sport, where they examine the effect of a strong tailwind from both a physics and a historical perspective. Long story short, the strong tailwind helped diminishing the effective power output required to maintain a certain speed; the feeling of no-wind many runners have described is perfectly in line with the analysis, in fact on a sailboat wind is very often little experienced, but it is certainly the wind to be “blamed” for the boat to sail.

As a researcher by training and trade, I prefer a more statistical approach and I tried to determine how fair is it not to consider Mutai’s time as a world record. (That’s aside of IAAF regulations and certifications.)
The question is to understand how exceptional the time of 2:03:02 is in general and in Boston in particular, and whether it should have been rejected, had the race been a scientific experiment. Textbooks on error analysis, e.g., Taylor [1], usually dedicate one chapter on the subtle art of rejecting data and I will be following those criteria.

Haile Gebrselassie at the 2008 Berlin Marathon: WR 2:03:59 - photo credit: Tobias Schwarz, Reuters

cranking up some numbers