Saturday, January 29, 2011

3 Italian Downhill Marathons and implication on your performance

Treviso Elevation (minus 96 meters, 315 feet)

The IAAF defines "downhill marathon course" a competition where the course has a negative elevation between departure and arrival. At first cut, these types of competition should allow the average runner to perform better. The real question is therefore how much do such courses affect performance? Unfortunately the answer is surprising: not as much as you might think. Actually, it depends: in reality it is not the difference between departure and arrival that makes the difference, but the percentage of positive and negative elevation on the 26.2 miles course. 
Moreover, gain and loss depend on runners speed: every 100 feet (30.5 meters) of elevation descent speeds runners by 3.6% of his or her average one mile pace (2% grade/mile), while elevation gain would slow down runners by 6.6%, which is almost double the gain got from the descent. In other words, descent does not give back as much as ascent take away. 
The most famous downhill marathon in the US are St. George Utah Marathon in October and the Tucson Marathon in December. In Italy there are actually 3 marathons that are classified by IAAF as downhill, Treviso, Carpi and Collemar. The most popular is Treviso marathon (see the elevation profile on top). With more than 2000 runners, Treviso is the best organized event, with great local participation in the course. To see how the marathon experience looks like, readers can look at the Treviso marathon live experience link. The event takes usually place at the end of March and it is supported by Asics.
Carpi marathon Elevation (minus 100 meters, 330 feet)
The Ferrari Italian Marathon departing from Maranello (Ferrari's headquarter) and arriving in Carpi (Modena) is competing with Treviso both in the organization and in the performance of athletes. Details can be found in the Carpi marathon live experience
Finally, the Collemar Marathon is more a local event, with limited foreign runners, but it represents a truly great experience, with wonderful countryside, great food and outstanding organization. It does not provide great advantage to runners in term of performance, since the first part of the race is partly upphill (see below). Details can be found in the Collemar marathon live experience.
All Garmin tracks for the top 10 Italian marathons are available here.
Collemar marathon Elevation (minus 310 meters, 1000 feet) 

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