/ Ueli Steck ran a flat road marathon

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Topper Harley - on 17 Nov 2016

There was a thread on here years ago about how Ueli Steck's insane mountain fitness would translate to a flat marathon time which I found really interesting. Now six years later he has run the New York City marathon so we finally know:
https://www.strava.com/activities/768180123
http://web2.nyrrc.org/cgi-bin/htmlos.cgi/00461.1.089407331116196928
The official race website gives his time as 3:04:06, which possibly includes time before he crossed the start line as his Strava profile gives a quicker time of 2:59:26.
Looking at the Strava profile he seemed to slow dramatically at 27k for about 15 minutes for some reason, which lost him time.
It's a decent time but not as fast as I would have expected.
Post edited at 22:36
Roadrunner5 - on 17 Nov 2016
In reply to Topper Harley:

I said at the time arrobically he isn't that strong at running. I did Jungfrau marathon when he did and was considerably quicker.

It's a different sort of fitness
bouldery bits - on 17 Nov 2016
In reply to Topper Harley:

You have UKC's best username.
FactorXXX - on 17 Nov 2016
In reply to Topper Harley:

Looking at the Strava profile he seemed to slow dramatically at 27k for about 15 minutes for some reason, which lost him time.

He probably got bored and ran up and down a skyscraper.
PM on 18 Nov 2016
In reply to Topper Harley:

Think for something like New York I'd expect chip-based timing. This gives results which are when a runner actually crosses the start and finish lines, for each runner. The 'time before crossing start line' is normally the difference between the gun time, and what they've called 'net time' here, often called 'chip time'.
Dave Kerr - on 18 Nov 2016
In reply to Roadrunner5:


> It's a different sort of fitness

This.

Rich_cakeboy - on 18 Nov 2016
In reply to Topper Harley:
Strava also has Km 29 at 1:35 pace which is as fast as Usain Bolt! 27 K is about when you run up hill and over a bridge and into Manhattan so the GPS probably lost satellite lock with all the tall buildings. It's a great marathon time, would like to know if Ueli did any specific marathon training or did he just rock up and give it a go! He splits look reassuringly human - starts off aiming for under 3 hour pace and gradually looses it especially after 30 k.
Post edited at 08:09
wbo - on 18 Nov 2016
In reply to Roadrunner5: not even just the different fitness, it's a different exercise, movement too. You have to train your legs to be used to going round faster than in training and I'd guess his training is designed to make his legs do one pace for a very long time.

What's Killian Jornets 5k, not amazing as I recall, and that's not a lack of fitness, just not trying the right movement.

The New NickB - on 18 Nov 2016
In reply to Topper Harley:

The 3:04 is the chip time, it's what he actually did. Looks like his 5k splits go progressively slower, which isn't unusual and as someone else said, points at him being human.

I suspect one of three happened
1. He thought he was in sub 2:50 shape and it turned out he wasn't.
2. He was aiming for sub 3 and got a bit carried away at the start and paid for it later.
3. He was winging it a bit and started fairly fast knowing he would slow down.

It makes me feel good knowing that he and I are a similar standard on the road, but I know full that as soon as the terrain got steeper, he would be off in the distance.
plyometrics - on 18 Nov 2016
In reply to Topper Harley:

It is interesting and I would have expected at least a sub 3.

That said, running 26.2 miles quickly, on a flat course, requires a very specific type of fitness, one you don't get by legging it up and down mountains.

I'm just guessing, but I suspect if he dedicated 12 months to marathon training only, with his mental approach, you'd see that time come down considerably.
Mike Hewitt - on 23 Nov 2016

Leg cadence. I remember reading on here that Kenny Stuart only trained on the fells 1/3 of the time at most, in order to keep his leg speed high. His marathon PB was 2:11:36.
Post edited at 23:42
ablackett - on 24 Nov 2016
In reply to Topper Harley:

He did KMF trail run in 2014 and wasn't as quick as you would expect.

http://www.openadventure.com/results/1415/kmf2014/trail_run.html

When I looked at his ascent speed for his ascent up the north face of the eiger (about 1000 - 1200m per hour iirc) it is not remarkable, what is remarkable is that he can maintain that ascent rate on such technical ground.
jondo - on 30 Nov 2016
In reply to Topper Harley:

not an amazing time at all. good for an amateur , not elite in any way...
but he has elite mental fitness... people often overlook that because its hard to measure.
Iain Thow - on 30 Nov 2016
In reply to ablackett:

Exactly. It's not the absolute speed, it's doing it on that ground so consistently. I can do that speed up my local diff, but that's only 200m, so nothing special about that. Ueli is doing that speed on ground that goes up to E1 and keeping it up for 1800m, that's hugely impressive, even more so adding in the seriousness and intimidation factors.
Dave Hewitt - on 30 Nov 2016
In reply to ablackett:

> When I looked at his ascent speed for his ascent up the north face of the eiger (about 1000 - 1200m per hour iirc) it is not remarkable, what is remarkable is that he can maintain that ascent rate on such technical ground.

Also what's remarkable is that anything above 1200m per hour appears to be effectively running, at least when I compare it with my own humble fast-walking test-piece. Every now and then (although not recently), in perfect dry conditions, I have a go on the Ochils at sustained walking uphill as fast as I can manage and with absolutely no running. Looking back at splits, I've managed to do the 460m (ish) of ascent from the foot of the Law to its summit in a PB of 24m 23s. That's quite a steep slope but with a path and nothing technical.

Calling it 25 minutes and assuming the ascent is exactly 460m converts to 18.4m per minute or just over 1100m per hour. That's me at full throttle in terms of walking, eyeballs-out stuff, and on a familiar and easy slope. Even when I was younger I don't think I could have done it significantly faster - say dipping below 24 minutes - without running at least some of it, so it looks like Steck's 1200m per hour on the Eiger is running-climbing pace rather than walking-climbing pace, even without the technical aspects (and it certainly looks like that from the videos). Amazing stuff.

99ster - on 30 Nov 2016
In reply to Topper Harley:

I very much suspect that whatever sporting or athletic activity Ueli Steck chose to focus on he would excel at - to a very high elite level. If he had chosen athletics he would have become a medal winning Olympian, or football he would be playing for one of the best clubs in the world, etc... etc.... He's one of those lucky people who (together with a huge amount of dedication, focus & hard work!) have genes that equip them to achieve great things at the elite level of sport.
Hardonicus - on 30 Nov 2016
In reply to Topper Harley:

The set of big balls dangling between his legs is surely going to be a disadvantage on a flat marathon?
nufkin - on 30 Nov 2016
In reply to Hardonicus:

> The set of big balls dangling between his legs

Are they why it looks like he's all bow-legged?
zimpara - on 01 Dec 2016
In reply to Dave Hewitt:
> I have a go on the Ochils at sustained walking uphill as fast as I can manage and with absolutely no running. Looking back at splits, I've managed to do the 460m (ish) of ascent from the foot of the Law to its summit in a PB of 24m 23s. That's quite a steep slope but with a path and nothing technical.

The Problem with this example is that, there is only SO fast you can physically walk before the effort required to go any faster becomes exponentially harder to move your legs any faster.
Post edited at 09:37
ianstevens - on 01 Dec 2016
In reply to 99ster:

> I very much suspect that whatever sporting or athletic activity Ueli Steck chose to focus on he would excel at - to a very high elite level. If he had chosen athletics he would have become a medal winning Olympian, or football he would be playing for one of the best clubs in the world, etc... etc.... He's one of those lucky people who (together with a huge amount of dedication, focus & hard work!) have genes that equip them to achieve great things at the elite level of sport.

I think you've got these in completely the wrong order. He's one of those people with a huge amount of dedication, focus & hard work plus happens to have the right genetic make up. If we all trained, ate and lived like him I doubt the gulf in class would be as big as people think.
Es Tresidder - on 01 Dec 2016
In reply to Dave Hewitt:

But he's not doing 1200m ascent per hour on the Eiger. The Eiger north face is 1800m of ascent, and his record is 2 hours 22 minutes. Amazing, but not 1200m/hr ascent rate.
malk - on 01 Dec 2016
In reply to Topper Harley:

wonder what he's training for? human powered 8000ers in one go perhaps?
El_Dave_H - on 01 Dec 2016
In reply to The New NickB:

New York is a 'slow' course, by City Marathon standards. 3:04 there is probably close to a 3:00 or under on a flatter course, or a smaller race with less crowding at the start; it was mayhem for the first mile or so both times I did it, between crowds, dodging peoples discard clothing, and runners veering sideways in front of you to take a slash off the Verrazano Bridge!
Dave Hewitt - on 01 Dec 2016
In reply to Es Tresidder:

> But he's not doing 1200m ascent per hour on the Eiger. The Eiger north face is 1800m of ascent, and his record is 2 hours 22 minutes. Amazing, but not 1200m/hr ascent rate.

Ah, ta - I was going on the figures given upthread. Still amazing and impressive, though, both in terms of steady speed and of course the technical aspects. If I may ask, do you have any ascent-rate figures for the uphill sections of your very fast Cuillin ridge time? Or generally for hard training runs on steep ground? In terms of the fastest feasible rate, one example could be Kenny Stuart's record time for the Alva Games hill race. This was set in 1981 and still stands - he managed it in 18m 39s (I don't think anyone else has broken 19 minutes). As you'll know, it's an out-and-back race on possibly the steepest slope of any race in the UK. The overall ascent is reckoned to be 385m (in 1.3km distance), but the first gentler bit of that is the exit from the park and across the golf course, so the main slope is about 350m.

Assuming the park sections at either end take about 2m 30s all told, that leaves 16 minutes for the hill section, and having watched the race a few times it seems reasonable to assume splits of roughly 13 minutes up, three down for that pace (watching the leaders descend is like watching controlled falling). An ascent of 350m in 13 minutes converts to almost 27 metres per minute, or 1615 metres per hour. Given that Kenny Stuart was as good a hill runner as these shores have produced, and that was him entering his prime (his records for the Ben, Skiddaw and Snowdon came during 1984-85), and with Alva being such a steep race, 1600m per hour looks to be close to what's feasible on that kind of slope at least - although whether anyone could sustain that over a full hour is another question.

What are the approximate splits for the Ben race (1000m more ascent than Alva, but less brutal in terms of angle) for the 90-minute people? 65 minutes up, 25 down?
Es Tresidder - on 01 Dec 2016
In reply to Dave Hewitt:
I don't have ascent rates for my Cuillin run as I didn't have a clever enough watch in those days. I would have thought the fastest I would be ascending in something that long would be 1200m/hr on optimum terrain (the right steepness and not too technical. Not much of that on the Cuillin!). I wouldn't have thought I'd be doing that for long though. In terms of training I've done a vertical km on Sgurr a Mhaim, which again is not optimal (loose and a nearly flat bit at the top) in 40min, so that's 1500m/hr. That was first go and without poles. Pretty sure I could go faster with repeated trys, and poles might help too (the best use them for vertical km races).

Fin has gone under an hour for the ascent on the Ben (which is far from optimal, there's a fair bit of not very steep and a lot of loose), I think Rob Jebb has done 57 minutes. World record for a vertical km (1000m of ascent) is just under 30min!
Post edited at 20:24
The New NickB - on 01 Dec 2016
In reply to El_Dave_H:

It is pretty clear from his splits that he did not suffer from crowding at the start, if anything he probably started too fast.

I think marginally slower courses make much less difference when your target is sub 3 hours, rather than sub 2:05.
Dave Hewitt - on 01 Dec 2016
In reply to Es Tresidder:

Thanks - interesting stuff. Rob Jebb's 57 minutes up the Ben is mightily impressive. I watched him the year he won the Alva race (2015) and he was descending beautifully, setting the fastest time for a decade and almost two minutes clear of the field. He still finished a minute outside of Kenny Stuart's record, though!

Incidentally, it'd be interesting to know the summit splits (probably lost in the mists of time, however) of KS's 1984 Ben record of 1:25:34 and Colin Donnelly's 1986 effort of 1:25:48 which is the closest anyone has yet come to it. Also I wonder what conditions like were in those two races - the overall times are close enough for the difference to be down to conditions as much as anything.
Es Tresidder - on 01 Dec 2016
In reply to Dave Hewitt:

I'm guessing someone will know those, but I don't.

I think I'm right in saying Kenny only broke the record by 1 second, previously held by John Wild, in which case Colin's time is 3rd fastest.

Dave Hewitt - on 01 Dec 2016
In reply to Es Tresidder:

> I'm guessing someone will know those, but I don't.

I'll ask around a few contacts - if I learn anything I'll let you know.

> I think I'm right in saying Kenny only broke the record by 1 second, previously held by John Wild, in which case Colin's time is 3rd fastest.

Would be good to see Ueli Steck and Kilian Jornet in next year's Ben race! (Or in the Alva Games race for that matter.) To get back to the OP, one would think that Jornet would be a fair bit faster than Steck on the streets of NYC.

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Es Tresidder - on 01 Dec 2016
In reply to Dave Hewitt:

Ueli wouldn't do very well in the Ben race. Kilian would!
JimR - on 02 Dec 2016
In reply to Es Tresidder: unless the route was via titans wall

Dave Kerr - on 02 Dec 2016
In reply to Dave Hewitt:

> Also I wonder what conditions like were in those two races - the overall times are close enough for the difference to be down to conditions as much as anything.

Old timers (sorry Graham!) I've spoken to say the Ben route was very different underfoot back then in that the top part of the Red Burn was a fast scree run rather than the big boulders and bare earth it is now.

Sean Kelly - on 20:21 Fri
In reply to Topper Harley:
One of my current climbing partners has a best marathon time of 2.25 which is very respectable...but he doesn't move like Uli on the steep stuff!
Each to his own.
Post edited at 20:22

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