The men will also have seen that even though the heat and humidity has not been as debilitating as expected, anyone taking the risk of forcing a substantial early lead is likely to suffer the consequences by mid-race.
Uta Pippig's foolhardy surge in the early stages played into the hands of Fatuma Roba, who ran steadily but picked up the pace when she realised that all of the favourites were holding back believing that the winning time would be unusually slow.
The world and European champion, Martin Fiz of Spain, and Mexico's Dionicio Ceron have run often enough in hot weather to cope with whatever conditions prevail here today.
Ceron completed his third successive London Marathon victory last May when the weather was hotter than on any previous running of the event, and Fiz won the world title on an even hotter day in Gothenburg last year. The threat comes from Korea's Lee Bong-ju, who could emulate his countryman Whang Young-jo who won four years ago in Barcelona, although any of the Japanese or Kenyans could take advantage if Fiz and Ceron deplete each other's energy by having a duel over a course that even in comparatively cool weather is exacting with its total climb of about 1,000 feet and some muscle-testing downhill stretches. The battle between Fiz and Ceron in Gothenburg was one of the most dramatic ever seen in the marathon. Ceron admitted later that at the point when he made his break for home: "I just felt like going somewhere and dying." He concealed his fatigue from Fiz who nevertheless realised that his opponent's effort could lead to his own opportunity. Sure enough, Ceron's suffering could no longer be hidden and Fiz went past to win. Ceron will have learned from that. Fiz is the fastest in the world this year with a time of 2hr 8min 25sec, although in these conditions a winning time of nearer 2:12 can be expected.
Unless Richard Nerurkar can finally fulfil the promise he showed in his first two marathons in Hamburg and San Sebastien, Britain's besthope of a medal rests with Peter Whitehead who finished an unexpected fourth in Gothenburg. Injuries have disturbed his training but his courageous running should see him keep in touch with the leaders, at least until the closing stages.
Nerurkar was pre-selected for these Games, yet remains an enigmatic competitor. As a result, his automatic choice was questioned by several other runners. The British Athletic Federation made their decision on the basis of his good record in hot conditions (he was fifth in the world championships in the 10,000 metres in Tokyo). He has a track runner's speed and earlier this year ran a half marathon in Paris in 1hr 1min 6sec. However, he was seventh in last summer's Fiz and Ceron showdown in the world championships, leaving doubts about his ability on the big occasion.
Britain's third runner, Steve Brace, has achieved a best time this year of 2:10.35 set when he was second in the Houston Marathon. His wins include Berlin and Paris but are unlikely to embrace Atlanta.Reuse content