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Sweltering heat leads to high dropout rate at Rio marathon test run

Runners got a first-hand look at the Rio 2016 marathon course on April 10 as a small group toed the line for a test run ahead of the Olympics.

Rio 2016 Marathon
Rio 2016 Marathon
Photo: Rio 2016/Alex Ferro.

A small group of runners took to the streets of Rio on Sunday to preview the Olympic Games marathon course in sweltering conditions in Brazil’s second-most populous city. According to Insidethegames.biz, seven of the 16 starters dropped out of the April 10 race.

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The course is 95 per cent determined, according to Rio 2016 organizers. As seen by the photos, the route is bound to be one of the more picturesque marathon courses with views of Sugarloaf Mountain and Botafogo’s beach. The start line is located at the site of Rio’s Carnival, Samb√≥dromo.

Marcio Barreto Silva won the event in 2:31:22, according to Brazil 2016.

Despite the early race time just after 6 a.m. local time, runners faced 30 C temperatures. January and February are Rio’s hottest months and temperatures regularly approach the low 30s in March and April.

Organizers tested course signage and new technology including electronic timing chips in athletes’ vests and on their shoes to track progress during the event’s trial run.

Rio 2016 Marathon
Photo: Rio 2016/Alex Ferro.

“The test event served its purpose of measuring the impact that such a major competition could have on the city,” said Rio 2016 venues director Gustavo Nascimento. “The course has been measured and there will not be major changes.”

Any additional changes to the course are expected to be minor, according to race officials. It was an all-Brazilian field on Sunday.

Two-time New York City Marathon winner Marilson Gomes dos Santos dropped out at the 20K mark, which was his pre-race plan as he’s been battling injury recently. The 38-year-old is one of Brazil’s most prominent long-distance runners and is the South American record holder in the men’s 5,000m and 10,000m track events.

The women’s marathon is set for Aug. 14 and the men’s marathon will be the final athletics event of the Games on Aug. 21. Conditions are expected to be more runner-friendly in August as Brazil will be in the midst of winter during the August Olympics. The two marathon events will begin at 9:30 a.m. local time in August.

Rio 2016 Marathon
Photo: Rio 2016/Alex Ferro.

The trio of Reid Coolsaet, Eric Gillis and Dylan Wykes represented Canada in the Olympic marathon in 2012. There were no Canadians in the women’s marathon in London. Lanni Marchant and Krista DuChene have the Athletics Canada women’s marathon qualifying standard for Rio. Coolsaet and Gillis have the men’s Rio 2016 standard.

Canada’s potential marathon squad is not without controversy, however, as the national governing body for athletics requires certain athletes to demonstrate “competitive readiness” if they hit standard too early in the qualifying period.