DAEGU: MEN’S MARATHON PREVIEW

     The men’s marathon begins at 9 a.m. Sunday local time (Saturday night 8 PM Eastern in the USA) to open the final day of competition at the 13th IAAF World Track & Field Championships in Daegu, South Korea.  After a sweep by the Kenyan women last weekend in their marathon, it’s the Kenyan men’s turn to play catch up to their medal-hauling countrywomen.

Leading the squad will be the reigning World Champion Abel Kirui who set the 2:06:54 championship record in Berlin two years ago.  To show the power of the Kenyan potential Kirui was left off the original 10-man provisional list, only to be added by Athletics Kenya secretary David Okeyo when six other men turned down the offer to wear the red, black and green with crossed spears over shield in Daegu.  Yet even with the tragic death of 2008 Olympic champion Sammy Wanjiru this spring (“I AM SAMMY WANJIRU!”), and the decision by men like Boston Marathon champion and runner-up Geoffrey Mutai and Moses Mosop, London champion, runner-up, and third-placer  Emmanuel Mutai, Marin Lel, and Patrick Makau to sit Daegu out, the East African juggernaut will still represent, so deep is their bench.  Of the 149 sub-2:10 marathons run in 2010, fully 53% (79) were run by Kenyan men.

Since Berlin `09 Abel Kirui has changed coaches, and is now under the hand of Italy’s Renata Canova.  His PR is a swift 2:05:04, third in Rotterdam `09 behind Duncan Kibet and James Kwambai’s dual 2:04:47s.  He’s coming off a down year in 2010; a fading fifth in London and then a very disappointing ninth in New York City.

Kirui's glory in Berlin

Since then, however, he’s taken up training with Boston runner-up Moses Mosop, dogging his training partner’s 1:26:47.4 30,000m world record in Eugene June 4, which broke Toshihiko Seko’s 1981 mark of 1:29:18.8.  Kirui came second in 1:30:01, telling reporters that he was slightly hampered by a foot injury suffered while riding an exercise bike.

Abel is going well,” Coach Canova wrote me at the end of August before departing for Daegu. “He had to reduce his training about six weeks ago (beginning mid-July), for a duration of 2 weeks…he started to grow very quickly, and in my opinion he is in the best shape of his life.” Continue reading