As a less-than-100%-fit Moses Mosop held on for his 2:05:37 course record win at the October 9th Bank of America Chicago Marathon, I suggested from the lead TV camera bike that Patrick Makau’s new marathon world-record, 2:03:38, set in Berlin September 25th, probably wouldn’t last through next spring based on how much raw speed has been brought to the marathon this past year. Well, it almost didn’t last through two months.
Today in Frankfurt, Germany another Kenyan declared himself as a 2012 Olympic Marathon team candidate - and therefore medal contender - as Wilson Kipsang won his second straight BMW Frankfurt Marathon, coming within four seconds of Makau’s still drying world mark. In doing so, Kipsang upped the pressure even more on next weekend’s ING New York City Marathon protagonists Emmanuel and Geoffrey Mutai (no relation), the 2011 London and Boston Marathon champions, as the waters of the Kenyan Olympic Marathon selection turned even muddier.
With two-time IAAF World Champion Abel Kirui almost guaranteed a spot on the team due not only to his excellence in warm-weather, non-paced competition, but also his willingness to forego a big-city payday to bear the country’s colors in international competition, and now two men going under the previous world record in such short order, how must the two Mutai’s feel as they step to the New York City starting line in Staten Island in one week’s time?
Already this year we have seen course records at each of the other World Marathon Majors: Emmanuel Mutai’s 2:04:40 in London, Geoffrey Mutai,’s 2:03:02 World Best in Boston (not considered a world record due to IAAF point-to-point route restrictions), Patrick Makau’s 2:03:38 World Record in Berlin, and Moses Mosop’s almost pedestrian 2:05:37 in Chicago.
The long-range forecast is looking great for next Sunday in New York City. Weather.com is calling for a low of 44F and a high of just 53F. The New York City record, 2:07:43, by Ethiopia’s Tesfaye Jifar, has lasted since 2001. But with the remarkable performances already on the board in this breakout year for the marathon, there is speculation that a 2:05 will be needed in New York to stake any claim whatsoever to the increasingly competitive 2012 Kenyan Olympic team.
At the same time, the field in New York is so strong – topped by Ethiopians Gebre Gebremariam, the defending champion, and 2008 Olympic bronze medalist Tsegay Kebede, among others – that no man can be assured a victory, much less a free ride, since New York did away with pacemakers years ago.
This combination of factors – strong field, tough, non-paced course, and the need for a fast time to impress Olympic selectors - will put an even greater strain on the two Mutais who must balance each conflicting risk and reward in a delicate dance on the streets of New York. A compelling 26.2 miles awaits, for sure. Can’t wait.