ONCE A COMPETITOR…OLYMPIC MARATHON CHAMP ANXIOUS TO ANSWER CRITICS

Stephen Kiprotich, 2012 Olympic Champion

Stephen Kiprotich, 2012 Olympic Champion

Reigning World and Olympic Marathon champion Stephen Kiprotich of Uganda begins 2014 with his knickers in a knot –  which is not a bad thing by this reading.  As he embarks on the long training slog toward the highly anticipated Virgin London Marathon this April 13th, the soon to be 25 year-old (Feb. 27, 1989) has been stung by unnamed critics who suggest he has been more fortunate than good in winning his two gold medals.  Kiprotich took issue with the charge, snapping back in a story published by Uganda’s Daily Mirror that was then picked up as Quote of the Day by our friends at Letsrun.com.

“I know I haven’t run a very fast marathon in my career so far, but what people forget is that I am still learning. You can’t judge someone who hasn’t run more than 10 marathons. I have competed against very experienced marathoners and defeated them.”

There is no denying Kiprotich’s excellence as a championship runner. Only Ethiopia’s Gezahenge Abera has similarly worn Olympic and World Championship Marathon gold simultaneously (2000 Sydney & 2001 Edmonton).  But in his seven career marathons to date Kiprotich has only registered a modest PR (by today’s standards) of 2:07:20 from his debut at the 2011 Enschede Marathon in the Netherlands. As a side note, Enschede was also the only other marathon besides the World Champs and Olympics that he’s won (see full career record below).

“On a good day, I am sure I can run 2:05,” Kiprotich told the Daily Mirror, adding, “I can even attempt the world record (2:03:23). It’s very possible. It all depends on the course and how the body reacts.”

Date

Competition

Country

 

 

 

Result

 

 

Apr. 17, 2011 Enschede Marathon NED 1st 2:07:20
Feb. 26,  2012 Tokyo Marathon JPN 3rd 2:07:50
Aug. 12, 2012 London Olympic Games GBR 1st 2:08:01
Apr. 21, 2013 London Marathon GBR 6th 2:08:05
Aug. 17, 2013 Moskva IAAF World Championships RUS 1st 2:09:51
Sep. 04, .2011 Daegu IAAF World Championships KOR 9th 2:12:57
Nov.03, 2013 New York City Marathon USA 12th 2:13:05

One always likes to see an athlete rise to the bait, even if it’s hard to figure who set the hook.  But a ghost challenge is as good as a flesh and blood one, I say, if it gets the blood up.  At the same time, immediately upon reading the Kiprotich quote I was struck by the number 10.  “You can’t judge someone who hasn’t run ten marathons?”

Yes you can.  I do it all the time. Continue reading

TIME FOR RUNNING TO GET MEDIA WISE

Mo - Center of Attention in London

Mo Farah – Center of Attention in London

The focus of the British press before, during and after last Sunday’s 33rd Virgin London Marathon was on local Olympic champion Mo Farah’s  half-way-only test run for next year’s full distance debut. Even Tsegay Kebede’s final kilometer win over a faltering Emmanuel Mutai was couched in the context Farah ’s first half presence.

Was this what race officials hoped when they signed Farah after recruiting “the greatest marathon field in history”? Or was it simply an indication that today’s version of such a field is incapable of holding public attention on its own?

Whichever, when a local show pony like Mo Farah who had no intention of completing the race dominates race news coverage, which he did, it’s a clear indication that running has a problem that fast times alone cannot solve. What London 2013 revealed was the continuing lack of connection between an audience and the current crop of the world’s top distance runners. And one wonders whether the sport either notices or cares.

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AVOIDABLE COLLISION MARS LONDON MARATHON

Wheelers roll up on lead women

Wheelers roll up on lead women

London, England — The second lead story from yesterday’s Virgin London Marathon – the first was Mo Farah’s half-way test run — was the collision between wheelchair record holder Josh Cassidy of Canada and 2012 Women’s Olympic Marathon gold medalist Tiki Gelana of Ethiopia at an aid station at 15K.  Hardly the headline race organizers would have hoped to generate after they’d invited the best race fields in event history.  But that’s the point, they did it to themselves with an asinine starting schedule which sent the 5:20 per mile women runners out 20-minutes before the 3:30 per mile wheelers. Do the math.
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VIRGIN LONDON MARATHON 2013

Prince Harry and Richard Branson with London Champs Priscah Jeptoo & Tsegay Kebede

Prince Harry and Richard Branson with London Champs Priscah Jeptoo & Tsegay Kebede

London, England — On a glorious spring morning for racing Ethiopia’s Tsegay Kebede and Kenya’s Priscah Jeptoo took home the glory at today’s 33rd Virgin London Marathon. In winning their respective races in 2:06:04 and 2:20:15 against fields of staggering depth and quality, the two athletes from neighboring East African nations returned the focus of the sport to international goodwill and competition rather than the infamy and horror visited on the Boston Marathon this past Monday. But though the two pro fields were as good as they come, the two races could not have been much different.

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2013 LONDON MARATHON – MEN’S PREVIEW

London 2013

London 2013

London,England – Of course, anything can happen, but on this final day before Sunday’s 33rd Virgin London Marathon the talk around the Tower Hotel hard along the rolling Thames River has turned to the what-ifs.  What if the men go for the world record?  Who will make the first break when the rabbits depart? What if Mo Farah, the double Olympic Brit track champ going along for the ride for the first half, does something beyond sit off the back and observe? What if the stacked field doesn’t go with the pacers and turns inward and tactical instead?  Ah, racing, that most unpredictable of all dramas.

The 2013 London Marathon has been billed as a world record attempt, but with this many top dogs in the hunt, the win is one for the ages, regardless of the winning time.  So for me, the men’s race comes down to motivation.  With the credentials of this field — five World Marathon Majors course record holders, ten sub-2:06 men, including six of the fastest ten in history — every contender has known big success.  But Uganda’s Stephen Kiprotich already has the prize everyone else wanted, the Olympic gold medal from 2012.  Defending champion Wilson Kipsang holds the London title and the Olympic bronze, and is the second quickest marathon man in history off his 2:03:42 win in Frankfurt 2011, just four seconds shy of Patrick Makau’s world record (2:03:38) from Berlin 2011. Ethiopia’s Tsegaye Kebede arrives as the 2012 Chicago course record holder and 2010 London champ.  But it’s Makau and the world’s fastest marathoner, Geoffrey Mutai (2:03:02) from Boston 2011 who stand out as the two most invested in revenge, a powerful emotional tool. Continue reading

LONDON – PRECAUTIONS IN PLACE BUT READY FOR SUNDAY’S BIG RACE

London, England — VIPs from the running world gathered beneath the London Tower Bridge this evening aboard the luxury river yacht the Silver Sturgeon for a welcome celebration to the 33rd Virgin London Marathon.  But though the professional fields for Sunday’s races are the best in the world this year, and perhaps the best in London’s illustrious history, not surprisingly the topic most under discussion remained the terror attack at Monday’s Boston Marathon.

Race directors of America’s two largest marathons, Mary Wittenberg of New York City and Carey Pinkowski of Chicago, huddled together to consider what the industry as a whole might do in response rather than just what the six World Marathon Majors might put forward.  Then first year London race director Hugh Brasher, son of event co-founder Chris Brasher, addressed the crowd welcoming them to the city, but also remembering the loss suffered in Boston.  Hugh next introduced defending men’s champion and Olympic Marathon bronze medalist Wilson Kipsang of Kenya who spoke movingly in the name of his fellow athletes.

“We would like to express our condolences to those who lost loved ones in Boston,” he began standing on a staircase overlooking the crowd.  “But we will run feeling free. We won’t worry about security when we’re running.  We are ready to run well on Sunday, and maybe break the course record or even the world record.” Continue reading

FROM LONDON WITH LOVE

LondonMarathonLogo    London, England – News here in the U.K. is just as Boston focused as everywhere else in the aftermath of Monday’s marathon bombings and today’s firefight and manhunt in Watertown, Mass., even as the Virgin London Marathon prepares for its own 33rd start this Sunday morning in Blackheath. But having staged an Olympic Games last year, and dealt with the IRA troubles for so many decades before that, London officials feel they have a good handle on security for the marathon. Notwithstanding, the police presence for Sunday’s London Marathon will increase by 40% from 2012, according to Scotland Yard.

“It’s about making sure that the people who come to London on Sunday feel safe when they are in the city,” said Chief Superintendent Julia Pendry who has headed security at the London Marathon for the last five years.

London race officials expect 35,000 runners on Sunday, and said they will donate £2 for every finisher to the One Fund Boston. There will also be 30-seconds of silence before the start on Sunday as a mark of respect for the victims of Monday’s attack in Boston. Continue reading

WORLD RECORD MARATHONER PATRICK MAKAU IN HONOLULU FOR LONDON TUNER

World Record holder Patrick Makau

Marathon World Record holder Patrick Makau

Honolulu, Hawaii — Marathon world record holder Patrick Makau of Kenya arrived in Honolulu last night in preparation for The Hapalua, Hawaii’s premier Half Marathon.  The second edition of The Hapalua will be run this Sunday morning beginning adjacent to world-famous Waikiki Beach.  The race, and its Chase format, will be Makau’s final tune up for the April 21st Virgin London Marathon where he will test himself against one of the strongest marathon fields ever assembled, including all three medalists from the 2012 London Olympic Marathon.

While there are some who might question why an athlete of Makau’s stature would travel so far for a tune up when his marathon is just six weeks away, and chance a major disruption to his training, Makua has always run to his own rhythms, and with evident success. Continue reading

MO FARAH TO RUN HALF OF LONDON’S MARATHON: GOOD IDEA?

Mo Farah

Mo Farah

Britain’s double Olympic track champion Mo Farah begins the re-landscaping of his career toward the marathon this weekend when he competes in New Orleans at the Rock `n` Roll Half Marathon.  It will be the second competitive half-marathon of Farah’s career. The 2012 Olympic 5000 & 10,000 champion won the 2011 New York City Half Marathon in his debut in 60:23.

While the half in New Orleans will serve as an intermediate step toward Farah’s full marathon debut in London 2014, he will concentrate his 2013 efforts on the IAAF World Track & Field Championships in Moscow this summer. But there will be another, more significant step toward the marathon this April when Mo will start this year’s Virgin London Marathon.  Yes, he will start, but he will not finish.  How do we know?  Because that is the deal that Mo’s people worked out with London, start this year, run till half-way then drop off. Then go the full distance in 2014.

From an athletic and PR standpoint this makes perfect sense.  From Mo’s vantage point getting the chance to take part in the event without actually being a competitor should serve him well, even if to a small degree, in 2014.  And financially it’s a certainly a win fall. According to the U.K’s Daily Mail, Mo Farah will receive an impressive (by running’s standards) £750,000 for his two London starts ($1,160,000US).  That fee, which was not confirmed by first-year race director Hugh Brasher (son of event founder Chris Brasher), would dwarf even the £500,000 it is believed Paula Radcliffe received in her prime a decade ago.

The Daily Mail story also underscores the point  made by Ben Rosario in a recent submission about the need to make such appearance fees public to hype the sport as being truly professional. BEN ROSARIO: WHAT ARE WE AFRAID OF?

“He’ll be rightfully well rewarded as an Olympic champion,” was all Hugh Brasher would reveal to the Daily Mail.

But while it all works well for Mo and the event to go just half-way in London 2013, how fair is it to the actual race contenders?  And what does it do for the focus of race coverage? Continue reading

WORLD RECORD HOLDER MAKAU: LONDON MARATHON TUNE UP IN HAWAII

The Hapalua    Though the indoor winter track season is in full swing on both sides of the pond, the spring marathon majors in Boston and London have already begun to loom on the horizon.  Even with the monster storm tracking toward New England and scheduled to dump as much as two feet of snow on the area tomorrow through Saturday, the mud and scuttling clouds of April – conditions well recognized in both Boston and London - still beckon off in the soon-to-be whited out distance.

While training for the marathons continues in deep sequestration at camps across the American west and along East Africa’s Great Rift Valley, we can begin to see the training sweats being stripped off as schedules get set for the tune up races heralding marathon season.  Yesterday, the RAK Half-Marathon field was released.  Headed by 2010 champion Geoffrey Mutai, the marathon list leader in both 2011 & 2012, the RAK Half has swiftly become the world’s deepest and fastest half marathon.  Its list of champions is a true who’s who of this running generation, and features several Virgin London Marathon contenders going head up on February 15th.

Patrick Makau, marathon world record holder

World record holder Patrick Makau (photo by PhotoRun.Net)

Yet one man who will not be in the UAE next weekend is the 2008-2009 RAK Half champion and course record holder Patrick Makau of Kenya (58:52), who is also the marathon world record holder.  Makau will instead tune up for the London Marathon one month from now thousands of miles away on the island of Oahu at the Hapalua Half Marathon, the second-year sister event of the Honolulu Marathon.

With men like 2011 Boston & New York, and 2012 Berlin champ Geoffrey Mutai, 2011 London winner Emmanuel (not related) Mutai, and 2012 Chicago runner-up Feyisa Lelisa of Ethiopia matching up in the UAE before going double the distance in London April 21st, it may seem an odd selection for Makau to go solo at a low-key race in Hawaii.  But according to Makau’s manager Zane Branson, Makau is more than comfortable with his choice. Continue reading