GEOFFREY MUTAI – WINNER NEW YORK CITY MARATHON 2013

Geoffrey Mutai tunes up for New York in Udine Half Marathon in Italy

Geoffrey Mutai tunes up for New York in Udine Half Marathon in Italy

New York, New York — Alright, I’ve heard enough, I’ve seen enough, I’ve talked to all the players.  And here’s the deal, they don’t have a prayer.  Maybe in a best case scenario I might not wish it so, because I like close competitions, but Geoffrey Mutai is your winner of the ING New York City Marathon for 2013 right now.  And that’s from someone who has never been much of a predictor.  But it is what it is as surely as Al Salazar was the winner before the gun in 1981 – “my goal is to run 2:08 and to win.” So if you find someone that wants to take the field, take Mutai and put whatever money you have on him.  That’s the kind of form he’s on, and what I think of his chances. Now all he has to do is pull it off.

With London Marathon champion Tsegay Kebede and World Champion Stephen Kiprotich caught up in the World Marathon Majors drama and the $500,000 that goes with the series win, will either of them take the risk of trying to match a fully blooded Geoffrey Mutai for a chance at the $100,000 first place check?  Not likely.  In fact, Kebede has come right out and said in a race with 48,000 starters he’s only racing one man, Kiprotich. Continue reading

HONOLULU SNARES WILSON KIPSANG FROM SANDY WRECKAGE

OLYMPIC BRONZE KIPSANG SAYS ALOHA HONOLULU

Hurricane Sandy’s vast power has been such that it has now tossed elite marathoners to the far ends of the globe in hopes of redeeming their 2012 fall marathon campaigns following cancellation of the ING New York City Marathon.

Today, Honolulu Marathon Association President Jim Barahal revealed that New York fave and Olympic bronze medalist Wilson Kipsang of Kenya will be taking his talents to the 40th Honolulu Marathon on December 9th.

“We are disappointed he was not able to compete in New York,” texted Barahal, “but we’re pleased to be able to offer another opportunity for him to run, and we’re excited to have such a phenomenal athlete go after the course record in Honolulu.”

Wilson Kipsang was one of the New York elites who publicly acknowledged the difficulty faced by the New York Road Runners in cancelling the marathon, saying “This is terrible, but it’s part of life. I’m not angry. People suffered misfortune.”

With the New York Road Runners and the city of New York deciding to cancel the 42nd ING New York City Marathon just 40 hours before last Sunday’s scheduled start, there has been very little time to consider options.

Now the 2012 London champion, and second fastest “official” marathoner in history from his 2:03:42 win from Frankfurt in September 2011, will test himself on one of the legendary courses in the world, although one which doesn’t often draw the world’s super-elite to its starting line due to heat, humidity and budgetary constraints.

While stars like Ibrahim Hussein, Benson Masya and Cosmas Ndeti were discovered in Honolulu, and 1993 champion Lee Bong-ju of Korea and 1995 winner Josiah Thungwane of South Africa went on to win Olympic silver and gold medals in Atlanta 1996, this will be the first time a reigning Olympic medalist will compete in Honolulu in his Olympic year.

According to Honolulu race director Jon Cross 2011 L.A. Marathon champ (debut, 2:06:35) and 2012 Dubai Marathon third-placer (2:04:54) Markos Geneti of Ethiopia will also join the festivities with more names to follow.  Stay tuned. Given the weather, always the key in Honolulu, we could be in for a record year.

The current Honolulu Marathon event record, 2:11:12, was set by Kenya’s Jimmy Muindi in 2004, in the fourth of his six Honolulu wins.

END

BERLIN FOLLOW UP

Mutai over Kimetto in Berlin

The internet, Facebook and Twitter are thrumming this morning with questions and opinions about the finish of the 39th BMW Berlin Marathon last Sunday. With the world record leaking away in the final few kilometers, Kenya’s Geoffrey Mutai found countryman, training partner, and debuting marathoner Dennis Kimetto still locked to his stride. Their breakaway 5 kilometer split of 14:18 from 30 to 35K was now coming home to roost. Mutai’s stomach was cramping, and he – and Kimetto – had nothing left in the tank as the clock ticked menacingly away from the glory he had hoped to attain. But still there was a race to be won, record notwithstanding.
But no race came to pass. Instead the final few hundred meters resembled the finish of a daily recovery run, simply an apprentice ushering his mentor to the line as any proper wing man would.
As the race ended, the controversy began. If anyone but one of his stable mates had been on his shoulder, wouldn’t Mutai have felt worried? Desperate? Vulnerable? Wouldn’t he have tried to muster whatever last vestiges of energy he had to squeeze out a final kick of some sort to hold on to victory? Wouldn’t the other man have done the same?
Perhaps in a perfect world, yes, but neither man did in Berlin, leading pundits and fans alike to question the veracity of the outcome, especially since Mutai had sealed the deal on the $500,000 bonus for winning the 2011-2012 World Marathon Majors series title with the Berlin win added to those in Boston and New York City from 2011.
This morning I received the following message from Mutai and Kimetto’s manager, Gerard Van de Veen of Volare Sports:
     Hi Toni,
     To be very clear: there was no ‘deal’ between Geoffrey and Dennis!!!  Yes, the pacemakers were very disturbed by getting wrong information.

     Kind regards,
     Gerard
After the race we found out that a faulty timing clock atop the lead pace vehicle had led the leaders to believe the pace they were running was under their halfway goal time of 61:40. Only when they hit the halfway mark 32-second slower than intended to did they realize the error. But ramping up the pace in the second half eventually took its toll in the final few kilometers, which is where Mutai and Kimetto faded off the record.
As to the ethics of two men not fighting for the win in a major marathon, we have many similar circumstances, from Berlin 2003 with Paul Tergat and training partner Sammy Korir, to Boston 2007 with Robert Cheruiyot and his training mate James Kwambai.  But here’s another from way back when I first got into the marathon broadcasting game. Continue reading

BERLIN MARATHON – MEN’S PREVIEW

     One week from today the 39th BMW Berlin Marathon will kick off the post-Olympic fall major marathon season.  Part of the week’s menu in Berlin will be the announcement of the destination for the Mystery Marathon, the new adventure marathon event helmed by Elite Racing and Rock `n` Roll Marathon founder Tim Murphy.

While the official unveil of the Mystery Marathon’s destination isn’t scheduled until next Thursday, I have the inside track (disclaimer:  I’m part of the MM team!)  As such, I’ll have an exclusive sneak peak at the new Mystery Marathon website next Tuesday September 25th.  Look for that here on the blog.  The Mystery Marathon promises to be a unique and first-rate operation, without doubt!

Toni & Josh Cox on the call

Now to the Berlin Marathon itself.  American 50K record holder Josh Cox and I will man the booth for Universal Sports TV coverage of Berlin next Sunday September 30 from 8 a.m. – 10 a.m. Pacific. And since the last four men’s marathon world records have been set in the German capital, the 39th Berlin Marathon portends mighty possibilities. Continue reading

THE PETER KIPROTICH CHERUS FOUNDATION

     The tales of greatness are legion, some from this year of 2011 sure to become legend.  Yet for all the running success that comes pouring out of East Africa, so, too, are there thousands more humbling stories of dreams stunted, and lives that fall victim to the vagaries of some unknown benevolence withheld.

Athlete agent Gerard van de Veen of Volare Sports in The Netherlands has seen both sides up close.  His most famous athlete, Geoffrey Mutai of Kenya, stands at the very pinnacle of racing success as both Boston and New York City Marathon champion and course record setter in 2011.  Mutai’s 2:03:02 in wind-blown Boston was the fastest marathon ever run.

Yet within the same Volare Sports stable for the last eight years was another Kenyan runner, Peter Kiprotich Cherus, whose times might not have challenged the great Mutai, (his PR was 2:08:49, Frankfurt 2007) but whose steadiness afforded him a place at the front of many a marathon as both a competitor and an invaluable and respected pacesetter. That reliability, in turn, afforded him a steady income as well.

Peter winning 2011 Kinmen Marathon

In his time, Peter helped pace the great Ethiopian champion Haile Gebrselassie to his first marathon world record (2:04:26) at the 2007 Berlin Marathon.  In his own name, Peter won important races in The Netherlands, Scotland, and Taiwan, winning the 2011 Kinmen Marathon this past January.

As with just about every top Kenyan athlete, the spoils of racing success were never purely for personal use, but rather were spread to family and friends whose cups were less full, talents less marketable, opportunities less available.  Through his earnings, Peter Kiprotich took care of his wife, Shilla Jepchirchir, and their three children, eight year-old Brian Kimutai, and three year-old twins Eric Kipchumba and Marieke Jepchirchir.   He also shared food, clothing, medical expenses, and school fees with the rest of his family, and knowing that young running talent required time to develop, Peter provided funds for training and rent money for stints at high altitude for several upcoming athletes.

This, then, was the relatively comfortable (and generous) life of a dedicated professional Kenyan runner. Not a top guy, for sure, but a journeyman who took his talent where it would show well and pay best.  Peter Kiprotich Cherus had no illusions, no ill-considered dreams.  For his children he saw a future that could well outstrip his own achievements. But dreams can come with a price in Kenya.  The future is not a brightly lit road, but a darkly held secret, especially if one dreams at night out on the road. Continue reading