As we begin the countdown to the November 6th ING New York City Marathon, there are several threads of interest braided through the men’s and women’s professional fields, both of which are laden with top-end talent. Among these interests are the potential for Olympic selection for London 2012, and the World Marathon Majors© men’s division showdown and its $500,000 payoff. Today, let’s focus on the World Marathon Majors.
Now in its sixth year, the WMMs concept has yet to turn into the public relations focal point for running that the FedEx Cup has for professional golf, or that the Chase for the Sprint Cup has for NASCAR. Yet, for the second straight cycle, the series has peaked nicely in the men’s division.
Of course, nobody who follows the sport will ever forget the epic duel between the now sadly departed Sammy Wanjiru of Kenya and Ethiopia’s Tsegay Kebede at the 2010 Bank of America Chicago Marathon. The last 5K of that battle remains the standard by which all future final marathon miles will be judged. And a great part of the excitement was generated by the fact that the two tiny warriors were competing for a bonus anyone watching could appreciate, half a million dollars. In fact, the prize elevated not just the perception of the competition, it elevated the quality and passion of the competitors, as well.
It is one reason I have argued, ad nauseum, for larger publicly recognized purses or bonuses in our sport. How much one receives for any endeavor in this society either validates, or invalidates, that endeavor by how much one receives for the doing it. That might not be the path to heaven’s door, but it sure is the path to the American Dream. And if we want to attract not just participants, but fans to our sport, our champions must reap the same harvests as our sporting brethren. By maintaining low prize purses and hidden appearance fees, running all but guarantees an ignoring public, including our increasingly rotund kids.
In this 2010-2011 World Marathon Majors cycle, Russia’s Lilya Shobukhova has already clinched the women’s half-million dollar bonus. When defending ING NYC Marathon and World Champion Edna Kiplagat of Kenya announced she wouldn’t be able to defend in NYC due to a slight knee injury suffered during a fall at a water table in Daegu, South Korea in the latter stages of her World Championship win, Shobukhova had the women’s title sewn up even before her majestic 2:18:20 Chicago performance.
The men’s series title, however, is still very much up for grabs, coming down to the wire in New York with five men still in the hunt, four of whom will be racing in NYC.
At present BMW Berlin Marathon champion and new world record holder Patrick Makau of Kenya leads the men’s side of the ledger with 60 points off wins in Berlin 2010 & 2011, and a 3rd at 2011 London. But his lead is tenuous, and he will need help to even make it into a tiebreaker to have a chance at the half-million dollar prize.
Holding the best cards in New York is 2011 Virgin London Marathon champion and 2010 London & NYC runner-up Emmanuel Mutai (55points). Using the WMM scoring table: 25 points for 1st, 15 for 2nd, 10 for 3rd, 5 for 4th, and 1 for 5th, Emmanuel can overtake his countryman Makau with either a win (25pts) or a runner-up finish (15pts) in NYC. Neither position will come easily.
Next up is Ethiopia’s Tsegay Kebede (41pts), the diminutive 2010 London champion, Chicago runner-up, and fifth placer this spring in London. Kebede was bested by Sammy Wanjiru in their classic 2010 Chicago duel after it looked on at least four occasions like he’d put Sammy away over the final 5K. He can redeem himself with a victory in NYC, but it will require a third or worst finish by Emmanuel Mutai. He has one motto, that of former Oakland Raider owner Al Davis, “Win, baby, win!”
Geoffrey Mutai (40pts), the sensational 2011 Boston Marathon champion and `10 Berlin runner-up to Makau, can take the half-million dollar prize with a win and a third or worst placing by Emmanuel, too. But if he wins and Emmanuel takes third (10pts), they will tie with 65pts each, and the decision will go to a tiebreaker. (see below)
The last man with a chance is defending NYC champion and 2011 Boston third-placer Gebre Gebremariam of Ethiopia (35pts). He can steal the cash if he wins and Emmanuel finishes fifth (1pt) or worst. But if Gebre wins and Emmanuel is fourth (5pts), there will be a three-way tie with Makau.
In every case, Emmanuel Mutai will play the role of banker Nov. 6th . Talk about your 1%! We just might see an ‘Occupy the Finish Chute!’ movement crop up. Whodathunk it in this sport?!
If it does go to a tiebreaker, here’s how that will break down according the WMM website.
1. The person with the best head-to-head record during the period (including all Qualifying Races in the two-year cycle, not just scoring races). Only the fact that one athlete finished ahead of the other will be taken into account and not by how many places.
If there is still a tie, the following tie-breakers will be used in descending order until the tie is broken:
2. The person who has achieved his or her points in the fewest races.
3. The person who won the most Qualifying Races during the period.
4. The person with the fastest average time in their scoring races.
5. The person who the majority of the Race Directors of the five World Marathon Majors races determine to be the champion. In such circumstances, the Race Directors may decide to award the title jointly.
If an athlete starts a race but for any reason does not complete it, they shall for the purposes of 1 and 2 above be treated as having taken part in the event.CURRENT STANDINGS
1. Patrick Makau – Kenya – 60 points (Season finished)
1st, 2011 BMW Berlin Marathon – 2:03:38 WR – 25 pts.
3rd, 2011 Virgin London Marathon – 2:05:45 – 10 pts.
1st, 2010 Berlin Marathon – 2:05:08 – 25 pts.
2. Emmanuel Mutai – Kenya – 55 points
1st, 2011 Virgin London Marathon – 2:04:40 – 25 pts
2nd, 2010 ING New York City Marathon – 2:09:18 – 15 pts
2nd, 2010 Virgin London Marathon – 2:06:23 – 15 pts
3. Tsegay Kebede – Ethiopia – 41 points
5th, 2011 Virgin London Marathon – 2:07:48 – 1 pt.
2nd, 2010 Bank of America Chicago Marathon – 2:06:43 – 15 pts.
1st, 2010 Virgin London Marathon – 2:05:19 – 25 pts.
4t. Moses Mosop – Kenya – 40 points (Season finished)
1st, 2011 Bank of America Chicago Marathon – 2:05:37 – 25 pts.
2nd, 2011 Boston Marathon – 2:03:06a – 15 pts.
4t. Geoffrey Mutai – Kenya – 40 points
1st, 2011 Boston Marathon – 2:03:02w – 25 pts.
2nd, 2010 real,- Berlin Marathon – 2:05:08 – 15 pts.
6. Gebre Gebremariam – Ethiopia – 35 pts.
DNF, 2011 IAAF World Championships – 0 pts.
3rd, 2011 Boston Marathon – 2:04:53w – 10 pts.
1st, 2010 ING New York City Marathon – 2:08:14 – 25 pts.