With today’s announcement of the very strong pro women’s field gathering for the 2018 TCS NYC Marathon, another old idea resurfaced in the attempt to help focus attention on the actual racing side of the game.
Just as I recently posited how it might be fun (though impractical) to stage a pure match race between Galen Rupp and his former training partner Mo Farah in Chicago in order to truly focus public attention, I have always thought that the two U.S. Abbott World Marathon Major partners in the fall, Chicago and New York, should work together rather than compete for the same stock of athletes.
Imagine if each event focused on just one gender at the tip of the spear where all the top female athletes go one place, and the best males line up at the other. Then, the following year they swap.(more…)
Well, so much for sticking my head inside the lion’s mouth outside the Chicago Art Museum.
I’m getting hammered pretty badly across different fora and websites for my last blog post suggesting that the Chicago Marathon ditch its deep elite men’s field for a match race between defending champion Galen Rupp of the United States and his former Nike Oregon Project teammate Mo Farah of England.
OK, I get it, bad idea. And I even understand why. Sorry. At least I spurred a little extra interest in the race. (more…)
Though it was a Frenchman, Michel Bréal, who first suggested that a distance race be held in the 1896 Olympic Games and be called the Marathon, it may be that fate, too, had a hand in the formulation.You see, Athenian democracy, described as the first known democracy in the world, developed around the same fifth century BC time frame as the myth of Pheidippides, the Greek messenger whose run from Marathon to Athens telling of a great military victory over an invading Persian force was the genesis of our modern sport. And what is the Marathon but the most democratic of all sporting events where all are welcome to participate and the winners are decided by open competition? It is in the light of that history that I make the following observation.
The 2018 BofA Chicago Marathon has set up another great open field for October 7th. Announced yesterday, it is loaded with past and current champions from around the racing world. 2018 Boston, Dubai, Prague, Paris, Rotterdam, and Tokyo champions have all signed on. But hidden deep within that collection of mostly anonymous talent is something this sport has longed for since the days when Bill Rodgers first challenged Frank Shorter in the short mid-1970s window when both were at the top of their game, a great mano a mano duel.
Here we have defending Chicago champion Galen Rupp and his former Nike Oregon Project training partner Mo Farah signed and sealed. It’s something the sport (and track and field) has been starved for and lax in developing for years, a truly intriguing match race. The last such match race worth its spit was staged in 1996 when Olympic long sprint champion Michael Johnson of the USA took on short sprint champion Donovan Bailey of Canada over an intermediate 150-meter distance in Toronto following the Atlanta Games. And though the race itself fizzled with Johnson pulling up lame midway, the promotion itself was a big success.
Now, for the first time in memory, we have two well branded Olympic distance medalists, men who used to be teammates, going head-to-head for the first time in the marathon, both looking to bust a fast time on one of the fastest courses in the world. Accordingly, Chicago is reinstating pacers after discarding that crutch following the 2014 race. And it makes perfect sense because both Rupp and Farah are past track burners who have yet to break through in terms of marathon times on par with their 10,000 meters PRs.
Here, then, is a natural rivalry that people might actually want to see, one that can be marketed, Galen versus Mo,m. And then they go lard it up with all these admittedly fast but anonymous extras who do nothing but steal the spotlight from the one thing that might get average people to stop and pay attention. Why?Cause we’ve always done it this way? (more…)
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. (more…)
Geoffrey Mutai’s one-second win at Sunday’s BMW Berlin Marathon all but sewed up the 2011-2012 World Marathon Majors series title for the 31 year-old Kenyan star, and the $500,000 bonus that attends it. With wins in Boston and New York City in 2011, Mutai added 25 more points for his 2:04:15 win over fellow Kenyan Dennis Kimetto in Berlin, giving him 75 WMM points over the course of the two-year cycle. The WMM title and bonus are Mutai’s unless another Kenyan, 2011 Chicago runner-up and 2012 Boston Marathon champion Wesley Korir ( 40 points) can manage the unlikely double of winning this weekend’s BofA Chicago Marathon (25 pts), and then turn around and finish no worse than third in New York City November 4th (10 pts). That would tie Korir with Mutai at 75 points, but earn Korir the series title in a tie-breaker, as he bested Mutai head-to-head in the sweltering heat of Boston 2012 where Mutai dropped out.
Needless to say, that scenario is highly improbable.
But Mutai only won Berlin by a scant second over his training partner Dennis Kimetto. And this is where things get dicey. On paper a one-second margin would suggest a titanic final meters drama to decide the issue –
think Mo Farah’s double Olympic distance wins in London where the mask of anxiety and exhilaration warped his features as he held victory so close.
Instead, debuting marathoner Kimetto sat on Mutai’s left shoulder throughout the final two kilometers in Berlin acting more like a wing-man than a competitor. Mutai, we found out afterwards, was done in after 35 kilometers by a sour stomach leaving him unable to drive or push, and seemingly leaving him vulnerable to any sort of challenge. Yet none was forthcoming.
Immediately, one concluded that the apprentice, Kimetto, was not going to beat his mentor, Mutai, and thus deprive him of the $500k World Marathon Majors bonus. If Kimetto had won, it’s not like he would have earned the half-million dollar bonus. Rather, it would only have increased Wesley Korir’s chances, as a second place by Mutai in Berlin would have meant that Korir would only need a win in Chicago to supplant Mutai as the series winner. As my friend Ed Caesar – who is writing a book on the two-hour marathon while living in Iten, Kenya – said: “(If Kimetto had won) everyone in the small village where Mutai and Kimetto live (Kapn’gtuny) would have lost.”
This is the second time in the World Marathon Majors series history that a training partner has seemed to back off in the final stretch to allow his compatriot to win and collect the series bonus. In 2007, Robert Cheruiyot was on his way to his third of four Boston Marathon titles. But in the final two kilometers his training partner James Kwambai was still at his shoulder. As the two men headed into Kenmore Square with one mile to go, Kwambai peeled off to grab water while Cheruiyot didn’t. Then, in seemingly leisurely fashion, Kwambai stayed behind his mate all the way to the Boylston Street, finishing 20-seconds back. No attempt was made to close the gap even though Kwambai seemed unfazed by effort or pain.
Now we’ve seen a similar circumstance in Berlin. (more…)