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…)
This morning the Galen Rupp we saw at the Prague International Marathon (1st, 2:06:07 PB) was the Galen Rupp we expected to see in Boston 20 days ago before the conditions blew everyone into Dante’s second circle of Hell. Leading into Boston Rupp fashioned a perfect build-up after his win in Chicago last fall, tuned up with an excellent half-marathon in Rome, and spoke not a whisper of the plantar fascia niggle that compromised him a smidge in Boston 2017 in his duel with eventual champ Geoffrey Kirui – another casualty of the 2018 Boston nor’easter (casualty in the sense that he finished second after building a 90-second lead).
This morning in the Czech Republic, though, a retooled Rupp rode along on a solid, but not over-cooked 1:03:00 first half pace, then kept the momentum rolling when the rabbit dropped away and had gas enough left in the tank to put away 2:04-man Sisay Lemma of Ethiopia in the final two miles (9:26) on an ok, but not ideal marathon day.
The beauty of racing is that it is a given-day situation, this field on this day on that course in these conditions, have at it, see ya at the finish. And though great respect goes to 2018 Boston champion Yuki Kawauchi – because on that day, in those conditions, he made all the right decisions – is there any doubt that we would have likely witnessed another Geoffrey Kirui vs. Galen Rupp duel if the conditions had been anywhere near normal, before the frigid, wind-driven rain knocked Rupp out at 19 and then locked Kirui up tighter than a mute with lockjaw over the final 5k? (more…)
The Marathon along with its half distance cousin is the only footrace that has a name rather than a distance as it’s calling card.And in that name there lies multitudes because for more than a century that name has represented the great endurance challenge of the modern age, at times even a life-threatening one.And why wouldn’t it? After all, it was born in the mists of myth and legend, then resurrected two and a half millennia later as an Olympic challenge.
Until the 1960 Olympics in Rome, however, the name Marathon stood for endurance alone, not speed. Only with the arrival of Ethiopia’s Abeba Bikila did the event give way to a runner who could attack the distance rather than simply survive its length.Still, until the first running boom of the 1970s, it was either-or, either you were a marathon runner or you competed at the shorter road, track, and cross country distances. Today, top runners move back and forth more fluidly, taking the opportunities as they present themselves.
Look at this year’s Standard Charter Dubai Marathon, always the bellwether of the coming year.Winner Mosinet Geremew of Ethiopia was 25 when he ran 2:04:00 this January. His PBs include 13:17, 27:18 and 59:11 over 5000, 10,000, and the half-marathon distances, hardly the makings of a pure endurance athlete.Dubai runner-up Leule Gebrselassie, also Ethiopian, also 25, carried a 13:13, 27:19, 59:18 resume. And third-placerTamirat Tola, again of Ethiopia, a year older at 26, had 26:57 and 59:37 credentials.
In the past, the best runners avoided the marathon until evidence of their inevitable slowing on the track forced them to transfer allegiance to the roads.For many, and still to a few like Kenenisa Bekele, Galen Rupp, and Mo Farah, the Marathon was the last stop on the career arc from shorter races to the more strength oriented 42k.(more…)
Boston, MA. – OK, quick analysis. I didn’t talk to everybody, because you simply can’t, too many people too little time. So for instance, I didn’t speak with the defending men’s champion Geoffrey Kirui, but assuming all is well with him, my first reaction is Rupp, Desisa, and Tamirat Tola. Those are the three that stood out in my conversations at the 33rd John Hancock elite athlete press conference at the Fairmont Copley Plaza Hotel for the 122nd Boston Marathon.
With Galen it’s, if not now, when? This will be his fifth marathon, second Boston, perfect build up, great tuneup race, experience on this course, it’s all there. He’s the fastest track runner in the field, is coming off a win in Chicago, nobody can run away from him, higher mileage than ever, tons of 25-milers, it’s all in place. Now it’s just a matter of performing on the day, and he’s had a track record, including two Olympic medals, of doing that quite well.
“ I feel like this is what I’ve been working for my whole life,“ said Galen. “Like this window right now. It’s not that I’m nervous, but this is what I’ve been working for, all this training, to enjoy the fruits of that training. I feel good for where I am. I’ve been consistent. It’s a testament to my training. I’m proud of how consistent I’ve been. No excuses. When you’ve done the work you know you will perform well.”
That’s as confident as a distance runner can talk. But why wouldn’t he? Winner in his debut in the 2016 Olympic trials, third at the Rio Olympics, second last year in Boston when his build up wasn’t ideal, and then a winner in Chicago last fall. He’s in his peak years, afraid of no one, faster than everyone (except in the marathon) but expecting a good battle with Kirui and the Ethiopians.
Two-time Boston champ Lelisa Desisa (2013 & 2015) is another guy in his prime. In 2015, he won Boston in 2:09:17 in conditions which may be similar to those coming Monday, wind and rain. That year he broke away between 22 and 23 miles coming down Beacon Street after making the first move in mile 17 after turning at the Newton fire station coming onto Commonwealth Avenue. He has run 13 career marathons, won three, and been on the podium 10 times.
True, he only ran 2:14 at last May’s Breaking2 Project in Monza, Italy – the special Nike-sponsored promotion – but that just tells me this guy is a racer, not a time trialer. He also has a brand new daughter, Nege, just one month old to further motivate him. Add a 60:28 tuneup race at the RAK Half in February in the UAE, and it’s all systems go.
Tamirat Tola is 26 and looks 22. He trains with 2016 Boston champ Lemi Berhanu, and I guess we shouldn’t overlook him, either. He ran 4th last fall in NYC after a cramp hit at 28k. The two Ethiopians ran a final 40k run together with their 30-person training group on a course outside Addis Ababa that mirrors the Boston course. Tola and Berhanu dropped everyone else between 32-35k. They wouldn’t say which was stronger than the other. I guess we will find out Monday.
Tola was also the silver medalist in last year’s IAAF World Championship Marathon in London behind Geoffrey Kirui, then PR’d by five seconds this January in Dubai (2:04:06).
”I have trained very well to be the winner,” he told me. “I don’t think about weather, only competition.”
There is much more reporting to do, but we will let that settle in for a while. I had a good chat with Desi Linden, Madai Perez, Kellyn Taylor and Jordan Hasay, as well. I’ll post something on the women’s race tomorrow.
Tonight at 5 pm Eastern I will be hosting a Runners Digest podcast for two hours on LETSRUN.COM where we will discuss much of what we learned at today’s presser. Join us if you can. Toni out.
To date, there have been 317 “official” sub-60:00 half marathon performances dating from Moses Tanui‘s 59:47 win in Milan in April 1993 (366 when we add what are/were considered the *aided courses like Lisbon ‘98). Rupp’s own 59:47, though ineligible for record purposes due to Rome’s net downhill, point-to-point course, nevertheless was an excellent prep for next month’s Boston Marathon, as Rome mirrored the p-t-p, downhill Boston layout.
Historically, his 59:47 half-marathon PR places Rupp equal 211th best all-time (258th on all courses), but equal-fourth with New Zealand’s Zane Robertson on the all-time non-African related breakdown. (Again, noting Mo Farah, GBR, has a 59:22, 59:32, and 59:59 to his credit)
1 Marilson Gomes Dos Santos – BRA – 59:33 – 7th, Udine, Italy `07 – equal 137th best performance ever
2 Antonio Pinto – POR – 59:43 – 1st, Lisbon `98 = = 226th best (all courses)
3 Ryan Hall – USA – 59:43 – 1st, Houston `07- =185th best ever
10 Jake Robertson – NZL – 60:01 – 1st, Lisbon `17 – =326th best
(This January Jake Robertson won the Aramco Houston Half Marathon in 60:01 against a loaded international field to equal his 2017 PR).
The half-marathon world record has stood since 21 March 2010 when Eritrea’s Zersenay Tadese won the Lisbon Half Marathon in 58:23, breaking his own previous mark by eight seconds set the year before on the same course (which had been slightly altered to comply with record standards from the layout that Pinto ran his sub-60 on in ‘98).
To show the rapid improvement in – and scheduling of – half-marathon races, it is interesting to note that only six of the 317 (366) sub-60 half marathon performances to date were set in the 20th century: (more…)
When the calendar flips I always like to do a deeper dive into the past year in marathon running, just to see what the numbers might suggest. And from the looks of it, not much changed in 2017 other than the Breaking2 Project in Monza, Italy in May when world #1 Eliud Kipchoge of Kenya came oh, so close to 1:59:59.
Other than that, it was more general excellence out of East Africa, undercut by yet another drug sanction of a TOP echelon athlete (2016 London and Rio Olympic champion, Kenyan Jemima Sumgong). And, finally, though their times weren’t any different than in previous years, there were two American breakthrough wins in Majors at the end of the season, Galen Rupp in Chicago, then Shalane Flanagan in New York City. But in this post I focus on the men.
Here are the numbers, then, as I attempted to count them on the IAAF.org site, and a comparison with the earlier years of this teens decade in century 21.
BREAKDOWN OF SUB-2:10s 2017
Total – 186
Kenyan – 113 (60.75%)
Ethiopian – 41 (22%)
American – 2 (Galen Rupp, 2:09:20, 1st in Chicago)
TOP time – 2:03:32, Eliud Kipchoge, Berlin
Kenyan – 98 (65.3%)
Ethiopian- 39 (26%)
American – 0 (Galen Rupp, 2:10:05, 3rd, Rio Olympics)
TOP time – 2:03:03, Keninisa Bekele, Berlin
Total – 172
Kenyan – 97 (56.4%)
Ethiopian – 57 (33.13%)
American – 0 (Luke Puskedra, 2:10:24, 5th in Chicago)
TOP time: 2:04:00, Eliud Kipchoge, Berlin
Total – 180
Kenyan – 106 (58.88%)
Ethiopian – 57 (31.6%)
American – 1 (Meb Keflezighi, 2:08:37, 1st in Boston)
TOP time – 2:02:57, Dennis Kimetto, Berlin
Total – 189
Kenyan – 99 (52.4%)
Ethiopian- 61 (32.2%)
American – 1 (Dathan Ritzenhein, 2:09:45, 5th in Chicago)
TOP time – 2:03:23, Wilson Kipsang, Berlin
Total – 220
Kenyan – 120 (54.5%)
Ethiopian – 64 (29%)
American – 5 (Dathan Ritzenhein (twice), 2:07:47, 9th in Chicago, also Ryan Hall, Meb Keflezighi, Abdi Abdirahman)
TOP time- 2:04:15, Geoffrey Mutai, Berlin
Total – 182
Kenyan – 110 (61%)
Ethiopian – 42 (22%)
American – 3 (Ryan Hall (twice), 2:04:58, 4th in Boston, also Meb)
TOP time – 2:03:02. Geoffrey Mutai, Boston
Total – 144
Kenyan – 79 (54.86%)
Ethiopian – 47 (32.6%)
American – 0 (Brett Gotcher, 2:10:36, 7th in Houston)
TOP time – 2:04:48, Patrick Makau, Rotterdam