Tag: Geoffrey Mutai

WORLD MARATHON MAJORS SHOWDOWN IN NYC

New York City Marathon start    There is even more on the line than usual at this year’s ING New York City Marathon.  From the city and New York Road Runner’s recovery efforts after last year devastation and race cancellation due to Hurricane Sandy, to the million-dollar payoff in the World Marathon Majors championship, there are stories of striving and overcoming that will make for a dramatic and emotional Sunday morning November 3rd.   Be sure to watch it live 9 a.m.-12:30 p.m. ET on ESPN2, and from 9 a.m.-2 p.m. ET on WABC. It also will be streamed online at WatchESPN.com and the WatchESPN app. A two-hour highlights show will air on ABC later in the day.

My focus will be on the men’s race as I will call that competition from the lead TV moto.  It’s the first time since 2006 that I will be out on the course rather than at the finish line anchor location.  And though I will sorely miss calling what promises to be a compelling women’s race, the men’s lead moto is a wondrous perch, and offers by far the best view of the action.

Two story lines dominate the 2013 New York men’s competition.  The question is how, or whether, they will intersect? (more…)

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PERILOUS PEAK OF PERFECTION

     Runner’s World Newswire put out a story October 23rd by Peter GambacciniFormer Elite’s Advice for Ryan Hall – after Hall pulled out of the November 3rd ING New York City Marathon, the third straight major marathon Ryan had been signed to run but not been able to start.

The advice ranged from “…go back to Kenya and get into a group that most of the top guys are training in and give it more than a few months,” from fellow 2008 Olympic marathoner Brian Sell, to “…You should focus on breaking the 4:00 mile,” from 1972 Olympic 1500m bronze medalist and 1983 New York City Marathon champion Rod Dixon of New Zealand.

Everyone has advice and an opinion, a testament to the regard the industry has for Ryan, the man, and the hope it carries for his position in the sport.  But maybe the best advice would be for Ryan, or any other American, to discover a time machine and dial it back about 30 years when being number one from sea to shining sea could be the same as being number one in the world.  Today that connection has long since been broken. In fact, the gap between the two continues to spread with each passing season and each marathon run. (more…)

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. (more…)

THE ALPHA EFFECT

Last year, after the final pacer pulled off course at 30 kilometers, Kenya’s Wesley Korir shattered the integrity of the Chicago Marathon lead pack, ripping a sudden tear in the fabric of the race by accelerating past an aid station as others peeled off for their liquids.  But as he told me yesterday, “Even when I made that move, I was thinking of (Moses) Mosop.  I expected him to go by me, and when he did I gave up, and was happy with second place.”

What Korir just described is the Alpha Effect, the psychological control a single athlete has on his competitors by nothing more than his very presence.  The power an Alpha has over other runners can corrupt even their best moves before they have been played out. Last year in Chicago Kenya’s Moses Mosop, arriving as the 2:03:06 Boston Marathon runner up and world record holder at 30K on the track, was the Alpha male.  We’ve seen them through the years, men like Toshihiko Seko, Rob de Castella, Paul Tergat and Haile Gebrselassie, the athletes who everyone else has their eye on, waiting to see what he does, controlling the race no matter where he may be in the pack.

The professional athletes of the 2012 Bank of America Chicago Marathon met with the press corps yesterday at the host Chicago Hilton Hotel. Outside, the burly American city known for its architecture, music, and neighborhoods lay shrouded beneath low-hanging weather moving restlessly east out along the great lakeside where the bulk of the race will be contested this Sunday.  (more…)

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. (more…)

MAKING A MOCKERY OF COMPETITION

Geoffrey Mutai holds on in Berlin

     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 –

Thrill of Victory

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…)

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. (more…)