This is one of those everyonevhasanopinion races.
Like the prize fight between Floyd Mayweather and Conor McGregor August 26, or Triple G vs Canelo Alvarez last Saturday (16 Sept.), this coming Sunday’s BMW Berlin Marathon has something for everyone.
It is an interesting notation, however, that never in modern history have all the top marathoners in the world been on the same starting line at the same time. Even the Olympics limits competitors to three per nation. With so many events glutting the calendar, there is a natural leveling in the quality of all race fields, including within the Abbott World Marathon Majors, which all draw from the same talent pool. This year, however, and perhaps for the first time, Berlin race director Mark Milde will showcase a trio of past champions that make his race the brightest light in the fall marathon firmament.
On September 24th defending champion Kenenisa Bekele of Ethiopia will again take on 2016 runner-up and 2013 champ Wilson Kipsang of Kenya, with 2015 Berlin winner, 2016 Olympic champion, and 2017 Breaking2 supernova Eliud Kipchoge adding to the thunder. In this time of natural dilution, Berlin has gathered the dream (men’s) race everyone wants to see.
Last year Bekele and Kipsang battled to a near world record in the German capital, with Bekele besting his Kenyan rival by ten seconds, 2:03:03 – 2:03:13, Bekele just six seconds shy of Dennis Kimetto’s 2:02:57 world record set in Berlin `14. Eliud Kipchoge arrives off a historic 2:00:25 Breaking2 marathon exhibition in Monza, Italy in May. And last year he not only won the Olympic gold in Rio, but came within eight seconds of the world record in London in April. All three men have been sharpening their pencils to rewrite the record book on Sunday.
To date, the Dream Race title holder is the 2002 London Marathon where America’s Khalid Khannouchi – remember him? – took on Kenya’s Paul Tergat and a debuting Haile Gebrselassie of Ethiopia, with Special K taking the win, breaking his own world record by four seconds in 2:05:38, ten seconds up on Tergat and 37 seconds clear of Geb. Continue reading
And so the grand experiment has come to a conclusion. And, oh, so close did it come to its vaunted goal, just one second per mile short of history’s first sub-2 hour time for the marathon distance. Not for the marathon, mind you, but for its distance – because a marathon by its historic formulation is a competitive event. What we witnessed yesterday in Monza, Italy was a time trial/lab experiment, not a race. But that is nitpicking, though a significant nit.
Notwithstanding, a huge congratulations go out to Eliud Kipchoge and the entire Nike Breaking2 Project for such a grand experiment in human performance, footwear technology, and scientific experimentation.
But what did we come away with after yesterday’s 2:00:24 performance on the Formula One racetrack in Monza? Certainly, more questions as well as some answers. First of all, we know that the sub-2 is now possible, more likely probable, because he damn near did it! But since he didn’t quite do it, what else needs to be done that this experiment informed us as still being required? Continue reading
2016 Berlin Marathon champion Kenenisa Bekele
On January 20th Ethiopia’s triple Olympic track gold medalist Kenenisa Bekele will start the sixth marathon of his career at the Standard Charter Dubai Marathon. Coming off a near-world record 2:03:03 win in Berlin last fall in his last start there are indications that the great Ethiopian track and cross country runner may have his sights set on the current marathon world record of 2:02:57, set by Kenya’s Dennis Kimetto in Berlin 2014.
Now I am one of those journalists who has consistently lobbied for a greater concentration on competition over time, but since this is what is on offer, I thought I would take a deeper dive into the probabilities of a new world record, using the past as prologue.
Though I have heard some faint murmurs from Addis Ababa that the political climate in Ethiopia is affecting some people’s ability to train freely – the troubles are in line with Olympic silver medalist Feyisa Lelisa’s anti-government protest at the Rio Olympics and his subsequent move to the U.S to seek asylum – let us assume for this study that all is well with Bekele’s preparations, and that he will arrive in Dubai in top form.
On April 6, 2014 Kenenisa Bekele ran his marathon debut in Paris, France. Against a less than competitive field the 31 year-old won by over 2 ½ minutes, stopped the timer at 2:05:03, which was a course record, sixth fastest debut in history, and fastest first-time marathon ever by a man over 30.
At the time I thought it would be interesting to look ahead by looking back (NUMBERING UP BEKELE’S MARATHON DEBUT). After all, record performances are the links that allow fans to compare and contrast athletes of different eras in much the same way baseball fans compare stats across time (at least until the steroid era kind of ruined that – Oops, do we have more in common with baseball than we realize?)
Anyway, I decided the best way to compare Kenenisa’s potential in the marathon would be to judge his marathon debut and projected career personal best (PB) against other former track record holders who subsequently moved up to great success in the marathon. Accordingly, I saw Kenya’s Paul Tergat and Ethiopia’s Haile Gebrselassie, as the canaries in this very high quality coal mine, as both pre-dated Bekele as world record holders at 5000 & 10,000 meters on the track before adding the marathon record to their resumes.
After Bekele’s near-world record 2:03:03 win in Berlin in September 2016, I thought it might be fun to see how those projections from 2014 have played out so far. Continue reading
It’s never going to end, is it? No matter who gets elected it’s gone too far, become too personal, the sides have been split too far apart. So when it’s over where is that going to leave us? Not in a good place.
Comity, collegiality, all the old ties that bind have been put to the torch in this rabbled season of Never Him/Never Her.
Listen, why can’t we just admit we let this one get away from us? There’d be no shame in that. We got caught up in the funhouse nature of the race and the debates, and before we really realized what we were doing we ended up nominating Clueless and Feckless (you code who’s who).
At least we’d be being honest with ourselves. What percentage of the population you think wouldn’t want to start over if they had a shot? Continue reading
Stephen Kiprotich, 2012 Olympic Champion
Reigning World and Olympic Marathon champion Stephen Kiprotich of Uganda begins 2014 with his knickers in a knot — which is not a bad thing by this reading. As he embarks on the long training slog toward the highly anticipated Virgin London Marathon this April 13th, the soon to be 25 year-old (Feb. 27, 1989) has been stung by unnamed critics who suggest he has been more fortunate than good in winning his two gold medals. Kiprotich took issue with the charge, snapping back in a story published by Uganda’s Daily Mirror that was then picked up as Quote of the Day by our friends at Letsrun.com.
“I know I haven’t run a very fast marathon in my career so far, but what people forget is that I am still learning. You can’t judge someone who hasn’t run more than 10 marathons. I have competed against very experienced marathoners and defeated them.”
There is no denying Kiprotich’s excellence as a championship runner. Only Ethiopia’s Gezahenge Abera has similarly worn Olympic and World Championship Marathon gold simultaneously (2000 Sydney & 2001 Edmonton). But in his seven career marathons to date Kiprotich has only registered a modest PR (by today’s standards) of 2:07:20 from his debut at the 2011 Enschede Marathon in the Netherlands. As a side note, Enschede was also the only other marathon besides the World Champs and Olympics that he’s won (see full career record below).
“On a good day, I am sure I can run 2:05,” Kiprotich told the Daily Mirror, adding, “I can even attempt the world record (2:03:23). It’s very possible. It all depends on the course and how the body reacts.”
One always likes to see an athlete rise to the bait, even if it’s hard to figure who set the hook. But a ghost challenge is as good as a flesh and blood one, I say, if it gets the blood up. At the same time, immediately upon reading the Kiprotich quote I was struck by the number 10. “You can’t judge someone who hasn’t run ten marathons?”
Yes you can. I do it all the time. Continue reading
Former marathon world record holder Khalid Khannouchi with fan
“You never know who will show up here.”
The San Diego Track Club was just finishing its final workout of the year under Coach Paul Greer — 15 X 300 meters — when former marathon world record holder Khalid Khannouchi arrived at the San Diego High School track just after 7p.m. his left hand swaddled in bandages.
”I cut my hand this afternoon,” he explained, “and had to go have five stitches put in.”
Khalid was in town visiting his old friend and mentor Tracy Sundlun,vice president of Competitor Group, purveyors of the Rock `n` Roll series of races. Tracy had helped establish Khalid after the Moroccan-born runner emigrated to the USA following his win in the 5000 meters at the 1993 World University Games in Buffalo. At the time Sundlun served as head of the MAC, the Metropolitan Athletics Congress, regional running federation for the New York City metro area.
But this trip west from his home in Ossining, New York wasn’t simply a friendly visit or a break from the cold and ice back east for the U.S. record holder and four-time Chicago Marathon champion. Continue reading
Runner’s World Newswire put out a story October 23rd by Peter Gambaccini – Former 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. Continue reading