During his second term in office, President Barack Obama was vilified for his policy of “leading from behind” in Libya. Whether such a strategy is viable in the realm of geopolitics is open to argument. But can leading from behind be a winning strategy in running?
I thought about that while watching yesterday‘s IAAF World Cross Country Championships from Denmark. One of the questions asked when the very difficult race course was unveiled was whether or not somebody laying off the pace could come from behind and still win. We don’t see much of that on the track or, as it turned out, yesterday at World Cross in Aarhus. In shorter distances races, contact is everything. But the marathon is another matter because you can let someone go early with the goal of reeling him/her back in later. But it’s more than that. (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…)
New York, New York — Alright, I’ve heard enough, I’ve seen enough, I’ve talked to all the players. And here’s the deal, they don’t have a prayer. Maybe in a best case scenario I might not wish it so, because I like close competitions, but Geoffrey Mutai is your winner of the ING New York City Marathon for 2013 right now. And that’s from someone who has never been much of a predictor. But it is what it is as surely as Al Salazar was the winner before the gun in 1981 – “my goal is to run 2:08 and to win.” So if you find someone that wants to take the field, take Mutai and put whatever money you have on him. That’s the kind of form he’s on, and what I think of his chances. Now all he has to do is pull it off.
With London Marathon champion Tsegay Kebede and World Champion Stephen Kiprotich caught up in the World Marathon Majors drama and the $500,000 that goes with the series win, will either of them take the risk of trying to match a fully blooded Geoffrey Mutai for a chance at the $100,000 first place check? Not likely. In fact, Kebede has come right out and said in a race with 48,000 starters he’s only racing one man, Kiprotich. (more…)
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…)
London, England — On a glorious spring morning for racing Ethiopia’s Tsegay Kebede and Kenya’s Priscah Jeptoo took home the glory at today’s 33rd Virgin London Marathon. In winning their respective races in 2:06:04 and 2:20:15 against fields of staggering depth and quality, the two athletes from neighboring East African nations returned the focus of the sport to international goodwill and competition rather than the infamy and horror visited on the Boston Marathon this past Monday. But though the two pro fields were as good as they come, the two races could not have been much different.
Chicago, Illinois – As I commented on the final miles of the 2012 Bank of America Chicago Marathon from my vantage point aboard the lead NBC5 TV motorcycle, I was reminded again what the sport of distance running lost with the tragic passing of 2008 Olympic champion Sammy Wanjiru in the spring of 2011. Why? Because yesterday’s 35th edition of Chicago eerily resembled the 33rd running when the final two miles turned into what many believe was the most compelling marathon duel in the sport’s modern history.
During that epic run I was again sitting just a meter or two away trying to put words to the numinous. Like yesterday, Ethiopia’s Tsegay Kebede took control of the race after the final pacer bid adieu at 30K. Then, in those majestic final miles he did everything he could to break free from the indefatigable Kenyan Wanjiru. On the back of at least three separate surges Kebede developed what seemed a winning margin, only to have Wanjiru resurrect like a bad relationship, before Sammy turned aggressor and buried Kebede for good in the final 600 meters.
Similar to Salazar and Beardsley in Boston 1982, and Khannouchi, Tergat and Gebrselassie in London 2002, the monumental drama had even veteran observers gnashing their teeth and punching nearby shoulders, so caught up were they in the unfolding spectacle between the two tiny east Africans.
Yesterday, Kebede was again starring in the role of late-race protagonist, along with the often forgotten third man in that 2010 war, countryman Feyisa Lelisa who had hung on till 24 miles two years ago as a 20 year-old. Over the years Kebede and Lilesa have proven themselves as two of Ethiopia’s most stalwart marathon racers, both holding bronze medals, Kebede from the 2008 Beijing Olympics, Lelisa from the 2011 Daegu World Championships. Despite those credentials, both were snubbed by the Ethiopian Federation for the London Olympic team. Chicago would be their chance at redemption.
As in 2010, Kebede took control of the race the instant the final pacer, Shadrack Kosgei, exited the stage. (more…)
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…)