Bekele finishing 3rd in London 2016 signs on for 2017
Much of what push back there’s been against the three Sub-2 Hour marathon projects concerns their focus on time rather than competition. Now comes word came that Ethiopian superstar Kenenisa Bekele has signed on to the April 23rd Virgin London Marathon, just days after being announced to run the Standard Charter Dubai Marathon on January 20th in what is likely a world record attempt. Hmmm.
Now a cynic might conclude that with defending London and Olympic champion Eliud Kipchoge of Kenya, along with former Boston champ Lelisa Desisa of Ethiopia signed on to this spring’s Nike Project Breaking2 (at an as yet undisclosed location), London’s major name (if not two) has been stripped from the event marquee. So, notwithstanding Bekele’s Dubai appearance 13 weeks earlier, London needed a big name to build its 2017 race around. You can bet this isn’t the scenario the Abbott World Marathons Majors had in mind when they put together their series ten years ago.
But as the paydays of the marathon have continued to spread (if not actually grow), and the World Marathon Majors series title now paying off as a five-year $100,000 annuity rather than a one-fell-swoop $500,000 (because of Rita Jeptoo and Lilya Shobokhova stealing three Majors’ titles via drug disqualifications), we’ve begun to see more and more top athletes stretch their wings and challenge the old assumptions and the old-line events. Not only are the old warhorses like Bekele willing to squeeze more into less in terms of rest and recovery, youthful runners who might once have gone to the track ovals in Europe are now running marathons like they were halves.
With a marathon training cycle of 12 weeks, give or take, and a full recovery assigned one month, conventional wisdom has long held that two per year was the way to best schedule a top marathon career — with exceptions made for an Olympic year, where athletes were willing to compromise their fall effort for a shot at Olympic glory (World Championship not so much). The original five Abbott World Marathon Majors built their series upon this convention. But racing is not simply an exercise in trophy collection, it’s a business opportunity with only so many years available to stake your claims. Athletes like 22 year-old Lemi Berhanu Hayle is a prime example. 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
Mo Farah – Center of Attention in London
The focus of the British press before, during and after last Sunday’s 33rd Virgin London Marathon was on local Olympic champion Mo Farah’s half-way-only test run for next year’s full distance debut. Even Tsegay Kebede’s final kilometer win over a faltering Emmanuel Mutai was couched in the context Farah ’s first half presence.
Was this what race officials hoped when they signed Farah after recruiting “the greatest marathon field in history”? Or was it simply an indication that today’s version of such a field is incapable of holding public attention on its own?
Whichever, when a local show pony like Mo Farah who had no intention of completing the race dominates race news coverage, which he did, it’s a clear indication that running has a problem that fast times alone cannot solve. What London 2013 revealed was the continuing lack of connection between an audience and the current crop of the world’s top distance runners. And one wonders whether the sport either notices or cares.
Wheelers roll up on lead women
London, England — The second lead story from yesterday’s Virgin London Marathon — the first was Mo Farah’s half-way test run — was the collision between wheelchair record holder Josh Cassidy of Canada and 2012 Women’s Olympic Marathon gold medalist Tiki Gelana of Ethiopia at an aid station at 15K. Hardly the headline race organizers would have hoped to generate after they’d invited the best race fields in event history. But that’s the point, they did it to themselves with an asinine starting schedule which sent the 5:20 per mile women runners out 20-minutes before the 3:30 per mile wheelers. Do the math.
Prince Harry and Richard Branson with London Champs Priscah Jeptoo & Tsegay Kebede
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.
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. Continue reading
London, England — VIPs from the running world gathered beneath the London Tower Bridge this evening aboard the luxury river yacht the Silver Sturgeon for a welcome celebration to the 33rd Virgin London Marathon. But though the professional fields for Sunday’s races are the best in the world this year, and perhaps the best in London’s illustrious history, not surprisingly the topic most under discussion remained the terror attack at Monday’s Boston Marathon.
Race directors of America’s two largest marathons, Mary Wittenberg of New York City and Carey Pinkowski of Chicago, huddled together to consider what the industry as a whole might do in response rather than just what the six World Marathon Majors might put forward. Then first year London race director Hugh Brasher, son of event co-founder Chris Brasher, addressed the crowd welcoming them to the city, but also remembering the loss suffered in Boston. Hugh next introduced defending men’s champion and Olympic Marathon bronze medalist Wilson Kipsang of Kenya who spoke movingly in the name of his fellow athletes.
“We would like to express our condolences to those who lost loved ones in Boston,” he began standing on a staircase overlooking the crowd. “But we will run feeling free. We won’t worry about security when we’re running. We are ready to run well on Sunday, and maybe break the course record or even the world record.” Continue reading