PREVIEWS MARATHON MENTomorrow we are in the last day of Olympic Games, and, as usual, we end with one of the most interesting competitions of the Olympic Games : the Marathon for men.
During the last two years, the men’s marathon had a big explosion in the World, and specifically in Kenya and Ethiopia. Performances that, till 2008, could give at the end of the season a position in top 30 in the World, now can give a position around top 100 only. In this short period, the World of Marathon faced a revolution under psychological and methodological point of view.
Last year, Kenya put 18 athletes in top 20 at the end of the season, the only two not Kenyans being the Ethiopian Gebremariam and the American Ryan Hall. We had the two best performances ever in Boston, also if officially not valid, with Geoffrey Mutai (2:03:02) and Moses Mosop (2:03:06), best debut all time, and the official WR with Patrick Makau in Berlin (2:03:38). At the end of the season, Wilson Kipsang went very close the WR, running in 2:03:42 for winning in Frankfurt.
For Athletic Kenya, it was very difficult to chose the athletes representing the Country in Olympic. After the Spring Marathons, with Geoffrey Mutai and Patrick Makau dropping out in Boston and London, the final selection depended for 2/3 on the results of London, and for 1/3 on the best time in the season. From London marathon the selected were WILSON KIPSANG, winner in wonderful way with 2:04:44, and the World Champion ABEL KIRUI, that, in spite of some problem in the last 5 km, was the second Kenyan.
About time, MOSES MOSOP was selected for his 2:05:03 of Rotterdam, but later on he had tendon problems, and honestly had to give his place to the other best in London : EMMANUEL MUTAI, in 2011 winning of the Jackpot for the Major Marathons.
The Ethiopian Federation, instead, decided to select the best times with the deadline at 30th of April. This pushed the athletes to run very early in January in Dubai, and, thank to a perfect day, AYELE ABSHERO (winner in 2:04:23) and DINO SEFIR (2nd in 2:04:50) were selected. In Rotterdam, other two Ethiopians ran under 2:05:00 : the winner YEMANE ADHANE, husband of Abeba Aregawi (2:04:48), and the second, GETU FELEKE (2:04:50), who finally was preferred to Adhane because this one already ran 4 marathons in 6 months.
On the paper, nobody else can have chances for defeating one of this 6 men.
If everything is normal, what we know is that WILSON KIPSANG seems to be the number one at the moment, having a very high balance in his performances. On Kenyan side, the World Champion ABEL KIRUI always demonstrated great personality in the last 2 editions of World Championships, but never had to face somebody strong as Wilson Kipsang in those Championships. EMMANUEL MUTAI showed, in all his career, to be a top runner good for the podium, but on time only, in London last year, had personality and shape for winning and being the best protagonist.
On Ethiopian side, there are no many experiences for two of them : AYELE ABSHERO, of course the most young and talented of the Team, and DINO SEFIR. GETU FELEKE has more experience, and always had a PB of 2:05:04 before Dubai.
I was personally in all these Marathons.
Dubai was a perfect race, the athletes were lucky to find this kind of conditions. Temperature between 12° and 14° during all the race, no wind, humidity very low, road without many turns and perfect tarmac. For those reasons (and not because, how somebody can speculate, the marathon was shorter...), all the athletes had an advantage of not less than 1:00 compared with London, and 1:30 compared with Rotterdam. Personally, in Dubai I had a lot of athletes that are with me in training, able to destroy their previous Personal Best : the Ethiopian DINO SEFIR (from 2:10:33 to 2:04:50), Abdullah Dawit Shami (from 2:09:42 to 2:05:42, and later winning Hamburg in 2:05:58), Deressa Chimsa (from 2:07:39 to 2:05:42), Soboka Tola (from 2:13:49 to 2:06:17) and the Kenyan Jonathan Maiyo (from 2:12:45 to 2:04:56) in the men field, and 4 ladies, including the top 2. When there are global improvement of this level, we have to look the perfroamnce with “granum salis”, because it’s clear there are particular favourable conditions.
Rotterdam has a very fast course, but the wind was terrible. Moses Mosop didn’t win for a tactical mistake, but in any case I was very much impressed by the race of Adhane and GETU FELEKE, such as TIKI GELANA in the women (and we saw the final result in Olympics...). Absolutely, the 2:04:50 of Feleke is very much more amazing than the performances of Abshero and Sefir in Dubai. However, Abshero was conservative for all the race, and decided to push after 40 km only, showing to have still a lot of energy. His final was 6:07 for the last 2195m, and this final speed can be dangerous for Kenyans, too.
London was the race with more pressure, and the conditions were not optimal. The way WILSON KIPSANG choose for winning showed a great superiority at the moment : 5 km in 14’09” between 25 km and 30 km, including the first 2 km in 5:26, and again another attack at 36 km.
All the Kenyan marathoners spent a long period in the official Training Camp in Iten. This is the main difference between the specialists of track and marathon runners : the first trained for 5 weeks in Kasarani, with the National Coaches, while Marathon runners could follow their normal plan, and the Kenyan Responsible, David Letting, in my opinion had a very good behaviour, supporting the personal coaches and discussing with them the program of the athletes without changing anything.- The problem we had during the camp was the rain season, that forced us to change frequently the technical plans.
We worked with Wilson Kipsang and Abel Kirui in two different ways : with Wilson, the goal was to try to maintain the shape of London, without forcing too much but looking at the continuity. We used a almost symmetric plan, with track every Tuesday (no longer than 12 km, and always with short tests) and long run during Friday or Saturday. In one of these long run, Wilson ran for the first time in his life 40 km in Nangili (75 km far from Iten) under 2:10:00, and for him was a good training.
Abel Kirui had to recover some day, after London, having therapies for killing the “helicobacter pilori” that provoked his stomach problem during the Marathon. After this, we had a training with more modulation, with some peak of volume and intensity alternated with very easy days.
Looking at the women race, we could see how many turns there are, how the tarmac is not very good (there are part with cobblestones), and how the weather is always something not stable, that can change in very short time. For all those reasons, also if the level of African specialists is normally higher than the other runners in the World, we can’t be sure 100% about the final result. With all these turns, Olympic Marathon can have a very high cost under the muscular point of view. Athletes with great muscle power like Abshero or with big agility can find advantages in this kind of course.
About the tactic, I think the first half can go in something under 1:04:00, may be 1:03:30, and nobody goes to try any action till 30 kms. After this distance, Kenyans well know they need to create some gap between them and Abshero. Probably they can try something alternating their efforts, but don’t forget that, at the end, everybody thinks he can be the next Olympic Champion, so I’m not sure about their collaboration, especially if 2 of them can be together, alone, at the end of the race.
Percentages : Wilson Kipsang 40%, Abel Kirui and Emmanuel Mutai 15%, Getu Feleke and Ayele Abshero 10%, and another 10% for some dark horse, probably from US or Eritrea. For European, the real goal is to put one athlete in the top 8.