OLYMPIC MARATHON MEN : WHY WE MUST FORGET THE RESULTS OF MAJOR MARATHONS.I think nobody could think of STEPHEN KIPROTICH as a possible Olympic Champion. However, this is what happened.
STEPHEN KIPROTICH is Ugandan, managed by the Global Communication (the management of Jos Hermens), such as Abel Kirui, silver medal. Born on 18th April 1989, Stephen trains in Kaptagat under Patrick Sang, who is also the coach of Emmanuel Mutai. Very small and light (168 x 54 kg), started as track runners, reaching a PB of 13’23”70 in 2008, 27’58”03 and 8’26”66 (steeple) in 2010.
Originally training with Eliud Kipchoge, at the beginning of last year he decided to move to longer road races, advised by Patrick Sang and Valentijn Trouw, responsible of Global management.
As beginning, Stephen went to pace in Enschede (17th of April 2011) for 30 km, but, feeling good, decided to finish, winning the race in 2:07:20, National Ugandan Record. Due to this result, he was selected for World Championships in Daegu, and ran a anonymous race, finishing in 9th position with 2:12:57.
Looking at Olympics (in Uganda there are not trials, and he was automatically selected), following a strategy of growing in his international experience, this year he went to compete in Tokyo (26th February), obtained the 3rd position in 2:07:50.
The winning key is that he had more time, after Tokyo, for recovering and starting the full preparation again. In his case, there were 168 days of time, while in the case of Wilson Kipsang and Abel Kirui, both competing in London, 110 days only. This is a difference of almost 2 months, and is the reason because it was not possible to prepare Olympics reaching the same peak of shape for all the athletes running in April.
ANALYSIS OF THE COMPETITION.
The race started with a temperature a little bit hot, but not too much. The real problem the athletes had to face was the course, with a lot of turns and different kinds of surface (soft and hard asphalt an cobble stones), that at the end provoked muscle diseases and became the reason of slowing down during the last 10 km for the most part of runners.
All together in the first 5 km at moderate speed (15’23”), the group went at the same pace till 10 km (30’46”, 8” behind the Brasilian de Almeida, alone in front). At this point, WILSON KIPSANG (running with the name of KIPROTICH, that is his family name, also if everybody knows him as Kipsang) did something we can consider a big mistake, pushing the pace with an astonishing 14’11” till 15 km. Nobody wanted to follow him, but his action determined the creation of a small group of purchasers, with Abel Kirui, Stephen Kiprotich, Emmanuel Mutai, Ayele Abshero and Getu Feleke, 13” behind.
Wilson continued to stay in front, without pushing too much, running a split of 14’59” between 15k and 20k, exactly like the chasing group. Near 25 km, the gap started to become smaller : with 1:14:58 versus 1:15:05, Wilson was 7” only in front of the group, including only more Stephen Kiprotich, Abel Kirui and Ayele Abshero.
At 27 km, Kiprotich and Kirui closed the gap, while Abshero started to struggle, and had to let the others go.
At 30 km, 3 athletes in front in 1:30:15, the same at 35 km (1:46:03).
Abel and Wilson were normally in front, controlling one another, and probably not looking at Stephen as a possible winner…. So Stephen could be completely relaxed, and at 36 km decided to try, looking the two Kenyans controlling themselves.
Abel Kirui was the one having still fuel in the tank, but didn’t react immediately, still looking at Wilson, and in 2 km the gap was 20”. When Abel decided to try to go, suddenly Wilson lost, and was no more able to follow. Nothing changed till the end : Stephen Kiprotich became the 2nd Ugandan Olympic Champion after John Akii Bua, and was still fresh at the end, with Abel Kirui winning silver and Wilson Kipsang bronze.
Here there are the splits of the first 5 athletes, plus some of the most expected before, for 5 km :
Stephen Kiprotich UGA 2:08:01 (1:03:31 + 1:04:30)
(15:23 – 30:46 – 45:12 – 1:00:11 – 1:15:05 – 1:30:15 – 1:46:04 – 2:01:12 – 2:08:01)
(15:23 – 15:23 – 14:26 – 14:59 - 14:54 - 15:10 - 15:49 - 15:08 - 6:49
Abel Kirui KEN 2:08:27 (1:03:31 + 1:04:56)
(15:24 – 30:46 – 45:11 – 1:00:11 – 1:15:05 – 1:30:15 – 1:46:03 – 2:01:31 – 2:08:27)
(15:24 – 15:22 – 14:25 – 15:00 - 14:54 - 15:10 - 15:48 - 15:28 - 6:56)
Wilson Kipsang KEN 2:09:37 (1:03:15 + 1:06:22)
(15:23 – 30:47 – 44:58 – 59:57 – 1:14:58 – 1:30:15 – 1:46:03 – 2:02:03 – 2:09:37)
(15:23 – 15:24 – 14:11 – 14:59 - 15:01 - 15:17 - 15:48 - 16:00 - 7:34)
Meb Keflezighi USA 2:11:06 (1:04:30 + 1:06:36)
(15:25 – 30:46 – 45:37 – 1:01:00 – 1:16:47 – 1:32:17 – 1:48:16 – 2:04:11 – 2:11:06)
(15:25 – 15:21 – 14:51 – 15:23 - 15:47 - 15:30 - 15:59 - 15:55 - 6:55)
Marilson dos Santos BRA 2:11:10 (1:03:32 + 1:07:38)
(15:25 – 30:46 – 45:12 – 1:00:12 – 1:15:21 – 1:30:55 – 1:47:17 – 2:03:45 – 2:11:10)
(15:25 – 15:21 – 14:26 – 15:00 - 15:09 - 15:34 - 16:22 - 16:28 - 7:25)
Emmanuel Mutai KEN 2:14:49 (1:04:03 + 1:10:46)
(15:23 – 30:46 – 45:12 – 1:00:35 – 1:16:27 – 1:32:18 – 1:49:39 – 2:07:04 – 2:14:49)
(15:23 – 15:23 – 14:26 – 15:23 - 15:52 - 15:51 - 17:21 - 17:25 - 7:45)
Ruggero Pertile ITA 2:12:45 (1:04:57 + 1:07:48)
(15:28 – 30:46 – 45:43 – 1:01:28 – 1:17:24 – 1:33:28 – 1:50:06 – 2:05:57 – 2:12:45)
(15:28 – 15:18 – 14:57 – 15:45 - 15:54 - 16:04 - 16:38 - 15:51 - 6:48)
We saw a race nobody could suppose before. There are some points emerging with evidence in the final result :
- In all the Athletic History, only once an athlete selected in a Spring Marathon for Olympic and/or World Championships was able to win. This happened in 2008, when Sammy Wanjiru ran London (but the winner was Martin Lel). All the other times, never who had to peak in a Spring Marathon for being selected was able to reach again the same level of shape for the top Championship.
Personally, I had this experience for the first time in 2000, when Elijah Lagat, at that time training with me, won Boston, considered as selection by Athletic Kenya, and in Sydney competed very bad. I had also an opposite experience in 2011, when Abel Kirui was out of shape in London Marathon, but able to reach his seasonal top in the right period for winning World Championships.
- This fact is not connected with the physical fatigue of the competition, but with the nervous energies the athletes have to spend for focusing for being selected. This is specifically a problem of Kenya and Ethiopia, that can produce a lot of runners able to win a medal. For example, in the past we had top Champions, like the Italian Olympic Champion 2004 Stefano Baldini, or the Portuguese World Champion for women Manuela Machado, always able to be at their top shape in the Championships (in summer, Baldini won also 2 bronze medal in World Championships and 2 gold medals in European Championships, Manuela Machado won 1 gold and 2 silver in WCh, 2 gold in European Championships), always running London in a good, but never maximal, personal shape. It’s very different to train about 4 months for a shape of 90%, that you can use as base for the next step, or for a shape of 100%, from which you need to recover the full nervous energies.
- This is confirmed by the results of today, and also of one week ago with the women competition. All the athletes in top shape in London (Mary Keitany and Edna Kiplagat, Wilson Kipsang and Abel Kirui) or in Rotterdam (Getu Feleke), today had different efficiency, but nobody could be at his top. We had only two exceptions, all belonging to the women marathon : the Champion Tiki Gelana, winner in Rotterdam in very tough conditions with 2:18:57, and Prisca Jeptoo, 3rd in London and silver in Olympics. But also in this case, we can say they didn’t have any mental pressure in the race: in the case of the Ethiopian, she had only to run fast, having big margin for being selected, male pacers and the second in Rotterdam very far ; in the case of Prisca, she had to cut a part of training for some injury, and this fact made her more mentally relaxed.
- The system of selection used by Ethiopians (the best times with a dead line of 30th April) never can work. It’s too much difficult to compare different marathon, and too many times athletes able to run wonderful times are not able to manage a competition without pacers and different weather conditions. Two of the Ethiopians were selected from Dubai Marathon. I was there, and can tranquilly say the difference between Dubai and London, for example, was of more than 1:00, probably 2:00. In Dubai (that is not shorter) everything was perfect : temperature, humidity, no wind, course, pace. Ayele Abshero had only to stay in the group, at even pace, for 40 km before increasing his speed at the end. In the group of Ethiopians, I had one athlete selected for Olympics, Dino Sefir, and asked to the Technical Director not to select him, because not yet mature for an event like Olympics. He had only another marathon like experience, in 2:10:23, and Abshero was in his first marathon…. Really, Ethiopia had a strange selection, with a big mistake leaving at home the most expert and adapted for this type of course : Tsegaye Kebede.
- Wilson Kipsang, able to dominate Frankfurt last year and London this spring, general favorite because of his great ability in “reading” inside his body, had an action completely opposite to his normal behavior. I explained him and Abel their shape was not more than 90%, and that they needed to be tranquil till 30 km before trying something important, because in any case the other athletes, at 100%, were weaker than them. Probably Wilson felt the pressure there was in the Kenyan Committee, and followed his instinct without using the ability in reading the race, that is his best quality. In a course like this, to go for a split of 14:11 after 10 km is something crazy, and at the end he paid.
- Abel Kirui demonstrated that is really stronger than what people think, and this silver can qualify also his two World Titles. He always had some problem before the Major, for example, before London this year he suffered for stomach problems, that didn’t allow him to finish in 2nd position, due to the “helicobacter pilori”, that only after the race was possible to investigate and remove. So, I that follow him daily, well know his value is very much better than the results he obtained in the Major marathons. I think he can still improve his time, running in perfect conditions under 2:04:00.
- Also if not in top shape, nobody can stay with these athletes. If not other Kenyans or Ethiopians, when they are at their best. The experience of Meb Keflezighi showed that in this type of competitions the ability to distribute in the right way the energies, and to modulate the personal speed looking at the full distance, is the main attitude for being competitive.
- In a course like this, it’s not possible to achieve good results if the athletes have some small physical problem. A small hamstring, a pain in the back, a blister in one foot, become going ahead a limit the athletes cant overtake, because under muscular point of view the body has to suffer every time there is a turn or a change of surface.
- Wilson Kipsang didn’t get water several times, and this is another mistake he have to avoid in the future. In the past, he never used to drink too much, but he ran all his marathon in cold conditions. This is another demonstration that marathon is not a distance, but every marathon can be a different event, and must be prepared knowing exactly the situations the athletes have to face.