MARATHON MEN : ONE CLEAR FAVORITE, BUT MANY RANDOM VARIABLES CAN PROVOKE SOME SURPRISE.
The previews about the weather for the marathon of tomorrow say the temperature can be about 21°C, with conditions very much better than during the marathon for women. If really the situation is according to these previews, the race can be more predictable, because hot and humidity can completely change the technical value of each runner.
With or without high temperature, there is only one clear favorite : the Ethiopian Tsigey Kebede, the shortest athlete in the competition, but the biggest champion in the field.
Kebede (160m x 50 kg), still young (now officially 27), already has wide experience, having run 9 times under 2:07:00, with 6 victories, 2 times 2nd position and 1 time 3rd position. In 2008 he started running marathon winning in Paris and Fukuoka, and won the bronze medal in Olympic Games. In 2009 was 2nd in London and bronze medal in WCh, before winning Fukuoka again. In 2010 won London, and lost from Wanjiru in Chicago, after an unforgettable duel which is in the history of the specialism. In 2011, when was injured for long time, and went to his marathons with too short preparation, was 5th in London and 3rd in New York. In 2012 solved his problems, again finishing 3rd in London before winning Chicago. This year, finally, he dominated London, showing a continuity nobody else demonstrated during the last 6 years.
Many times Ethiopians are not ready for the competition in Summer. In marathon, there is a big difference in the interest of the athletes between Olympic Games and World Championships. If everybody wants to go to Olympics, normally the top runners are not interested to run World Championships, because only the gold medal can give some advantage for their career, while already a silver can lower their market quotation in the world of marathons, where the amount of appearance frequently is bigger than the official prize of the race.
For that reason, there is big difference in the behavior of Kenyan and Ethiopian Federations with their best athletes : AK, after some year with bad results, decided to have a wide lists of athletes who could be selected, asking them who really was interested in preparing at his best WCh. This is what happened in 2011, when Abel Kirui and Vincent Kipruto asked to be in the Team, having strong motivation for a medal (Abel for defending his title, Kipruto because never had a medal in some Championship), and also what happened this year, when for example Wilson Kipsang asked to be let off the Team, looking for the attempt of WR in Berlin at the end of September.
On the contrary, Ethiopian Federation decided (and still decides) to select the best names, without asking them if are interested or not. Many Ethiopians are not competitive when the weather is hot and humid (Addis Ababa is at 2400m of altitude, therefore fresh and dry), others already have good contracts for running in autumn some important marathon, and, after running a strong marathon in spring, don’t have the possibility to recover and to prepare at their best another marathon in the middle of the season. But, because they are threatened to be not allowed to run in autumn if they refuse the selection, they obey going in the race, without any motivation and without proper training.
Another big difference between the two Federation is that AK allows the athletes competing in the marathon top continue the preparation with their own coaches, and the National responsible has only a task of support under organizational point of view. This was what David Letting did last year, and is what Kiplimo did this year.
Instead, Ethiopian Federation wants the athletes to train under the national coaches, who have very less specific knowledge about marathon training than the coaches of the athletes.
In both the men and women fields, in Ethiopia the athletes are followed by 3 different coaches : Getaneh (coach of Kebede, Tiki Gelana, Meselech Melkamu, Meseret Hailu and several other men, working with the Global Sport of Jos Hermens), Gemedu (coach of Aselefech Mergia, Aberu Kebede, Feyse Tadese Boru, Dino Sefir and many other men and women working with the group of Gianni Demadonna), and Haji (coach of Lelisa and other national athletes male and female). But the Federation didn’t want any involvement of these coaches during the last phase of preparation for Olympic, for example, with the only exception of Tiki Gelana, because she could have the continue assistance of Getaneh after bettering the National Record running under 2:19:00 in Rotterdam.
For that reason, I think that Kebede can be ready, because he has personality enough for imposing his own technical choices, while I’m not too much confident in the shape and motivation of the other Ethiopians.
If they are ok, Desisa Lelisa can have a good shot, after winning Dubai in 2:04:45, best seasonal time, and Boston with 2:10:22. But the fact he already ran 2 top marathons this year makes me thinking very difficult for him to have a good shape in WCh. Same consideration for Tadese Tola, 2:04:49 in Dubai and 2:06:33 in Paris at the beginning of April.
About Kenyans, there is a future marathon star, in my opinion, who is Bernard Koech. Still very young (born in 1991), brother of a World Champion of short cross some year ago (Enock Koech), after the beginning of career in 1500m (3:44.3 in 2011), last year showed great attitudes in Half Marathon, and this year improved a lot, running 58:41 in San Diego at the beginning of June, after his debut in the full marathon in Dubai, when immediately ran 2:04:53.
Bernard Koech, such as Bernard Kipyego (good talent, but never a winner) and Michael Kipyego (in the past finalist in 3000m steeple, moved to marathon in 2011 with 2:06:48 of Personal best), are coached by Patrick Sang, who is also the coach of the Olympic Champion from Uganda, Stephen Kiprotich, who always was good in hot conditions, but had this year several problems, with a car accident and a bad fall during a training session.
I don’t’ think Peter Some can repeat the same shape of Paris : if possible, can be a real shot for the podium.
Nicholas Kipkemboi is a runner of good level, but not a particular talent, so can reach a good final position, but cannot win.
One athlete who could have good chances is the Eritrean Samuel Tsegay. He went in Kenya, at Iten, for training at the beginning of March, and grew a lot in specific endurance, showing application and mental focus. This attitudes, connected with a good natural talent, could produce one of the most interesting runners of the competition. However, during the last period Tsegay had some personal problem (the death of his father), and he had to leave Kenya going home, without training for more than 20 days. When he came back Iten, his shape was still good in shorter events, but during two sessions of long run showed to have less endurance than two months before, so how he can run Saturday is a mystery…
In this race, we have also some interesting Japanese runner. One of them, probably the best, is Kazuhiro Maeda, who in Tokyo (24th of February) ran 2:08:00, with a very clever distribution of energies.
But the most interesting, not for his technical value, but for the interpretation he has about athletics, is Yuki Kawauchi, famed because is a full-time worker, training with personal systems, very far from the Japanese school.
Kawauchi likes running marathons, and in less than 5 years already finished 24 competitions on that distance.
He ran 3 times in 2009 (2:19:26 – 2:18:18 – 2:17:33), 2 times in 2010 (2:12:36 – 2:17:54), that means in less than 3 years he ran already 19 marathons (Moscow will be the 20th), increasing the number every year : 5 times in 2011 (2:08:37 – 2:16:11 – 2:14:31 – 2:09:57 : 2:12:33), 8 times in 2012 (2:12:51 – 2:22:38 – 2:12:58 – 2:13:26 – 2:18:38 – 2:11:52 – 2:10:29 – 2:10:46), and already 6 times this year before Moscow, bettering two times his PB in Oita (winner with 2:08:15 on 3rd February) and in Seoul (4th in 2:08:14 on 17th March).
Also if his system can be considered an exception, Kawauchi can contribute to change the behavior of many runners about marathon, teaching that to be too much conservative sometimes is the worst way for reaching the personal best.
5000m WOMEN : DEFAR GOES TO THE TOP AGAIN.
The other final of tomorrow is 5000m for women.
Like in 10000m, when Dibaba was not beatable, also in 5000m there is only one winner : Meseret Defar, one span higher than the other finalists.
In 5000m, Defar won Olympic Gold in 2004 and 2012, and bronze medal in 2008 ; and won, in WCh, gold in 2007, silver in 2005, bronze in 2009 and 2011, when was not in top shape for a form of anaemia that last year finally was able to win.
In the two previous editions of WCh, the podium was the sam, with Vivian Cheruiyot winner, Sylvia Kibet silver and Meseret bronze, and this fact put in the mind of Kenyans that was possible to look for Gold medal in this event and in 10000m. Everybody forgot that Vivian Cheruiyot, and in 2009 Lineth Masai in 10000m, were able winning only when Dibaba was not in the race, or when Defar had some problem. But, when they are in full shape, nobody in the World can compete with them, and of sure also in this championships the situation will be the same.
Giving gold medal to Defar, who are the candidates for the other medals ?
I see three athletes for two medals : the Kenyan Mercy Cherono and Viola Kibiwott, and the Ethiopian Almaz Ayana.
Mercy Cherono is still very young (21 years), and won World Junior Championships in this event two times (2008 and 2010). She is very fast (4:02 in 1500m) and has a good final kick, but too many times suffers for tendon problems.
Her PB (14:35.13) is two years old, but this year she recovered a good shape, winning Trials at the end of a very tactical race. However, in her seasonal best (14:42.43) she was only 5th in Oslo.
Under this point of view, Viola Kibiwott, 30 years old and big experience, has, in my opinion, more chances for the silver medal.
She improved till 14:33.48 in the same race of Oslo (13th June), second behind Defar (winner with 14:26.90), giving 9 seconds to Mercy Cherono.
However, it was a different race, because tomorrow we can see for more than 2 km a very slow race. But Viola, with her 3:59 in 1500m and some improvement in her final speed, can’t fear any solution, compared with Cherono and the second Ethiopian, who is the real surprise of the last month.
Almaz Ayana was a good specialists of steeple for long time, beating the World Junior Record with 9:22:51 during Bruxelles meeting (27th August 2010), and always remained in this event, till this year in July, when was entered in the Diamond League of Saint Denis and, with the surprise of everybody, herseld included, exploded with 14:25.84 behind Dibaba.
Due to the criteria of Ethiopian federation (the selection is based on the best seasonal times), she was selected for the team, and now is in contention for a medal.
Personally, I think she can have some less final speed than the two Kenyans, looking at her finals in the races of steeple, but in any case we have to discover everything about this runner, for understanding if she can be a great champion in the future, or if her excellent performance in Paris was fruit of a particular connection of favourable situations, difficult to find again in the future.
The other Ethiopian, World Junior Champion last year (Buze Diriba), can be far from the top 4, having run 4 times under 14:53 but never under 14:50, and this means she’s affordable at that level, but doesn’t have the qualities, at the moment, for a real skip of quality in order to defeat the athletes I named above.
What for the athletes of the “other World” ?
If the race is tactic, Shannon Rowbury can have good chances for a position immediately behind the best 4, also fighting with Diriba.For all the others, a position in top 8 depends on the development of the race and on the motivation, because really nobody can be considered athlete of experience in this type of competition, and their current level is practically the same.