Back To Work - Geoffrey Mutai Returns To Boston After Dropping 2:03:02 Bomb of Awesomeness in 2011

Women's Champion Caroline Kilel, Narrow Winner in 2011 over Davila, Faces Tough Field

By Emory Mort
April 13, 2012

Editor's note: LetsRun.com Employee #1 Emory Mort went to Kenya to participate in the IAAF's Day in the Life project and he shares some of the wisdom gleaned from that trip in this first series on the Kenyan Marathon men. Mort got to spend twenty days in Kenya - and met with four (world record holder Patrick Makau, double marathon world champ Abel Kirui, 2:03:42 man Wilson Kipsang, London champ Emmanuel Mutai) of the six Kenyan men trying to make the Kenyan Olympic team over eight days starting Sunday in Rotterdam, then Boston (Monday), and London (next Sunday). While the IAAF paid for portions of Mort's trip, they had no say on the article below.

Previously In This Series: Prologue: 8 Days for Glory - A Kenya-Flavored Preview of the Upcoming Men's Marathon World Record Assault
*#1: A Look At The Incredible Moses Mosop As He Takes To The Streets Of Rotterdam: "Moses has speed that has never been seen."

"Boston was a competition making history," famed Italian coach Renato Canova says emphatically. "It can change the history of the marathon." It's February and I'm in Iten, Kenya with Renato talking marathoning, in particular the 2011 Boston Marathon. For Renato and me, Boston changing the history of the marathon, as he would say "is not a problem."

"It was a disaster for the sport," says my disgusted friend from Barcelona, referring to the 2011 marathon world-record debate that ensued after Geoffrey Mutai and Moses Mosop absolutely obliterated not simply time but mental limits of most onlookers. I scoffed at this assertion or at least tried to in my best Spanish, "Unfortunately what you're forgetting is that Boston is interesting because it has hills and history and it's point-to-point... Boston has made itself more interesting with this quirky result." He continued, undeterred, "People will not understand how someone runs faster than the world record but is not the world-record holder. It is terrible."

"The athletes were agreed to give me the watch (sic). Competing with a free mind," Renato, a mentor to both Mutai and Kirui, recalled about the 2011 start line, "Ryan Hall provided a perfect pacing of 61:58."


2:03:02  for 26.2

The good news for the good ol' folks at Johnny Hancock and the Boston Marathon is they staged the most exciting event of 2011, from which both of the winners return, including hands-down the world's most explosive marathoner of 2011 Geoffrey Mutai. The bad news for Boston is... how do you top 2011? Especially when the top Americans (no offense, Nick (Arciniaga) and Jason (Hartmann)) have opted out because of the recently-run Olympic trials. Unless you're an in-depth follower of the sport, a women's elite field that consists of 3 Russians, 5 Ethiopians and 8 Kenyans doesn't have much "home-town appeal", that is unless you live in Iten, Irkutsk or Bekoji. In times when the marathon and distance running is flooded with competitors primarily from one part of the world, the rest of the world is forced to adapt.

But never fear, sports fans... there is hope!!

Thanks to the 2011 elites, the Boston Marathon representeda paradigm shifter. In an era of flat, paced courses, Boston and New York put up the big-tops for some quality circus-like (I won't say "better") competitions. Last year, New York was a very exciting race on the women's side because Mary Keitany went out so ridiculously fast that either she was going to set a massive course record or have a massive meltdown. Well, instead of either she had a meltdown, but when she got caught, she somehow sped back up for a while and looked like she might win. That is rarely seen from a dying marathoner, and rarely seen in a rabbitted race.

Reviewing Boston 2011 - Men's Marathoning Gets A Chiropractic Boundary Adjustment
What Mutai and Mosop did on the men's side in Boston last year still leaves many in the "rational world" grasping for "logical" answers. People wanted to label it a freak performance, but both runners would go on to cement themselves as legitimate game-changers by breaking NYC and Chicago records in the fall. Renato says the wind was not as big of a factor as people make it out to be, saying it was often a cross-wind and not nearly as strong as in other years. "One year," he proclaimed, "when Uta Pippig ran 2:21, the wind was so strong at her back that she was running and her hair was in front her face."


2:05:52 used to be
superfast in Boston

Now, I'm not saying that Renato is the one and only objective source we should all look to for analysis (although I must admit he's pretty much the only guy I am talking to... yea they didn't teach me this in journalism school), but I think if we're honest with ourselves we're all kind of wondering just how much - or how little - those times from 2011 were skewed by "favorable conditions". Remember, unlike most courses today, Boston has these archaic features on its course called hills, typically observed to slow down the runner. So how great was Mutai's run in 2011?

Canova, in my opinion, is a good coach partly because he's willing to call it like it is. At the very least he's interesting. And he's not Mutai's coach, so he's not totally attached to the outcome. Let's get to some stats. As of April 19th, 2010, the fastest any man had run on Boston was 2:07:14. Robert K Cheruiyot then ran 2:05:52 on April 20th (unfortunately he is injured this year and though scheduled to compete will not be running). By April of 2012, we're sitting and looking at a course record that is 4 minutes faster than it was two years ago. How much was the wind? How much was the perfect pacing by Hall? How much was the amazing strength of Geoffrey Mutai and the army of amazing Kenyan athletes keeping him motivated and global times dropping? And this fact is fascinating: If Mutai's 2011 Boston performance was so skewed by wind, then what explains his 158-second shattering of the ING NYC Marathon record a few months later? To me the richness of the wrecking-crew that is Geoffrey Mutai comes from a combination of all of the facets, including the amazing effort of Moses Mosop who according to Canova split a 14:07 between 35 and 40k to almost catch Mutai in Boston.

Before we go any further, I just think it's worth pointing out how few of us would have predicted something like a 2:03:02 and a 2:03:06 (debut) marathon duel at Boston in 2011. I dare say that the most important thing we can take away from the Boston Marathon is that limits and preconceived notions of what's possible are boundaries made to be broken. Geoffrey Mutai pushed marathoning ahead by what would have been considered a light year in 2011. If you told your friend that someone was going to nearly run 2:02 in Boston... c'mon you wouldn't even have said that. I think it's worth asking... what boundaries are bound to be eclipsed? By what incredible margins? And... are we ready!? To me, this kind of novelty is exciting, and it can be found in nearly every human endeavour, for better or worse.

(Editor's addition: We certainly agree that the 2011 Boston race was transformative and that it helped break the limits humans were putting on themselves in the marathon but the fact of the matter is John Kellog (JK) basically predicted a 2:03 in Boston before the race started, once he saw the weather forecast. Thus as much as Canova and crew want to think the wind didn't play a big role in last year's race, we think it very much did. As JK wrote before the race: "A near-20 mph tailwind might chop three or four minutes off someone's finishing time. A sub-2:03:59 clocking wouldn't actually shock me. I'll tell you this - if Boston had rabbits and the field that is assembled for the 2011 London marathon was running with a time bonus on the line, I'd actually be a little surprised if someone didn't run the fastest marathon time ever recorded.").

Mutai in 2012
How fit is Geoffrey Mutai this year?  According to Renato (remember of the six Kenyans going for the four Olympic spots, the two guys I did not meet with - Geoffrey and Moses are running this weekend), who hasn't heard much from Geoffrey, he's back to full strength after a racing respite. He'll face a very tough Boston field that is one of the most talented they've ever had in terms of time simply because there aren't top Americans taking disproportionately large chunks of appearance money.

Top Ethiopian competition comes in the form of Gebre Gebremariam (2:04:53, 2010 NYC Champ, 3rd Boston last yr) and Tadese Tola (2:05:10, significant half-marathon success).

Despite impressive Ethiopian competitors, more danger to Mutai probably comes from the up-and-coming Kenyan contingent. Where to begin? Matthew Kisorio, Levy Matebo, Bernard Kipyego, Wesley Korir and Wilson Chebet are five standouts among 10+ Kenyan elites. I'm not going to list them all so I'll start with 22-year-old Matebo out of the Gianni Demadonna camp who finished in 2:05 last year in Frankfurt. Then there's 2011 Amsterdam (2:05:27) and Rotterdam (2:05:53) champion Chebet, who took both in 2:05. American fan favorite Wesley Korir (Louisville grad), who finished #2 in Chicago last year behind Mosop, is running Boston for the first time after his first loss in the L.A. marathon in 2011. While I was in Iten I heard Korir had fallen ill, so I hope he is better now because he seems to provide marathon surprise after surprise. Kisorio, young and trained by Claudio Berardelli and Dr. Rosa, set a US All-Comers record last year in Philly (58:46). Bernard Kipyego was 3rd at Chicago in 2011 out of the Patrick Sang camp (training partners with London Champ Emmanuel Mutai). No doubt that in terms of times, Boston has a better field than they ever notched in previous years.

Remember, Geoffrey Mutai probably needs a win to go to the Olympics. He's going to have a stiff test but according to Renato, "Frankly, I don't think there are big problems for Geoffrey." What will people think of the 2011 record if Mutai runs 2:04-mid in 2012? What about 2:03-high? Something interesting to think about.

Relive Boston 2011
2011 Boston Photo Gallery Here

Women's Race - Chance For Emerging Star Resume Builder
In Boston last year, both races were tremendous, and I certainly don't want to shortchange the 2012 women's race, which is deep as well. The women's side was an absolutely fantastic competition to the wire in 2011. In case you forgot American Desiree Davila came oh so close to winning it. Caroline Kilel, the winner, is back, but Desiree Davila is not. 3rd- and 4th-placers Sharon Cherop and Caroline Rotich are back along with the Ethiopian duo Firewot Dado and Bezunesh Daba who went 1-2 in overtaking Keitany last November in Central Park. These are runners who do well competing without pace-makers; very tough.

Looking at the women's race, if I'm the organizers I'm hoping for a multi-person battle late into the race. It's a race that's too hard to call. I don't see anyone in the field who is going to try and run away with it. Of course, this means someone probably will! Finding out who is not easy. Some women had success late last year, but haven't run as well lately. Or they're running well lately, but haven't hit it big yet. The women's race might be interesting because none of the women in it are yet truly "big names" like Keitany, Shobukhova, etc. But, in some cases a 2012 Boston win will make a resume that has 2 big wins instead of 1, which is a big difference.

Previously In This Series: Prologue: 8 Days for Glory - A Kenya-Flavored Preview of the Upcoming Men's Marathon World Record Assault
*#1: A Look At The Incredible Moses Mosop As He Takes To The Streets Of Rotterdam: "Moses has speed that has never been seen."
Notes: --------------

Boston Weather forecast as of Thursday at 11:08 pm:

Looks like the athletes will enjoy another tail-wind but it's going to be hot.

Weather.com: High 78. Winds From WSW at 12 mph.
Wunderground.com
: Partly cloudy in the morning, then mostly cloudy. High of 75F. Winds from the NNW at 10 to 15 mph shifting to the ENE in the afternoon.

-------------

Boston Men: So much talent! Elite Field
Geoffrey Mutai the cream of the crop
Wilson Chebet, Rotterdam and Amsterdam Champion, 2011, both 2:05's
Wesley Korir, 2nd in Chicago 2011 to Moses Mosop
Gebre Gebremariam, winner New York 2010, 3rd Boston 2011
Levy Matebo is affiliated with Gianni Demadonna's group. 2:05:15 Frankfurt, 2011
Robert K Cheruiyot is a scratch

-----------------

Returning champion Caroline Kilel is a veteran, won over Desi in 2011
Mamitu Daska won Frankfurt in 2011 in CR 2:21, only 9th in Dubai in January
1,2 from ING NYC Firewot Dado and Bezunesh Daba
Cherop, Sharon, 3rd in Boston last year 4 seconds behind Desi
Bogomolova, Galina is 34, coming back from maternity leave, ran 2:20 in 2006 to win Chicago
Agnes Kiprop 2:23 pb Frankfurt 2011
Rotich, Caroline HS in Japan, CR at NYC Half in 2011, 4th Boston 2011 

--------------

Rotterdam weather update. I've done a little research and based on a slightly better weather forecast and a look at the course map, I still think we can hold out some hope for fast times in Rotterdam on Sunday.

Rotterdam Course Map

Rotterdam Weather: 15-25mph winds NNE (was 20-25), high of 50 (was 45), looks like miles 7-8, 10-14, 17-21 will be into the wind (about ⅓ of the race, which is not too bad)

*** 8 Days of Glory Series: The Kenyan Marathoning Greats
Prologue:
8 Days for Glory - A Kenya-Flavored Preview of the Upcoming Men's Marathon World Record Assault
Episode 1 Moses Mosop*: "Moses has speed that has never been seen."
Episode 2  Geoffrey Mutai Returns to Boston: A Look Back At Boston 2011 And A Look Ahead To Monday's 116th Running

Episode 3 Mary Keitany* Meet the Amazing Mary Keitany
Episode 4 Abel Kirui* The Electric Marathoner
Bonus Episode: Wilson Kipsang*:  2012 Virgin London Marathon Champion
"If I had to compare him to an NFL quarterback, I'd compare him to Peyton Manning."
Episode 6: 8 Days of Glory Surprise: What We've Learned from the Kenyan Olympic Selection Process

*on the 2012 Kenyan Olympic Team

More
London 2012:
Women: 
Mary Keitany Runs Fastest Final 10km In Marathon History To Repeat & Become The #3 Performer In History
Men: A New #1: Wilson Kipsang Destroys One Of Greatest Marathon Fields In History 

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