2012 Boston Marathon Men's Preview: Can Anyone Possibly Stop Geoffrey Mutai?

Plus John Kellogg Guesses What Impact The Weather Will Have On The Race

By LetsRun.com
April 13, 2012

Before we get to our preview of the 2012 Boston Marathon, let's take a step back. Heading into the race two years ago (2010), the course record at Boston was 2:07:14. No one had even run 2:06 on the course. Now thanks to the revolution in men's marathoning and last year's gale-force tail-wind, the course record is 2:03:02.

Robert Kiprono Cheruiyot's 2:05:52 was considered revolutionary in 2010 until Geoffrey Mutai ran 2:03:02 last year.

A 2:03:02 in Boston was a time that was basically unfathomable for everyone on the planet to consider before it happened, save one. LetsRun.com coaching guru John Kellogg basically predicted the fact that a 2:03:02 was possible before last year's race. (Although to be fair, he did say after the race if forced to make a time prediction before hand he would have said 2:04).

Now that we've gotten the self promotion out of the way, let's break down the race.

Mutai #1 In The World
Mutai is back and as a result he of course is the favorite. If his 2:03:02 last year wasn't impressive enough, the his 2:05:06 course record win in New York should have definitely erased any doubt people had about him.

Two wins and course records at World Marathon Majors in 2011 mean Mutai comes in as the #1 marathoner in the world.

And Mutai has shown good fitness early in 2012 as he won the Kenyan Police cross-country champs in January and was third in another XC race Kenya in February.

That means likely he's in good shape and he was the #1 guy in the world last year. So he definitely wins, right?

Not so fast.

The world of marathoning is so competitive on the men's side these days that the world's #1 marathoner in a totally stacked race like, say, London almost certainly has less than a 50% chance of winning. It's sort of like one of those golf questions from back when in Tiger Woods was in his prime - "Do you want Tiger or the field?" Well, the field is normally the smart pick as even in his prime, Tiger wasn't winning half the time. Well, Boston isn't as stacked as London, but a very strong field has been assembled this year and Mutai's victory is by no means assured. There are seven others in the field who have run sub-2:07 in their careers plus a few others who still might win.

We start with 4 who could win.

4 Who Could Beat Mutai


Matthew Kisorio Running Fast In Philly

1. Matthew Kisorio - Kenya  2:10:58 (New York, 2011) - Kisorio is a half marathon ace whom we hyped before his New York City marathon debut in the fall. Well, that debut didn't go so well, as he was only 8th in 2:10:58. But that's not going to deter us. Back in 2009, we hyped Patrick Makau prior to his New York City marathon debut and Makau dropped out. But our faith in Makau wasn't off base, as he's now the marathon world record holder.

We still believe Kisorio is going to be a marathon star - it's just a matter of when.

As we explained last fall:

    At LetsRun.com, we've long had an affinity for hyping the marathon debuts of guys who have great half marathon PRs, as the stats reveal that a super-fast half marathon almost always EVENTUALLY equals a super-fast marathon PR. In 2008, we hyped Evans Cheruiyot's debut in Chicago and in 2009 we hyped Patrick Makau's debut in New York. In Cheruiyot's case, we were immediately rewarded with a 2:06:25 win and while Makau dropped out in New York, our faith in him has certainly be justified as he now holds the world record.

    Well, there is therefore little reason to not hype Kisorio. Kisorio ran 58:46 in Philadelphia this fall and is the 3rd-fastest half marathoner in history. Of the 10 fastest half marathoners in history that have finished a marathon, 5 of them have run UNDER 2:05 for the marathon. A 6th is a guy with the name of Sammy Wanjiru, who was arguably the greatest marathoner in history and had a 2:05:10 PR. A 7th is Cheruiyot, who won Chicago in 2:06:25. 70% of them have been TOTAL studs in the marathon. Only three have been subpar.

Kisorio certainly has the half marathon credentials. And he's shown good fitness so far this year. In January, he raced Boston favorite Geoffrey Mutai in a Kenya XC meet and finished just one spot and 11 seconds behind him. He then ran a 60:02 half marathon in early February.

And remember, he's still only 22.

If Mutai is at 100%, Kisorio is the one guy in the field we see somehow giving him a run for his money, as this guy is seemingly the real deal.

2. Wilson Chebet - Kenya  2:05:27 (Rotterdam, 2011) - The 26-year-old emerged as one of the world's elite marathoners last year as he twice ran 2:05 - winning both Rotterdam (2:05:27) and Amsterdam (2:05:53) in the process. 4 times he's gone under 60:00 for 13.1. He only ran 63:40 at the RAK half in February but people need to remember it was very windy that day.

A consistent 2:05 guy is very good, but people need to realize that Mutai almost ran 2:04 on the hilly New York course 2:05:06. 2:05 is not as impressive as it once was as scary as that is to say.


Tola All Alone In NYC In 2009

3. Tadese Tola - Ethiopia  2:05:10 (Dubai, 2012) - LetsRun knows the 24-year-old Tola very well, as back in 2009 he absolutely ran away from the field at the start of the NYC Half Marathon (picture left). That success didn't immediately translate into marathon success, but Tola seems to be getting the hang of it. A 2:15 in 2009 was improved to 2:06 in 2010 and now he's almost run 2:04, as earlier this year he ran 2:05:10 in Dubai. The crazy thing is that result only got him 5th place (see our "2:05 is not as impressive as it once was" comment above), so he needs to improve and probably win Boston if he's going to make the Ethiopian Olympic team. DNF in Boston last year.

4. Gebregziabher Gebremariam - Ethiopia  2:04:53 (Boston, 2011) - The only other major winner in the field besides Mutai, Gebremariam was the 2010 New York champ and Boston third placer last year last year when he ran 2:04:53. He's consistently good, as he was then 4th in New York.

And he's in decent enough shape, as he ran 61:23 half marathon for 3rd place (winner was 61:07) in Morocco on April 1st. If he's not in the top five, we'd be stunned, but we just don't think he's in the same class as Mutai, which in some ways is crazy, as the guy is former World Cross-Country champion (2009).

3 Long Shots
 At the bottom of our 2012 Boston preview, we give you some info on all of the elite men, but we wanted to mention three more to pay particular attention to if you are looking for a real long shot to put your money support behind.

1. David Barmasai - Kenya  2:07:18 (Dubai, 2011) - Boston has only given him bib #10 but he should not be overlooked. Prior to last year's World Champs, Barmasai was undefeated for his life in the marathon and one of those resulted in a $250,000 1st prize as he won the 2011 Dubai Marathon in stiff winds in 2:07:18. Didn't do poorly in Daegu as he was 5th.

2. Josphat Ndambiri - Kenya  2:07:36 (Fukuoka, 2011) - The Japan-based Kenyan is another guy who is buried in the Boston media guide but someone who could surprise if Mutai falters. He was the 2007 Kenyan 10,000m champ and has gone sub-27 on the track for 10,000. His marathon debut last December resulted in a victory in Fukuoka.

3. Peter Kamais - Kenya  2:07:37 (Xiamen, 2012) CR - The 35-year-old Kamais is a late bloomer. The surprise winner of the 2010 NYC Half hadn't really had a good marathon until earlier this year when he lowered his PR from his 2:09:50 11th place showing in Boston last year to 2:07:37 in Xiamen, China, where he won and beat fellow Boston competitor Dickson Chumba in the process.

The Weather
One more thing - the weather forecast for Boston calls for yet another tailwind. It won't quite be like the Once In A (Marathon) Lifetime Conditions that took place last year, however. For one thing, the wind is expected to be about 12 mph and not around 20. Additionally, it's going to be pretty hot as the high is being forecasted for 78  86 on Monday. So most likely during the race it will be between 65 to 70 73 and 80 degrees with a decent tailwind and 37 56% humidity. (The forecast keeps getting worse and worse). Compare that to last year when the temps were in the lows 50s and there was a 20 mph assisting wind.

What does that mean? Well, LetsRun.com guru John Kellogg (JK) said that 15 degrees warmer and 8 mph less aiding wind means that the performances will probably be about 2:00 to 2:30 slower than last year. "If these guys run exactly as well as they did last year, I'd say expect a winning time in the low 2:05s. My first guess would actually be a high 2:05, as last year they basically had a pacesetter in Ryan Hall. But hardly anything these guys do nowadays would shock me too much anymore. The marathon marks have taken a similar big jump to the one the 5,000 times took when Geb lowered the WR 12:44 in 1995, and the super-elites have been running faster than I think they will almost every time they race. But to be truthful, I'd like to take a look at it a little bit closer to the start when there is a more accurate forecast." (Note JK made this prediction when the high was predicted as 78)

LRC Prediction: We'll wait until probably Monday morning to make our official prediction and we'll post it on the message board. We want to see what if anything is revealed at the press conference on Friday and check the weather (For an update on Friday's press conference click here)


According to race organizers, the full elite field for the 2012 Boston Marathon is as follows. Those that are in red are the 5 guys we think are most likely to win it. Those in green are the long shots to pay attention to. They are listed in the order of their pbs.

Think the field is super fast? So do we. Last year the field had two guys who had run 2:06. This year it has five. Why so many more? A couple of reason. One as we've said throughout, 2:05 isn't what it once was. Prior to last year 38 times someone had ever run under 2:06. It's been done 26 times since.

The other thing is money. The appearance fees for Americans like Ryan Hall are very expensive. Take him out of the equation and Boston has more money to attract other talent.

Geoffrey Mutai - Kenya  2:03:02 (Boston, 2011) CR/WB - New York and Boston course record holder. Need we say more? No, but we will. Showed good fitness early in 2012 as he won the Kenyan Police cross-country champs in January and was third in another XC race Kenya in February.
Gebregziabher Gebremariam - Ethiopia  2:04:53 (Boston, 2011) - 2010 New York champ and Boston third placer last year last year ran 61:23 half marathon for 3rd place (winner was 61:07) in Morocco on April 1st.
Tadese Tola - Ethiopia  2:05:10 (Dubai, 2012) - Ran PR in January in Dubai but 5th-place showing means he must improve if he's going to make Olympic team. DNF in Boston last year.
Levy Matebo (Omari) - Kenya  2:05:16 (Frankfurt, 2011)   22-year-old had nice 2011 as he won Barcelona in 2:07:31 last March before PRing by 2 minutes to get 2nd in Frankfurt. 13:03 5,000 PR from 2008.Was 5th at Police champs - some 1:02 behind Mutai in January. Despite that, we originally didn't even have him in green.  (See our "2:05 is not as impressive as it once was" comments above). Employee #1 who went to Kenya in February speaks very highly of Matebo so we're making him green.
Wilson Chebet - Kenya  2:05:27 (Rotterdam, 2011) - 26-year-old emerged as one of the world's elite marathoners last year as he twice ran 2:05 - winning both Rotterdamn (2:05:27) and Amsterdam (2:05:53) in the process. 4-times he's gone under 60:00 for 13.1.
Laban Korir - Kenya  2:06:05 (Amsterdam, 2011) - 26-year-old is good long shot pick for victory. Last year, his marathon debut in Rotterdam was very successful, as he ran 2:06:05 for 2nd - but that time was the 3rd-fastest debut in history, behind only Mosop's run in Boston last year and Evans Rutto in Chicago (2:05:50) in 2003. Earlier this year, he ran a 35-second PR in the half marathon in February (60:38).
Wesley Korir - Kenya  2:06:15 (Chicago, 2011) - Lousiville grad and potential US Olympian in 2016 was known as the two-time winner of the somewhat gimmicky LA marathon and as the winner of the open race at the Chicago marathon until last fall's 2:06:15 runner-up showing in Chicago. Ran 1:21 PR at NYC Half with 61:19 in March.
Bernard Kipyego - Kenya  2:06:29 (Chicago, 2011) - 25-year-old was silver medallist in World Half in 2009 and sports stellar 59:10 PR for 13.1. 2nd in Paris (2:07:10) and 3rd in Chicago (2:06:29 PR) last year. A former 26:59 guy on the track.
David Barmasai - Kenya  2:07:18 (Dubai, 2011) - Boston has only given him bib #10 but he should not be overlooked. Prior to last year's World Champs, Barmasai was undefeated for his life in the marathon and one of those resulted in a $250,000 1st prize, as he won the 2011 Dubai Marathon in stiff winds in 2:07:18. Didn't do poorly in Daegu as he was 5th.
Dickson Chumba - Kenya  2:07:23 (Frankfurt, 2011) - 7th placer at Frankfurt last year has already raced twice this year. Was 2nd in a Chinese marathon in January in 2:08:21 and then ran 61:34 in March.
Josphat Ndambiri - Kenya  2:07:36 (Fukuoka, 2011) - The Japan-based Kenyan is another guy who is buried in the Boston media guide but someone who could surprise if Mutai falters. He was the 2007 Kenyan 10,000m champ and has gone sub-27 on the track for 10,000. His marathon debut last December resulted in a victory in Fukuoka.
Peter Kamais - Kenya  2:07:37 (Xiamen, 2012) CR - The 35-year-old Kamais is a late bloomer. The surprise winner of the 2010 NYC Half hadn't really had a good marathon until earlier this year when he lowered his PR from his 2:09:50 11th-place showing in Boston last year to 2:07:37 in Xiamen, China, where he won and beat Chumba in the process.
Mathew Kisorio - Kenya  2:10:58 (New York, 2011) - Kisorio is a half marathon ace whom we hyped before his New York City marathon debut in the fall.
Jason Hartmann - USA  2:11:06 (Chicago, 2010) - Trying to recover from a disappointing 32nd-place Olympic Trials finish in 2:16:44. April 1st Runnersworld interview here.
Nicholas Arciniaga - USA  2:11:30 (Houston, 2011) - Ran a credible 2:11:56 at Trials - a time that usually would make the Olympics but was only good for 8th this year. March 28th Runnersworld interview here.
Update on the Americans from the press conference here.
Michel Butter Netherlands  2:12:59 (Amsterdam, 2011) - 26-year-old has to be feeling good and liking his chances to be first non-African as he ran a 62:33 half - nearly a minute PR - last month.

More Boston:
8 Days to Glory Series: LRC 
Geoffrey Mutai Returns to Boston, Can He Recreate the Magic of 2011?
*LRC 8 Days For Glory - A Kenyan Flavored Preview Of The Upcoming Men's Marathon World Record Assault

LRC: Friday's Press Conference Highlights: Mutai Set to Defend, Wesley Korir Ready to Challenge, Americans Arciniaga and Hartmann Ready
Women: Defending Champ Caroline Kilel And NYC Champ Dado Try and Recreate Drama of Last 4 Years
*Full Boston Pro Fields

Boston on the Boards: Brutal Weather for Boston
*Boston Questions Thread--course, racing, pre-race planning

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