Prologue: 8 Days For Glory - A Kenya-Flavored Preview Of The Upcoming Men's Marathon World Record Assault
By Emory Mort
April 11, 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 series. Mort got to spend twenty days in Kenya - many with the sport's biggest stars, including 800m world record holder David Rudisha, double world champ Vivian Cheruiyot, World and Olympic 1,500m medallist Asbel Kiprop, world marathon record holder Patrick Makau, double marathon world champ Abel Kirui, 2:03:42 man Wilson Kipsang, London champ Emmanuel Mutai, and coach Renato Canova, among others. In this first series of articles, we look at the six Kenyan men's marathoners vying for three Olympic spots. While the IAAF graciously paid for portions of Mort's trip, they had no say on the article below.)
The marathon may be over 2,500 years old, but it may have never seen an octave like the upcoming one.
Thanks to a decision handed down by Kenyan Olympic organizers, on April 15th in Rotterdam, April 16th in Boston and April 22nd in London, six of the fastest and greatest Kenyan men's marathoners of all time (Moses Mosop in Rotterdam, Geoffrey Mutai in Boston, and the stunning quartet of Emmanuel Mutai, Abel Kirui, Patrick Makau and Wilson Kipsang in London) will vie for three Olympic spots in what could be eight of the most jaw-dropping days in marathoning history. Like Russian nesting dolls, from the perspective of the Kenyan men these eight days will treat the spectator to drama after interwoven drama: the race to win the purse, the race for the Olympic berth, the race for the world record, the race for national and personal pride.
2011 was the zenith of the marathon's golden era and there is no disputing that these six Kenyan runners are the current champions of the marathon world. In 2011, Geoffrey Mutai (2:03:02 Boston), Moses Mosop (2:03:06 Boston), Patrick Makau (2:03:38 Berlin) and Wilson Kipsang (2:03:42 Frankfurt) ran the four fastest marathons of all time. Thanks to the intricacies of marathon courses, Mutai's and Mosop's marks on the net downhill point-to-point Boston course do not count for world record purposes, meaning Makau is the world record holder (a title he may only enjoy for a precious few more hours). Mutai followed his Boston run with a more than two-and-a-half-minute course record on the famed New York Marathon course, and Mosop followed with a course record in Chicago.
Meanwhile, Abel Kirui won his second straight World Championship marathon with a record 148-second margin of victory in Daegu to go along with his 54-second margin in 2009. Emmanuel Mutai won and set a course record in London, lately the most competitive annual marathon in the world, in a race where he not only defeated future world record holder Makau and the field by over a minute, but also put himself into the lead for the huge $500,000 World Marathon Major title, which he banked at the end of the year with a runner-up finish in New York.
Even with the tragic mortal fall of pioneering Sammy Wanjiru last May, Kenyans, several of whom are marathoning neophytes, won every major marathon in 2011. Winning, however, wasn't enough. They won in emphatic style, besting record fields in record times, by margins big and small that left sports fans baffled. In the case of 2011's Boston, Geoffrey Mutai and Moses Mosop and a pleasant gale forced IAAF decision-makers to ponder questions they thought were so fantastic they weren't written in the rule book: does a world record time in Boston count as a world record? To put the recent surge in perspective, ten years ago in London, recently-retired American Khalid Khannouchi ran a world record 2:05:38, a time that has nose dived to just the 44th-best record-worthy run in history.
2011 was a historic year in the marathon and it all belonged to Kenya. In January of this year, the Kenyans' rivals, the Ethiopians, responded with seven sub-2:06 clockings in a single race (the 2012 Dubai Marathon), including three 2:04s. Prior to that race, in the history of the world, just six Ethiopians in history had gone sub-2:06. Dubai seemed to demonstrate that in 2012, marathoning is going to build on the momentum of the 2011.
Don't think however the Ethiopians have the edge in the Ethiopian-Kenyan battle for supremacy. The Ethiopians are contemplating dealt hands that would under normal circumstances give them a clear advantage, but like Patrick Makau zig-zagging away from Haile Gebrselassie's best bluffs on the streets of Berlin last fall to wrest away the Emperor's title and his world record, the Kenyans, with at least a couple more cards to be dealt before all the chips are counted under the five rings of London, hold the better hand.
While the athletes push the boundaries of athletic greatness for the next fortnight, I hope to bring the personalities behind these epic 2-hour efforts to life. Thanks to the IAAF, I met with many of the biggest players on the Kenyan world marathon stage. After watching them train, visiting their camps, speaking with them, their training partners, their managers and their coaches, I can paint a picture to help set the stage for what could be a week of explosive performances and disastrous duds, not to mention unseen surprises.
Write in or post your questions and comments, get your predictions ready, and set your clocks for some early wake-ups ... it should be a wild ride!
Up First: A Look At The Incredible Moses Mosop As He Takes To The Streets Of Rotterdam: "Moses has speed that has never been seen." Moses debuted in the marathon at 2:03:06 in Boston. His coach Renato Canova says, "Moses has speed that has never been seen." What will happen when Moses removes his watch
and goes for broke once more versus three half marathon aces in hopes of making the Olympic team?
Home Of The Champions... Keep Reading In Part I
More From 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
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