The Five Men That Could Win The 2012 ING New York City Marathon

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Sorry US Fans – We Don’t Think Meb Is One Of Them

by LetsRun.com
October 29, 2012

In the year 2012, previewing a major marathon isn’t an easy task as the fields are deep. This year the New York press office released a list of 45 names that they consider to be their elite men (list is at the bottom of this preview).

But don’t worry. We have done the heavy work for you so you can focus on a few key names when you watch the race on Sunday.

In our mind, there are only five men that have a real legitimate shot at winning on Sunday. Even better, the race on paper looks like it might turn into a mano v. mano battle between the two 2:03 guys in the field – 2012 London champ Wilson Kipsang and 2011 Chicago champ Moses Mosop.

Below we break down the field into the following categories: “The Two That Are Most Likely To Win,” “Two More That Could Win,” “On Paper, We Guess This Guy Could Win It But He Won’t,” before looking at two additional guys that include American Meb Keflezighi“Two Former Champs That Won’t Win But Deserve Some Love.”

The Two That Are Most Likely To Win

1. Wilson Kipsang

30 years old – 2:03:42 pb Frankfurt 2011 – KEN- adidas – 2012 Olympic bronze medallist and London champ 

Wilson Kipsang

Wilson Kipsang at home in Kenya

With no set schedule and with runners running all over the world in different races, the question of “who is the greatest __________ in running” is often hard to define until the world championships actually take place. In the marathon, it’s even more difficult as the big marathons with their big appearance fees and prize money are much bigger than the world champs. Thankfully, each spring, we normally just say, “If you win the Virign London Marathon, you are the #1 marathoner in the world.”

Well Wilson Kipsang won London this spring.

That made him our favorite for the Olympics. And he ran like it as he tried to pull a Sammy Wanjiru and blow the race open very early with a BOLD move. Between 10k and 15k, he built up a 13-second lead by running that 5k segment in a ridiculous 14:11 – that’s 4:33.9 pace or 1:59:42 marathon pace for 3.1 straight miles.

Not exactly the smartest thing one could do on a day where the temps were over 70 at the finish with 75%+ humidity. Of course, it’s easy to criticize Kipsang after the fact for going for too much too early. Why would he try something like that you ask? Well a BOLD somewhat early move – a 14:09 fifth 5k – is what gave him victory at the Virgin London Marathon in April.

In the heat of the Olympics, Kipsang ended up getting caught but he still managed to hold on for bronze.

Still with a win in London and bronze at the Olympics, he’s the most credentialed marathoner in 2012. A win in New York and without a doubt he should hold the world #1 ranking.

Oh yeah, one more thing about Kipsang. The 30-year old is the second fastest marathoner in history on a records-eligible course thanks to the 2:03:42 he ran in Frankfurt last year.

Want to know more about Kipsang? Well Employee #1 caught up with him on his trip to Kenya earlier this year:

LRC Meet Wilson Kipsang: “If I had to compare him to an NFL quarterback, I’d compare him to Peyton Manning.” We share with you this unpublished segment on Wilson Kipsang from Employee #1s final piece in the 8 Days of Glory Series. Short segment with video interview with Kipsang overlooking the Rift Valley.

More on Kipsang: LRC Wilson Kipsang Destroys One Of Greatest Marathon Fields In History And Wins 2012 Virgin London Marathon
*LRC 2012 Olympic Marathon Recap: The Unheralded Stephen Kiprotich Of Uganda Stuns The Field And Wins The 2012 Olympic Men’s Marathon

2. Moses Mosop

27 years old – 2:03:06 pb Boston 2011 – KEN- Nike – 2011 Chicago Champ

Moses Mosop

Moses Mosop after setting the 30k WR in 2011

Mosop has run three marathons in his life. The slowest has been 2:05:37. Oh yeah, that came in 2011 in Chicago and it gave him both a win and course record (since broken). His two other marathons? A 2:03:06 debut in Boston in 2011 and a 2:05:03 in Rotterdam this spring. Neither of the latter two runs resulted in victory as he was second in Boston and third in Rotterdam, but they just show how incredible Mosop is at the marathon. How many other marathoners in the world run 2:05 flat (after going out in 61:37) and are disappointed?

On paper, there is nothing to not like about Mosop. In additional to having incredible marathon credentials, he had incredible shorter distance credentials before moving up to the marathon. A 12:54 5000 in 2006, a 26:49 10,000 in 2007, a 59:20 half-marathon in 2010, a 10,000 bronze at Worlds in 2005, and a cross country silver in 2007. Oh yeah, he’s still in his prime at 27 and he did set a 30k world record on the track after his marathon debut.

And he has an incredible coach in Renato Canova who thinks the world of Mosop. As Canova said to LRC in Kenya in February about Mosop: “Moses has speed that has never been seen. The other day he ran 30k in the morning. Later that day, he ran another 15k. Both runs were extremely fast. He can train at speeds that have never been seen.”.

The only thing to question is his current fitness. After being named to the 2012 Kenyan Olympic marathon team, he was forced to withdraw with an injury. He’s run no prep-races so one of the things we’ll be looking to find out at the press conferences later this week is how he’s been doing of late.

Want to learn more about Mosop? Read our profile here from the spring: LRC Moses Mosop Goes For Glory At 2012 Rotterdam Marathon Versus Marathon Newcomers.

Two More That Could Win

3. Martin Lel

Martin Lel

Martin Lel after finishing 2nd in London earlier this year

34 years old – 2:05:15 pb London 2008 - KEN- Nike – 3 time London, 2 time NY Champ

Before Sammy Wanjiru arrived as a star at the 2008 Olympics, the biggest star in the world of marathoning was Kenya’s Martin Lel. Lel won London three times – 2005, 2007 amd 2008 – and that 2008 win came at the expense of Wanjiru. He won New York two times – 2003 and 2007.

However, after finishing fifth at the 2008 Olympics, he bacame snake bit as injuries prevented from defending his New York crown in 2008 and then he basically missed all of 2009 and 2010. But he didn’t call it a career. He’s been healthy enough to get to the starting line of London the last two years – and he’s finished second both times. A top three finish for a race that Lel starts is to be expected as Lel is the ultimate professional. When he’s been forced to withdraw from many of his marathons, the injuries occurred at the very last minute – when it surely would have been possible to show up, get paid and drop out. Lel hasn’t done that and his proven track record of success is unreal.

Five times he’s run London – the most competitive pro marathon in the world – and each time he’s finished first or second. For his career, since he finished his first marathon in 2002, he’s run 12 marathons. He’s won five, finished second in four and third in two. Thus, his only non-top three finish was when he finished fifth at the Beijing Olympics. Amazing.

Handicapping Lel’s chances are easier than most at a marathon. If he toes the starting line, it means he’s healthy and ready to go as he doesn’t mail it in just to get paid. Lel had a successful prep race to show that he’s in good form as he won the Rock ‘N’ Roll Purtugal Half-Marathon in Lisbon in hot conditions on September 30th in 61:28.

Lel’s career longevity is amazing as his first New York win was in 2003. If he can win on Sunday, it will make more realize he’s won of the marathons all-time greats.

4. Stanley Biwott

Stanley Biwott

Biwott winning in Philly earlier this year

26 years old – 2:05:12 pb Paris 2012 – KEN- Nike – Undefeated for 2012 

The 26-year old Biwott has had an incredible year so far. Our stats show he’s raced fives times and he’s won five times including three times at some of America’s most prestigious road races this summer.

March 4 59:44 Half Marathon Win in Paris
April 15 2:05:12 Marathon Course Record Win in Paris
August 4 28:00 Beach To Beacon 10k Win in Maine
August 12 31:49 Win At Falmouth
September 16 60:03 Win in Half Marathon In Philly

If he wins in New York on Sunday, it’ll bring us back to the days of the late 1990s when Khalid Khannouchi dominated both the summer road scene and fall marathon scene.

But being on fire in August and September is not the same thing as being ready to go for 26.2 miles on the first Sunday in November. Moreover, winning in Paris isn’t the same thing as taking first in New York. This is a huge jump up in class.

On Paper, We Guess This Guy Could Win It But He Won’t

5. Gebre Gebremariam

28 years old – 2:04:53 pb Boston 2011 – ETH – adidas – 2010 NY champ 

Gebre Gebremariam

Gebremariam winning World Cross in 2009

For a long time, conventional wisdom was that the marathon was something where experience helps. That wisdom has started to fade as so many youngsters and first-timers are now doing well at the distance. For example, Sammy Wanjiru’s Japanese coaches didn’t want him to focus on the event too young but he ended up being Olympic champ by age 21.

Gebre Gebremariam was an experienced runner who didn’t start the marathon at a young age. He was the 2009 world cross country champ and 26 years old when he made his marathon debut in 2010 at New York. He didn’t need any seasoning at the distance as the result of his first marathon was a surprise 2:08:14 win in the race where Haile Gebrselassie dropped out.

His next marathon – 2:04:53 wind-aided for third in Boston.

But since then, his marathon results have seemingly gotten worse. A DNF at Worlds, a fourth at New York last year and then a 14th in Boston this year.

We don’t like the trend and thus don’t think he’ll win in New York on Sunday.

Two Former Champs That Won’t Win But Deserve Some Love

6. Meb Keflezighi

37 years old – 2:09:09 pb 2012 US Olympic Trials – USA – Skechers/NYAC –  2009 NY champ

Meb Keflezighi

A trip down memory lane. Meb on top at the US Trials in 2004.

The 2009 New York champ comes into New York after having finished fourth at the Olympics. Both of his marathons before the Olympics were good ones as well as he PRd last year in finishing sixth in New York in 2:09:13 and then again in winning the Olympic Trials in 2:09:08.

Meb has talked about running 2:07 on the hilly New York course which is something that would be great and something he’d totally deserve as it’s amazing that a marathoner with his credentials (New York win, Olympic silver, Boston third) has never run faster than 2:09:08. He’s run under 2:10 eight times but never under 2:09. Admittedly, he normally runs Boston/New York and less often the time trials of London/Chicago but it’s just flat out almost criminal that his PR is 2:09:08 whereas fellow American Dathan Ritzenhein‘s is 2:07:47.

If Meb runs 2:07, we think someone else will run faster and win. Remember, Geoffrey Mutai ran 2:05:06 last year in New York to totally re-establish the notion of what is actually possible in New York.

It should be pointed out that Mutai didn’t come back to New York to defend his title. Instead he went to Berlin to seek the world record of 2:03:38 but came up a little bit short at 2:04:15. Going to Berlin to get or be given the ‘win’ (if you don’t know what we’re referencing click here) was the right move financially as Mutai won the $500,000 World Marathon Majors title.

Let’s forget about Mutai and talk a little bit more about Meb. We have a history of discounting the chances of America’s current greatest marathoner on LetsRun.com. In 2009, we had him as the featured guest on our pre New York City Marathon radio show and didn’t think he had a chance of winning. He won the damn thing.

This July, after news of Meb’s injuries in his leadup to London came out, we said, “We hate to see it but we are officially declaring the medal hopes for Meb… to be over.” He then got fourth at the Olympics.

The one thing we have learned about Meb is just like Martin Lel, he is the ultimate professional marathoner. We’ve said before “if it’s a non-Championship marathon and Meb is on the line, it means he is ready to run.” That’s the situation on Sunday, so expect another good run from Meb. We just don’t think it will be good enough to win.

dos Santos winning in 2008

7. Marilson Gomes dos Santos

35 years old – 2:06:34 pb London 2011 – Brazil – Nike –  2006 and 2008 NY champ

The two-time New York champ is much like Keflezighi – a savvy racer who has never run incredibly fast but has come up big in some big races and he comes into New York after a strong showing at the Olympics where he ended up one spot behind Meb in 5th. He’s run 15 marathons and won only two of them – but he picked the right two to win (New York twice). But a win on Sunday in New York isn’t in the cards for him. Since winning in 2008, he’s run seven marathons and never finished higher than fourth in any of them.

He’s still a solid top 5 pick as he like Meb will likely run a smart race but in terms of mixing it up for the win, we just don’t see it.

The full 2012 ING New York City Marathon elite field appears below. We wish they had invited one half-marathon stud to make his debut, but that’s our only criticism of the field.

Check back later in the week when we will talk about “The Americans” (not named Meb), break down the women’s field and cover the press conferences on-site in New York. At the end of the week, after the press conferences, we’ll give you our predictions.

Comments, questions, suggestions, story you’d like to submit? Email us

BibLastFirstCitySTNationAgeAfiliationPBPB Venue
2MosopMosesMarakwetKEN27Nike2:03:06Boston, 2011
3KipsangWilsonItenKEN30adidas2:03:42Frankfurt, 2011
4GebremariamGebreAddis AbabaETH28adidas2:04:53Boston, 2011
5BiwottStanleyEldoretKEN26Nike2:05:12Paris, 2012
6LelMartinEldoretKEN34Nike2:05:15London, 2008
7KeflezighiMebMammoth LakesCAUSA37Skechers/NYAC2:09:08Olympic Trials, 2012
8Gomes dos SantosMarilsonSao PauloBRA35Pão de Açucar / Nike2:06:34London, 2011
9BouramdaneAbderrahimeFesMAR34Mizuno2:07:33London, 2010
10AbdirahmanAbdiTucsonAZUSA35Nike2:08:56Chicago, 2006
11AnnaniAdilMarakeshMAR32Nike2:07:43London, 2012
12GotcherBrettFlagstaffAZUSA28adidas/McMillan Elite2:10:36Houston, 2010
14OverallScottLondonGBR29adidas2:10:55Berlin, 2011
15VailRyanPortlandORUSA26Brooks2:12:43Olympic Trials, 2012
16HartmannJasonBoulderCOUSA31Unattached2:11:06Chicago, 2010
18ArciniagaNickFlagstaffAZUSA29adidas/McMillan Elite2:11:30Houston, 2011
19Da SilvaSolonei RochaSao PauloBRA30EC Pinheiros/Asics2:11:32Padova, 2011
20CarlsonAndrewMinneapolisMNUSA30Team USA Minnesota2:11:24Olympic Trials, 2012
21ReyesSergioPalmdaleCAUSA31Asics Aggies2:14:02Twin Cities, 2010
22BauhsScottMammoth LakesCAUSA26Unattached1:01:30Houston, 2012
23VaughnBrentPortlandORUSA28Nike Oregon Track Club1:02:04Houston 2010
24RitchieTimBrightonMAUSA25Boston Athletic Association1:03:57NC Duluth, 2012
25BurrellIanTucsonAZUSA27adidas2:14:04Olympic Trials, 2012
27NelsonTimPortlandORUSA28Nike Oregon Track Club2:15:06New York, 2010
28HineZachLakewoodCOUSA25Mizuno2:16:40Olympic Trials, 2012
29WagnerAllenHiloHIUSA32Brooks2:17:16Olympic Trials, 2012
30BairuSimonPortlandORCAN29Nike Oregon Track Club2:19:52Houston, 2012
32FlogelJasonWest Des MoinesIAUSA29Runablaze Iowa2:18:21Duluth, 2011
34EndNickPittsburghPAUSA28Saucony Team Hurricane2:19:48Cal Int’l, 2011
35ArmijoJesseAlbuquerqueNMUSA30Dukes Track Club2:17:19Cal Int’l, 2011
36ChavezChrisMenlo ParkCAUSA26Transports2:20:18Olympic Trials, 2012
38LandryChristoAnn ArborMIUSA26Mizuno1:15:47 25KGrand Rapids, 2012
40SousaAntonioLisbonPOR42Garmin Olimpico Oeiras2:13:00Hamburg, 2002
41BagyHakimLongwyFRA44Forbach2:11:06Paris, 2001
43TenorioFranklinBoulderCOECU43North Brooklyn Runners2:10:22Roma, 1998
44SilvaGermanSan Luis PotosiMEX44Nike2:09:18London, 1994
45AchmüllerHermannPfalzenITA41Südtiroler Laufverein2:18:05London, 2005
54KotovVladimirCape Town, South AfricaBLR54Century City Athletics Club2:10:58Moscow, 1980
60DinizYohannSoissonsFRA34adidas3:38:45 50KDudince, 2009
63NealTommyColorado SpringsCOUSA29Boulder RC/adidas1:05:00Duluth, 2011
64GlaabJoshSuperiorCOUSA30Boulder Track Club1:05:01Houston, 2011
65PayneBenFort Walton BeachFLUSA31US Air Force2:21:01Boston, 2011
66HensleyMattJacksonville BeachFLUSA24Florida Track Club2:23:12Disney, 2012
67DubeTesfaye AssefaBronxNYETH28West Side Runners2:15:22Baltimore, 2011
68GirmaTesfayeNew YorkNYETH30West Side Runners2:10:18Reims, 2010
69NebsiMengistu TaborNew YorkNYETH35West Side Runners2:15:13Berlin, 2010
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