2013 New York City Marathon Men’s Preview: Can Course Record Holder Geoffrey Mutai Hold Off Olympic Champ Stephen Kiprotich And London Champ Tsegaye Kebede?

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In the race within the race, Kebede and Kiprotich will be battling for the $500,000 WMM bonus.

by LetsRun.com
October 27, 2013

“Good things come to those who wait.”

So goes the old saying. Let’s hope that’s the case next Sunday, as New Yorkers and the world have had to wait 728 days since the last marathon in New York thanks to last year’s hurricane.

The 2013 ING New York City Marathon men’s race on paper very much looks like one that’s been worth the wait. In running, the ultimate dream of every marathoner is to be the Olympic champion. During non-Olympic years, the biggest honor in our eyes is to be named the London Marathon champ.

Well, the 2013 ING New York City marathon field boasts the reigning Olympic (and world) champ, Stephen Kiprotich of Uganda, as well as the reigning London marathon champ, Tsegaye Kebede of Ethiopia, and the New York and Boston course record holder, Geoffrey Mutai, who is the reigning New York champ from 2011.

With apologies given to former Boston champion Wesley Korir and former New York champion Meb Keflezighi, one of four men will likely emerge as the victor in New York: the three men mentioned above – Kiprotich, Kebede and Mutai – plus 2:05:12 man Stanley Biwott of Kenya, who had the lead at mile 23 in London this year.

Well, we’re feeling a bit gracious and will add in a fifth for sentimental reasons – 5-time World Marathon Majors champion Martin Lel, who is finally healthy once again and races a major for just the third time since 2008 at age 35 years and 5 days. Lel is undefeated in New York, having won the race the two times he’s raced in (2003 and 2007).

In addition to the battle for the New York title, there will be extra drama in New York this year as Kiprotich and Kebede will also be battling it out for the $500,000 World Marathon Majors title – given to whoever has accumulated the most points at majors over the last two years (only your top four races count). Figuring out who wins that is even more complicated than we thought, but here is the easiest way to understand that:

Tsegaye Kebede is your $500,000 WMM winner champion unless the following happens:

  1. If Stephen Kiprotich wins, then Kiprotich wins the $500,000.
  2. If Stephen Kiprotich is second, then Kiprotich wins the $500,000 only if Kebede isn’t in the top 5 three.

Without further ado, we break down the field for you below. We start with “The Favorite” before going to “The Four Men That Could Beat Mutai” and then getting to rest of the field and the Americans, including 2009 NY champ Meb Keflezighi.

The Favorite

1) Geoffrey Mutai - Kenya – 32 years old – 2:04:15 (loop) PR, 2:03:02 point-to-point – 2:05:06 course record win in New York 2011

Geoffrey Mutai made history in 2011. More 2011 New York City Marathon Photos.

Mutai has been given bib number 1 by race organizers. It’s well deserved in our opinion for reasons other than the fact he’s the reigning champion from 2011.

The last time he raced in New York, he did something that would have been viewed as absolutely comical just a few years ago. He lowered the course record in New York to nearly the 2:04s by obliterating the old record of 2:07:43 and running 2:05:06. And that came after he ran 2:03:02 in Boston.

Since New York 2011, Mutai has showed a few tiny cracks in his armor. He dropped out of the 86-degree heat in Boston in 2012, saw New York 2013 cancelled on him and then then dropped out of London this spring with a hamstring issue.

Does that make us feel he shouldn’t be the favorite? Absolutely not. In between those two races, he did run and win Berlin last year in 2:04:15 (perhaps thanks to a little help from Dennis Kimetto). Plus this year, Mutai has three of the 11 worldwide sub 60:00 half marathon performances, including a 59:06 in Udine on September 22nd.

Equally important, he is training partners with Wilson Kipsang and Dennis Kimetto, the winners of the two majors held already this fall. Kipsang set the world record in Berlin and Kimetto set the course record in Chicago. That gives Mutai a lot of confidence as he told Capital.Fm, “We have trained together for three months and I believe I’m also in the kind of shape they are in so it motivates me to go and give my best.”

Overall Assessment: Mutai is the favorite, but if he’s off his game or has hamstring problems like he did in London, then someone else will be your victor.

Four Men That Could Beat Mutai (listed In PR Order)

1) Tsagaye Kebede - Ethiopia – 26 years old – 2:04:38 PR – 3rd in New York in 2011


Tsegaye Kebede’s Marathon Career

2007
2:08:16 8 Amsterdam 21 Oct
2008
2:06:40 1 Paris 6 Apr
2:10:00 3 OG Beijing 24 Aug
2:06:10 1 Fukuoka 7 Dec
2009
2:05:20 2 Flora London 26 Apr
2:08:35 3 WC Berlin 22 Aug
2:05:18 1 Fukuoka 6 Dec
2010
2:05:19 1 Virgin London 25 Apr
2:06:43 2 Bank of Am Chicago IL 10 Oct
2011
2:07:48 5 Virgin London 17 Apr
2:07:14 3 ING New York NY 6 Nov
2012
2:06:52 3 Virgin London 22 Apr
2:04:38 1 Bank of Am Chicago IL 7 Oct
2013
2:06:04 1 Virgin London 21 Apr
2:10:47 4 WC Moskva

Even though he’s the reigning London Marathon champion, Kebede isn’t the man to beat as is normally the case when the London champ shows up in New York. His victory in London was more the result of him being the last man standing after everyone totally blew up after the 61:34 first half.

The fact that we are discounting a 2:06:04 victory shows you how ridiculous marathoning is in the year 2013.

We’re not sure if Kebede is really all that worried about victory in New York. A trusted source told us Kebede’s initial plan this year was to win Worlds in Moscow, which would have locked up the $500,000 World Marathon Majors crown for him and take the rest of the year off. On paper, the plan was brilliant, as Worlds is normally a little bit weaker than a Major and $500,000 would certainly more than offset what he lost in appearance fees by not defending his 2012 Chicago crown … except it didn’t work out as Kiprotich got the win and Kebede was only fourth.

As a result, Kebede is now on the starting line in New York. We imagine his #1 focus isn’t victory but rather to be top five three and make sure Stephen Kiprotich doesn’t win $500,000 with a runner-up showing behind Geoffrey Mutai.

That doesn’t mean Kebede can’t and won’t win. The fact that this is his third marathon of the year makes us a bit nervous. However, he’s run three marathons in a year on two other occasions and the results in both cases was victory in his third marathon of the year. In 2008, after finishing third in Beijing, Kebede won Fukuoka in 2:06:10. In 2009, after finishing third at Worlds, Kebede won Fukuoka in 2:05:18.

Fukuoka isn’t New York and it also comes in early December, not early November. 15 weeks between marathons is a lot more than 11.

Overall Assessment: Kebede’s marathon victories have all come on flat, fast courses, so we don’t expect him to win. In his only New York showing, he was third (2:07:14 in 2011). Look at his career marathons, amazingly ALL of them were top five showings save for his 2:08:16 eighth place debut. Top 5 will give him $500,000 even if Stephen Kiprotich is second.

Fun Fact: Kebede is 252 days younger than Galen Rupp and has run 14 career marathons. And none of them have been bad – unless you consider a 2:08 debut to be bad.

2) Stanley Biwott - Kenya – 27 years old – 2:05:12 PR – New York debut (cancelled 2012)

Stanley Biwott pulls away at 1:38 mark of 2013 London Marathon

Stanley Biwott pulls away at 1:38 mark of 2013 London Marathon.

In his last two marathons, the 27-year-old Biwott was just third in Shanghai and eighth in London. So what makes us think he’s got a shot in New York?

Well, for starters, in the spring of 2012, Biwott did win Paris in 2:05:12, so he’s got some credentials, but his eighth place showing in London was very misleading. After a 61:34 first half in London, it was Biwott, the least-credentialed guy in the lead pack, who made a bid for glory. He threw down a 4:43 21st mile in London to grab the lead. At 35k, he was still on 2:03:55 pace and in first, so his 2:08:39 and eighth place showing was not a fair result at all.

Since then, Biwott’s shown he’s in shape yet again as he won the Rock ‘n’ Roll Philadelphia in September in 59:36 – the fastest time on US soil this year.

3) Martin Lel – Kenya – Turns 35 years old on 10/29 – 2:05:15 PR – 3rd New York appearance (victory in 2003 and 2007)

Lel is one of the classiest guys in the sport and has been at the top of marathoning for a long time – basically since the founding of LetsRun.com. He’s been snake-bitten in recent years with injuries and then last year he got healthy, but the race was cancelled. Well, he’s back again this year.

Because of injuries, he’s only run two marathons since 2008 (London 2011 and 2012). As a result, we’ll start our preview of his chances by re-printing what we wrote about him last year:

Martin Lel

Martin Lel after finishing 2nd in London in 2012.

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 and 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 became 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’s career longevity is amazing as his first New York win was in 2003.

Overall Assessment: If Lel can win on Sunday, ten years after his first New York win, then it has to go down as one of the most historic wins in New York history. Ryan Hall (or Ryan Hall fans), if you are reading this, you should be inspired by Lel battling through injury after injury.

Fun Fact: New York elite coordinator David Monti told us Lel has signed up for New York previously seven times but only made it to the start line twice. He scratched in 2004, 2008, 2009, and 2010, and New York was cancelled in 2012. Both times he’s run (2003 and 2007), he’s won.

4) Stephen Kiprotich - Uganda – 24 years old – 2:07:20 PR – Reigning Olympic and World Champion – New York debut

In contrast to Kebede, Kiprotich’s plan all year was to run Worlds and run New York. As the reigning World and Olympic champion, he’s proven himself to be the king of tactical, championship races. New York is never rabbitted, so that suits Kiprotich perfectly and he’s got $500,000 (well, $600,000 as there also is $100,000 for first) waiting if he gets the job done on Sunday in New York, as he likely needs a win to give himself $500,000.

So why don’t we think he’ll win?

He’s never run a marathon under 2:07:20.

Yes, we know New York has only one time had a race go under 2:07:20 and we’re certain Kiprotich can run much faster than 2:07:20, as this year he went out in London in 61:48, but we still don’t think he’s going to win.

Overall Assessment: Even though it wasn’t absurdly hot in Moscow during the men’s race at Worlds on August 17th, it did get up to 73 that day and Kiprotich’s winning time was just 2:09:51, so until proven otherwise, we’re going to believe right now that Kiprotich is simply by far the best warm weather marathon runner on the globe. A win in New York in 2013 and we’ll adjust that and say he’s the #1 man in the world in tactical races and very possibly overall.

The Other Sub-2:08 Guys (And Meb)

New York never has been a race that loads itself up with an enormous amount of nameless sub-2:10 guys. They go for the names. The 2013 New York field has just three other men in it under 2:08:00, but two of them are former major champions.

 

picture of Meb Keflezighi

Meb Keflezighi with Miss America and Mary Wittenberg after winning the NYC Marathon in 2009.
*More 2009 ING New York City Marathon Photos

1) Meb Keflezighi – USA – 38 years old – 2:09:08 PR – 9th New York appearance (victory in 2009 in 2:09:15)

Meb leads the American charge. However, he’s getting up there in age. Considering we never thought he’d win a major in the first place, it would be foolish to totally write him off. Also it needs to be remembered that just last year, he ran his marathon PR at the Olympic Trials and then finished fourth at the Olympics. Maybe age is just a number as Haile Gebrselassie says.

Overall Assesment: A top five – even top three – showing is a possibility, but a win seems way too storybook to be seriously considered.

2) Wesley Korir - 30 years old – 2:06:13 PR – New York debut (2012 Boston champ)

Like Meb, it’s hard to imagine that the former Louisville runner Korir will win unless something really unexpected happens. He’s run 10 marathons and his PR is 2:06:13, and he’s facing a field that features four 2:05 or better guys and the Olympic champion.

Overall Assessment: Korir runs smart, so his only hope for victory is if there is a huge heat wave, as he won 2012 Boston in the heat. Given the fact there was a hurricane last year and a blizzard the week before New York in 2011, we guess it’s possible.

3) Peter Kirui – Kenya - 25 years old – 2:06:31 PR – New York debut (2012 NYC half champ)

Kirui was sixth in the 10,000 at the 2011 World Champs and ran 2:06:31 in his marathon debut that year. Since then, he’s won the 2012 Peachtree 10k and 2012 NYC Half, but struggled in his marathons, racking up a 2:09:15 in 2012, and a DNF and a 2:14:38 in 2013.

Overall Assessment: We just closely looked at his 2013 stats and thought, “If there is a longshot winner, this is the guy.”

Why do we think he actually has a chance now that we look at it? Well, he’s had some nice prep races. His 64:48 half marathon at altitude at the end of July doesn’t sound impressive but he did beat Wilson Kipsang handily in that race and Kipsang set the world record in Berlin. Also he ran 45:31 for 10 miles on September 22nd.

There are a lot more men in the 2013 New York elite field. We present the whole field at the end of this article but give you a few highlights.

Hopefully, we’ll have time to do a separate article on the Americans, but here’s a brief something about all of them.

The Americans

Name Hometown Sponsor Age PR Comment
Jason Hartmann Boulder Unattached 32 2:11:06 4th 2013/2012 Boston Marathon (1st American). 61:51 half marathon PR in March.
Ryan Vail Portland Brooks 27 2:11:45 Former OSU runner was 11th 2012 Oly Trials Marathon. Has run 27:44 10,000 PR this year. Also 62:46 prep race. Eventual sub-2:10?
Jeffrey Eggleston Boulder MarathonGuide.com/NYAC 29 2:12:03 Former UVA runner was 13th in Moscow in 2:14, also ran 2:14 in Paris this year.
Allen Wagner Hilo Brooks 33 2:17:16 36th 2012 Oly Trials Marathon, 17th in NY in 2009 (2:17:49).
Michael Cassidy Staten Island Greater New York 28 2:18:54 2012 Olympic Trials qualifier, 2:24 in Boston this year.
Kevin Pool Folsom SRA Elite 30 2:18:59 Former DIII runner at Allegheny is having good year as PR came in Boston, 2013 Napa Valley Marathon champion.
Augustus Maiyo Colorado Springs Army WCAP 30 2:20:20 2012 Marine Corps Marathon champion.
Christian Thompson Wyncote NJ-NY Track Club 25 debut LetsRun has known this upstate New Yorker, who went to Colorado, for a long time. 64:31 13.1 PR.

There are a number of other elites from around the globe with the most interesting being:

Yuku Kawauchi of Japan – He is in his 9th marathon of the year in New York. 3 have been 2:10:00 or faster. Can he get #4?

Bouabdellah Tahri of France – The 2009 World Championships steeple bronze medallist is trying to see if his range extends to the marathon. Already has 1:48, 3:32, 13:11, and 27:31 PRs.

Daniele Meucci of Italy – 26-year-old has 13:19/27:32 PRs.

The Full 2013 ING New York City Elite Men’s Field:

2013 ING NYC Marathon – Invited Athlete Info
Bib Last First M/F Nation Affiliation Age PR Comment
1 Mutai Geoffrey M KEN adidas 32 2:03:02 1st 2011 BOS/NYC Marathons, 3rd 2010 AfCh 10,000m
2 Kiprotich Stephen M UGA Nike 24 2:07:20 2012 Olympic/2013 World Marathon champion
3 Kebede Tsegaye M ETH Nike 26 2:04:38 2008 Oly and 2009 WCA bronze
4 Lel Martin M KEN Nike 35 2:05:15 Two-time NYCM champion
6 Keflezighi Meb M USA Skechers/NYAC 38 2:09:08 1st 2009 ING NYCM; 2nd 2004 Olympic Marathon
7 Korir Wesley M KEN Nike 30 2:06:15 2012 Boston Marathon champion
8 Biwott Stanley M KEN Nike 27 2:05:12 2012 Paris Marathon champion
9 Kirui Peter Cheruiyot M KEN adidas 25 2:06:31 2012 NYC Half champ; 2012 Peachtree champ
10 Kawauchi Yuki M JPN Saitama Prefectural Govt. 26 2:08:14 Already won 5 marathons (thru 7/8) in 2013
11 April Lusapho M RSA adidas 31 2:08:32 Two-time Hannover Marathon champion (2013/2011)
12 Tahri Bob M FRA Nike 34 27:31.46 4-time Euro Champs medalist; 2009 WCA bronze medalist
14 Meucci Daniele M ITA Diadora 28 2:13:49 2012 Olympian; 2nd 2013 NYC Half
15 Vail Ryan M USA Brooks 27 2:11:45 11th 2012 Oly Trials Marathon
16 Imai Masato M JPN Toyota Kyushu 29 2:10:29 Set PR at 2013 Tokyo Marathon
17 Hartmann Jason M USA Unattached 32 2:11:06 4th 2013/2012 Boston Marathon (1st American)
18 Kiprop Jackson M UGA Nike 27 2:09:32 Training partner of Stephen Kiprotich
19 Arile Julius M KEN adidas 30 2:12:13 Former gun runner; subject of documentary
20 Eggleston Jeffrey M USA MarathonGuide.com/NYAC 29 2:12:03 13th 2013 WCA Marathon (1st USA)
21 Maker Guor M SUD Skechers 29 2:12:55 South Sudanese refugee who ran London 2012 as IOA
22 Lizano Cesar M CRC Scotiabank/Gatorade 31 2:17:50 2012 Olympian
23 Maiyo Augustus M USA Army WCAP 30 2:20:20 2012 Marine Corps Marathon champion
24 Pool Kevin M USA SRA Elite 30 2:18:59 2013 Napa Valley Marathon champion
25 Thompson Christian M USA NJ-NY Track Club 25 1:04:32 2012 Midnight Run champion
26 Okuti Harbert M UGA Westchester TC 28 Debut Won NYRR div of 2013 5th Ave Mile
27 Dudycz Radoslaw M POL KS TEAM run Gdansk 39 2:14:58 Wife is coach Sylwia Dudycz
28 Wagner Allen M USA Brooks 33 2:17:16 36th 2012 Oly Trials Marathon (2:17:16 PR)
29 Natali Paolo M ITA NYAC 33 2:19:53 PhD in econ history from Cambridge 2009
30 Cassidy Michael M USA Greater New York 28 2:18:54 2012 Olympic Trials qualifier
32 Kargbo Idrissa M SLE Unattched 22 2:38:27 1st Sierra Leone runner at NYCM
39 Röthlin Viktor M SUI Asics 39 2:07:23 2010 European Marathon champ; 2007 WCA bronze
40 Goffi Danilo M ITA CUS Pro Patria Milano 40 2:08:33 1998 Euro Champs Marathon silver (4th/5th WCA 1997/1999)
42 Martínez José Manuel M ESP Nike 42 2:08:09 2002 Euro 10,000m champ; Running last high level marathon
43 Szalkai Anders M SWE Spårvägens FK 43 2:12:43 1996 Olympian
44 Tenorio Franklin M ECU North Brooklyn Runners 44 2:10:22 Two-time Olympian
46 Achmüller Hermann M ITA Soltenfltzer Jenesien 42 2:18:05
47 Girma Tesfaye M ETH West Side Runners 31 2:10:18 NY based Ethiopian
48 Nigusse Ketema M ETH West Side Runners 32 2:15:45 NY based Ethiopian
55 Kotov Vladimir M BLR Century City Athletics Club 55 2:10:58 4th 1980 Olympic Marathon
98 Willis Nick M NZL adidas 30 N/A 2-time 5th Ave Mile champion; 2008 OG silver medalist
99 Conti Piergiorgio M ITA Unattached 43 N/A Trying to win masters division w/Nick Willis pacing