Fantasy Track On The Streets Of London – 2014 London Marathon Men’s Preview – Breaking Down A Race For The Ages

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by LetsRun.com
April 11, 2014

OH BABY WHAT A RACE!!! This one reads almost like fantasy track. Something has to give as it features the fastest man in history Geoffrey Mutai, the world record holder Wilson Kipsang, the defending champ Tsegaye Kebede, past champ Emmanuel Mutai, the Olympic and world champ Stephen Kiprotich, the debuts of Mo Farah and Ibrahim Jeilan. We try to break it down for you below.

If you’ve come to the website in the last two days, you know by now that we think marathon debutant Mo Farah isn’t going to win Sunday’s 2014 Virgin Money London Marathon as explained here:

LRC Sorry, Mo Farah Fans: Five Reasons Why Mo Isn’t Winning The 2014 Virgin London Marathon

We were quite proud of the logic we used in that article and amazed to see that Mo Farah’s coach Alberto Salazar‘s thoughts on the race were identical to ours in terms of proper pacing.

We could have just saved ourselves hours of time and just gone with a tweet. We loved the following tweet that went out in reply to our article:

Louise is right. The 2014 Virgin Money London Marathon is filled with talent on the men’s side.

The Two Favorites

Two men stand out as being the men to beat in London – Kenyans Wilson Kipsang and Geoffrey Mutai.

You don’t have to be a genius to pick the world record holder Kipsang and the fastest man in history Mutai (wind-aided Boston) as the favorites, but we like them for reasons other than their fast PRs. Take a look at the duo’s career marathons. It’s incredible how often both of them a) run well and b) win.

Wilson Kipsang’s Career Marathons
(Via Tilastopaja.net)

2010
2:07:133Paris11 Apr
2:04:571CommerzbankFrankfurt31 Oct
2011
2:06:131MainichiOtsu7 Mar
2:03:421BMWFrankfurt30 Oct
2012
2:04:441VirginLondon22 Apr
2:09:373OGLondon12 Aug
2:12:311Honolulu HI9 Dec
2013
2:07:475VirginLondon21 Apr
2:03:23 WR1BMWBerlin29 Sep
Geoffrey Mutai’s Career Marathons
(Via Tilastopaja.net)

2008
2:12:401Monaco30 Mar
2:07:501Eindhoven12 Oct
2009
2:10:458Daegu12 Apr
2:07:011Eindhoven11 Oct
2010
2:04:552FortisRotterdam11 Apr
2:05:102RealBerlin26 Sep
2011
2:03:02 AR1BAABoston MA18 Apr
2:05:061INGNew York NY6 Nov
2012DNF Boston (Heat)
2:04:151Berlin30 Sep
2013
DNF London
2:08:241INGNew York NY

Those two guys are the men because of their amazing consistency and win rate. Moreover, they’ve both shown fitness in half marathons in leading up to London.

A little bit more about each of them …

Wilson Kipsang enjoying a cold one after setting the World Record

Wilson Kipsang enjoying a cold one after setting the World Record.

Wlson Kipsang – Kenya – 32 years old – Worlds/Olympics: Bronze at 2012 Games – WMM Races/Wins: 4/2 (London 2012, Berlin 2013).

Why He’s One of Our Two Favorites: After his 2012 London marathon win, we felt he was our #1 in the world. Had he not run a foolish race at the Olympics, where he ran the third 5k in a suicidal 14:11, we think he’d be the the reigning Olympic champ AND world record holder. If that was the case, few would be doubting him. That being said, he was just fifth in London last year.

Kipsang has also talked about possibly breaking his own World Record in London. That means he’s happy with his training.

Prep Races: Showed he was in good shape 10 weeks out with a 61:18 win in Spain.

What’s there not to like? Very little.

Geoffrey Mutai – Kenya – 32 years old – Worlds/Olympics: Never competed – WMM Races/Wins: 7/4 (Boston and New York 2011, Berlin 2012, New York 2013).

Why He’s One of Our Two Favorites: Of the last four majors that he’s finished, he’s won them all. He also won the NYC Half during his buildup to London, beating Mo Farah in the process.

Prep Races: 2nd at Kenyan XC Police champs in January. 1st at NYC Half on March 16.

What’s there not to like? Very little. We feel he’s even more dominant on challenging courses like New York and Boston.

The Rest Of The Contenders

Yes, the field has a lot of others in it that are VERY good but the others all have major blemishes on their resumes. They either don’t win very often, haven’t shown fitness leading up to London, or both.

We break down the other contenders for the win now.

Tsegaye Kebede winning London in 2010 *More 2010 London Marathon Photos

Tsegaye Kebede winning London in 2010.
*More 2010 London Marathon Photos

Tsegaye Kebede – Ethiopia - 27 years old – 2:04:38 PR – 4th 2008 Olympics – WMM Races/Wins: 13/3 – 2010 London, 2012 Chicago, 2013 London.

Why He’s Not One Of Our Favorites: We’re sure you’ll hear repeated that he was last year’s winner. He really was simply the last man standing. The Marathon Gods won the race last year: LRC 2013 London Marathon Men’s Race: Marathon Gods 1, Distance Runners 0

Everyone blew up and he was left to pick up the pieces. He’s very good, has won London twice (2010 also), Fukuoka twice and Paris once, but has won just two of his last eight marathons. After London last year, he was fourth in Moscow and second in New York.

Prep Races: None.

What we like about him: Great 2013. Plus he’s got the endorsement of Haile Gebrselassie, who said this about him to The Guardian: “Kebede is the one to beat, no question. He’s very strong now. I expect Kipsang to be second with either Geoffrey Mutai or Mo third.”

Emmanuel Mutai – Kenya - 29 years old – 2:03:52 PR – Worlds/Olympics: Silver 2009 World Champs – WMM Races/Wins: 12/1 – 2011 London.

Why He’s Not One Of Our Favorites: The 2011 winner had a great 2013 as he was runner-up in both London and New York but his last victory and his only Major win came in London in 2011, meaning he’s 1 for 12 in his career at Majors.

Prep Races: 63:58 14th place showing on Feb. 2nd in Kenya at altitude.

What we like about him: 2:03 in his last race.

Stephen Kiprotich – Uganda – 24 years old – 2:08:20 PR – Worlds/Olympics: Gold 2012 Olympics – WMM Races/Wins: 5/2 (London 2012, Moscow 2013).

Why He’s Not One Of Our Favorites: Kiprotich’s win in Moscow at the World Champs showed his Olympic win was far from a fluke but the his PR is just 2:07:20. We would LOVE to see this guy race Boston. He’s been the best racer on the planet the last two years in non-rabbited races and we don’t know why he doesn’t do Boston – a non-rabbited race.

Prep Race: An 11th place 62:51 showing in Paris on March 2nd.

What we like about him: 2012/2013 Olympic/World gold medalist.

Stanley Biwott – Kenya - 27 years old – 2:05:12 PR – Worlds/Olympics: None – WMM Races/Wins: 2/0.

Why He’s Not One Of Our Favorites: Biwott was the Paris course record holder until Bekele broke it last week. He learned how hard it is to win a major last year as he was 8th in London and 5th in New York in his first major appearances after winning three of his first six career marathons.

Prep Races: A 3rd-place showing in a 10k in Eldoret on Janaury 26th in 29:33.

What we like about him: Two things. 1) Bekele had to work to beat his Paris course record. 2) Last year, it was Biwott that was pushing the pace late and ran a 4:43 21st mile to grab the lead. At 35k, he led by 6 seconds.

Ayale Abshero was the world junior xc champ in 2011

Ayale Abshero was the World Junior XC champ in 2011.

Ayale Abshero – Ethiopia - 23 years old – 2:04:23 PR – Worlds/Olympic Finishes: DNF London Games – WMM Races/Wins: 3/0.

Why He’s Not One Of Our Favorites: Abshero debuted at 2:04:23 in 2012 and won Dubai. 2:04:23 may sound like an unreal PR and it’s incredible for a debut, but Dubai is SUPER FLAT AND FAST. 3rd in London last year and sixth in Chicago.

Prep Races: 62:52 win in a half marathon that’s run at least partly on sand in the Netherlands on January 12th.

What we like about him: One of four guys left in lead pack at 30k last year.

Feyisa Lilesa - Ethiopia - 24 years old – 2:04:52 PRWorlds/Olympic Finishes: 3rd 2011 Worlds – WMM Races/Wins: 6/0.

Why He’s Not One Of Our Favorites: Hasn’t won a marathon since 2010.

Prep Races: 59:51 7th place showing at RAK Half on Valentine’s Day.

What we like about him: One of four guys left in lead pack at 30k last year. Still very young. Probably will win a big one at some point.

Ibrahim Jeilan – Ethiopia – 24 years old – DebutWorlds/Olympic Finishes: 2011 World 10,000 Champ, 2013 Silver 10,000 – WMM Races/Wins: 0/0.

Why He’s Not One Of Our Favorites: This is his debut. Only ran 64:37 in his half marathon debut last October.

Prep Races: 61:47 14th place showing at RAK Half on Valentine’s Day.

What we like about him: Total stud on the track. If it wasn’t for Mo Farah, everyone would be very excited about his debut.

Samuel Tsegay – Eritrea - 25 years old – 2:07:28 PR – DNF Olympic marathon, 16th Moscow WCs, Silver at World Half on March 29th – WMM Races/Wins: 3/0.

Why He’s Not One Of Our Favorites: Great half marathoner as shown by his silver at Worlds a few weeks ago but little marathon success.

Prep Races: Many. Most recent was 59:21 half marathon silver at Worlds on March 29th. That’s incredibly good.

What we like about him: Silver at World Half just two weeks ago. Clearly in shape, can he hang on?

There you have it. Those are the guys who we could imagine in some shape or form winning it but the field also includes others like 2006 and 2008 New York winner Marison dos Santos, Brits Chris Thompson and Scott Overall and American Ryan Vail. Canada’s Reid Coolsaet is also in the field hoping to become the first Canadian sub-2:10 guy. We just remembered he’s got a pretty sweet blog – check it out: http://reidcoolsaet.com/.

The Weather May Help Mo Farah

The Brits being known for bad teeth, are also known for bad weather. This year, however, the forecast for London is nearly perfect.

2014 London weather

That’s windier than you’d like but it’s pretty spectacular weather-wise, particularly for London.

The weather will help Mo Farah. As we explained previously, Mo Farah isn’t likely to win the race in his debut unless the other contenders do what they did last year – go out way too fast and blow up. This sounds counterintuitive, but in our minds, if Mo Farah is with the leaders at 13.1, then he’s not winning the race. He needs them to go out too hard and really fade as he’s likely to struggle at the end himself.

If there was a lot of wind and rain, the pace might dawdle up front. We know many think that would help the big kicker Mo Farah – not us. You don’t outkick people at the end of a marathon – you out endure them. Logically, we don’t see how a 3:28 1,500 runner out-endures the best 26.2 men on the planet, so Farah needs these supreme distance runners – the kings of the roads – to blow up. Farah’s best chance for victory is if these guys go out super-fast.

And Our Winner Is …

To be realistic, picking a winner in this field is sort of foolish. It reminds us of the NCAA men’s basketball tournament. There are so many contenders and so much randomness on a given day that it’s almost foolish for someone to brag about having picked the winner after the fact.

We think the best way to do it is to think of odds. Here are the betting odds from William Hill:

2014 London Betting Odds

2014 London Betting Odds

In our book, Kipsang deserves to be a slight favorite over Geoffrey Mutai but he’s clearly not two times as likely to win. We also think there is some real value with a few of the long shots.

Tsegaye Mekonnen After Winning $200,000 in Dubai (click for photo gallery)

Tsegaye Mekonnen After Winning $200,000 in Dubai (click for photo gallery)

Update: The story has been up about 2 hours and we just realized that the 18-year old world junior record holder, Tsegaye Mekonnen, who stunningly won Dubai in 2:04:32 in January hasn’t been mentioned. We apologize. We guess that just shows you  how stacked London is this year. We missed him as we used that betting list above as our guide. How a guy who ran two half marathon pbs back to back to win Dubai at just 18 is just left off of the betting odds is beyond us. A win for Mekonnen isn’t impossible. Remember, last year Lelisa Desisa won Dubai in his debut and then three months later won again in Boston.

LRC Betting Advice: If you like favorites, 5/1 odds for Geoffrey Mutai aren’t horrible. While we don’t think Mo Farah is winning, Mo Farah at 7/1 isn’t horrible if you are a Brit and want to root for the hometown guy. We thought the bookies would really screw the hometown betters and make it like 2/1.

If we had access to a legal means of doing so, we’d be tempted to put a little money on G. Mutai.

The smart betting move though is to put some cash on the long shots. We’d lay some money on Abshero at 16/1. He’s got moxie as he won Dubai in his debut. Plus he was in the lead pack at 30k last year and we know he’s likely in shape as he had a half-marathon victory during his buildup.

In covering Bekele’s run in Paris last week, we were reminded that Biwott was the Paris record holder and remembered how great he ran in London last year as he really broke open the race late. 14/1 for him isn’t bad but 25/1 on Lilesa is almost twice as good and makes it hard to pass up. If you just have $5 and want to get lucky, Samuel Tsegay at 28/1 isn’t bad considering we know he’s in 59:20 shape. You’ll at least get a thrill for 30k until he fades late.

Anyone in London know of a way for us to get $100 down on Abshero? Email us and we’ll give you 5% if it hits. And if he wins, we’ll blow the cash on covering next year’s race in style.

The full elite field appears below. If you want someone else to break down the field for you, well elite athlete coordinator Dave Bedford does it for you in the video on the right.

Full Elite Field

Elite Men
Bib no. Name Nation PR Bib name
1 Tsegaye Kebede ETH 2:04:38 KEBEDE
2 Wilson Kipsang KEN 2:03:23 KIPSANG
3 Emmanuel Mutai KEN 2:03:52 E. MUTAI
4 Geoffrey Mutai KEN 2:04:15 G. MUTAI
5 Ayele Abshero ETH 2:04:23 ABSHERO
6 Tsegaye Mekonnen ETH 2:04:32 MEKONNEN
7 Feyisa Lilesa ETH 2:04:52 LILESA
8 Stanley Biwott KEN 2:05:12 BIWOTT
9 Marîlson dos Santos BRA 2:06:34 DOS SANTOS
11 Stephen Kiprotich UGA 2:07:20 KIPROTICH
12 Samuel Tsegay ERI 2:07:28 TSEGAY
14 Amanuel Mesel ERI 2:08:17 MESEL
15 Paulo Roberto Paula BRA 2:10:23 PAULA
16 Scott Overall GBR 2:10:55 OVERALL
17 Reid Coolsaet CAN 2:10:55 COOLSAET
18 Ryan Vail USA 2:11:45 VAIL
19 Pedro Nimo ESP 2:12:10 NIMO
24 Craig Hopkins GBR 2:16:51 HOPKINS
25 Yared Hagos ETH 2:19:32 HAGOS
26 Mo Farah GBR Debut MO
27 Ibrahim Jeilan ETH Debut JEILAN
28 Chris Thompson GBR Debut THOMPSON
29 Ben Livesey GBR Debut LIVESEY
Pacemakers
51 Haile Gebrselassie ETH 2:03:59 PACE
52 Edwin Kiptoo KEN - PACE
53 Richard Sigei KEN - PACE
54 Fernando Cabada USA 2:11:53 PACE
55 Milton Rotich KEN 2:08:55 PACE
56 Linus Maiyo KEN 2:11:34 PACE
57 Cyprian Kotut KEN - PACE

More: *LRC Sorry, Mo Farah Fans: Five Reasons Why Mo Isn’t Winning The 2014 Virgin London Marathon
2013 London Marathon Recap
*2012 Olympic Marathon Recap