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Robert Cheruiyot: The Best Marathoner in the World?
So Lel or Cheruiyot? That's what we asked in our post-race recap of 2008 Boston.
Both Lel and Cheruiyot are 29. Both have 5 world major victories. Thus on paper it seems like it's a tough call.
However, after having taken some time to look at it, we've determined it's impossible to say Cheruiyot is the top guy in the world - due to the weaker fields he's faced in Boston. In some ways, the book is still out on Cheruiyot as he has usually not beaten the top marathoners in the world when he's gotten his "major" wins.
Four of Cheruiyot's five majors have come in Boston which certainly isn't equal to London or even New York in terms of the quality of the fields. Martin Lel has won the world's top marathon London three times and New York twice. As a result, Martin Lel has to be considered the top marathoner in the world currently.
The fact of the matter is, if Abderrahim Goumri was racing against the fields Cheruiyot was up against he'd be undefeated in his marathon career with 3 Marathon Major wins (instead Goumri has lost London twice and NY once over the final half mile). Cheruiyot has shown he is a winner, but the question is still out as to whether he would still have the same record if he was truly racing the world's best each time out. This year he put on an exhibition but against a cast of characters trying to prove they belong in the major leagues.
Let's look at Cheruiyot's last 4 major wins starting with Boston 2006.
Cheruiyot's lone non-Boston win came in Chicago in 2006. Now Chicago is the 2nd most difficult major to win outside of London (but we must say it seems like NY continues to be closing fast). If you take a look back at Chicago 2006, Cheruiyot got the win, but Felix Limo,
who was then considered the top marathoner in the world, pulled out the
week of the race. Here are the results showing who Cheruiyot beat.
Clearly a quality win, but this year in London five ran 2:06:17 or faster and 7 broke 2:09.
1. Robert Kipkoech Cheruiyot, 28, KEN 2:14:13 $100,000
Hardly full of the top guys in the world. After a
loss in Chicago in the fall, Cheruiyot was back in Boston this year. This year's
field, with the withdrawal of Chicago champ, Ivuti was perhaps the
weakest we can ever remember in Boston. Cheruiyot ran extremely,
extremely impressively, and won quite convincingly but he should have
versus that field.
Below we give you all of Lel's and Cheruiyot's marathons since 2003 - the year they picked up their first major wins. We determined a winner each year for the year. Lel is up on our scorecards 3-1 with two draws although we could easily argue it's 4-1-1 for Lel.
More importantly, Lel has been on fire since the start of 2007 (undefeated with 2 London wins), so Lel currently has to be considered the top marathoner in the world. However, it it's interesting to note that in their one head-to-head matchup, that it was Cheruiyot who beat Lel. But that was way back in 2003. Martin Lel really emerged in 2007.
We certainly hope to get to see them square off this summer in Beijing so they can settle the matter once and for all. Of course, by then a young upstart like Sammy Wanjiru may put them in the rearview mirror.
Video: Cheruiyot himself has perhaps the best quote on why Boston and John Hancock (their sponsorship deal runs through 2018) need to come up with more cash.. He says, "It is very difficult when you are running alone. You can not run alone and run 2:07 in Boston. You need company." 10 minute video below.