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2008 Bank of America Chicago Marathon Men's Preview
by LetsRun.com

Instead of writing a straight race preview which provides nothing suspenseful, we thought we'd preview the 2008 Bank of America Chicago Marathon by each day profiling a runner in our top five. Friday we'll unveil the overall race preview.

Today it's time for #1 to be revealed.

Previous Picks:

#2 Emmanuel Mut
ai (Kenya)

#3 William Kipsang (Kenya)
#4 Daniel Njenga (Kenya)
#5 Richard Limo a
nd Moses Arusei (both Kenya)

#1 - Evans Cheruiyot (Kenya)
As the anticipation for the #1 pick to be unveiled has built all week as we've unveiled our top 5 countdown with one person each day, we imagine many of you were scratching your heads and wondering who would be the #1 pick on the men's side as many of the most obvious choices like Emmanuel Mutai, William Kipsang and Daniel Njenga ended up in the 2 through 4 slots.

Well, let us introduce you to 26-year-old Evans Cheruiyot. Yes, that's right, we're picking the man with the 10th best personal best of anyone in the race (2:09:34) to win in Chicago.

Don't be fooled by his modest 2:09:34 personal best in the marathon. This guy is a stud. He's only run one marathon - Milan last December - and he won it. He's an established half marathon star who is making his first big leap into the world of marathoning in Chicago this year. Last year, he won the Fortis Half Marathon Rotterdam in 59:12 before finishing third in the world half marathon championships in 59:05 and then winning in Milan.

He didn't race at all in this spring but is great shape currently as he was 2nd (edged out at the line) in the 2008 edition of the Fortis Half Marathon in Rotterdam on September 14th in 59:29. Compare his 59:29 time to the 1:01:10 that our #2 pick Emmanuel Mutai ran in his half marathon prep-race for Chicago or the 1:03:25 that our #3 pick William Kipsang ran in his prep race. Admittedly, the comparison isn't completely fair as Mutai easily won his prep race and Kipsang's prep race was a long time ago (10 weeks), but it does give us a lot of confidence in our pick. Our only concern is that he might have sacrificed too much endurance/marathon training to run so fast in the half marathon.

But we're not going to get cold feet. We're picking Cheruiyot for the win. We know Cheruiyot is almost certainly going to run a scorching-fast marathon sooner rather than later and we'd rather start the bandwagon instead of jump on it after it's already begun. With his 59:05 half marathon personal best, Cheruiyot is #5 all-time in the world in the half marathon. Only two of the guys ahead of him on the half marathon list have ever run a full marathon. Who are they and what have the run for the marathon? Haile Gebrselassie is the world record holder in the marathon at 2:03:59 and Samuel Wanjiru is the Olympic champion and Olympic record holder and has run 2:05:24. Who is the guy right behind Cheruiyot on the half marathon list? Former marathon world record holder Paul Tergat (2:04:55). That stat right there make us feel very confident in picking the relatively unknown Cheruyiot for the win.

Just after 10:00 am central time on Sunday, we look forward to telling you, "I told you so."

Bank of American Chicago Marathon Bio
Evans Cheruiyot (Kenya)
Birthdate: May 10, 1982
Personal Best: 2:09:16 (Milan, 2007)

Marathon Highlights:
12/02/07 Milano City Marathon 1st 2:09:16

Career Notes:
Evans Kiprop Cheruiyot has only run one marathon, but it was a hard-fought four second victory at Milan, Italy last December.

Cheruiyot certainly has the potential to go much faster as evidenced by his speedy 59:05 third-place finish at the 2007 IAAF World Road Running Championships Half Marathon. En route he passed 15km in 41:34 and 20km in 56:13.

Earlier in 2007 Cheruiyot was third at the Berlin Half Marathon in 59:48 after ripping through the first 10km in 27:29. With better pacing he captured the Rotterdam Half Marathon five months later in 59:12

Last year Cheruiyot was also the winner of the Discover Kenya Cross Country 12km and San Blas Half Marathon, and he was second at the Beach to Beacon 10K.

In September 2008 he returned to the Rotterdam Half Marathon where he lost out to countryman Patrick Makau Musyoki by a split second, both timed in 59:29.

#2 - Emmanuel Mutai
Emmanuel Mutai is very young and he's very talented. He'll turn 24 on race day and he's already run three marathons and the last two were spectacular - a 2:06:29 to win in Amsterdam last Fall and a 2:06:15 that got him 4th in London in April. If you are one of the few that still clings to the antiquated notion that runners should wait until the later years of their career before moving up to the marathon, the spectacular performances put on recently by guys like Mutai and Sammy Wanjiru, the Olympic champ who is only 21, certainly must have you totally questioning your belief system.

So Mutai's young and talented. And it also appears he's fit coming into Chicago. He only ran one prep race coming into Chicago and it was a great one. On September 7th, he absolutely destroyed the field
to win the Great Scottish Run Half Marathon in Scotland by 1:45 in 1:01:10. What's there not to like about Mutai?

The weather is the only thing we can come up with. If you are looking for a reason Mutai might not run well, the weather forecast may have you a bit nervous. Mutai's first marathon was run in hot conditions that were described as being over 77 degrees and it was his only subpar marathon
as he faded to a 2:13:06 for 7th in Amsterdam in April of 2007. The early weather forecast for Chicago is calling for a high of 72 and low of 61 on Sunday. Certainly warmer than ideal for a marathon, but by no means scorching as the elites will be done before the mercury tops 70.

Was Mutai's first marathon a subpar one because it was his debut? Or was it subpar because he can't run well in the heat? Will Sunday be too hot for him?

Get up and watch the race on Sunday morning and find out.

Bank of American Chicago Marathon Bio:
Emmanuel Mutai (
Birthdate: April 1, 1978
Personal Best: 2:06:15 (London, 2008)

World Marathon Majors Highlights:
04/13/08 Flora London Marathon 4th 2:06:15

Additional Marathon Highlights:
10/21/07 ING Amsterdam Marathon 1st 2:06:29
04/15/07 Fortis Rotterdam Marathon 7th 2:13:06

Career Notes:
Had it not been for Haile Gebrselassie's world record of 2:04:26 at Berlin, Emmanuel Mutai would have been the fastest marathoner in the world in 2007.

Certainly there was no bigger surprise than the 2:06:29 the 29-year-old turned in to win the Amsterdam Marathon as earlier in the year he had run just 2:13:06 to place seventh at Rotterdam. In that race he had gone out at a brisk pace of 1:03:54 for the first half, but on that warm day he slumped to more than 69 minutes for the second half.

At Amsterdam with the weather close to ideal, Mutai actually had a slower first half split (1:03:56) than Rotterdam, and with the competition keeping up the pressure didn't secure the victory until the last kilometer. His second half took just 1:02:33.

Mutai managed to shave 14 more seconds off his PR with his 2:06:15 at the 2008 Flora London Marathon. Despite trailing winner Martin Lel by exactly one minute, Mutai ran the fastest fourth place time ever.

Mutai was fifth at the 2007 Lisbon Half-Marathon (1:00:49) and he also won the Meia Maratona de Portugal in 1:01:54. On September 7 at his final tune-up for Chicago he broke the course record at the Great Scottish Run Half-Marathon with a 1:01:10.

#3 - William Kipsang (Kenya)
With Kipsang, there seems to be no middle ground. He's other running really well or really badly. After finishing 12th in his debut marathon in 2003, he finished 1st, 2nd, 1st, 2nd and 1st in his next five. Then the evil Kipsang took over as he finished 7th, 8th and 7th in his next three, as he had four marathons in a row over 2:10. Well, the good Kipsang appears to be back as he ran a sensational 2:05:49 to win in Rotterdam in April.

The only reasons for concern involve two things. One, his only prep race for Chicago wasn't particularly impressive - a 1:03:25 6th place showing in the New York City half marathon. The good news is that race was way back on July 28th, and being in 1:03:25 shape 10 weeks out isn't too shabby. Second, he's never finished higher than seventh in a world marathon major. But the second point of concern doesn't really worry us at all. A 2:05:49 is fast as hell whether it's run in a local fun run or in London, Chicago, or Berlin. It's the 9th fastest in history. (Anyone remember how the world record was 2:06:50 for 10 years from 1988 to 1998?)

We're sure many people will be shocked that we are only picking Kipsang as our #3 pick but LRC.com isn't known for taking the safe pick. We're confident in our top two picks, which will be revealed the next few days.

Bank of American Chicago Marathon Bio:
William Kipsang (
Birthdate: June 26, 1977
Personal Best: 2:05:49 (Rotterdam, 2008)

World Marathon Majors:
11/05/06 ING New York City Marathon 7th 2:11:54
10/09/05 LaSalle Bank Chicago Marathon 7th 2:09:49

Additional Marathon Highlights:
04/13/08 Fortis Rotterdam Marathon 1st 2:05:49
03/12/06 Seoul International Marathon 8th 2:13:30
03/13/05 Seoul International Marathon 1st 2:08:53
10/17/04 Amsterdam Marathon 2nd 2:08:41
03/14/04 Seoul International Marathon 2nd 2:07:43
10/19/03 Amsterdam Marathon 1st 2:06:39
04/06/03 Paris Marathon 12th 2:12:34

Career Notes:
Kipsang burst onto the world scene in 2003, when he won the ING Amsterdam Marathon in a six-minute personal best (2:06:39), handing Felix Limo, the 2005 LaSalle Bank Chicago Marathon winner and 2006 Flora London Marathon champ, one of his few career losses at the distance. Earlier that year Kipsang had finished 12th at Paris in 2:12:34.

He has run well at the Seoul International Marathon placing second in 2004 (2:07:43) and winning there in 2005, albeit with a slightly slower time (2:08:53).

Kipsang has twice placed seventh in World Marathon Majors at Chicago in 2005 and New York City in 2006.

He went back to the Netherlands in April 2008 and ran a sensationally at the Fortis Rotterdam Marathon, smashing the course record by 25 seconds to win in 2:05:49. Maintaining a steady sub-three minutes per kilometer pace from the start, Kipsang found another gear late in the race and wound up 69 seconds ahead of second place. He is the fifth fastest marathoner in the world for 2008.

At shorter distances he was third (2004, 46:00 PR) and first (2005, 46:04) at the Dam to Dam 10-Miler in The Netherlands and fifth at the 2006 Egmond Half-Marathon. He was also sixth at last July's NYC Half-Marathon Presented by NIKE, 1:03:25.

#4 - Daniel Njenga (Kenya)
A Chicago preview without Mr. Njenga in the top five would be foolish. Many will think we are foolish for not having him in our top three as in each of the last six years he's finished in the top 3 in Chicago. In fact, he's alternated 2nd and 3rd place finishes for each of the last six years in Chicago. Since he was 3rd last year, history says he'll be 2nd this year.

He very well could be 2nd this year but we're only ranking him fourth. Why? Our rankings are more about who is most likely to win, and we think Njenga is only the 4th most likely to do so. While he's run great in Chicago the last six years, he's never won so maybe he's just more of a place and show guy than a winner.  Additionally, Njenga was only 13th in Tokyo earlier this year, whereas in 2007, he was the winner in Tokyo. Could age be catching up to the 32-year-old?

We'll find out on Sunday. Njenga is certainly the sentimental pick for the win. In the past, he's lost to some of the greatest marathoners in history including Khalid Khannouchi and Robert Cheruyiot. There isn't an established star of that stature in the field this year so maybe he can pull it off. It would be great to see Njenga get rewarded for his Chicago perserverence but we doubt it will happen.

We do think he'll finish in the top five though. He's a very consistent runner and his six straight top-three finishes are certainly a testament to the success of the Japanese-based training he receives. Being Japanese-based has worked wonders for him and for Douglas Wakihurii and two-time Olympic medalist Eric Wainaina in the past, and currently it's also working wonders for the recently-crowned Olympic champ Sammy Wanjiru.

Bank of American Chicago Marathon Bio:
Daniel Njenga (
Birthdate: May 7, 1976
Personal Best: 2:06:16 (Chicago, 2002)

World Marathon Majors:

Date Race Place Time
10/07/07 LaSalle Bank Chicago Marathon 3rd 2:12:45
10/22/06 LaSalle Bank Chicago Marathon 2nd 2:07:40
10/09/05 LaSalle Bank Chicago Marathon 3rd 2:07:14
04/17/05 Flora London Marathon 15th 2:15:25
10/10/04 LaSalle Bank Chicago Marathon 2nd 2:07:44
10/12/03 LaSalle Bank Chicago Marathon 3rd 2:07:41
10/13/02 LaSalle Bank Chicago Marathon 2nd 2:06:16

Additional Marathon Highlights:

Date Race Place Time
02/17/08 Tokyo International Marathon 13th 2:14:11
02/18/07 Tokyo International Marathon 1st 2:09:45
02/08/04 Tokyo International Marathon 1st 2:08:43
02/03/02 Beppu-Oita Marathon 2nd 2:12:44
12/05/99 Fukuoka Marathon 10th 2:11:49
07/04/99 Mombasa Marathon 4th 2:13:17

Career Notes:

Following in the brilliant paths blazed in Japan by his Kenyan countrymen Douglas Wakihuri and two-time Olympic medalist Eric Wainaina, Japan-based Daniel Njenga is emerging as an athlete of comparable ability. On June 12, 1994, he set a then World Junior Record in the 3000m steeple with a time of 8:19.21. Continuing to compete in Japan, he posted a 2:11:49 for 10th at the 1999 Fukuoka Marathon.

At The 2002 LaSalle Bank Chicago Marathon, Njenga was virtually unnoticed in the lead pack but stayed with them, holding back only when Japanís Toshinari Takaoka made what looked to be a decisive move. Instead, running alongside with Paul Tergat, Njenga found himself in a fierce three-man battle for second place at the home stretch. Outlasting a pair of notable kickers, Tergat and Takaoka, he finished second in 2:06:16.

At The 2003 LaSalle Bank Chicago Marathon, Njenga came away with yet another great performance and finished third in a time of 2:07:41. He returned to Chicago in 2004 and earned a second-place finish with a time of 2:07:44, and battled a strong field again in 2005, placing third in 2:07:14.

Njenga charged up for The 2006 LaSalle Bank Chicago Marathon by securing two wins in the 2006 Sendai Half Marathon (1:03:28) and the 10,000m event at the Kushiro Distance Meeting (28:13.79), both held in Japan.

Njenga was again close to a victory at The 2006 LaSalle Bank Chicago Marathon, where Robert K. Cheruiyot defeated him in a sprint finish. Njenga finished second with a time of 2:07:40. It was his fifth World Marathon Majors finish in the top three, tying him for fourth place among active runners.

In February 2007 at the new Tokyo International Marathon, Njenga finally returned to the winner's circle with a 2:09:45 despite bone-chilling rain.

Njenga then continued his eerie pattern of finishes at The LaSalle Bank Chicago Marathon in October. He wound up third in the heat-afflicted race giving him a sequence of 2nd-3rd-2nd-3rd-2nd-3rd in the six years he has run there. Among active runners only Martin Lel (with eight) and Khalid Khannouchi (seven) have more top three finishes in World Marathon Majors competition.

#5 (Tie) - Richard Limo and Moses Arusei of Kenya

Richard Limo (Kenya)
Having Richard Limo's name mentioned at the top of a distance running preview is a trip down memory lane in many ways, as Limo hasn't been seen much at the top of the world scene on the track in a few years.

The former junior star who set a junior world record in the 3k way back in 1999 before winning the senior World Championships at 5k in 2001, the same year that he had the world leader of 12:56.72, is once again a big name as he's successfully made the transition to the marathon.

After dropping out of his first marathon in 2007, Limo's experiences with the marathon have been good since then, as he ran 2:06:45 for 2nd in Amsterdam last October before getting 4th in Rotterdam in April (2:08:43).

Some people may not be picking Limo to do well in Chicago given the fact that he finished 19th in the Fortis Half Marathon in Rotterdam on September 14th. Well last year, he had a disasterous 1:05:09 half marathon on September 22nd and less than a month later he ran a stellar 2:06:45 on October 21st in Amsterdam. His time in Rotterdam this year was 62:23 so he very well could be ready to go in Chicago.

Given his speed (12:56 5k PR and 26:50 10k PR), Limo almost certainly will be with the leaders through 25k as he was in Rotterdam in April. The question is will he be able to hang on through the end? We think he might, as he's gaining experience in the marathon. Plus he's not very old, only 27. That's the prime of many marathoners' careers.

We've pasted Richard Limo's profile from the Chicago website at the end of this article.

Moses Arusei (Kenya)
Coming into the year, Arusei was only a 2:10 marathoner, and 2:10 marathoners have no business being mentioned in a Chicago preview these days. Everything changed in April when he lopped 3:40 from his personal best by running a stunning 2:06:50 in Paris to get 2nd.

Was that race a fluke? We'll find out on Sunday October 12th in Chicago. In his only pre-Chicago race, Arusei ran in the Fortis Half Marathon in Rotterdam on September 14th (as did Limo) and he ran 1:01:31 to finish 14th. Don't let the 14th place finish fool you. Only seven Americans in history have run faster.

He's clearly fit enough for the marathon. Some marathoners would say you wouldn't want to be much faster than that in the middle of your marathon preparations because you'd have to sacrifice too much endurance to get a whole lot faster.

Bank of American Chicago Marathon Bio:
Richard Limo (Kenya)

Birthdate: November 18, 1980
Personal Best: 2:06:45 (Amsterdam, 2007)

Marathon Highlights:
04/13/08 Fortis Rotterdam Marathon 4th 2:08:43
10/21/07 ING Amsterdam Marathon 2nd 2:06:45

Career Notes:

Limo made a spectacular marathon debut, running 2:06:45 for second place at the 2007 Amsterdam Marathon. That made him the fourth fastest marathon runner in the world that year.

He returned to The Netherlands for his second marathon at Rotterdam last April and although he passed 25km with the leaders (1:14:31) he faded back and placed fourth in 2:08:43.

Limo has extraordinary track credentials with a gold medal at the 2001 IAAF World Championships 5000 meters and PRs of 12:56.72 and 26:50.20. He was one of the best junior division runners in history with former world records for 3000 and 5000 meters and silver medals at both the 1998 and 1999 World Cross Country Championships.

Bank of American Chicago Marathon Bio:
Moses Arusei (Kenya)

Birthdate: 1983
Personal Best: 2:06:50 (Paris, 2008)

World Marathon Majors:
09/30/07 real,- Berlin Marathon 12th 2:13:46

Additional Marathon Highlights:
04/06/08 Paris International Marathon 2nd 2:06:50
03/04/07 Hong Kong Marathon 11th 2:22:18
10/29/06 Frankfurt Marathon 2nd 2:10:30
04/16/06 Alexander The Great Marathon 1st 2:11:37
10/23/05 Dresden Marathon 1st 2:16:49

Career Notes:
After winning the 2005 Dresden Marathon, Arusei proved that it was not a fluke. He sped to another victory in Thessaloniki, Greece the following April and slashed five minutes from his personal best. Six months later he improved his PR again with a 2:10:30 at Frankfurt.

There were a couple of ordinary marathon results in 2007, and then Arusei produced a stunning run at Paris International Marathon last April. He and equally unheralded Tsegaye Kebede of Ethiopia waged a hard fought battle with Kebede prevailing by 10 seconds, as Arusei slashed his personal best all the way down to 2:06:50.

Personal Notes:
Also known at Moses Kimeli Arusei, he currently resides in Kaptagat, Kenya.

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