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LRC: A New Marathon Star In Evans Cheruiyot Emerges
2008 Bank of America Chicago Marathon Men's Recap

by: LetsRun.com
October 12, 2008

The men's race in the 2008 Bank of America Chicago Marathon proved that we are officially in a new era of marathoning on the men's side.

Fifty-six days ago at the Olympics in Beijing, experts and even fellow elites like Ryan Hall were absolutely dumbfounded by the sensational 2:06:32 run that Sammy Wanjiru orchestrated in the 75-degree weather. How could a man run so fast in such warm conditions?

Well, the 2008 Bank of America Chicago Marathon was a near-repeat of the Olympics. It was a warm and humid day, but the top men tried to run the race as if the weather didn't matter. In the end, for one of them, it didn't. Evans Cheruiyot ended up with a remarkable 2:06:25 win and instantly became exactly what we predicted before the race began - a new marathon star!!!

The race was honest from the gun. Television announcer Toni Reavis described the pace perfectly as "rich" given the warm conditions. Former NCAA cross-country champion Boaz Cheboiywo did a very nice job of setting a very even pace early on as they went through 5k in 15:00 and 10k in 29:51. Some might think that at this point, the men would reconsider the seemingly suidical pace. Far from it; the pace got even richer as the leaders passed 20k in 59:15 (they ran 29:24 the 2nd 10k) and halfway in a ridiculous 1:02:27.

The pace was too costly for nearly everyone. By four miles, Japan's 2:08:40 guy, Arata Fujiwara, had been dropped. By 11 miles, the pace was even too pricy for the rabbits. Unbelievable.

At halfway, there were just three men in the lead group. Cheruiyot, the #5 performer all-time in the half marathon (59:05), was joined up front by fellow Kenyans David Mandago and Emmanuel Mutai. Mutai, our #2 pick in the LetsRun.com preview, came into the race with great credentials thanks to his 2:06:29 win last year in Amsterdam and his 2:06:15 4th-place finish in London. Mandago was making his world marathon majors debut but had previously won five marathons, with his last two being in the 2:08 and 2:07 range.

Mutai was the most impatient of the group. He was up front throughout, seemingly on the heels of the rabbits, wanting the pace to go faster and faster. Ironically, he would be the first casualty to the fast pace. Roughly 17 miles in, he cracked. Once dropped, he shortly ran into severe trouble. In the 5k where he got dropped, from 25k to 30k, he ran 15:22 whereas the leaders ran it in 15:05. His next 5k was run in 16:46 and then things got even uglier as from 35k to 40k, he hobbled 19:21. His final 2,195 meters took 10:07, which means he was running 7:25 mile pace.

Yes, that's right. The man who finished fifth in the marathon in 2:15:36 was running 7:25 pace for the final 1.4 miles. But that shouldn't come as too much of a surprise. For what happened to Mutai is exactly what exercise physiologists and everyone else in the world prior to Wanjiru's sensational Olympic run assumed would happen if you try to run 2:05 pace in hot weather. It was thought to be 100% suicidal and you'd utterly blow up.

Nonetheless, it was a gallant effort put forth by Mutai. The hot weather just caught up to him. In our pre-race comments on Mutai, we had said the weather forecast likely was making Mutai fans a bit nervous as his first marathon was his only subpar one - a 2:13 in 77-degree heat in Amsterdam.

Exercise physiologists need a new model, as the theories apparently don't apply to everyone. The pace remained hot up front with Mandago and Cheruyiot. They passed 30k in 1:29:07 (last 10k of 29:52), meaning they were still averaging 2:05:20 pace. Just as in the Olympic marathon, the pace would slow ever so slightly from there as the miles drifted from the high 4:40s to the 4:50s, but it didn't matter as the duo would put on an epic battle for the title.

In the 22nd mile, just before they hit the 1:45 mark, Mandago started to pull away on a slight hill. Cheruyiot, the half marathon specialist who was only running his 2nd marathon, fell back a few meters. Was Cheruiyot, the man who had been doing none of the work and had been sitting just behind Mandago's right hip, cooked?

Both runners were clearly fatigued but Mandago's lead kept gradually getting larger and larger. Cheruiyot was doing everything he could to maintain contact but he fell more than 10 meters back. At 1:47 into the race, in what seemed almost a final act of desperation, Cheruiyot veered to his left and lunged for a cup of water. He was unsuccessful on his first attempt, but on the 2nd, he had a cup which he quickly dumped on his head. At the time, it seemed almost like a last-ditch play for survival. Cheruiyot was doing everything he possibly could to hang on. He knew that if he cracked here, it was all over. And literally just when it looked like it was over, like Cheruyiot was going to fall more than 20 meters back and concede the race, he put his head down and almost instantly caught Mandago on one of the slight hills.

It was one of the more remarkable comebacks in elite marathon history. For nearly a whole mile, four-and-a-half minutes, Cheruiyot was doing all he could to hang on, and now 1:49:30 into the race, he had suddenly caught up. And once he regained contact, everything changed almost instantly. Cheruiyot looked re-energized, like a man with new-found life. Mandago looked completely discouraged. He had done his best to break his rival, yet Cheruiyot had done the impossible and had come back on him. Just 40 seconds later, 1:55:10 into the race, Cheruiyot took his first lead of the race and within a minute, the battle was over. Mandago couldn't hang on and, unlike Cheruyiot, he could marshal no comeback. By 40k (1:59:33), Cheruiyot had 17 seconds on Mandago.

Cheruiyot would cruise home for victory in 2:06:25. Mandago would stagger home for a well-deserved 2nd in 2:07:37.

Thanks to chip technology, it's possible to go back and analyze what happened. By looking at the splits, it's clear how the latter stages of the race played out. Mandago ran out of gas. The pace was actually slowing ever so slightly over the final miles. For the first 25k, every 5k had been run at sub-4:50 mile pace (the opening 5k was 15:00, which is 4:49.6 mile pace). After 25k, every 5k was run at over 4:50 mile pace. Cheruyiot ran the 5k from 25k to 30k in 15:05 (4:51 pace), the 5k from 30k to 35k in 15:09 (4:52 pace), and the 5k from 35k to 40k in 15:17 (4:55 pace).

Much like Ethiopia's Deriba Merga, who completely cracked in the final kilometers of the 2008 Olympic marathon and went from being with the leaders at 37k to out of the medals by the finish, Mandago had nothing left at the end. He ran his final 2.2 kilometers at 5:42 mile pace. Admittedly, he may have had a little bit more left at the end but no incentive to use it, as third place was way behind him. The 2004 Boston winner, Timothy Cherigat, ended up in third in 2:11:42, more than four minutes behind Mandago. But certainly in a general sense, it's clear that people aren't really made to run so fast in such warm conditions and if they try and fail, the fall from grace is more dramatic than normal.

Cheruyiot slowed a bit himself at the end, as his final 1.2 miles of the race seems to be the only part of it run over 5:00 pace, as he ran 5:02 pace (6:52 for 2.2 k) from 40k to the finish.

Regardless, Cheruiyot's performance today at the 2008 Bank of American Chicago Marathon was simply breathtaking. We mentioned the Olympic marathon a bit earlier and we think it's useful to compare Cheruiyot's performance to the one put on by Wanjiru in Beijing.

Certainly in Beijing, the weather was warmer than today in Chicago but not necessarily more difficult marathoning weather by a great margin. In Bejing, they said on today's broadcast that it was 73 degrees at the start with 60% humidity. Today in Chicago, it was 64 degrees with a ridiculous 83% humidity at the start. By the finish, the conditions in Chicago were similar to what the start was like in Beijing - 70 degrees with 61% humidity. But the performances were similar.

It's worthwhile to compare the intermediate splits of Wanjiru and Cheruiyot.

Sammy Wanjiru
Beijing 2008
29:25 (14:33)
44:36 (15:11)
59:10 (14:34)
1:13:58 (14:48)
1:29:15 (15:17)
1:44:37 (15:22)
1:59:54 (15:17)
2:06:32 (6:38)
Evans Cheruiyot
Chicago 2008
29:51 (14:51)
44:45 (14:54)
59:15 (14:30)
1:14:02 (14:47)
1:29:07 (15:05)
1:44:16 (15:09)
1:59:33 (15:17)
2:06:25 (6:52)

By no means are we saying that Cheruiyot would have beaten Wanjiru in Beijing. We believe Wanjiru's performance in Beijing - without help from any rabbits, in warmer conditions, in a tougher overall field and with Kenya's first Olympic marathon gold medal on the line - is the greatest marathon ever run. We are just trying to point out that Cheruiyot's performance today was very, very special.

There should be no doubt after today that Cheruiyot is a bona fide new star in the marathon.

And we take great pride in saying, "I told you so," as we predicted as much in our pre-race preview when we said the following about Cheruiyot:

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."

So remember, please keep coming to LetsRun.com to stay up to date with the sport. While the TV announcers were saying how Cheruiyot "shocked everyone" with his big improvement, it certainly wasn't a shock to us.
2008 Bank of America Chicago Marathon Top 10 Results
1 Cheruiyot, Evans KEN 02:06:25
2 Mandago, David KEN 02:07:37
3 Cherigat, Timothy KEN 02:11:39
4 Korir, Wesley K USA 02:13:53
5 Lauret, Martin NED 02:15:10
6 Mutai, Emmanuel KEN 02:15:36
7 Reneau, Mike USA 02:16:19
8 Kipsang, William KEN 02:16:41
9 Njenga, Daniel KEN 02:17:33
10 Limo, Richard KEN 02:18:48

It's interesting to note that former Louisville star Wesley Korir didn't start with the elite runners. He started in the mass start - 5 minutes after the elites went off. Considering that only the top five receive prize money, it's clear that the agents for Martin Lauret and Emmanuel Mutai are going to be lobbying hard to be paid 4th and 5th place money, as they should in our minds.

Korir ran in a different race and didn't finish 4th in the prize money race. He finished 1st in the mass race. Hopefully, Chicago can find some money for him as well as he ran great.

More Info On The Race:
*LetsRun.com Message Board Thread On Race
*Article On Women's Race
*Science of Sport's Analysis of Men's Race

Full Race Video
Watch This Year's Highlights:

Men's Race *Women's Race
*Watch Last Year's Highlights:
Men's Race *Women's Race

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