Virgin London Marathon 2010 Men's Preview - Heavyweight Battle For The Ages

Sunday's fields will no doubt be the strongest of the year, if not of all-time

April 22, 2010

Even we are shocked at the amazing quality of the 2010 Virgin London Marathon men's field.

Year after year, we have praised London for being the most competitive marathon on the planet, but talk of 2010 being the best field in history is not hyperbole. London is the best because they spend a ton of dollars to assemble stars. This year's they've topped themselves in terms of what can be expected of a race by spending $230,000 for three private planes to get the stars on the line for Sunday's race. The volcanic eruptions and epic last-minute airlifts and week-long journeys of the world's top marathoners to arrive in London only adds to what should be incredible drama set to unfold on Sunday, April 25.

The race will speak for itself so we don't need to bore you with a long preview. The field is so fantastic because they're not just big names but they're the hottest marathoners on the planet in terms of recent accomplishments. This almost assures a stunning race and the possibility for a transcendent performance. Let's just take a second to look at the recent accomplishments of the top 7 men in the field:

Half marathon world record holder (58:22), 5-time world champion Zersenay Tadese.
'08 Olympic, '09 London and Chicago champ Sammy Wanjiru. (2:05:10)
Reigning world champion Abel Kirui. (2:05:04)
Fukuoka record-setter and '08 OG and '09 WC bronze medalist Tsegaye Kebede. (2:05:18)
2nd-fastest marathoner of all-time in Duncan Kibet. (2:04:27)
2009 Worlds silver medalist Emmanuel Mutai. (2:06:15) 
2009 London 3rd-placer and former world champ Jaouad Gharib. (2:05:27)

The race really needs no more explanation, but we'll give you some more info.

Top 2010 Result
Tadese 58:22 HM
Wanjiru 61:33 HM
Kirui NR
Kebede NR
Kibet 60:21 HM
Mutai 60:03 HM
Gharib 60:33 HM

2010 Results: Mixed Bag
The table to the right shows the latest results for each of the top 7 (these are, in our minds, the legitimate contenders for the podium). The results from Tadese, Mutai, and Gharib were all from the same race - the Lisbon Half on March 22. We aren't too concerned that Kirui and Kebede have not competed leading up to London, as they hav a history of not racing prior to strong showings. Kebede ran three races all year last year and all marathons (2nd in London, 3rd at WCs, 1st in Fukuoka), whereas Kirui didn't race prior to getting silver at Worlds last year. Both were so outstanding in 2009 that we still consider them definite podium favorites. We're surprised to see that at 37 years old, Gharib ran 60:33 this year.

Some are predicting that Tadese will break the world record in the marathon after his 58:22. We'd have to agree this is a possibility. After all, the top 4 half marathoners of all time are Tadese, Wanjiru, Patrick Makau and Haile Gebrselassie. Makau recently ran 2:04 in Rotterdam in his 3rd marathon attempt. We all know what Wanjiru has done. Gebrselassie is the only man in the 2:03s. It's only a matter of time before Tadese runs 2:04 or better considering his talent. However, it should be mentioned that this week Wanjiru called the London course much tougher than Chicago and says 2:04 is a possibility but a world record is very unlikely.

Most Recent Marathon
Tadese DNF, London '09
Wanjiru Win, Chicago '09 2:05CR
Kirui Win, Berlin WC's '09 2:06CR
Kebede Win, Fukuoka '09, 2:05CR
Kibet DNF, Berlin '09
Mutai 2nd, Berlin WCs '09 2:07
Gharib 3rd, NYC '09 2:10

Recent Marathon Performances Say One Thing: These Guys Are World's Best
On the left you see a table of the most recent marathon performance for each of the top 7 contenders. DNFs for Tadese and Kibet have to be balanced with their accomplishments before and after the DNFs. Kibet has rebounded with solid half marathons in 2010, while Tadese obviously is in tremendous shape with his 58:22.

Wanjiru, Kirui and Kebede all come off confidence-boosting course or championship record performances in Chicago, Berlin and Fukuoka, respectively. Each of these three marathoners ran not just one, but two exellent marathons in 2009. Wanjiru won London in record time last year, Kirui was 3rd in Rotterdam in 2:05 and Kebede was a World Championships medalist behind Kirui and Mutai.

Gharib still has enough gas in the tank, even at 37, to crack the top 3. Mutai may be the man with the most room left to improve. Or he may be the least-talented of the ultra-talented top 7. We'll find out more on Sunday.

Oddsmakers List Wanjiru As Slight Favorite
We agree that Wanjiru should be the favorite. We'd say the best bet for the money is Tadese at 4/1 and then Mutai at 10/1. We're a little worried about Wanjiru's half marathon in March and what it says about his back, which he said was hurt after Chicago. How many course record-breaking half and full marathons can this guy's body take before he breaks? Of course, he and most of the stars are still very young, so it's not like they are anywhere close to over the hill. Check out the ages of the main guys. They are all almost in their primes. Wanjiru and Kebede are 23 (the same age as Galen Rupp), Mutai is 25, Kirui 27, Tadesse is only 28, Kibet is 31 and Gharib is 37.

Any Indications Of Fitness?
Kirui says he and Wanjiru are going for records. We are unsure about Wanjiru, as he had some back problems after Chicago and was handily beaten by Martin Lel earlier this year (too bad Lel is injured again and had to pull out). But Wanjiru is confident (click here to read a good article from David Monti about Wanjiru's unique training situation in Kenya).

Monti writes about Wanjiru:

For Sunday's race, Wanjiru said that he wasn't particularly concerned about the finish time, but that he expected the race to be fast, in the 2:04's, even though he rated the course as "very hard with a lot of curves and slopes."  (He noted that the Chicago course was much faster).

"Let me say on Sunday, it's a tough race," he said.  "Everyone wants to see who will fight each other."  He added: "I don't know about a world record, but a course record is possible."

Kebede, who along with Wanjiru ran the first 5km last year in London in 14:06, says he hopes to hang in there and get another podium. Regarding Tadese, he just ran 58:22 and some are predicting he will break Haile Gebrselassie's 2:03:59 in London. Kibet needs another marathon to back up his 2:04 and may do better this time with less pressure.
*Correction: Earlier we reported that James Kwambai did not finish a marathon since he and Kibet ran 2:04:27. In fact, Kwambai just finished Rotterdam a few weeks ago but was jogging 10-minute miles and ran 2:24. Kwambai dropped out of New York in 2009 and Kibet DNF'd Berlin '09.

Without Further Ado ... The Picks
1. Zersenay Tadese - Tadese joins Lel as only men to beat Wanjiru in a marathon. If he wins, it will be historic, as he's also the won who slayed Kenenisa Bekele in cross-country.
2. Sammy Wanjiru - The guy can't win every marathon and if his back has hampered his training he won't win here.
3. Tsegaye Kebede - Best 3rd-place run of all-time?
4. Abel Kirui - Too solid over past year to ignore.
5. Jaouad Gharib - Another stellar result for aging world champ. We'd be stunned if he won.

Guys We Didn't Mention
We haven't even mentioned some extremely talented half- and full marathoners like two-time ING New York Marathon champion Marilson dos Santos, Yonas Kifle and Abdderahim Bouramdane. These guys, as we explain in our ratings system below, will be mild longshots to even make the podium despite their accomplishments. In this day and age, if you are a 2:07 or 2:08 guy as they all are, you are definitely an afterthought in London just as a 14:20 guy is an afterthought at a conference meet full of 14:00-flat guys. American hopes on the men's side will lie with Abdi Abdirahman, who hasn't run a fast marathon since his 2:08 in 2006.

Records Are Weather-Dependent So Just Enjoy The Race
Today's forecast says temps in the 50s and chance of rain on race day. We say just enjoy one of the most accomplished fields in marathoning history, whether they run 2:04 or 2:07.

Streaming/TV Coverage
Universal says they'll stream the race at 8am eastern on Sunday (that will be delayed). We'll not post anything on the front page before the tape-delayed broadcast is finished. We're not sure about a $5 charge, but we're assuming there will be a charge to view it. The race will likely be on Universal TV if you get that channel, but we'll update that as we get closer to Sunday's event.

LRC Stats And Ratings - Men's Virgin London Marathon Field
In our ongoing effort to give you the most pertinent information on the world's best runners at the world's best races, we present our breakdown of the men's field. Next to each runner's name should be their 2010 results, their PR, their bib number, and their marathon performances of 2009.

To get a 5-star rating you have to be a current world-beater. This group contains current world-record holders and guys who have won big marathons in the past 12 months.

4-star ratings are earned by current podium contenders who have not been winning big marathons lately and must be considered mild longshots considering the 5 guys getting 5-star LRC ratings.

3-star runners are sub-2:10 guys who are either 1. "over-the-hill greats" or 2. significant longshots for the podium.

2-star runners are elites who would be ecstatic to break 2:10.

5-Star ... Current World Beaters
1 Samuel Wanjiru KEN 2:05:10 - 61:33 Half in New Orleans in 2010 - Streak of marathon wins: Chicago '09 2:05:41, London '09 2:05:10, Beijing '08 Olympics 2:06:32

16 Zersenay Tadese ERI - Broke HM WR in 2010 (58:22) - DNFed first marathon attempt - Multi-time World HM Champ - 26:50 10,000 at '09 WCs

2 Duncan Kibet KEN 2:04:27 - 61:00 and 60:21 HMs in 2010 - 2:04:27 in '09 Rotterdam win - Disappointing DNF, Berlin '09

3 Abel Kirui KEN 2:05:04 - '09 World Marathon Champ in record time - Looking for another big performance after 2 great '09 marathons - No results in 2010

5 Tsegaye Kebede ETH 2:05:18 - Fukuoka '09 Champ and record-setter - Olympic Medalist, World Champs Medalist - Solid, solid, solid - No 2010 results

4-Star ... Major Podium Contenders
6 Jaouad Gharib MAR 2:05:27 - 60:33 HM in 2010 - '08 Beijing Silver - 3rd in London last year - 37 years old

7 Emmanuel Mutai KEN 2:06:15 - World Silver '09 - 60:03 HM in 2010 - 4th in London in '09 and '08 - 25 years old

3-Star ... Very Good But Not Likely For Podium
10 Marilson Gomes dos Santos BRA 2:08:37 - Former great struggling to find top form (16th in ING NYC, DNF at Worlds, 63-minute half at 2010 NYC Half)

11 Abdi Abdirahman USA 2:08:56 - 2:14 in last 2 marathons - No results in 2010

8 Yonas Kifle ERI 2:07:34 - Should be happy with top 10

9 Abderrahim Bouramdane MAR 2:08:20 - 63-minute HM in 2010 - 1st time in London - Former Boston runner-up

12 Satoshi Irifune JPN 2:09:23

2 Star - Hoping For 1st Sub-2:10
13 Takayuki Matsumiya JPN 2:10:04

14 Ridouane Harroufi MAR 2:10:14

15 Dan Robinson GBR 2:12:14

17 Andrew Lemoncello GBR Debut

18 Peter Nowill AUS Debut

What Others Are Saying:
Dave Bedford And London Spend $250k But Get Every Elite To World's Best Marathon!
*Kenyan Great Predicts World Record In London, Saying It Is Strongest Field In History
*LRC Boards: Tadesse will destroy Geb's marathon record
*Recommended Read: From 20 Cents Per Day To World-Beating Marathoner - Story Of Tsegaye Kebede



Tell a friend about this article
(Dont worry we won't email your friend(s) again. We send them a 1 time email)
Enter their email address(es), separated by a comma.
Enter your name:

Don't Worry: We
Back to Main Front Page
Questions, comments or suggestions?Please email the staff at [email protected]

Runner's World &
Running Times

Combined Only $22

a Year
Save $87

Running & Track and Field Posters

Search the Web



Running Shoe Savings: Nike Lunar Glide 20% Off
Super popular shoe from Nike featuring Flywire and Lunar Foam

Back To Top