2011 Bank Of America Chicago Marathon Preview: Ryan Hall Takes On Moses Mosop

By LetsRun.com
October 6, 2011

Moses Mosop enters Sunday's Bank of America Marathon as the heavy favorite. In his marathon debut in Boston (2:03:06), Moses ran the marathon 53 seconds faster than any human being previously had run. The only problem? Geoffrey Mutai was 4 seconds ahead of him on the wind-aided Boston course.

Wind or no wind, 2:03:06 is incredible. Moses took to the marathon like a fish takes to water. Thus, he is the favorite in Chicago. The question is how has his preparation for Chicago gone? Apparently pretty well. First, he recovered well from Boston and destroyed the 30km world track record two months later at the Prefontaine Classic in June. His famed coach Renato Canova posted on LetsRun.com yesterday that Moses' Chicago preparations have gone well. Canova said, "I don't know exact result for Mosop. But I can tell you, my friend, that I expect result to be faster time than 2:06. Maybe weather is something that will help or hurt runners on Sunday. I learn one thing when I was young boy. It is the future that is known, my friend, and it is the past keeps changing."

The marathon is such a challenge because if one little thing that goes wrong on race day, months of preparation can be for naught. The heavy favorite often does not win a marathon.

The Contenders

Moses Mosop

If Mosop falters, who can challenge him? Believe it or not, American Ryan Hall may be the most likely contender. Let us first, however, discuss some of the other contenders besides Hall.

21-year-old Ethiopian Bazu Worku on paper may have the best chance. A junior sensation in the marathon, Worku ran 2:05:25 in Berlin last year at the ripe old age of 20 years and 11 days. He ran a 2:06:16 world junior record in his debut the year before at the age of 18. He did have one less stellar performance - a loss in Ottawa while running 2:09 in May of 2010 - but the 2:05:25 erased that blemish in our minds. So what's not to like? The biggest concern is he dropped out of the World Championships just a little over a month ago in South Korea. Was that a sign of a lack of fitness and poor preparations or was he only running Worlds to please the Ethiopian federation? We'll likely find out on Sunday.

Marilson Gomes Dos Santos has shown he can win a World Marathon Major. He is the two-time New York City Marathon champion (2006 and 2008). While dos Santos has not done a lot since 2008 to turn heads, do not think at age 34 that time has passed him by. This spring, he ran 2:06:34 for a personal best for fourth place in the world's most competitive marathon, London. Dos Santos also ran 1:01:23 for a half marathon last month, so he has shown current fitness.

The rest of the credentialed Chicago contenders have some question marks. Evans Cheruiyot won in Chicago in 2008. Since then he has had his struggles. After missing much of 2010 with injuries, he ran his best marathon since 2008 in Dubai of this year, running 2:08:17. He'll have to improve on that to win in Chicago.

Bernard Kipyego has stellar credentials at shorter distances. A 26:59 10ker, 59:10 half marathoner, and World Road Running silver medallist, Kipyego has not taken fully to the marathon. In three tries, all on flat courses like Chicago, his best time is a 2:07:01. Very respectable, but in today's age, not good enough to win a World Marathon Major. But it's certainly not out of the question. It's not like Kipyego is old - he's only 25. Anyone remember when Hendrick Ramaala won New York in his 11th marathon of his career in 2004? He is in shape, as he ran 1:00:04 for the half marathon last month.

Bekana Daba is also a 2:07 guy, having run 2:07:04 while taking a pit stop in Houston. However, he was only 9th in Boston and winning here would be a jump in marathon class. But he's got bona fide class since as recently as 2010, the 23-year-old was breaking 13:00 for 5,000 in Europe.

Atsushi Sato, the Japanese half marathon record holder is a 2:07 guy, and returning to the full marathon after a year-plus hiatus.

This is a World Marathon Major, so we won't discuss guys who have "only" run 2:08.

Ryan Hall

Ryan Hall's Chances

That brings us to Ryan Hall.

First, let's start with the bad news. There is no reason to believe Ryan Hall is a 2:04:58 marathoner. Sure, Hall ran 2:04:58 for third fourth place at this year's Boston Marathon, but he had a 20 mph wind at his back for much of the race. He could become a 2:04:58 marathoner in the future, but we're pretty confident he's not a 2:04 marathoner based on what he's done in the past. If he runs sub-2:05 on Sunday, LetsRun.com will donate $5,000 to Hall's charity, The Steps Foundation.

Now for the good news, Hall is a damn good marathoner. And it may not take a 2:04:58 effort to win Chicago this year.

Hall has shown he was born to run the marathon. As we said in our Boston preview, "Hall has always run well in the marathon. His 'worst' marathon time-wise and place-wise was a 10th place at the Olympics. Besides that, he's always been in the top 5 except for a 2:08:24 for 7th place in London." We then predicted Hall's top-5 streak would come to an end, as he had only run 1:03:54 for the half marathon a month before Boston.

After his Boston run, Hall gets the Khalid Khannouchi treatment and has earned the right to be considered a threat any time he toes the starting line no matter how his tune-up races went. Hall's one tune-up race? A 1:03:02 half-marathon, after which he said, "I think I could run a marathon at that pace but when I'd go to the front and try to go a faster it would feel very uncomfortable. That's a good sign actually."

So looking at the field as a whole, you have the class of the field in Mosop. Then it's Worku, who has a lot of question marks having just dropped out of Worlds, and then Hall and Dos Santos. Then it's a bunch of guys hoping to break through or regain their form.

Ryan Hall has to like his chances if Mosop falters.

Predictions: 1) Mosop - Course Record 2) Kipyego 3) Hall

LetsRun.com has been having infighting all week in picking the #2 spot, as many advocated for Hall at #2, but in the end, we put Hall down at #3, meaning we think even if Mosop falters that Hall won't win. Some other guy - probably Kipyego - will figure out a way to get the job done. LetsRun.com co-founder Weldon Johnson wants it in print that he has Hall second.

One stat to think about is the fact that so far in 2011 all of the World Marathon Majors have seen their men's course record fall. That weird stat has us thinking Mosop can do it in Chicago, as 2:05:41 is more than 2 minutes off the world record in the year 2011. The weather is going to be a little bit warm (low 50s at the start to low to mid 60s at the finish), as a high of 76 is being projected. but the winds are expected to be light. If it was 10-12 degrees cooler, the weather would be ideal. It'll be interesting to see with the sun out how hot it feels on Sunday morning.

Chicago On The Boards: *Will Hall Win Chicago ?
*If you were Moses Mosop, what would your race plan be for Chicago?
*Renato Canova Posts About Moses Mosop's preparations

More: AP: Olympic marathoner Hall seeks his stride


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