The 2013 World Cross Country Winner Is Going To Be…….A Guy Who May Not Run It – Geoffrey Kipsang

February 15, 2013

(Editor’s update on 2/16/2013: This article was written on Friday. Since then it’s come out that Geoffrey Kipsang is one of 4 potential wild-cards for the 2013 Worlds. As Athletics Kenya general secretary David Okeyo told the IAAF: “We all saw what Kipsang did in the UAE and he also won the junior title in Punta Umbria and the coaches would like to see whether he can maintain this form since this is the title that has been eluding us.”)

In case you missed it, the 2013 RAK Half Marathon was earlier today (and we can’t blame you as the Friday races in the Islamic countries always throw us off as well) and the results very impressive across the board. For the first time in history, three men broke 59:00 in the same race, and for the first time in history, four women broke 67, six broke 68 and 10 broke 69.

The winner of the men’s race was 20 year old Geoffrey Kipsang.

And that’s where it gets interesting/potentially depressing. The 2013 Kenyan cross country trials are tomorrow and Kipsang won’t be running them as he picked up more than $10,000 winning the race today (official prize money was 50,000 UAED for first which is roughly $13,600).

The problem is if he ran the Trials and World cross country we’d say he’d have to be considered the favorite.

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Why do we say that? Well while Kipsang isn’t a house-hold name just yet, he soon will be.

Two years ago the last time world cross country was held, the junior men’s winner was then 18-year old Geoffrey Kipsang. So that proves he’s great at cross country.

Since then, he’s done pretty well for himself, running 13:12 (5000m), 27:06 (10,000m), 59:26 (58:54 today) and 2:06:12 for third in Berlin in his marathon debut last fall at age 19.  A month ago, on January 19, he won the Kenyan Police champs by a ridiculous 54-seconds over 2:03:02 marathoner Geoffrey Mutai, who was third today in the RAK Half Marathon today in 58:58.

Given those accomplishments and today’s win, Kipsang very well may have won the world cross country championships in Poland next month. But will he even go? Some of the older stars have been skipping the event for a while now, but have we really gotten to the point where it’s not in the long-term financial interest of a 20-year old to build his resume with a “World Cross Country champion” title?

That shouldn’t be.Tons of people run fast times but only a few win big championships.

The good news is it came out yesterday that Athletics Kenya may give out wild-cards to world cross country so there is a chance Kipsang might still end up on the team. However, what’s not clear is if they’d give out a wild-card to someone who didn’t even run the Trials or if Kipsang even is interested (If you know that he’s committed to a Spring marathon, please email us as we know he’s not running Boston or London as of now).

What About The Sport?

Geoffrey Kipsang wins the 2013 RAK Half  (photo by Victor Sailer, courtesy of RAK Half-Marathon; used with permission)    Geoffrey Kipsang wins the 2013 RAK Half
(photo by Victor Sailer, courtesy of RAK Half-Marathon; used with permission)

We understand why men and women are skipping world cross country – people need to make money and the money is on the roads.

What can be done about it?

We’ve quickly brainstormed a few ideas.

1) Move the date of world cross country up a bit.

It seems to us that world cross country is a bit too late on the calendar. It makes it real hard to properly prepare for that and a spring marathon.

For example, it takes place this year on March 24th and the biggie – London is just 4 weeks later on April 21st (Since London has a seemingly nearly infinite amount of money, we were going to propose maybe they could say, “Hey we’ll give a ****** ($50,000?) appearance fee to the world xc champion.”).

In our mind, a distance runner should have two seasons – an outdoor track season and indoor/cross country. It seems that with worlds being mid to late August, that it would make much more sense if World XC was roughly 6 months before that – mid to late February.

2) Drastically Move the Date of World Cross Country

– The way it stands now there is a an Olympic or outdoor world championships in track 3 out of every 4 years: 2011, 2012, 2013 – no 2014. While we think that’s really stupid (it should be every two years 2012, 2014, 2016 or every year), it creates an opportunity for world cross country. What if world cross country was moved to the summer and took place at the end of the track season in the one year every four there is no otudoor worlds/Olympics?

So next year, 2014, world cross country would be the #1 goal for all distance runners as there is nothing else to aim for anyways. We’re not sure if this would mean world xc would be a once every 4 year thing or if you still have it in the winter but it would be better than what we have now.

3) Raise money for increased prize money for world xc.

Right now here is the individual prize money for the World XC:

1st $30,000
2nd $15,000
3rd $10,000
4th $7,000
5th $5,000
6th $3,000
(That’s $70,000 in individual prize money plus there is $60,000 in team prize money).

This is for the so called hardest race in the world. Imagine being in the lead pack and you  get outkicked and take home $3,000? You can see why guys are starting to go elsewhere looking for paydays.

Let’s not fool ourselves. Money talks. How to get more money in the sport is the big question. If you’ve got any ideas on the money side or saving world XC email us at

An LRC Slush Fund?
In the meantime, maybe we’re relegated to dreaming. Maybe we’ll create an LRC slush fund for athletes on kickstarter. If $10,000 was raised, would Rupp have raced Lagat this weekend at Millrose instead of running in Sweden next week? We can’t blame athletes for thinking about their own bottom lines, but the sport suffers with the top stars avoiding one another and not running the top events.  Other sports with a stronger governing body have the ability to force their top athletes to compete against one another in the biggest competitions. In track and field, it really only happens at the Worlds and Olympics.

While we’re thinking of raising money for races, if we were the ones doing it, soon we’d be doing some crazy prop bets, “OK. Jeremy Wariner, here’s $25,000 for you to run an 800 but it has to be under X or you get nothing.”

Do you have a brilliant idea to make the sport better? Share it with us.

More: Kipsang, Kipchoge withdraw from XC nationals

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