The Greatest Men’s Marathon Field Ever: 2013 Virgin London Men’s Marathon Men’s Preview

All of the Major Marathon course record holders plus the Olympic champ will battle it out on a glorious day on Sunday

April 19, 2013

Runners, run -through the cold, through the heat, through the rain, through the snow. While the running world tries to make sense of the senseless bombings at Monday’s Boston Marathon, we can’t think of a better way to carry on than by running.

The running world will keep running Sunday on the grandest stage possible at the Virgin London Marathon with the greatest men’s marathon field ever assembled in the history of sport.* While we should never forget what happened Monday in Boston, we would be doing a disservice to what happened in Boston if we did not celebrate the greatness and pageantry taking place Sunday in London.

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The 2013 Virgin London Marathon’s men’s race has all of the makings of something truly special – so special if you are an American, we say it very well may be worth getting up for a 4:45 am ET to watch live (ok, maybe get up at 5:45 and watch it the second half) if you can’t figure out some way to record it.

Consider this. At the start of the year, there were five marathon majors – Berlin, Boston, Chicago, London and New York (Tokyo has since been added). All five of the marathon majors course record holders will be racing on Sunday in London. And all five of them are still in the prime of their careers.

We’re not even close to done yet. In addition to the five course record holders which includes the world record holder (Patrick Makau 2:03:38 in Berlin) as well as the fastest man in history (Geoffrey Mutai 2:03:02 on the wind-aided Boston course), the reigning Olympic champion in Stephen Kiprotich of Uganda is in the field. Then there is the defending London champion in Wilson Kipsang who also just happens to be the second fastest man ever on a standard course at 2:03:42 and many people’s favorite.

To top it off for good measure London also has the course record holder from the world’s richest marathon in terms of prize money, Dubai, in Ayale Abshero (2:04:23), as well as another 2:05 guy in Feyisa Lelisa.

The field is so stacked – it has to be considered the greatest men’s marathon field ever assembled. To us, it seems almost too good to be true like a video game creation. This race seemingly will provide the answer of one of those sports fantasy questions that is never meant to be answered like, “Who was the best in his prime in the NBA? Wilt, Jordan, Russell, Kobe or Lebron?”

Take a look below at the top 10 elite men for Sunday’s race. Picking a winner out of this list is the equivalent to being asked, “What would you rather own: Manchester United, Real Madrid, the New York Yankees or Dallas Cowboys?” or “Who is the hottest man on the planet?” or “Who is the hottest woman on the planet?” It basically just comes down to personal preference.

Except here, there will be a definitive answer known before 12 noon on Sunday.

Below we talk a little bit about each of the top 10 leading men’s entrant’s for Sunday’s race.

We start with the defending champion Wilson Kipsang and then list them in order of PRs on a non-aided course.

1 Wilson Kipsang KEN 2:03:42 (defending champion), 31 years old

Wilson Kipsang prior the NYC Half earlier this year enjoying a birthday celebration

Wilson Kipsang prior the NYC Half earlier this year enjoying a birthday celebration

At our general rule of thumb is if you win the London marathon (the most competitive pro marathon in world), you are the best marathoner in the world. Wilson Kipsang won last year and while he only took home bronze at the Olympics, in our mind and many people’s mind, he lost the Olympic race because he made a tactical error by trying to run away from everyone in the middle of the race (he ran 14:11 for the third 5k which is sub 2:00 pace). In the year 2012 or 2013, the world of marathoning is too deep – you can’t just drop the best in the world before the half-way mark.

We know Kipsang is in shape as he won the NYC Half on March 17th in 61:02. Plus the guy is a proven winner. In the year 2013, it’s hard to win one marathon let alone five of the seven you’ve run in your career:

Wilson Kipsang’s Marathon Record
2:07:13           3    Paris    11 Apr
2:04:57           1    Frankfurt    31 Oct
2:06:13           1    Otsu    7 Mar
2:03:42           1    Frankfurt    30 Oct
2:04:44           1    London    22 Apr
2:09:37           3    Olympics 12 Aug
2:12:31           1    Honolulu 9 Dec

LRC‘s take: Is there anything not to like? Perhaps, the fact that his New York half victory wasn’t totally dominant but it was very cold and one doesn’t want or need to be in top half marathon shape a month out from a marathon anyway.

2 Patrick Makau KEN 2:03:38 (world record holder), 28 years old

Like Kipsang, Makau’s career marathon record is pretty much breathtaking. He’s finished six marathons, won four of them and the slowest time he’s ever run is 2:06:14.

World Record Holder Patrick Makau

World Record Holder Patrick Makau

Patrick Makau’s Marathon Record

2:06:14           4    Rotterdam    5 Apr
DNF            ING    New York     1 Nov
2:04:48           1    Rotterdam    11 Apr
2:05:08           1    Berlin    26 Sep
2:05:45           3    London    17 Apr
2:03:38 WR NR         1    Berlin    25 Sep
DNF                London    22 Apr
2:06:08           1    Frankfurt    28 Oct

LRC’s Take: What’s not to like? Nothing really except we don’t know for sure that he’s in top form as his only ‘race’ was basically an appearance fee in Hawaii where he ran 65:28 in a downpour. We wouldn’t read too much into that as the weather was awful but when you are choosing between a bunch of basically identical Mercedes, you want everything to be perfect, don’t you? Update: There is a pre-race interview with Makau here, so see for yourself what he says about his preparations..

3 Geoffrey Mutai KEN 2:04:15 (world marathon majors champion) – 31 years old – In 2011, if we told you anyone would do ONE of the following you likely would have tried to have us committed:

1) Win arguably the most competitive race in the world – the Kenyan cross country trials by 44 seconds.
2) Run 2:03:02 at Boston (previous course record 2:05:52)
3) Run 2:05:06 in New York (previous course record 2:07:43)

Geoffrey Mutai did all three things in 2011.

After that Mutai, dropped out of the 2012 Boston marathon in the 80 degree heat and was left off the Kenyan Olympic team in a controversial decision. Considering elite marathoning is normally done in 40 and 50 degree temperatures, dropping out in 80 degree heat isn’t a huge blemish on the record. Mutai bounced back with a 2:04:15 win in Berlin in September.

Geoffrey Mutai ran 2:03:02 in Boston in 2010.  *More 2011 Boston Marathon Photos

Geoffrey Mutai ran 2:03:02 in Boston in 2010.
*More 2011 Boston Marathon Photos

In his last three marathons under normal conditions, here’s what he’s done.

2:03:02 AR          1    Boston MA    18 Apr
2:05:06           1    New York NY    6 Nov
2:04:15           1*   Berlin    30 Sep

3 majors – 3 wins and two course records. Ok, we’ve put an * next to his last win as many think that his training partner Dennis Kimetto let Mutai win so Mutai would pick up $500,000 as the World Marathon Majors Champion. (For those of you new to the sport, yes running has controversy). But Kimetto is no slouch as he’d go on to win a major – Tokyo – in his next start.

We know Mutai is in shape as he ran 58:58 in February in the UAE for the half-marathon.

LRC’s take: His accomplishments the last few years are mind-blogging. What’s not to like? Well he was far from dominant in Berlin like he was in 2011. How long of a window does someone have these days to remain on top of the marathon world? It’s a very narrow window. Has his absolute peak passed?

4 Ayele Abshero ETH 2:04:23, 22 years young – Abshero ran 2:04:23 in his debut last year in Dubai before being a DNF at the Olympics. Has no races since then.

LRC’s take: We know he excelled in the rabbitted Dubai last year but as a former cross country star at the junior ranks (2008 runner-up, 2009 champ), we’d love to see this guy run on a non-rabbitted hillier course like Boston or New York. He has a bit of something to prove. A big race here on Monday and he’s a young star. A bad one and he’s largely a, “Who’s that guy again?”

5 Tsegaye Kebede ETH 2:04:38 (2010 champion), 26 years old – It’s hard to believe Kebede is only 26 as he won Olympic bronze in 2008. It shows that the guys are starting in the marathon earlier and earlier.

Fun fact, he’s 252 days younger than Galen Rupp and has run 13 career marathons. And none of them have been bad – unless you consider a 2:08 debut to be bad.

In 2010, Kebede was arguably the World’s #1 in the marathon.

Tsegaye Kebede winning London in 2010 *More 2010 London Marathon Photos

Tsegaye Kebede winning London in 2010
*More 2010 London Marathon Photos

Tsegaye’s Kebede’s Marathon Career
2:06:40           1        Paris    6 Apr
2:10:00           3    OG    Beijing    24 Aug
2:06:10           1        Fukuoka    7 Dec
2:05:20           2    Flora    London    26 Apr
2:08:35           3    WC    Berlin    22 Aug
2:05:18           1        Fukuoka    6 Dec
2:05:19           1    Virgin    London    25 Apr
2:06:43           2    Bank of Am    Chicago IL    10 Oct
2:07:48           5    Virgin    London    17 Apr
2:07:14           3    ING    New York NY    6 Nov
2:06:52           3    Virgin    London    22 Apr
2:04:38           1    Bank of Am    Chicago IL    7 Oct

Kebede’s win ratio isn’t the same as a Kipsang or Mutai but he comes into London off of a 2:04:38 course record and personal best showing in Chicago.

LRC’s take: Like many of the guys, he could win, but he’s far from the favorite.

6 Emmanuel Mutai KEN 2:04:40 (2011 champion), 28 years old –

Emmanuel Mutai after winning London in 2011 *More 2011 London Marathon Photos

Emmanuel Mutai after winning London in 2011
*More 2011 London Marathon Photos

Mutai who for a long time was known as the best marathoner in the world to never have won a major finally broke through in a big way with a much deserved 2:04:40 course record win in London in 2011. That came after three straightrunners-up at the World Champs, London and New York. He’s very good at finishing second.

LRC’s take: 2012 was a down year for Mutai as he was only 7th in London (2:08:01) and then 14th at the Olympics so he comes in here with a little something to prove. He was only eleventh at RAK Half on February 15th in 61:32, but that’s fast enough two months before a marathon. Since he’s never been a dominant guy at this level, it’s hard to pick him for the win.


Feyisa Lilesa: from the snow of Poland to the cobblestones of London.

Feyisa Lilesa: from the snow of Poland to the cobblestones of London.

7 Feyisa Lilesa ETH 2:04:52, 23 years old – The winner of the bronze at 2011 World Championships comes into London after a 2:04:52 runner-up showing in Chicago. If he wins it will be a good thing for the sport as it will show the pros, “Hey it’s ok to race a lot.” Lelisa already this year has won the Houston half in 61:54 in January, finished fourth in Dubai in February 59:25, and won the Ethiopian XC trials in February and then finished 9th at the World Cross Country Championships in March in the snow.

LRC’s take: He probably has the talent to win but with only 2 of his career 8 marathons under 2:08, it’s hard to predict his first World Marathon Major win coming at London, especially at London this year.

8 Stanley Biwott KEN 2:05:12, 26 years old (27th birthday is race day) – Has won three of his last five marathons but none of them have been majors. Was the runner-up at the RAK Half in 58:56 in February.

LRC’s take: If he somehow wins it’s a huge surprise. If he does win, realize he’s a guy that just has been consistently getting better. Take a look at his half marathon and marathon personal best progression over the last few years:

2010: 61:20 (from 2007)
2011: 60:23
2012: 59:44
2013: 58:56

2010: 2:09:41
2011: 2:07:03
2012: 2:05:12
2013: ??

9 Deressa Chimsa ETH 2:05:42. 26 years old – Coming into 2012, Chimsa had run six career marathons and never broken 2:07:39. Last year, he ran three and the slowest was 2:06:52. To say it was a banner year is an understatement as in between the three marathons he also had a runner-up showing at the World Half Marathon Championships.

LRC’s Take: He’ll need another breakthrough to even contend on Sunday. With no prep races under his belt and good gossip to act on, we can’t pick him to win.

10 Stephen Kiprotich UGA 2:07:20 (Olympic champion) There is a reason you run the race. Heading into the Olympics, Kiprotich was a guy with modest prs of 13:23, 27:58, 63:14 (altitude) and 2:07:20. He had edged an aging Haile Gebrselassie for for third in Tokyo in his last marathon prior to the Olympics. Now he’s an Olympic champ and Ugandan hero.

Stephen Kiprotich after winning Olympic gold in 2012

Stephen Kiprotich after winning Olympic gold in 2012

The good news for Kiprotich fans is he’s run two races leading into London, so we know the drastic change in his life’s fortunes haven’t gone to his head. He seems to be very even keeled and said earlier this week he plans on returning to work as a prison guard when his running career is over. There seemingly is no need to fear he’ll go down the Sammy Wanjiru self-destruction path.

In terms of his prep races, he ran a 61:15 pb (previous best 62:20) for the win in February in Spain and a 61:34 third place showing in Paris in March. The 61:34 doesn’t concern us too much as the winning time was only 61:33 so he simply lost out in a sprint finish and he did beat Deriba Merga in that race.

When asked at the main pre-race press conference if he could run a 2:03 or 2:04, Kiprotich was unfazed saying “in the competition, everything is possible.” By lowering his half-marathon pr, Kiprotich made one thing certain, he won’t have to PR in back to back half-marathons to run in the 1:03s.

LRC’s Take: He won the freaking Olympics so he is a big talent no matter what his times are, but it’s hard to expect lightning to strike twice in succession in London. To win, he’ll need likely something close to a 3 minute PB. To ask for a 3 minute PB and win is a bit greedy isn’t it?

Overall: Handicapping this race isn’t easy. Whereas with Boston, we confidently predicted the winners of both the men’s and women’s races, telling you beforehand how excellent our preview was, this one is more difficult.

There is very little for people not to like about most of the guys on the list particularly the top three in the defending champ Wilson Kipsang, the world record holder Patrick Makau and the fastest man in history (and Boston and NY course record holder) Geoffrey Mutai. Those guys have been winning at a huge rate and running fast as hell in nearly all of their recent races.

If we are picking between those three, we’d do probably rule out the world record holder Makau first. For no real reason other than we don’t know if he’s in good shape. If he was in awful shape, he wouldn’t show up, but his 65 minute half prep race didn’t tell us anything whereas the other two in Mutai (58:58) and Kipsang (61:02) showed 100% their training is going well.

So now we have to pick between Mutai and Kipsang. We definitely viewed Mutai as the best in the world heading into 2012 and nothing he did last year really made us question that. Yes, he dropped out of Boston but that wasn’t a normal marathon race – it was a test of endurance in extreme heat. Imagine if they decided to move the NBA finals outside one day and in 30 mile our winds or something, it’s just not the same game as playing it inside under ideal conditions. His 58:58 run in the UAE shows he was in great shape in January. Our only fear is he may just be a tiny bit past his absolute prime as he no longer just dominates everything. His ‘win’ in Berlin might not have been a win at all.

Kipsang became the new #1 in our book when he won in London last year. His third at the Olympics didn’t make us doubt him any at all as he lost because he tried to pull a Sammy Wanjiru.

The way we see it – Sunday’s race will tell us who is better – Mutai or Kipsang. Both men are 31 and they did not race each other last year. Kipsang ran London, Mutai ran Boston. Kipsang then went to the Olympics and Mutai to Berlin.

It’s basically a coin-toss between those two men. We do know one thing. If we were in London, we’d be betting on Mutai as his odds are way better.

2013 London Marathon Odds
according to Ladbrokes

Wilson Kipsang     2/1
Geoffrey Mutai  9/2
Patrick Makau   11/2
Tsegaye Kebede  11/2
Ayele Abshero   10/1
Emmanuel Mutai  12/1
Stanley Biwott  12/1
Feylisa Lilesa  16/1
Stephen Kiprotich   20/1
Deressa Chimsa  33/1
Yared Ashmeron  100/1
Adil Annani     100/1
Tomas Abyu  250/1
Scott Overall   250/1

2013 London Marathon Odds
according to Coral

Wilson Kipsang      11/4
Geoffrey Mutai      10/3
Tsegaye Kebede    11/2
Patrick Makau       11/2
Emmanuel Mutai    9/1
Ayele Abshero      10/1
Stanley Biwott      14/1
Feyisa Lilesa         20/1
Stephen Kiprotich   20/1
Deressa Chimsa      33/1
Yared Asmerom     66/1
Adil Annani          100/1

LRC’s Take: In the end, we’ll go with London marathon elite coordinator Dave Bedford and pick Geoffrey Mutai ourselves and predict he gets a new course record. It will be amazing for the sport to have a single guy with the course records at Boston, London and New York.

Major marathoning in the year 2013 should be viewed like baseball. A .333 average is an unreal batting average for Major Marathons as winning one out of 3 is next to impossible. If Mutai wins on Sunday, he’ll be batting .800 having won four of his last five majors, with the only blemish coming in the ridiculous heat of last year’s Boston.

Until a human being proves he can beat Geoffrey Mutai in the marathon (last year we’d argue God/Mother Nature beat him in Boston), Mutai has to be our pick for victory.

What about the world record?

To be truthful, we hate world record talk as nine times out of ten it just leads to disappointment and we’d hate for anything to take away from the winner of this very special men’s race.

Marathoning and track and field will be more popular if there is less talk about time. When people talk about the winner of the Kentucky Derby, they rarely talk about the race’s time and yet it’s constantly harped on in track and field circles.

That being said, if the world record was ever going to be broken in London, this would be the year to do it. The field assembled is stellar and the totally unpredictable London weather seems to be close to perfect.

The men’s elite race starts at 9:45 am London time and should be over just before 11:50 am. Look at the forecast as of 8:00 pm on Friday for London:

Does a weather forecast get any better than this for a marathon? Mid to high 40s, sun and little wind.

Does a weather forecast get any better than this for a marathon? Mid to high 40s, sun and little wind.

A course record seems very likely to us. A world record? Let’s not be greedy and ask for that. That being said, there are 5/1 odds at Coral for a new men’s world record. Those seem pretty good to us – but remember we’re just saying it’s slightly more likely to happen than 16.67% of the time.

Elite entries and more info below.

*TV/Internet Viewing Info

Elite Race Entries (Latest: 15 April) 
Elite Men 

 Bib no.    Name                    Nation PB         Bib name 
   1        Wilson Kipsang          KEN    2:03:42    KIPSANG 
   2        Patrick Makau           KEN    2:03:38    MAKAU 
   3        Geoffrey Mutai          KEN    2:04:15    G MUTAI 
   4        Ayele Abshero           ETH    2:04:23    ABSHERO 
   5        Tsegaye Kebede          ETH    2:04:38    KEBEDE 
   6        Emmanuel Mutai          KEN    2:04:40    E MUTAI 
   7        Feyisa Lilesa           ETH    2:04:52    LILESA 
   9        Stanley Biwott          KEN    2:05:12    BIWOTT 
  11        Deressa Chimsa          ETH    2:05:42    CHIMSA 
  12        Stephen Kiprotich       UGA    2:07:20    KIPROTICH 
  13        Yared Asmerom           ERI    2:07:27    ASMEROM 
  14        Adil Annani             MAR    2:07:43    ANNANI 
  15        Marcin Chabowski        POL    2:10:07    CHABOWSKI 
  17        Tomas Abyu              GBR    2:10:37    ABYU 
  18        Scott Overall           GBR    2:10:55    OVERALL 
  19        Hafid Chani             MAR    2:11:11    CHANI 
  20        Patrick Rizzo           USA    2:13:42    RIZZO 
  21        Derek Hawkins           GBR    2:14:08    HAWKINS 
  22        Ayad Lamdassem          ESP    2:14:39    LAMDASSEM 
  23        Phil Wicks              GBR    2:15:38    WICKS 
  24        Anuradha Cooray         SRI    2:16:38    COORAY 
  25        Philip Anthony          GBR    2:16:40    ANTHONY 
  26        Yared Hagos             ETH    2:19:32    HAGOS 
  29        Mo Farah                GBR    Guest      FARAH 

Elite Race Entries (Latest: 16 April) 

Elite Women 

Bib no.     Name                    Nation PB          Bib name 
102         Tiki Gelana             ETH    2:18:58     GELANA 
104         Yoko Shibui             JPN    2:19:41     SHIBUI 
105         Florence Kiplagat       KEN    2:19:44     F KIPLAGAT 
106         Edna Kiplagat           KEN    2:19:50     E KIPLAGAT 
107         Priscah Jeptoo          KEN    2:20:14     JEPTOO 
108         Meselech Melkamu        ETH    2:21:01     MELKAMU 
109         Atsede Baysa            ETH    2:22:03     BAYSA 
110         Yukiko Akaba            JPN    2:24:09     AKABA 
111         Remi Nakazato           JPN    2:24:28     NAKAZATO 
112         Jéssica Augusto         POR    2:24:33     AUGUSTO 
113         Alevtina Biktimirova    RUS    2:25:12     BIKTIMIROVA 
114         Mai Ito                 JPN    2:25:26     ITO 
115         Chika Horie             JPN    2:26:11     HORIE 
118         Olga Dubovskaya         BLR    2:28:08     DUBOVSKAYA 
120         Adriana da Silva        BRA    2:29:17     DA SILVA 
121         Irvette van Zyl         RSA    2:33:41     VAN ZYL 
122         Amy Whitehead           GBR    2:33:44     WHITEHEAD 
123         Susan Partridge         GBR    2:34:13     PARTRIDGE 
124         Joyce Chepkirui         KEN    Debut       CHEPKIRUI

*If you’d like to argue this isn’t the greatest men’s field ever assembled you can do so here.
More: Video Interviews with G Mutai, Kipsang, Makau and Kiprotich Here.
*Dave Bedford Breaks Down the Field in 2 Minutes and 27 Seconds

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